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Today’s cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.
The conservative ideology of individualism and everyone gets what they deserve falls especially flat on its face when we look at health care – and, having fallen flat on its face, may require a trip to the E.R., where it will be faced with completely uncontrollable bills and fees that it will not have been able to anticipate let alone comparison shop.
Writing this was an interesting technical challenge to me – how much can I fit in each panel while still leaving Becky a reasonable amount of space for the drawings? It’s actually trickier than you might think – everything has to be pared down. I eventually made it all fit by using two bridging panels – one for the doctor and the insurance dude, and one for the insurance dude and the boss – which saved space by including the end of one encounter and the beginning of another in the same panel.
But panel six kept being too cluttered, until I thought of having Bob’s boss break the pattern by phoning his appearance in rather than walking into the panel. And writing that down makes it seem incredibly obvious, and honestly it is obvious, but it still took me weeks.
Becky did the drawings pretty much the way I would have – no surprise, we’ve worked a lot together. I know that Becky gets what I’m going for, and we’ve found a nice zone to work in where our styles overlap.
Becky asked what I thought for the background color, and I suggested a checkboard pattern. But making the panel where Bob gets fired a red panel, indicating the final catastrophic collapse of Bob’s house of cards, was entirely Becky’s idea. I was so delighted when I saw it! Surprises like that are a major joy of collaboration.
You may recall that this isn’t the first strip I’ve done with a central character named “Bob.” I’m not trying to pick on all the Bobs out there – not even Bob my conservative-ish friend I went to Oberlin with (who commented here a lot once upon a time). It’s just that when fitting lots of words into small panels, it’s helpful to use a name with only three letters in it. (I’ve used “Sue” for the same reason.)
Come to think of it, maybe I should start doing cartoons about guys named “Al.”
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has nine panels, all the same size, arranged in a three by three grid. The panels show figures on a blank colored background, mostly alternating between light blue and cream. Every panel features “Bob,” a white man in a blue polo shirt and tan pants. Bob has a mustache and beard, and wears glasses.
Bob addresses the reader directly, calmly, spreading his palms to make a point.
BOB: Whenever someone whines that they can’t afford medical care, they don’t deserve help. Because when I look, it’s always their own fault!
Bob continues speaking, but turns to the side to greet Dr. Jones, a woman wearing a white lab coat over blue scrubs, carrying a clipboard, and wearing a stethoscope around her neck, because Becky and I really, really wanted it to be really, really obvious that this character is a doctor. Cartooning!
BOB: Maybe they’re fat. Or they smoke. Maybe they didn’t save enough. Or maybe they—
BOB: Oh, hello, Dr. Jones.
In a closer shot, the doctor speaks seriously to Bob while pointing at something on her clipboard. Bob’s eyes have gone wide.
DR JONES: Bad news, Bob — you’ve got a serious condition that will require months of expensive treatment.
As the doctor walks out of the right edge of the panel, Bob nervously watching her, a gray-haired man in a suit and tie enters from the left.
DOCTOR: You should have gotten tested sooner. Or had better genes. Bye!
SUIT: Hi, Bob! I’m from your insurance company.
A close shot shows the man in the suit leaning close to Bob and pointing at something on a piece of paper. Bob still looks in shock.
SUIT: Good news! We found a loophole in your policy! Wo we only have to pay $20,000 of your expected $700,000 medical bill!
Bob leans towards the departing guy in the suit, yelling big with both his arms upraised. A sound effect pointing towards a rectangular lump in Bob’s pocket – “brring! brring!” – indicates Bob’s cell phone is ringing.
BOB: THAT’S NOT GOOD NEWS!
SUIT: Next time, read the 12th page of small print more carefully.
Here we see Bob, looking very lost and frightened in a close-up, holding his cell phone up to an ear as he listens. His boss’ voice comes from the cell phone. Reflecting Bob’s mood, this panel is colored completely in shades of red.
BOSS: Bob, it’s your boss. You’ve used all your sick leave and you still can’t work. We’re letting you go.
BOSS: It’s your own fault for not working while sick.
There’s no dialog in this panel. Bob, biting his nails and seeming very nervous, looks towards the readers out of the corner of his eye, as if just remembering that the readers are there.
Bob, having calmed down, returns to addressing the reader directly, with a somewhat smug expression.
BOB: Well, of course I’m virtuous and deserve help. But other sick people have only themselves to blame!