Cartoon: The Measure of Intelligence

This cartoon is by me and Nadine Scholtes.

Did you catch the interactions between the animals? That was entirely made up by Nadine, and I love it.

Donald Trump’s board game – and yes, that is a thing that exists – has this motto on the cover: “It takes brains to make millions. It takes Trump to make billions.” The implication being that Trump is like, even smarter than smart people, and we can tell this because he’s rich.

(The real secret to Donald Trump’s wealth is that his father gave him more than $400 million over the years; and also, his success as a game show host).

Unfortunately, it’s not just the Trump board game – real people believe this. I listened to an interview with an undecided voter, who explained that Trump’s wealth means he’s smart and competent.

And it’s not just Trump. Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has publicly made a fool of himself paying $44 billion for Twitter and then dropped Twitter’s – pardon me, X’s – value over 70% through a mix of sheer managerial incompetence and believing his own hype about him being a genius.

Brian Klaas writes:

If someone is a billionaire, they must be a genius. But there are serious reasons to doubt that claim. Wealth is not normally distributed, like height. While there’s never going to be someone who is even 3x shorter or 3x taller than you, Elon Musk is about three million times richer than the average American. That means that the super-rich are extreme outliers, and that creates some major statistical irregularities that are not tied to talent. […]

Some billionaires are smart. All have been extremely lucky.

As Klaas says, this all ties into the myth that we live in a meritocracy. We’ve all seen examples of smart people doing well; it follows that if someone’s mind-bogglingly rich, they must have a bogglingly great mind.

It also ties into the myth that there’s such a thing as “intelligence,” by which I mean a single number or measure of how smart someone is. That’s not how it works. People can be wonderfully adept and smart at some things while being shockingly stupid in other areas.

Bobby Fischer was undeniably a genius at chess, and he was a Holocaust denier. Ben Carson was by most accounts a brilliant neurosurgeon, and also doesn’t believe evolution is real and dismisses the Big Bang a s a “fairy tale.” Aristotle famously wrote that women have fewer teeth than men.

Elon Musk is talented at some things, but running a social media company isn’t one of them. In fact, because Musk thinks of himself as a visionary super-genius, he doesn’t doubt his own ideas or listen to people who know what they’re talking about, which means he’s effectively much stupider than an ordinary person could be.

If I sound extra bitter about Musk, it’s only because I’ve sort of built a career around being able to find new readers by putting my cartoons on Twitter, and now this rich doofus has spent $44 million ruining Twitter because he wanted to troll the libs or something. It feels very frustrating and random.

Ah, well: Even if Twitter (X) never recovers, probably something else will come along. And if not, I can still have fun listening to “Que Sara Sara” on repeat.

Thanks so much for supporting these cartoons! Elon Musk sucks, but you all are awesome.


This cartoon has four panels.


A man wearing a brown jacket over jeans and a v-neck t-shirt is sitting on a park bench, staring at something in his hands with great concentration. Let’s call him JACKET.

A red-headed man in a red smiley face t-shirt is on the path in front of the bench, looking at the first man with a dubious expression. Let’s call him REDHEAD.

REDHEAD: Er… Excuse me. What are you doing?

JACKET: A lot of my genius ideas get lost when I lose focus.


A close-up on Jacket shows that his hands are filled with a stick, lumpy, gooey, dripping mess of green-gray ooze. He continues to stare at it with great concentration.

JACKET: So I invented “the idea net” by smooshing rubber cement, peanut butter, and used chewing gum. This way I’ll catch ideas before they escape.


Redhead is responding, with a rather grumpy expression. Jacket doesn’t even glance at Redhead, continuing to study the mess in his hands.

REDHEAD: That’s gotta be the stupidest idea I’ve ever–

JACKET: I’m a billionaire.


The scene has changed to an apartment. Redhead is seated on a sofa, mixing up some sticky goo in his hands. On the coffee table in front of him we can see an open peanut butter jar, an open bottle of rubber cement, and a bunch of little crumpled pieces of paper (presumably gum wrappers). He is staring at the mess in his hands and smiling.

Behind him, a blonde woman is watching what’s he’s doing with a very doubtful expression on her face.

REDHEAD: I know it looks stupid, but he’s a billionaire! His ideas must be good!


Chicken fat is an old cartoonists’ expression for meaningless but fun details in a cartoon.

In panel one, hidden from the humans by a bush, a squirrel in a slouch hat and trenchcoat is standing next to a magpie with a bag of nuts. The magpie and the squirrel have their backs to each other and are studious ignoring each other.

In panel three, we can see that the squirrel and magpie are looking at each other. The squirrel has opened his trenchcoat to reveal a small bag labeled “catnip.” The magpie is holding out the bag of nuts to the squirrel.

In panel four, in the background, there is an open window. The magpie has landed on the windowsill, holding the bag of catnip. Below the windowsill, a gray housecat is making the “shh” gesture with one paw, and with the other paw is offering the magpie a shiny necklace.

Also in panel four, there are a couple of framed pictures on the wall. One of them is of the blonde woman; the other one is of the cat.

The Measure of Intelligence | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Whatever | 38 Comments  

Cartoon: The Celestial Politics of Trans Bans

This cartoon is a collaboration with Becky Hawkins. And Becky wrote the text for this Patreon post, too! Take it away, Becky!

This script seemed like a natural fit for me since I’ve been doing autobio comics with a shoulder angel for almost 13 years (!!!).

Here was Shoulder Angel’s first appearance in a sketch from April 2011:

I started a multi-page Shoulder Angel/Shoulder Devil cartoon soon afterward.

But I had trouble with Shoulder Devil’s character design and outfit. What signifies the “evil” version? (Sexy? Corporate? Counterculture?) There are a ton of interesting things that could be explored with this, but…I didn’t. The sporty Shoulder Devil seemed to be the appropriate antithesis of Shoulder Angel and I enjoyed watching her wind Shoulder Angel up. That’s as far as I went with that idea.

