Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday morning toons: It may be time to put ridicule back in the toolbox for a bit

(Update: Apparently I had a "squirrel!" moment in the middle of the Ann Telnaes bit, below. It's fixed now.)

Two stories dominated the news, and the toons, this week (sorry, Donald! too bad for you, Saudi Arabia and Iraq! tough noogies, North Korea! count your blessings, Bill Cosby! lucky break, China! just go away, Roy Moore!): The bizarre attempt by the Bundy brothers and their followers to take over, and get snacks, in Burns, Oregon, and the Obama initiative to bring about widely popular and incredibly modest gun safety (we're still a long, long way from anything that could remotely be called "gun control") measures by executive order.

You'll see different angles on the Burns occupation. Some ridicule the militia guys, a group who could hardly have come less well-prepared if they were arriving at their first bar mitzvah.

Some went the obvious track of imagining how long and how peaceful the standoff would (not) have been if the occupiers had been black or Muslim. I don't find the point as compelling as some people do. If you're looking for a parallel, in which a town was occupied in defiance of the federal government and it did not turn out well, there's not much need for hypotheticals. Plus that easy argument misses the essential problem caused by the militia/posse commitatus movement of the last few decades, now on display in Burns: This is not about the overreach (or underreach) of law enforcement officials; the government's soft-hands reponse is shaped far more by Waco and Ruby Ridge than anything about Sanford, Ferguson, or Baltimore. Nor is it about the semantics of the "terrorism" label; we already have an adequate legal definition for what's going on there. This is about a cult of sedition, and a movement that's made little secret since its inception that its aim is to break the fundamental bonds that hold our system of government together. So, to get in under the wire here you had to bring something more to the discussion than just the obvious.

And, of course, some cartoonists looked forward to the wrath of the birders. And can you blame them?

As I'm writing this, the arrival of truckloads of armed reinforcements from Idaho have complicated the situation for the local authorities and the residents, and upped the danger factor considerably, which is probably going to make ridiculing the Bundys a less appropriate response in the days to come.

By comparison, the range of cartoon responses to Obama's gun safety seemed pretty constricted. Gun nuts and knee-jerk Obama contrarians. . . well, they hate it. Duh. And the executive orders themselves have just enough moving parts that many cartoonists, like many of the rest of us, found it easier to focus instead on Obama's leadership or the support of John Smith of Anytown, USA, or at most, the the gap in scale between Obama's gun safety measures and the epidemic of gun violence (to which the Burns occupation not unconnected) in the US.

Let's press ahead.

Today's toons were selected by a Committee on Toon Safety from the week's offerings at McClatchy DC, Cartoon Movement, Go Comics, Politico's Cartoon Gallery, Daryl Cagle's Political Cartoons,, and other fine sources of cartoon goodness.

p3 Best of Show: Jeff Danziger.

p3 Legion of Merit (with feathers): Robert Ariail.

p3 Award for Best Adaptation from Another Medium: Matt Wuerker.

p3 Certificate of Harmonic Toon Convergence: Jerry Holbert, David Fitzsimmons, and Walt Handlesman.

Ann Telnaes looks back at the Charlie Hebdo shootings a year ago, and regrets that we haven't learned the most important lesson.

Mark Fiore celebrates the Patriots' Magna Carta. Some assembly required.

Tom Tomorrow looks forward to the future. From the past. Just go read it. You'll see. (Anachronism watch: A desktop computer like that wouldn't have been available yet in 1978. Has Dr. von Philbert already polluted the timeline?)

Keith Knight knows what's wrong with Tennessee.

Reuben Bolling says: Know your caliphates!

Red Meat's Ted Johnson and Mister Wally may have put Uber out of business.

The Comic Strip Curmudgeon marks the weekend of highly structured gender roles. Except for that last one, which creeped me out enough when I first read it, but thanks to the Curmudgeon it now creeps me out a little bit more.

Comic Strip of the Day salutes the paranoid and the uneducated.

Not even a mouse! As promised: "Million Dollar Cat," directed in 1944 by Joseph Hanna and William Barbera, is the MGM version of a similar story from Warner Bros in 1942 featuring an early Bugs and Elmer, which we featured here last week. (By comparison, this is the 14th Tom and Jerry short, and Tom's early look was mainly settled: he was Russian Blue of distinctly catlike appearance and movement. True, he was mostly walking upright on two feet by this point, but he hadn't become as heavily anthropomorphized as he would be under Hanna and Barbera's direction over the the next decade. Uncredited voice work by Harry E. Lang as Tom. (Lang isn't that well known today, but he did voice work for both MGM and Warner Bros animations in the 1940s, and of course true Langophiles remember his 1953 performance as the French waiter in "Abbot and Costello Go to Mars" – also, alas, uncredited. You can look it up.) Watch "Million Dollar Cat" on Vimeo.

The Right-Sized Oregon Toon Block:

Ex-Oregonian Jack Ohman gives the best lines to the deer – probably because it's the smaht one.

Possibly Ex-Oregonian Jen Sorensen got to this punchline first, and with the hashtag that should have dominated Twitter.

Matt Bors works the Whose Lives Matter? trope, and it's probably the best example of the genre this week.

If there's an honor higher than the p3 Award for Best Adaptation from Another Medium, then Jesse Springer just walked off with it.

Test your toon captioning superpowers at The New Yorker's weekly caption-the-cartoon contest. (Rules here.) And you can browse The New Yorker's cartoon gallery here.

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