This cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.
If you like these cartoons, help there by more by pledging $1 or $2 at my patreon! Every bit helps.
This month, two cartoons ended up being completed at more or less the same time – this one, beautifully painted by Becky Hawkins, and one drawn by me (with colors by Frank Young) which I’ll post tomorrow. It’s been years since I first jotted down the idea for this cartoon; the other cartoon was thought of just a few weeks ago.
But looking at them now, I realize they both have the same theme, which is the way that stigma’s effects pile up over time. You’ll see what I mean when I post the other strip tomorrow.
I’m currently in an online debate about fat acceptance with Helen Pluckrose (I owe her a response). While researching that, I read a couple of articles about the ways stigma hurts people’s health, both mentally and physically. Not only is anti-fat stigma failing to make anyone thinner or healthier; it’s actually making us less healthy and making us die sooner.
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I first sketched this one out a few years ago. I liked the unusual format (I’ve done the alternating-text-and-image format only once before) and the playing around with word balloons, but somehow I never got around to drawing it.
This month, I showed Becky several not-yet-drawn cartoons that I thought she’d be a good match for, and she picked out this one. And I’m so glad she did! Her handpainted colors lend the piece a visual moodiness that I don’t think I could have matched.
So, for comparison’s sake, here’s what I gave Becky to work with.
As you can see, virtually every visual detail in the finished strip was made up by Becky. I did suggest to her that there could be painted, cloudy dark panels instead of the flat black panels in my sketch, and holy crap did she ever deliver. I love the way this cartoon looks.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has nine panels, in three rows of three panels each. Five of the panels have black and gray paint forming cloudy, dark abstract shapes, while the other four have non-abstract drawings. The two types of panels alternate, creating a checkerboard pattern. The abstract panels get darker as the strip goes on, until by the last panel it’s mostly black. Each of the abstract panels has a caption in plain white lettering.
A cloudy field of gray paint, with a caption near the top, which says: AFTER
We’re on an airplane; people are finding their seats. A fat man with glasses and a red-orange polo shirt is seated on the aisle; a thin woman with a scarf, pushing a roll along suitcase, has paused next to his seat and turned to speak to the person behind her in the aisle.
SCARF WOMAN: Oh God, do I have to sit next to him?
A cloudy field of gray paint, with a caption near the middle. The lettering is a little diagonal, rather than straight, and the second word is lower than the first. It says: A WHILE
A laundromat. The same fat man we saw on the plane, is in the foreground, looking up blankly in the middle of folding laundry. Mounted high on the wall behind him, next to a row of driers, is a TV that’s showing some sort of talk show, with three people seated on a couch facing the camera.
Clinging to the fat man’s back is the woman’s word balloon from the airplane panel.
Person On TV: Let’s face it, fat people choose to be like that!
A cloudy field of gray and some black paint, with a caption a bit below the middle. The lettering is a bit more diagonal than in panel 3, and the second word is sunk much lower than the first. It says: IT WEIGHS
We see the fat man again, in a coffee shop holding a mug, looking up with an unhappy expression. Behind his back, we can see the people sitting at the next table over. One of them, a thin man wearing a sleeveless shirt and jogging shorts, is grinning and holding up a finger as he makes a point.
There are now two word balloons clinging to the fat man’s back, the woman’s word balloon from the airplane panel, and the TV’s word balloon from the laundromat panel.
JOGGING SHORTS MAN: …put the donuts down and get off the sofa now and then!
A cloudy field, about equally split between black and gray. The caption is now at a 45 degree angle and is near the bottom of the panel. It says: YOU
The same fat man, identifiable because of his red-orange shirt, is lying limp on the floor, arms spread out, possibly unconscious; we can recognize him from his body shape and red-orange shirt.
His face is covered by a pile of word balloons on his trunk, formed by all the word balloons from the previous three panels we’ve seen him in – “put the donuts down” and “fat people choose to be like that” and “have to sit next to him?” — topped off by a new balloon spoken by an off-panel voice.
OFF PANEL VOICE: You’d look so much better if you’d lose some weight.
A cloudy field of black and gray paint, with the black paint dominating. The caption is diagonal and so far down in the panel that parts of the letters disappear below the bottom of the cartoon. We can still see that it says: DOWN