I feel like the shoulder angel/shoulder devil dichotomy is usually between good/evil or rules/mischief. I liked the idea of a shoulder angel who’s motivated by varying things like safety and pleasure, giving advice with mixed results. So, Shoulder Angel stuck around.

If your characters are vastly different sizes and you have to draw them together, the smaller character will sometimes be tiny. This is part of why I simplified Shoulder Angel’s design over the first few years. She went from being a miniature Becky with freckles and ruffled clothes to being shaped like a tiny cone with wings, arms, and a head. I added a V-neck to her choir robe for a little detail.

I actually found it hard to do the character designs for this political cartoon since my Shoulder Angel is so simplified! I looked at how other cartoonists had handled this challenge with Kronk, Homer Simpson, etc. Their angels/devils pretty much looked like miniature versions of the character with different outfits. I’d originally planned for the governor’s angel and devil to be wearing matching blazers, but it didn’t look very interesting. Barry came up with the idea of a punk angel and corporate devil. He also suggested the different-colored clouds. I love how this one turned out!

Off the subject, if you supported Barry’s Patreon last month, you contributed toward these rad muted purple Doc Martens, so extra thank you!!

Shortly after emailing me the above Patreon post, Becky texted me, and we had the following exchange:

Fortunately, once it was actually done, Becky was extremely pleased with how the colors came out!


This cartoon has six panels.


A reporter is pushing their microphone right in front of the Governor’s face. The Governor is wearing a suit jacket over a turtleneck with a necklace on top of the shirt, and has obviously professionally done hair. She looks a little uncertain.

REPORTER: Governor, what’s your position on the gender affirming care ban?

GOVERNOR: The bill blocking doctors from treating trans kids? Um…


A close-up on the governor’s face. Next to the governor, floating in the air, a little angel has appeared with a “POOF!” sound effect and a little white cloud. The governor is looking at the shoulder angel out of the corners of her eyes.

ANGEL: This is an awful bill!


A close shot of the shoulder angel let’s us see her outfit clearly. She has light purple hair combed to one side, and her head is buzzcut on the other side. She’s wearing a white leather jacket with metal studs and a zipper on the sleeve, a white skirt, fishnets, and white boots. She’s also got little white wings and a halo floating over her head.

She has her hands fisted and looks a little angry.

ANGEL: This bill is pandering to bigots! It’s giving in to a moral panic! And it’ll do so much harm to trans kids!


A longer shot, allowing us to see the shoulder angel, the Governor, and – appearing on the opposite side of the Governor from the angel in a “POOF!” and a considerably darker cloud – a shoulder devil. The devil is a woman in a red two-piece suit over a yellow v-neck blouse, and heels to match the blouse. She has two horns, bat-like wings, and is carrying a trident.

The Governor looks thoughtful, hand on her chin, one eyebrow lifted, looking at the shoulder devil out of the corners of her eyes.

ANGEL: All to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist!



The shoulder devil, raising her arms as if cheerleading, speaks to the Governor, who is now looking more directly at the devil. The angel’s eyes widen in dismay.

DEVIL: Fearmongering wins elections.


Looking more confident, the Governor is now speaking into the microphone.  Her text is smaller sized and has no word balloon, indicating that it’s sort of a background detail. The angel has her arms crossed and is sitting (in mid air) with her legs crossed, looking at the Governor with annoyance.  The devil is holding her pitchfork above her head in both hands and practically dancing, a huge and evil grin, victorious.

GOVERNOR: …protect children from perverts blah blah blah…

ANGEL: Well, this sucks.

DEVIL: This is great! Next let’s do a law forcing teachers to out trans students!

Celestial Politics of Trans Bans | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: Hey did you hear? Biden is old!

One of my occasional non-evergreen cartoons.

I’ve drawn “Media” as a guy with a TV for their head at least once before. But the design of the character is definitely evolving. And in this cartoon, a lot of that comes down to Frank Young‘s coloring choices, which I love. I had no idea he was going to do any of these wacky things (the pop art color patterns in the backgrounds, the static behind the face on the TV screen, the grayscale body) until he sent me the finished work!

Frank writes:

As colorist for Barry’s cartoons, I work with a set of stylistic expectations. Anything that might be dimensional in real life merits light and shadow; colors are a touch more subdued than often seen in comics. I am conscious not to repeat myself with each new cartoon, as I keep in mind the style that Barry and I have set, and which seems to work well.

This cartoon presented me with three “easy” panels: a literal talking head against an empty space. I felt the shrillness of the absurd message being hammered by the media influencer. That made me think of 1960s Pop Art and the cult 1980s TV series “Max Headroom.” Don’t ask me how I jumped to those random parallels; I couldn’t tell you. I have learned to trust these leaps-of-synapse; they’re my brain doing a lightning-round of free association and they often have real meaning.

To realize these two styles, I used Photoshop filters which I’ve learned to adjust and control: Color Halftone and Mezzotint. Used as is, both effects look gaudy and unpleasant to my eyes. These effects can be toned down and made useful. Against a Pop Art background of zingy patterns and lurid colors, the speaker, who’s in color on the TV screen, which has a background of bright signal noise, is monotone in the “real life” of these panels. This felt right to me to capture the brassy vibe media pundits often exude—and the circus-like tenor of much news reporting and analysis.

In the final panel, which takes place in a recognizable space—a coffeeshop—I decided the pundit should still be in monotone, to suggest his real personality was the media presence that gets into everyone’s ears with its shouty, hey-looka-me style. Color can be an effective shorthand to impart a mood or feeling to the reader. If I have succeeded in making a visual analog to the clamorous din of news media, I’m happy with my work here. And I always look forward to the next cartoon and its new set of challenges.


This cartoon has four panels, plus an additional “kicker’ panel under the bottom of the cartoon.

