Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday morning toons: First and Second Amendment smack-down!

Lucky for us that no one in Congress fears, or sucks up to, the mental health lobby as much as they do the gun lobby or the Tea Party right, or lord only knows what kind of trouble we'd all be in right now.

In point of fact, I don't see this week's main news story as primarily about either the First or the Second Amendment, although (as you'll be reminded in many of this week's toons) a lot of talking heads think differently, and issues from both domains are certainly involved. To those who simply must talk about proximate causes in the Tucson shootings, I'd recommend the near-elimination -- since before the Tucson shooter was born, in fact -- of public funding for the kind of mental health services that might have provided some place for him to be other than walking the streets with a recently-purchased handgun. (Ironically, that funding cut happened on this guy's watch.)

If I were going to pick that one political toon that perfectly and precisely captured the story of the week, the choice would be simple: Nick Anderson by a country mile.

(On the other hand, to those of my readers who will be disappointed without at least some nod to controversial speech and gunplay, I offer the consolation that Mark Twain -- no stranger to either -- makes more than one appearance on today's program.)

The rest of today's offerings have been hand-selected from the week's political cartoon pages at Slate, Time, Mario Piperni,, and Daryl Cagle:

p3 Picks of the Week: Mike Luckovich, David Fitzsimmons, Paul Szep, Dana Summers, Rob Rogers, Pat Bagley, Bob Englehart, Bruce Plante, and Monte Wolverton.

p3 Spotting the Inevitability Award: David Fitzsimmons.

p3 Literary Criticism to Its Inevitable Conclusion Award: Cam Cardow.

Raising Funds From Arizona: Jim Morin, Mike Luckovich, and Tom Toles.

Didn't Arizona fight against celebrating his birthday? Probably a coincidence. John Deering, Marshall Ramsey, and Henry Payne.

p3 World Toon Review: Patrick Chapatte (Switzerland), Ingrid Rice (Canada), Victor Ndula (Kenya), and Paresh (India).

Ann Telnaes salutes the most open-minded member of Congress.

Mark Fiore considers the lesson to learn from this week's shootings.

Tom Tomorrow reminds us of the important moral to be drawn from this week's violence: words can hurt.

Perspective: use it or lose it. After getting chased to the curb or almost right-hooked more than once yesterday on my bicycle, I was in serious need of some perspective. The K Chronicles thoughtfully provides it.

Tom the Dancing Bug looks to the future of classic novels revised to meet contemporary sensibilities.

Special "know your literary antecedents" feature: Legendary animator Chuck Jones has often said that he got the idea for the poor creature who became Wile E. Coyote from an account by Mark Twain, in Roughing It, of the first coyote he ever saw, on his first journey west of the Mississippi:

Along about an hour after breakfast we saw the first prairie-dog villages, the first antelope, and the first wolf. If I remember rightly, this latter was the regular cayote (pronounced ky-o-te) of the farther deserts. And if it was, he was not a pretty creature or respectable either, for I got well acquainted with his race afterward, and can speak with confidence. The cayote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton, with a gray wolf-skin stretched over it, a tolerably bushy tail that forever sags down with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The cayote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry.

He is always poor, out of luck and friendless. The meanest creatures despise him, and even the fleas would desert him for a velocipede. He is so spiritless and cowardly that even while his exposed teeth are pretending a threat, the rest of his face is apologizing for it.
That much I remembered from some time ago, and it pretty much fits ol' Wile E. to a T, doesn't it? But it wasn't until I pulled out my beaten-up college copy of Roughing It (the previous owner had penciled in helpful marginalia like: "satire," "exaggeration," and "irony," with arrows back to the appropriate passages) that I realized the rest of the story. See if you recognize anyone from this next part of Twain's same tribute to the coyote:
[I]f you start a swift-footed dog after him, you will enjoy it ever so much--especially if it is a dog that has a good opinion of himself, and has been brought up to think he knows something about speed.

