Comic: New Solutions To The Trolley Car Problem

This cartoon is by me and Becky Hawkins.

Becky writes:

I had way too much fun with the details in this cartoon! In panel 4, the script said:

Nearby, either on the ground or on the other end of the park bench, or on a branch in the background, are two pigeons, one posing and the other taking the first one’s photo.

My brain translated that to: “Pigeon selfie. Pigeon selfie with food. Pigeon selfie with takeout food. PIGEON SELFIE WITH TAKEOUT POUTINE THAT FELL ON THE GROUND!”

This is my favorite result from searching pigeon-photos:

I just realized the selfie pigeon and the libertarian have similar beanies. I too own a green beanie. The libertarian’s lamp, chair, records in crates, and whiskey/reading nook aren’t mine, but I’ve lived under the same roof as them.

I asked Barry over gChat: Can you think of anything funny for the not-presidential seal, other than the eagle/olive branch/arrows?

Barry: How about putting a different famous cartoon bird in each one? Daffy Duck, Tweety, Woodstock, Foghorn Leghorn, Opus the Penguin, Big Bird and Sam the Eagle are all possibilities.

I chose Big Bird and Sam the Eagle because they contrast with each other and double as a commentary on the Democratic and Republican parties. I’m so happy with how the drawings came out!

The Muppets were drawn free-hand, but I traced the trolley from this 1940s photo:

(I may have wasted some time trying to figure out which intersection in Portland that is. W Burnside around NW 19th, I believe.)

Gory isn’t really my thing. I didn’t consciously put off drawing the body pile and splatters until the last minute. But I had already drawn, colored, and shaded the entire rest of the comic before I started doodling body parts under the trolley.

The trolleys were originally red like the ones in the photo. I changed them to light orange so the blood splatters would stand out more. I picked light orange after the famously cute trams in Lisbon, which are on my travel bucket list.


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a different scene with one character in it. And each panel has a caption, in large letters, at the top. A large caption over the top of the entire strip says NEW SOLUTIONS TO THE TROLLEY CAR PROBLEM.



A smiling, well-dressed woman with long hair stands behind a podium, gesturing to indicate a trolley car parked behind her. The trolley car is gory with blood spattered all over the front, and we can see bodies in a pile under the car.

WOMAN: Cleaning blood off a trolley car is expensive! That’s why we’re proposing tax breaks for trolley car companies!



A man with a very thick orange beard, wearing a green knit cap and a plaid shirt, is sitting in his armchair at home and speaking directly to us, with an intense expression. He’s holding a joint in one hand and raising his I’m-making-an-important-point-now-forefinger with the other. Next to him one one side are a bunch of LP records stored in milk cartons; on the other side is a side table with a bottle of whisky, a whisky glass, and a thick book.

MAN: Trolley car companies need freedom to choose who to run over without bureaucrats getting in the way! Deregulate now!



This is the same scene as panel one, but now a frightened looking old man, wearing huge glasses, a jacket and a bow tie, is behind the podium. He is shaking and sweating a bit as he talks to us. His dialogue is split into three balloons.

MAN: Something must be done! Er, someday. Maybe. If no one disagrees. Gotta stay bipartisan!



A woman wearing a blue pantsuit, and with nicely-done short white hair, is sitting on a park bench, looking thoughtful.

WOMAN (thought): One person’s life versus six people’s lives… Hmmm. Which choice hurts more trans people?


“Chicken fat” is an old-timey cartoonists’ expression for fun but irrelevant details the cartoonist puts in.

PANEL 1: The seal on the front of the Republican’s podium shows a stern Sam the Eagle from the Muppets, and the words going around the seal say “Resistance is Futile.”

PANEL 2: There’s the classic kitten hanging from a branch poster in the background, but instead of “hang in there” it says “just fall already.” The book on the side table has the title “The Featherhead.”

PANEL 3: The seal on the front of the Democrat’s podium shows a friendly Big Bird from the Muppets, and the words going around the seal say “Pretty Please Re-Elect Us.”

PANEL 4: A takeout container of poutine has spilled on the ground; two pigeons are posing by it and taking a selfie using a tiny phone on a tiny selfie stick.