Each panel features the same central character, who I’ll call “Media.” Media is a white man wearing a suit and tie, and carrying a microphone. But instead of a head, he has a flatscreen TV on top of his neck, and on the TV is a picture of a TV anchorman-type against a background of static.

In the first three panels Media is standing against a background of abstract and colorful pop-art shapes.


Media is leaning forward a bit and has a concerned expression.

MEDIA: Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden is old. Biden’s old. Biden’s so old. Biden’s old. Biden is old.


A closer shot of Media, now with a cheerful, chatty manner.

MEDIA: Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden is old old old. Biden’s old. Biden is old. Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden is too old.

MEDIA: Trump’s old too.


Media now looks a little panicked, spreading his arms and almost jumping up and down.

MEDIA: Biden Biden Biden! OLD OLD OLD!


The scene now changes to a coffee shop. Media’s body is in casual clothes – slacks and a black polo shirt. (Although Media’s head and shoulders, on the tv screen, is still wearing a suit.) Media is sitting at a table, with a coffee mug in front of him, looking annoyed as he vents to a friend.

MEDIA: How can these people call me biased? Didn’t they hear me call Trump old, too?


Media is talking, a bit angrily, to Barry the Cartoonist.

MEDIA: I’m pretending you said I shouldn’t report on Biden’s age at all. And I’m appalled you’d say that!


“Chicken Fat” is cartoonist slang for unimportant details the cartoonist sticks in for the fun of it. In this case, all the chicken fat is in panel four. First of all, on the shelves behind the counter in the background is the decapitated head of Charlie Brown from “Peanuts.” (Poor ol’ Charlie Brown.) Secondly, on the wall is a framed picture of Zoidberg from the TV show “Futurama.” (I’m a big fan of both Peanuts and Futurama).

Media: Biden is Old Old Old Oldy McOldface | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Media criticism | 12 Comments  

Cartoon: Let’s Outlaw Being Homeless! That’ll Work!

This cartoon is drawn by the always-great R. E. Ryan.

I worked for many years at a historic church site in Portland, Oregon. The most fun part of the job was directing wedding rehearsals. (As a wedding coordinator, I helped with hundreds, maybe thousands, of weddings, and I can confidently report that “bridezilla” brides are actually very, very rare.)

The least fun part was occasionally having to ask homeless people sleeping in the church doorway to wake up and move on. We had put together some info we could hand folks – numbers and addresses of local shelters – but I got the impression that most of them were well aware of those options already, and had their reasons for not going. Plus, then as now, many of the shelters are full.

Homelessness is incredibly hard to address – and the number one (but not only) policy that can help, building more and more housing, isn’t simple either, and can’t do anything about immediate short-term needs.

So it’s hard. But laws banning sleeping in public – and other aspects of being homeless – are a terrible response.

It’s not just cruel – these laws are literally demanding the impossible. Human beings are, alas, embodied physical beings existing in a physical universe, and it follows that we will inevitably be somewhere while we sleep. And if you’re someone who doesn’t have access to a private place to sleep – by definition, you’ll be sleeping in public.

Not that these laws are enforced against someone like me if I doze off while working in a coffee shop (as I have several times) or while sitting on a park bench. They’re not really laws against sleeping in public; they’re laws against being homeless. And they actually make it harder for people to get out of homelessness.

Eric Tars of the National Homelessness Law Center writes:

The growing affordable housing gap and shrinking social safety net have left millions of people homeless or at-risk, and most American cities have fewer emergency shelter beds than people who need shelter. Despite this lack of affordable housing and shelter space, many cities have chosen to criminally or civilly punish people living on the street for doing what any human being must do to survive, like sleeping, resting, and eating – activities we all do every day and take for granted. […]

Criminalization policies are ineffective and, in fact, make homelessness harder to exit. Because people experiencing homelessness are not on the street by choice but because they lack choices, criminal and civil punishment serves no constructive purpose. Instead, arrests, unaffordable tickets, and the collateral consequences of criminal convictions make it more difficult for people to exit homelessness and get back on their feet. Criminalization of homelessness might mean that individuals experiencing homelessness are taken to jail, where they may remain for weeks if they cannot pay their bail or fines, perhaps losing custody of their children, property and/or employment in the process. Once released, they could have criminal records that make it more difficult to get or keep a job, housing, or public benefits. Moreover, fines and court fees associated with resolving a criminalization case can amount to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Without the resources to pay, homeless people may be subject to additional jail time. Criminalization is the most expensive and least effective way of addressing homelessness and wastes scarce public resources on policies that do not work. A growing body of research comparing the cost of homelessness, including the cost of criminalization, with the cost of providing housing to homeless people shows that ending homelessness through housing is the most affordable option in the long run.


This cartoon has four panels. All the panels show a gritty commercial doorway – the kind that’s recessed a few feet into the building – on a city sidewalk. There’s litter and graffiti here.

There are two characters in the comic strip. The first character is a homeless man sleeping in the doorway, wearing a zip-up sweatshirt over a t-shirt and a dull red knit cap, and with a full beard.  The other character is a muscular-looking cop dressed in a police uniform and carrying a baton. In defiance of tradition, he is cleanshaven. I’ll call these two characters KNITCAP and COP.


Knitcap, covered by a brown blanket and with his head pillowed on some rolled-up clothes, is lying in a doorway, apparently asleep. The cop is using his baton to poke knitcap in the side. The cop has a somewhat sadistic grin.

COP: Hey, you! Get up! We’ve outlawed sleeping in public! You’re not allowed anymore!


Knitcap is sitting up, rubbing sleep out of his eyes with one hand. He speaks calmly. The cop watches, smirking, arms akimbo.

KNITCAP: In that case, I guess I’ll sleep in a hotel tonight.


A close-up of Knitcap. He’s stroking his chin with a hand, as if thinking through his options.

KNITCAP: Or should I sleep in my townhouse instead? Or my Hamptons place? I’ll call my butler and ask what he thinks!


