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Post story: Race in comic selection not a big issue

The Washington Post has a lengthy article regarding the upcoming awareness campaign by many African-American cartoonists to highlight a perceived injustice that their strips are being miss-categorized as minority strips.

Post writer Teresa Wiltz interviewed top brass at Universal Press and Creators who both insinuate that race isn’t much of a factor. She also contacted The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder for his response:

“I don’t look at it as a purely racial or racist issue,” says McGruder, who is African American. “I’m sure it’s a factor. But I’m not convinced. Despite the hurdles and the issues of race, I was given more than a fair shot. Nobody ever mistook my strip for ‘Curtis.’

“The industry itself is struggling. It’s like they’re the black passengers on the Titanic protesting to get to the top deck, and overlooking the fact that the whole ship is sinking.”

Update: E&P interviewed Stephan Bentley, creator of Herb and Jamaal, for his take on this action.

Community Comments

#1 Malc McGookin
February/6/2008
@ 8:08 am

“â??I donâ??t look at it as a purely racial or racist issue,â? says McGruder, who is African American. â??Iâ??m sure itâ??s a factor. But Iâ??m not convinced”

He’s sure itâ??s a factor. But he’s not convinced? McGruder then goes on to say he was given a fair shot by his syndicate.

More than a fair shot, I’d say. Yet still McGruder wants to have his cake and eat it, not convinced a “token black” system exists on the funny pages (because that MIGHT be how he got his shot) but he’s “sure it’s a factor”.

There’s a quote somewhere about sitting on the fence so long the iron enters your soul….

#2 Dawn Douglass
February/6/2008
@ 8:23 am

I agree with “the top brass” and Aaron, as I said when this was announced.

Sure there aren’t enough African American cartoonists on newspaper pages. There aren’t enough female cartoonists either. Or hispanic cartoonists. Or Asian cartoonists. Or fat cartoonists. Or bald cartoonists. There aren’t enough cartoonists of all shapes, sizes and colors, because there aren’t enough newspapers and there isn’t enough cartoon space inside them.

Okay, maybe there are enough dead cartoonists, but other than that….

#3 Wiley Miller
February/6/2008
@ 8:26 am

“Or fat cartoonists. Or bald cartoonists.”

Apparently you haven’t met many cartoonists, Dawn.

#4 Dawn Douglass
February/6/2008
@ 9:28 am

LOL Yeah, Wiley, I almost started to take those back. Ha! :)

#5 Rich Diesslin
February/6/2008
@ 2:09 pm

Or fat cartoonists. Or bald cartoonists. … Hey, no need to get personal – LOL!

#6 Tony Murphy
February/6/2008
@ 3:11 pm

The issue of “dead cartoonists” is actually linked to the issue raised by the Feb 10 sketch-in. If the idea is to push beyond tokenism and break out of the two-per-paper rule for black comic strips (if that; some papers have all-white comics pages), then the comics page needs to be opened up to new blood. In my mind, anybody who thinks legacy strips occupy too much space on the comics page should be tripping over themselves to support Darrin et al.

#7 Dawn Douglass
February/6/2008
@ 3:43 pm

New blood is red. It’s not black, white, brown or yellow.

If I believed it wasn’t a level playing field, I’d be the first to support this, but I don’t think black cartoonists have a harder time getting slots than anybody else, and apparently the people who sell to the slots don’t either.

What about the ONE-per-paper rule for teen male strip, or single female strip, or cubicle worker strip, or political strip (only one per party, if that), or fill-in-*your*-concept strip.

Sorry, but I don’t think playing the race card in an attempt to push your way ahead of others cartoonists who are ALL struggling to survive is a cool thing to do.

#8 Cory Thomas
February/6/2008
@ 3:53 pm

So, Dawn, you’re ignoring that fact that some of us have been EXPLICITLY told, “Sorry, we already have (insert black strip)?” Or doesn’t personal experience (cited, for example, in the very same article) merit consideration?