New Solutions To The Trolley Car Problem! | Patreon

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9 Responses to Comic: New Solutions To The Trolley Car Problem

  1. 1
    Kohai says:

    This is a good one! Is that a Kathleen Stock look alike in the TERFs panel?

  2. 2
    bcb says:

    As always, excellent work by Barry and Becky!

    I kinda think Republicans should give BOTH tax cuts to corporations AND do whatever hurts the most trans people, but I realize that wouldn’t make as good of a punchline.

  3. 3
    bcb says:

    Addendum to my previous post:

    Does it bother either of the authors when I make comments like “I think character X would have done Y instead of what you wrote them doing?”

    I know I avoid making comments like that when reading a work of narrative fiction like SuperButch, or an autobiographical work like French Toast Comix. My thinking is “why should I think I know what a character would do better than the author who created them?” And I know of some authors who get irritated when fans make such comments, such as Rich Burlew of The Order of the Stick and Allison Shaw of Tigress Queen and Far to the North. I might say I think character X “should” do Y, but I mean it in the sense that I would say a real person “should” do something: That they’d be better of doing Y, not that I think the author should write them that way.

    But my sense is that in a comic like Lefty Cartoons, things are different. Lilian Lewis is a character the authors made up, so I can’t possibly know better than them what she would do. But the character in panel 1 of this comic is not the author’s invention: she’s “Generic Elected Republican Politician.” Or maybe she’s the press secretary for Generic Elected Republican Politician. So it seems to me like I can have an opinion on what she “would” do.

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    BCB: It doesn’t bother me at all (and I would be very surprised if it bothered Becky, either). I just like getting comments, and sometimes I even agree with the criticisms. :-)

    Kohai: Yes, iirc I suggest Stock as a “type” that Becky could draw in that panel if she wanted to.

    Both of you: Thanks for the kind words about this strip! I’m glad you liked it.

  5. 5
    Avvaaa says:

    Why is the Republican a seemingly POC woman? Most Republican politicians and Republican voters are MEN and WHITE. If women or POC were the only ones allowed to vote, Democrats would always win national elections. Republican policies are very anti-female, anti-POC, racist and anti-feminist and harm women and POC in great numbers. I think its odd to represent the Republican party with a POC woman. What was your thinking on this?

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:


    What you say is pretty much my thinking, which is why for the first decade or so of my political cartoons, characters representing wealth and power (and/or Republicans) were always drawn as white (and usually male).

    The problem with that is that because Republicans and powerful characters are such a huge proportion of the characters in my cartoons, it can turn into hardly ever depicting nonwhite characters at all, and on the rare occasions where they appear they are only “cast” in saintly and usually reactive roles. After enough years doing this, that began to bug me – I don’t like it when TV and movies cast nonwhite actors exclusively in boring saintly reactive roles, so why was I doing that in my comics?

    So the compromise I’ve settled on over the years is to make nearly all, but not absolutely all, the characters representing wealth, power, and Republicanism white. Which is why if you look over Republicans in our strips, you’ll find that they’re almost always white. (There’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it).

    So that’s my general thinking, and why I didn’t object to Becky’s character design choice here. I could certainly understand disagreeing with me about this approach, though.

  7. 7
    Adrian says:

    Avvaaa (5) not everyone votes in solidarity with their gender or ethnic group. A lot of the power of Q-Anon comes from women. (Every time a doctor lies to a patient, they hand fuel to anti-science cults. Most new mothers have been lied to a LOT, as well as being sleep-deprived and isolated. A perfect setup for cult recruitment. And once they’re in, they tend to stay in.)

    Modern American reactionaries are no longer a bunch of old white men plus Phyllis Schlafley. There are a lot of white women like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Elise Stefanik who push anti-feminist policies. Far from a majority, but too many to ignore. Especially when you look at positions of local leadership. There are also people of color who work against racial justice. (Clarence Thomas is the most visible at the moment, but there are others who want to pull the ladder up after them.) Nikki Haley doesn’t look like a woman of color.

  8. 8
    Dianne says:

    Should I make anything of the fact that the trolley appears to have run over 6 people not one person?

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    Dianne, I think that means that the person at the switch has the same reaction I would – they froze up in terror and indecision and a few seconds later sex people were dead!

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