Knitcap, grinning, is now holding a hand next to his face, thumb and pinky finger extended, pretending it’s a phone as he talks. The cop is glaring and slapping his baton against his palm.

KNITCAP: Smithers? Smithers old boy! My super fun street sleeping holiday is done. Which of my mansions shall I sleep in tonight.

COP (thought): Next step: Outlaw sarcasm.


Chicken fat are unimportant but fun details cartoonists sometimes sneak into comic strips.

In panel one, in the lower-right-hand corner of the panel, two rats are sitting, holding playing cards and apparently playing poker, or some similar card game. In panel two, a cat walks in, apparently stalking the rats. The rats look at the cat. And in panel four, the cat has been dealt in and is playing the game with them.

In all the panels, Knitcap is wearing a t-shirt with some words that are hard to make out. But what it says is “No, you’re Spartacus.”

In panel three, there’s a lot of mostly-unintelligible graffiti, but just below the doorknob someone has painted “BACKGROUND DETAILS RULZ.”

Let’s Outlaw Being Homeless! That’ll Work! | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists!

There’s something bizarrely fun about drawing myself as a cliche of a wealthy man.

Although at the same time I was drawing this cartoon, I was also working on a still-to-come cartoon which also involves lots and lots of panels of me, so the two of them together were making me feel a bit like Narcissus. It eventually got to me enough that I put the other cartoon aside for a while, but I’ll get back to it someday.

The two other most fun parts of drawing this cartoon: Drawing the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” pose in panel four. And: Fish!

When I posted a panel-in-progress from this cartoon on social media, a few different readers reached out to let me know that a tiny globe bowl like this is actually a very unhealthy environment for a fish. What can I say – apparently Rich Barry is kind of a jerk.

On my discord , “Tired” wrote:

Rich Barry is probably rich enough to have a new fish deposited in his bowl morning before he gets up. It’s like a milk delivery service, except it’s a living fish delivery service.

To which Charles replied with this disturbing anecdote:

I recently read an article about Hugh Hefner’s widow, in which the creepiest detail, out of many creepy details,  was that he had a pair of caged songbirds in his bedroom that died every few days and were replaced with a new pair of songbirds (eventually, someone discovered their water bottle was broken), so exactly that service except with songbirds.

Brrrr! The very rich really are different from you and me.

This cartoon is inspired by some of economist Dean Baker’s writings (his blog Beat The Press is essential reading if you happen to be a cartoonist who has to do at least six econ-related cartoons every year – and whom among us doesn’t that describe?). In particular, I referenced chapter seven of his 2016 book Rigged (which can be downloaded for free on Baker’s website).  Baker writes:

There is one final point worth mentioning in this discussion. Of course, many young professionals, especially doctors, have put in years of training and have incurred large debts to practice in a field that they expected to be financially rewarding. It is reasonable to have some sympathy for them and perhaps lessen the blow from market-opening measures by, for example, offering student loan forgiveness.

However, why apply a different standard to market openings for highly trained professionals than to market openings for textile workers and autoworkers? For less highly paid workers we take steps that increase efficiency and promote growth and pledge that we will help those left behind. (In most cases the help has not been especially useful.) It does not make sense to believe that the most educated workers in society somehow are in need of greater protection from the government than the millions of less-educated workers who have been displaced by trade openings and other measures. Sympathy might be appropriate, special protection is not.


This cartoon has eight panels.


This panel shows Barry (that is, me), wearing an expensive-looking three piece suit. He’s sitting in a big armchair, legs crossed at the knee, waving at us with one hand and holding a cigar in the other. Next to the armchair is a small glass fishbowl with a gold-colored fish in it.

BARRY: Hi! I’m Barry, and I’ll be your cartoonist today. You ever wonder why cartoonists like me make so much money?


Barry is holding out a big globe as he speaks.

BARRY: “After all,” you say, “There are well-trained cartoonists all over the world willing to take U.S. qualification exams and draw cartoons for much less.”


Barry is pontificating and looks pretentious, one hand holding a lapel of his jacket, the other holding a forefinger up in a “giving a lecture” sort of way. Behind him, the fish is watching.

BARRY: True! Luckily, the U.S. limits how many foreign cartoonists can work here. Despite the severe problems caused by the cartoonist shortage.


Barry is now in the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster pose, pointing a finger at the reader, and wearing an Uncle Sam top hat.

BARRY: According to Uncle Sam, “free trade” and competition driving down pay isn’t for me. It’s for unimportant non-cartoonist people like you.


Barry and a woman are in the panel. Barry has grabbed her purse and is pulling cash out of it; the woman looks annoyed.

BARRY: All of this means cartoonists can charge more for cartoons. It’s like a tax you pay so I can be richer.


Still in the fishbowl on the little table, the goldfish speaks, with a slightly distressed expression. Barry is very shocked by this development, jumping up and eyes popping.

GOLDY: Hold on, that can’t be true!

BARRY: Goldy? You can talk?


A close-up on Goldy as she sticks her head out above the water to speak. She looks worried.

GOLDY:  Don’t change the subject. Does Uncle Sam really make us all pay more so you can be richer?

BARRY: Nah, I was fibbing. They don’t do that for cartoonists.


Goldy, smiling, is relieved. Barry shrugs as he cheerfully goes on.

GOLDY: I knew it! Protectionism for the rich would be totally against the U.S.’s ideas of fairness and free tra-

BARRY: They just do it for doctors, dentists, and lawyers.


“Chicken fat” is a cartoonist expression for unimportant but hopefully fun details in a cartoon that readers could easily miss.

In panel one, a little label pointing to Rich Barry’s cufflink says “gold cufflinks.” In panel two, when Rich Barry holds up a globe, a little caption pointing to it says “Golden Globe.” And in panel three, a similar little caption pointing to the fish says “Gold Fish.”