The cayote will go swinging gently off on that deceitful trot of his, and every little while he will smile a fraudful smile over his shoulder that will fill that dog entirely full of encouragement and worldly ambition, and make him lay his head still lower to the ground, and stretch his neck further to the front, and pant more fiercely, and stick his tail out straighter behind, and move his furious legs with a yet wilder frenzy, and leave a broader and broader, and higher and denser cloud of desert sand smoking behind, and marking his long wake across the level plain! And all this time the dog is only a short twenty feet behind the cayote, and to save the soul of him he cannot understand why it is that he cannot get perceptibly closer; and he begins to get aggravated, and it makes him madder and madder to see how gently the cayote glides along and never pants or sweats or ceases to smile; and he grows still more and more incensed to see how shamefully he has been taken in by an entire stranger, and what an ignoble swindle that long, calm, soft-footed trot is; and next he notices that he is getting fagged, and that the cayote actually has to slacken speed a little to keep from running away from him--and then that town-dog is mad in earnest, and he begins to strain and weep and swear, and paw the sand higher than ever, and reach for the cayote with concentrated and desperate energy. This "spurt" finds him six feet behind the gliding enemy, and two miles from his friends. And then, in the instant that a wild new hope is lighting up his face, the cayote turns and smiles blandly upon him once more, and with a something about it which seems to say: "Well, I shall have to tear myself away from you, bub--business is business, and it will not do for me to be fooling along this way all day"--and forthwith there is a rushing sound, and the sudden splitting of a long crack through the atmosphere, and behold that dog is solitary and alone in the midst of a vast solitude!

It makes his head swim. He stops, and looks all around; climbs the nearest sand-mound, and gazes into the distance; shakes his head reflectively, and then, without a word, he turns and jogs along back to his train, and takes up a humble position under the hindmost wagon, and feels unspeakably mean, and looks ashamed, and hangs his tail at half-mast for a week. And for as much as a year after that, whenever there is a great hue and cry after a cayote, that dog will merely glance in that direction without emotion, and apparently observe to himself, "I believe I do not wish any of the pie."
Jones said he first read Roughing It when he was six, which seems to be a tad too prodigious, but you never know. In any case it evidently made an impression on his young self. I haven't found any indication from Jones that he stole this imagery of cheerful smile and taunting superspeed from Twain's coyote and grafted it onto the blithe, androgynous Road Runner character. But it's hard to read that description -- "the sudden splitting of a long crack through the atmosphere," after which the pursuer "is solitary and alone in the midst of a vast solitude" -- without imagining asphalt burning up behind the Road Runner, while the Coyote retrieves his jaw from the pavement. (The events in Roughing It occur several years before the first railroads crossed the plains and desert, so any dry goods ordered from the Acme catalogue would have taken weeks to arrive.)

Pinhead or patriot? Political toonist Nate Beeler turns up frequently here on the p3 Sunday morning toons, This week, he turned up on the Bill O'Reilly show, in connection with the Tucson shootings. Comic Riffs has the story.

First it was bedbugs: Now Red Meat's Bug-eyed Earl finds that it's gone to the next level.

What's the first rule of the "No Girls Allowed" treehouse? This great Calvin and Hobbes mash-up has the answer.

Ever wonder how comic book covers get designed? Here's a crash course, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics,

Do not miss this collection of Czech posters for classic Japanese monster movies! (h/t Valerie)

Infinite one-panel sadness: Oh, man. The Comic Curmudgeon asks: What if the lesson of Ziggy is that even he needs to ratchet his expectations downward? Now I am depressed.

Here's Barry Blitt's illustration for this week's Frank Rich NYTimes column on the inevitable topic.

Taiwan's Next Media Animation recreates the latest true-life adventure of Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones.

Portland homeboy Jack Ohman gets the irony.

Say! I never tied down no punkins! From 1950, directed by Robert McKimson, here's "The Leghorn Blows at Midnight," starring Foghorn Leghorn, Barnyard Dawg, and Henery Hawk -- all voiced by Mel Blanc, with musical direction by the great Carl Stalling.

(Note to Facebook friends: If you're reading this in FB Notes, you'll need to click View Original Post to see the video.)

p3 Bonus Toon: Jesse Springer contemplates the scenic splendor of the 2011-2013 budget.

Bonus Bonus Springer Toon: Here are alternate Springer universe versions of last week's college football championship game. (Extra points if you can remember the reference in the second one.)

Test your toon-captioning chops at The New Yorker's weekly caption-the-cartoon contest. (Rules here.)

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