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This cartoon doesn’t have suggest any deep underlying analysis; I was just reading an article about the “Jews invented COVID 19” conspiracies and thought about proponents of competing racist conspiracy theories fighting it out, and the cartoon, as they say, wrote itself. The last line actually made me snort aloud when I thought of it.
The cartooning challenge here was making a conversation taking place entirely through Zoom work. I could have just used the panel 1 layout for all three panels – a monitor with three equal-sized subwindows, and three tiny heads in each panel – but I was worried that wouldn’t be interesting visually, and would give no way to focus on specific characters. So I decided on a shot of the monitor to set the scene, and then flipping to different characters’ homes for a couple of panels, to bring in more visual variety.
(My friend and frequent collaborator Becky Hawkins has been playing with the same thing in some of her theater cartoons, although she’s taken a different approach – and I might swipe her approach for a future cartoon).
In my first sketch, all three characters were drawn from straight on. Then I realized that it would be incredibly unrealistic to have a Zoom meeting without us looking up at at least one person’s nostrils. :-)
I had a lot of fun drawing the characters and I think the drawings came out well. There are little bits here and there – like the thick and thin of the line of the cheek of the guy wearing glasses – that I’m really pleased with. (I spend so much more time thinking about thick and thin lines than anyone really should.)
But what really makes the cartoon work, visually, is the colors. When I gave this to Frank Young to color, I told him I’d like each of the three environments to have their own color palette, while sticking to the sort of desaturated colors I usually prefer in my cartoons. But that’s all I told him; the specific colors used, and the modeling and the shadows on the walls, were all Frank’s contribution, and I’m so happy with how they look. My favorite thing about working with collaborators is not knowing exactly what they’ll do, and so getting to be surprised.
Seeing it in color made me notice that the big wall behind the character in panel three was too sparse, so I drew one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite comic strips. I drew Lucy freehand, rather than tracing. Drawing Schulz’s characters is actually a bit tricky – they’re deceptively simple, but just one line out of place and it’ll look “wrong.”
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels.
A shot of a computer monitor on a desk or table of some sort. (I just noticed that I forgot to draw any cables or anything coming from the monitor. Oops!) There’s a coffee mug, with a spoon in it and a smiley face on it, on the table in front of the monitor.
The screen is divided into three windows, each of which shows a different person; in other words, this is a Zoom conversation. The upper left window shows a guy wearing a black tee shirt under an open plaid shirt. The upper right window shows an extreme closeup of a man’s face, shot from below; he’s wearing rectangular glasses. And the bottom window shows a fat man with nice-looking fluffy hair, who is wearing a button-up collared shirt with a necktie.
PLAID is waving his arms with a distressed expression; GLASSES is sneering; and FLUFFY is smiling silently.
PLAID: Coronavirus was caused by Jews! God’s punishing them for rejecting Christ, and it’s spread to the rest of us!
GLASSES: Ridiculous! Everyone knows the virus was created in a secret Chinese weapons lab!
We’re now looking at Plaid in profile, as he leans forward a bit to yell angrily at his monitor, shaking a forefinger at the monitor. On his monitor, distorted because it’s in perspective, we can barely see Glasses angrily yelling back, and Fluffy smiling as he talks.
PLAID: A secret Chinese weapons lab controlled by Jews!
FLUFFY: Hey, fellas, come on!
A shot of Fluffy, in an upper-middle-class-looking living room; there’s an armchair, a window with curtains and a potted plant on the windowsill; a coffee mug on a table with an open book beside it. Fluffy is standing and speaking at a tablet in his left hand, still smiling pleasantly. We can now see that he’s not wearing pants, and his boxer shorts have a little hearts pattern.
FLUFFY: A pandemic is no time to be divisive. More than ever, we need to compromise and get along. What do you say, Bob?
Almost the same shot as panel one, showing the monitor with three windows on it. PLAID has picked up the smiley face coffee mug and is looking more sedate as he talks. Fluffy and Glasses are both agreeing cheerfully.
PLAID: All right… But can the next pandemic be about Jews?
GLASSES: I’ll be there with swastikas on!