In panel two, if you look closely at the continents on the globe Rich Barry is holding, one is shaped like Pac-Man and two are shaped like Ghosts fleeing Pac-Man.

In panel six, when Barry’s glasses pop off in cartoon surprise, his eyeballs remain in the glasses rather than staying on his face.

Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Economics and the like | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: “Sex Is Real” Is A Euphemism

This cartoon was drawn by my frequent collaborator Nadine Scholtes.

The video blogger Natalie Wynn, also known as “Contrapoints,” years ago made an observation that’s stuck with me.

“Sex is real” is a euphemism designed to present… transphobia as a simple statement of fact.

And it’s true. Pretty much every time I hear someone claiming that they’d been fired or “cancelled” just for saying “sex is real,” it turns out that they said a lot more than that.

For example, the British choreographer Rosie Kay, who wrote in The Standard that “I was cancelled at my own dinner table.” Even worse, she was “forced to resign” because she had experienced “discrimination based on my belief that sex is real.”

So was that the entire complaint – Kay just said “sex is real”? Unsurprisingly, no.

Here’s what was actually in the complaint: Rosie Kay invited a number of dancers, including some trans and nonbinary dancers, to a work party at her home, where she told the dancers – effectively her employees – that transwomen “only want access to female toilets to commit sexual assault.” She demanded that employees “confirm you have a penis, and you have a vagina?” She told workers that “if you believe that you are non-binary then you are insane.”

In other words, she pretty much wrote this cartoon for me.


This cartoon has four panels.


A man in a blue turtleneck, wearing a name tag, sits behind a desk marked “customer service,” hand on forehead, looking like he’s very annoyed. Also behind the customer service desk, a woman who looks like a manager – silver hair, blouse and jacket – is leaning over his shoulder and haranguing him. I’m going to name the woman “Manager.”

MANAGER: Can you just confirm that you’ve got a vagina? Just say it! Say “I have lady bits.” Say it!


We’re now in a warehouse or back storage area, with many large boxes on industrial shelving. She is talking, with a condescending attitude, to a worker wearing a hardhat and yellow vest, who is carrying a couple of boxes stacked. The employee looks like they really, really wish they were anywhere else.

MANAGER: “Non-Binary?” Ha! No such thing! Thinking you’re non-binary means you’re insane!


We’re in what looks like a backroom employee break area – water cooler, cheap folding chair at a table. The manager stands between a tall woman and the women’s room door, deliberately blocking the way. The woman being blocked has a restrained anger expression and her arms folded.

MANAGER: So-called “transwomen” only want access to women’s bathrooms to commit rape!


Manager is standing gently crying, holding a handkerchief to one eye (no tears are actually visible). A hand comes in from out-of-panel, holding a professional-looking microphone – i.e., the manager is being interviewed for a news show. A logo in the lower right corner says “4,” so presumably this is on channel 4.

REPORTER: So you were fired for saying “sex is real”?

MANAGER: That’s what happened.


“Chicken fat” is a cartoonists’ expression for meaningless but fun details in comics.

In panel 1, there are a series of fliers, all with the same picture of a startled-looking cat, taped to the wall. The first one says “Lost Cat!” The second says “Never mind! Found it!” And the third says “Cat for sale!”

In panel 2, a poster taped to a shelving unit says “FORKLIFT IN USE” in large red letters, and in smaller letters below that, says “If crushed remember to clock out!”

In panel 3, a poster taped to the wall has a lot of little pink hearts and the lettering “The company loves you!”

And in panel 4,  a chyron scroll (that little scrolling text with allegedly breaking news at the bottom of news broadcasts) says “Chyron writers vote to unioni…,” and then on a second line in smaller lettering, “Networks announce new “AI Chyron” project will soon take…”

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: Appealing to Trump Voters by Getting Tough on Immigration!

It’s extremely common for centrist Democrats to say that we must change this or that policy to attract more right-wing voters into the Democratic camp. We have to toughen up on immigration; we have to stop advocating for trans rights; we have to forget about this environment stuff; etc etc..

(Decades ago, centrists were saying Democrats absolutely had to move right on abortion to attract more voters. Which seems ironic now, since reaction against the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade is what’s done the most lately to push voters into the Democratic camp.)

Here’s the thing: It won’t work. It’ll never work.

Most truly swing voters simply aren’t that engaged with politics. They can’t name a supreme court justice, or who the vice president is, any more than I could tell you the name of the teams who played in the last Super Bowl. They’re certainly not familiar with the nuances of which exact immigration policies are supported by either party. Attempting to appeal to these voters with policy changes is probably a waste of time.

Then there are voters like the voters in this cartoon – passionately engaged voters who, probably due to the media bubbles they spend their time in, are convinced that the Democrats are something between idiots and malicious supervillains, and who see no differences between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, or even between Biden and Noam Chomsky.

Changing policy will never appeal to these voters, because FOX and other right-wing news sources will tell them that it’s a trick or a lie (if they even report on the policy change at all). They know that anything mainstream news (let alone Democrats) say is a lie and the only news source they can trust is FOX, and they know that’s true because FOX says so. (Or Trump. Or Alex Jones. The point is, they’ve got a closed universe of trustworthy sources, and we are not in that universe.)

I’m not thrilled with how panel two came out; I was experimenting with a different approach to drawing the background, and in hindsight I should have just drawn the background and desk with a two-point perspective grid (which is how I did panel three).

But I did have a lot of fun filling in the background shelves with books and stuff.

Panels one and four, which consist to a great degree of piles of ridiculous angry faces, were just awesome to draw. And Frank Young did a great job with the colors!


This cartoon has four panels. All of them feature the same character, who I’ll call “DEMOCRAT,” an older man with neatly combed, thick gray hair, rectangular glasses, and is usually wearing a suit and tie.


Democrat is facing a big crowd of very angry people (mostly male, mostly white). They’re so crowded together that most of them seem like just a pile of faces. In the lead, a man wearing a short-sleeved collared shirt with a necktie shakes a fist in the air as he SCREAMS at Democrat. His face is a picture of rage.

