Please, please pass me that water, he said. Oh sure I said but first have you considered supporting my Patreon? Water for God’s sake just pass me the water he said. Absolutely! But by the way, you can pledge really low amounts, I’m talking just one dollar. God dammit I don’t care about your patreon I’m literally on fire burning to death here, he said. And doesn’t that make you want to support some swell political cartoons?, I asked. Then he died.
I’m sure there’s a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” out there who actually is concerned with free speech issues other than the ones that culture warriors most frequently argue about. After all, there are probably tens of thousands of “free speech absolutists,” and the dozen or two I’ve discussed these issues with are obviously not a random sample.
It’s not that I don’t see any “culture of free speech” concerns with issues like corporations owning sites like Twitter and Facebook, which are the most important “public square” that currently exists for public discussions. And I also see concerns with an overly judgement, unforgiving climate on campuses leading to chilled speech, and other so-called “cancel culture” issues.
But for so many “free speech absolutists,” these are the only free speech issues they know or care about. And it’s not a coincidence that these are the issues that impact some of the most privileged people in society, whereas free speech issues impacting the most marginalized people, like prisoners, are the ones that get ignored.
I was actually really confident I’d get this cartoon finished way sooner than I did. What happened? Well, partly, I had trouble getting started. But there was also this:
Six Steps To Making A Simple Cartoon Take Much Longer
Step 1: “I’ll take it easy, I’ll just draw two characters on a blank background. I’ve done strips like that before and they look good. Plus, it passes the Calvin and Hobbes test.”
Step 2: “Eh, this layout looks dull. I’ll just have them walking through a park instead. A couple of trees, it’ll take no time at all.”
Step 3: “Actually, wouldn’t it be neat if the first three panels formed a single continuous landscape image, with the characters walking through the landscape and getting closer to the readers with each panel?”
Step 4: “Might as well throw in an evergreen.”
Step 5: “That evergreen looks stupid on its own. Let’s throw in some more. And maybe some mountains behind the evergreens. And a house. And a bunny.”
Step 6: “Now that I’m almost completely done, what if I experimented with a new technique of doing the linework for the backgrounds? That could look cool, and how long could it take?”
The good news is that – for now, at least – I’m really proud of how this comic strip looks. I just hope that I don’t look at in and wince a year from now.
By the way, the next book collection is getting very close to being done. This one will have about twice as many cartoons in it as the previous collection.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has six panels. Each panel shows the same two people walking through a hilly park area while talking.
One character, who I’ll call “Glasses,” is wearing glasses (imagine that!), a cable knit sweater, and black jeans with the cuffs rolled up. She has long reddish hair falling in front of her shoulders, and some of it is in a bun on top. The other character, who I’ll call “Hat,” is wearing a light green hat with a black band and a brim. She’s also wearing a button-down collared shirt, in off-white, and a black skirt. She has curly black hair falling down the back of her neck.
Glasses and Hat are walking on a path through a hilly park area, talking cheerfully as they walk. They’re walking one in front of the other, not facing each other.
HAT: I’m a free speech absolutist!
GLASSES: That’s great! Me too!
Glasses is talking eagerly, while Hat shrugs, looking a little bewildered.
GLASSES: So you speak out against prison censorship?
HAT: I’m not sure what that is.
Glasses eagerly raises a forefinger, as if to say “this is it,” while Hat (still not looking back at Glasses) has a neutral to bored expression.
GLASSES: Okay… So you want to stop copyright law being used for censorship?
Glasses now looks a little puzzled rather than happy, rubbing a hand against her chin. Hat glances back, now looking a bit annoyed.
GLASSES: Do you want labor laws protecting workers from being fired for off-work speech?
HAT: Nah. But the people criticizing the speech should shut up.
A much closer shot of the two of them; in fact, Hat is mostly off-panel, and we only see the back of her head. Glasses is looking annoyed, and leans forward a bit towards Hat’s back to press her point.
GLASSES: Immigrants targeted by I.C.E. for their speech? Sex workers silenced by credit card companies?
HAT: Don’t know, don’t care.
The “camera” pulls way out, so we’re seeing both characters in full figure. They’re on the top of a hill, with blue sky behind them. Glasses has shoved her hands into her pockets in a glum way, while Hat is grinning and raising her hands into the air, clearly energized and excited by her issue.
GLASSES: Er… So what makes you a “free speech absolutist?”
HAT: I want Twitter punished if they ban me.