Democrat listens calmly, rubbing his chin with a hand.


DEMOCRAT (thought balloon): I want people like them to vote for Democrats, so I’ll give them what they want.


Democrat is now in an office, seated behind a large and fancy desk. This looks like a pretty nice office. Democrat is on the phone, yelling at someone and pounding his fist on the desk.

DEMOCRAT: Forget helping the Dreamers! From now on Democrats support border security! Make it tougher! Send away asylum seekers! Hire more border guards!


Democrat is now on stage, standing behind a podium with a microphone pointed at him, giving a speech. A spotlight shines on him. He’s grinning.

DEMOCRAT: Our new bill is the toughest border security bill ever!


This panel, much like the first panel, shows Democrat facing a crowd of very angry people, with the same dude leading them. That dude is pointing a finger at Democrat and is yelling, his face just as furious as in panel 1. Democrat is talking to him with a smile, bent forward a little with his hands clasped together.

DEMOCRAT: So you like Democrats better now, right?



“Chicken fat” is a cartoonist expression for fun but meaningless details slipped into a cartoon.

In panel one, the person in the foreground with his back to us is a self-portrait.

In panel two, there are a number of books on shelves in the backgrounds. Titles of these books include “Duck Soup,” “A Night At The Opera,” and “Horse Feathers” – for those of you who don’t know, those are all titles of Marx Brothers movies. Another book just has “TITLE” written on the spine in big letters. Another says “Covfefe! The Musical.” And two more, shelved next to each other, are titled “Tiny Lettering” and “Tiny Lettering 2.”

Also on the shelves is a bottle of booze and a decapitated head.  Finally, in the tiny space under one of the shelves, a rat is reading a book.

In panel three, the seal on the front of the podium has the words “colorless green ideas sleep furiously,” which is a sentence “composed by Noam Chomsky in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures as an example of a sentence that is grammatically well-formed, but semantically nonsensical.” (There’s an entire wikipedia article about this sentence.)

The bird on the seal, which would usually be an eagle, is Opus the Penguin from Bloom County,

In panel four, there are two familiar faces seeded among the sea of angry faces: Bert from Sesame Street, and Frankenstein.

(Speaking of Frankenstein, I have no idea who created this little addendum to Mary Shelley’s novel, but I love it.)


Appealing To Trump Voters | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Elections and politics, Immigration, Migrant Rights, etc | 30 Comments  


This cartoon is drawn by Becky Hawkins – back on the set of The JAQ Off, which she created, and which may be the only purposely repeating setting in Leftycartoons. (Not counting repeating settings like “Barry is drawing characters walking through the park for the thirtieth time because that’s fun to draw”).

Becky writes:

“The JAQ-Off” is my favorite contribution to the Barry political cartoon extended universe. It’s also handy to draw because I have the setting and one character designed already. Unfortunately, my plan of “scroll social media til I find a ‘model’ for the JAQ-off guest” turned into “scroll til my brain hurts and British TERF/Islamophobe rage is dripping out my ears.” Occupational hazard. I didn’t base this guest on a real person, just an average face, haircut and sweater from a group photo.

When I was sketching panel 3, I had to draw the guest’s face in more detail. I had some trouble drawing her cartoonishly-round but not circular head from this angle. I set my phone to selfie mode and mouthed “homophobic” and “woke” (the photo on the left).

I go back and forth on whether my characters have upper lips, and that makes this pose difficult to draw. I remembered feedback that this expression was hard to read in an earlier cartoon, so I mouthed “for REAL” and went with the photo on the right:

(Now Playing on those headphones: the Bechdel Cast episode on Sorry to Bother You).

(Back to Barry!)

Sometimes, when I parody something ridiculous that the transphobes did or say, I worry that people will think I made it up.

For instance, there really is a prominent right-wing “medical” organization (The American College of Pediatricians)  which clearly chose its name in the hope of being confused with a long-existing, prestigious medical organization (The American Academy of Pediatricians). They really are that shameless.

It’s also true that transphobes have been spreading the idea that gay kids are being pressured to “turn trans” because of homophobia. This is an obviously ridiculous theory that many internet randos have put forward, but it’s also been supported by non-randos like J. K. Rowling.

I’m happier than usual with this script, mainly because I think it’s funnier than my usual – every panel has something I find funny. I’m also in love with how well Becky drew the host’s indifference in panel two.

Thanks to our friend Rachel Swirsky, who suggested the name “American Medical Approximation.” (I had “American Medical Appropriation.”)


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel depicts a TV talk show, called “The JAQ Off.”  There are a couple of plants (with “The JAQ Off” written on their pots), and between them a desk with “Just Asking Questions” painted in large letters on the front. We can see big TV lights pointing at the desk.

Two women are seated behind the desk. On the left is the host of the show, who has short, nicely styled brown hair, and is wearing a suit jacket over a green blouse. On the right is the guest, an older woman with long white hair wearing a blue turtleneck. We’ll call them HOST and DEEMS.


The Host is smiling and speaking to the camera as she gestures at her guest. Deems is speaking and holding her palms up as if denying an accusation.

HOST: Our guest is Doctor Debbie Deems of the prestigious American Medical Association! She’s here to talk about protecting gay teens.

DEEMS: Technically, we’re the American Medical Approximation. It’s a common mix-up we’re certainly not trying to encourage.


The host takes a sip of her water while she makes a shrug with her other arm. The guest lifts herself up from her seat a little, her expression conveying urgency.

HOST: Tomayto tomahto. What’s the main danger gay teens face?

DEEMS: The big danger is they’re being force to turn trans.


A close-up on Deems as she makes a point to the camera, a forefinger upheld. She looks pretty frantic.

DEEMS: There’s an epidemic of homophobic woke parent who can’t stand their kids being gay so they turn their kids trans! This is definitely something that happens verifiably and for real!


The host has put a hand over her mouth, looking concerned. Deems is calm and very composed all of a sudden.

HOST: That’s terrible! Do you have any examples you can tell us about?


HOST: Well, I’m convinced!


“Chicken fat” is a cartoonist expression for little gags and details that the cartoonist put in that don’t actually matter, but are fun anyway.

In this strip, the “chicken fat” in in panel three, where there are a few chyron lines crawling across the bottom of the panel. (Chyrons are the text scrolling across the bottom of news networks).  Chyron line one just says “Coming Up.” Line two says “Expert: trans people peed on her cat, sofa” and line three says “Did Soros invent the trans activist movement? We imply yes!”

Homophobic Woke Parents Are Turning Gay Kids Trans! | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 25 Comments  

Cartoon: Biden Stuffed Ballot Boxes in Boise!

If you like these cartoons, blah blah blah Patreon.

A zombie belief on the right that will never be killed is that Democrats massively cheat in every major election, manufacturing tens of thousands of fake votes, usually in ways that would absolutely never work at scale.

For instance, in December 2020, Donald Trump shared a Washington Examiner article on Facebook. The article, based on statements from one of Trump’s election lawyers, claimed that in Nevada in 2000:

42,000 people voted more than once; 19,000 didn’t live in Nevada; 15,000 votes were cast from a commercial address; 8,000 voted using a non-existent address; 4,000 ineligible noncitizens voted; and 1,500 dead people voted.

None of that is true.

That these claims are wrong has been known for years. Most of those claims were found either false, or to have no evidence, by a Nevada judge. Yet just last week (late January 2024), superpopular right-wing conspiracy theorist and unbelievably awful human being Alex Jones was still spreading a video of the Trump lawyer making his claims. It got nearly 70,000 likes on Twitter.

There are over a thousand replies to Jones’ tweet, and most of them say things like “Wow! Wow!  I’m lost for words.  Where is the FBI???” and “I quit even caring because the theft was blatant, now evidence keeps trickling out years later and nothing will be done” and “The evidence just keeps piling up, yet absolutely nothing will be done about it.”

Thousands of people are convinced that they watched a video with evidence of gigantic voter fraud in Nevada. They didn’t see any evidence; they just saw a guy making unsourced and false claims in a confident voice. He said it; people they trust like Alex Jones and Donald Trump share it; therefore it is true.

And Nevada is just one of dozens of cases. Some right-wing grifter claims to have evidence of thousands of fake votes, it makes a lot of news on the right, legitimate experts debunk them, the grifter suffers no loss of reputation on the right, rinse and repeat.

There’s a cartoon that I’ve seen several times – at least twice because someone posted it as a response to one of my cartoons. I can’t find it, but as I recall, the cartoon makes fun of the way cartoonists tend to show people they agree with as calm and in control, while the people the cartoonist disagrees with are depicted as anger personified.

It’s honestly a fair critique. And having read that cartoon has made me consciously try to reduce my reliance on that trope, or even – as in this strip – reverse it, so the character I agree with is the angry one.

And really, why shouldn’t she be angry? The GOP’s dedication to this zombie conspiracy theory is genuinely enraging. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to be angry.

In an earlier draft, the right-wing character had a much more purposeful and malevolent personality.

There certainly are some malevolent persons involved in this – some just grifters, some genuine monsters like Trump and Alex Jones.

But many of the true believers are just stuck in a bad echo chamber, and you can even feel sorry for them. They’ve been lied to over and over, told that the society they grew up in is being taken away by evil woke Democrat cheaters. They’ve back a bad horse, and probably they’ll never know better.

Which is sad for them – but sadder for the rest of us, who they’re harming. Following that line of thought, I decided the character in this strip is one of the duped, not a deliberate duper.

I’m so happy with the colors on this strip! At least, right now I am.

The rest of the art, I have mixed feelings about. I know, logically speaking, that I can draw. But the first few figures I did (the first three instances of the woman wearing glasses) felt like I’d somehow forgotten all about how to draw. The rest of the figures I drew felt good, though. I’m especially fond of the mad face of the foreground figure in panel three.


This cartoon has four panels. There are two main characters. The first is a woman with dark red hair going to a bit below her shoulders, glasses with fashionably thick arms, and a short black peacoat over jeans and a blouse. We’ll call her GLASSES.

The other character is a woman with very short, somewhat spikey blonde hair, wearing a red puffy vest over a long-sleeved shirt and baggy black pants. We’ll call her VEST.

The two of them are talking on a suburban looking sidewalk, with a house, a bush and a tree in the background.


Glasses is holding up her smartphone to display the screen to Vest, and pointing to the phone with her other hand.  She looks distressed.

Vest is pissed off – waving her arms and yelling.

GLASSES: In Nevada in 2020, 1,500 dead people voted for Biden! And 4,000 illegal aliens voted! I read it on Facebook!

VEST: Oh come ON!!! Just because someone says something doesn’t make it TRUE!


Vest is leaning forward, holding her fist in front of her (but not in a threatening way, just angry). Glasses, smiling, holds up her hands, palms out, in a peacemaking gesture.

VEST (still yelling): I could say there’s a video of Joe Biden personally stuffing ballot boxes in Boise! That doesn’t mean it happened!

GLASSES: Hey, no need for raised voices. Let’s agree to disagree.


In the foreground, Vest, muttering to herself, is walking away, pushing up her own hair angrily and biting her lip. In the background, Glasses has her back to Vest but has turned her head to watch Vest depart.

VEST (muttering): mumble grr stupid maga idiot @%$*!


A shot of Glasses alone. She’s looking distressed again, and is anxiously and rapidly tapping on her phone as she types into it. In her thought balloon we can see what it is she’s typing. (By the way, the typo is on purpose. Well, it wasn’t originally on purpose, but I noticed the typo before I posted the cartoon and decided to leave it in,, so in that sense it’s on purpose).

GLASSES (typing into phone): BIG news! EXLCUSIVE! Dem source says VIDEO has emerged of BIDEN HIMSELF PERSONALLY STUFFING BALLOT BOXES in BOISE! #FakeElection #cheatingJoeBiden


“Chicken fat” means easily-overlooked and meaningless details in a cartoon the cartoonists put in, which maybe you (and they) find amusing. There are two bits of chicken fat in this comic. In panel one, in the background, there’s a house, and if you look carefully in the window you’ll see Homer Simpson looking out. And in panel two, in the lower left corner, we can see that someone hidden in the bushes is spying on the characters’ conversation.

Biden Stuffed Ballot Boxes in Boise! | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Elections and politics | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: Crackpots, Left vs Right

This cartoon was drawn by Becky Hawkins! See if you can spot the little details she sneaked in (answers at the bottom).

“There are crackpots on the left, too!” is a pretty common sentiment – one of the many false equivalents that seem to dominate the country’s political discourse.  And it always annoys me because, yes, there are some people with ludicrous, conspiracy theory ideas on the left – but Democrats aren’t electing any of those people President.

Power matters. Even most professors have virtually no power compared to a President, a Congress member, or even someone like Tucker Carlson. But believing in ridiculous conspiracy theories is not only no barrier to success on the right – it’s practically required.

Last month, Trump endorsed the theory that the January 6th riot was a false flag:

Trump concurred with alarmist extraordinaire Candace Owens during her radio show that the riot may have been a false flag operation, citing the “reporting” done by acclaimed journalists Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan. “Right, it seems like that,” Trump affirmed. “And you have BLM and you had antifa people. I have very little doubt about that and they were antagonizing and they were agitating.”

This sort of thing is nothing new for Trump, who first rose to political prominence by promoting birtherism.

And Trump doesn’t stand alone. At least two elected GOP members of Congress support QAnon.

Greene and Boebert were among at least a dozen Republican congressional candidates who had endorsed or given credence to QAnon’s unfounded belief that Trump is the last line of defense against a cabal of child-molesting Democrats who seek to dominate world power.

Belief in other conspiracy theories – that Biden stole the election, that climate change is a hoax, etc. – is common among Republicans, including elected Republicans.

There are tens of millions of Democrats, and of Republicans, in the USA. With numbers that large, of course there will always be some people believing in ridiculous and impossible theories. But in a healthy party, those folks will be at the margins – not in the White House.

I had been playing around with lettering effects and decided to do a strip incorporating fancy lettering into the design. It was perfect for a “comparison” strip like this one, where dividing the strip in two with some enormous lettering makes visual sense.

The danger, of course, is that in a couple of years I might look back on this and wince; computer effects that seem neat and fresh when I use them for the first time often seem tacky later on. (So 2025 Barry, who is putting together the 2023/2024 reprint collection: What do you think? Let us know.)

I asked Becky where that flag in panel four came from. She replied, “I googled ‘tacky flag.’ …And didn’t feel like drawing the version where the Eagle pulls aside the Stars and Stripes to reveal Jesus with thorns and the words ‘faith over fear.'”


This cartoon is dominated by a large title, going horizontally across the image, which says “CRACKPOTS LEFT vs RIGHT.” The title lettering divides the cartoon in two, with two panels above the lettering, and two panels below it.


A woman with green hair and an undercut is typing furiously on her phone. She’s wearing a black collar with spikes, has a pierced nose, and tattoos. Her face is radiating anger. A word balloon coming from the phone shows what she’s typing.

PHONE: 9/11 was CLEARLY an INSIDE job. Bin Laden WORKED for the CIA! Controlled demolition! Insider trading! HALIBURTON! #911truth #insidejob #wakeup


The same woman turns to talk to someone who is off-panel, her face and demeanor now calm as she looks away from her phone. We can now see that she’s behind the counter in a coffee shop.

OFF-PANEL CUSTOMER: Excuse me, can I get my coffee refilled?

BARISTA: Coming right up!


We are looking at a blonde woman in extreme close-up as she types on her phone. Her face is so angry she looks like she’s about to have an embolism. A word balloon coming from her phone shows us what she’s typing.

PHONE: 1/6 was a FALSE FLAG op jointly run by ANTIFA & the FBI to DISTRACT us from HUNTER BIDEN’S LAPTOP!! #J6files #fakenews #wakeup


The “camera” has pulled back and we can now see that the woman is wearing a conservative blue skirt-suit and matching high heels. She’s in an expensive looking office, leaning back in a large brown leather desk chair, and resting her feet on the desk. She’s talking to an off-panel assistant, and she’s now quite calm and maybe even a little bored.

OFF-CAMERA ASSISTANT: Pardon me, Congresswoman? Time for your FOX interview.



“Chicken fat” means easily-overlooked and meaningless details in a cartoon the cartoonists put in, which maybe you (and they) find amusing. In this cartoon, all of the chicken fat was made up by Becky (yay Becky!).

Panel 1: Her tattoos include a Mickey Mouse silhouette with blood spattered across it a la the Watchmen symbol, and a donut shaped like an infinity symbol, which today I learned is a thing.

Panel 2: A chalkboard on the wall in the background says “All Coffee Are Beautiful,” arranged so that if you read the first letters downwards, they spell “ACAB.” Another chalkboard says “Daily Special – Salted Caramel – Pumpkin Spice – White Tears.” The IPAD they use as a register has a “Cool S” symbol on its face. (Today I learned that no one actually knows the origin of that symbol.)

Panel 4: Behind the congresswoman is a variation on the American flag, with a bald eagle in profile in front of the stripes, and a white cross in place of the stars. On her desk is a take-out coffee container with the “don’t tread on me” snake on it, and a coffee mug with “Liberal Tears” written on it.

Crackpots: Left vs Right | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc. | 1 Comment