#9 Dawn Douglass
February/6/2008
@ 4:08 pm

Cory, everybody is told, “Sorry we already have Cathy.” Or “Sorry, we already have Baby Blues.” There is absolutely nothing unique about an editor pointing to a strip that has little resemblance to the one you want to sell to them as an excuse for them to say no.

#10 Dawn Douglass
February/6/2008
@ 4:55 pm

btw, Cory, if you created a comic strip that used animals, where skin color isn’t a factor, you would see that it isn’t your race editors are reacting to. Whether or not you get in would depend on what it depends on now, how good your strip is and what other strips they already have on their pages.

#11 Garey Mckee
February/6/2008
@ 5:11 pm

“More than a fair shot, Iâ??d say. Yet still McGruder wants to have his cake and eat it, not convinced a â??token blackâ? system exists on the funny pages”

If Boondocks had been a strip about African American youth that was superficial with crappy writing then, no, the syndicate probably woudn’t have given him a chance at all. And that has nothing to do with race. But McGruder was “given a fair shot by his syndicate” because of his sharp writing about black culture, and yes that includes writing about racial struggle.

I’m not sure where your comment about having your cake and eating it too comes into play. I don’t see McGruder on the fence at all. In fact, given the nature of his strip and his strong writing, including the animated adaption of it, “on the fence” isn’t an expression I’d use to describe any of it.

#12 Malc McGookin
February/6/2008
@ 5:43 pm

My opinion is that I don’t care if every strip on a seven-strip page is “black-faced” (i.e. features mainly characters of colour, though the stories and plots are generalized), as long as they’re the best seven features available.
Similarly, if there are no funny or well-written strips featuring black characters, then why should they be represented?

The answer is, of course, positive discrimination. Some editors may think that there HAS to be at least one black-faced strip for a readership which includes 30% black demographic. Therefore they might include a rather lame effort that fits the bill.

I’m sure there are a few strips which did get their start via this route, but it is then up to them what they make of it. If they stay lame, uninspired and just plain bad, then they should just give thanks and keep their heads down.

If they subsequently improve, hit the heights and produce a top strip, then good for them, everyone needs a bit of luck to get going.

I’m not a fan of Curtis, for instance, but it’s a lot better than a lot of the crud out there cluttering up the funnies pages. Will the fact that it’s a black-faced feature stop it getting into some papers, especially if those papers already have a similar product?

Yes, undoubtedly. On the other hand, it probably got into other papers precisely because an editor was looking to establish at least one black-faced strip. It’s swings and roundabouts.

Here (below) I’ve provided a link to a very interesting article: It describes how the Roanoke Times dropped Boondocks because ” it appeared in many ways to reinforce â?? rather than move beyond â?? racial stereotypes. The last thing we want to do is perpetuate false images”.

Or maybe it was too black.

They replaced it Jump Start, a (kinda) black-faced strip which seems to be getting whiter all the time, and which isn’t concerned with so-called black issues. Would Jump Start have got the gig after Boondocks was canned without the aid of its black faces? I think that’s an interesting question (and I say that as someone who likes Jump Start).

http://www.research.vt.edu/resmag/2003winter/funnies.html

#13 Wiley Miller
February/6/2008
@ 5:44 pm

“If I believed it wasnâ??t a level playing field, Iâ??d be the first to support this, but I donâ??t think black cartoonists have a harder time getting slots than anybody else, and apparently the people who sell to the slots donâ??t either.”

Dawn, I’ve witnessed this first hand, having worked in newspapers and closely with editors for many years, as well as hearing it directly from salesmen at every syndicate. It is a level playing field, the problem is, there’s an extra hurdle Black cartoonists have to jump over, as their features get locked into the pigeon-hole of being a “Black” family strip rather than simply a family strip. That’s a huge hurdle. And it’s unfair.

#14 Malc McGookin
February/6/2008
@ 6:09 pm

Garey,
I mean McGruder is on the fence when he says “I donâ??t look at it as a purely racial or racist issue, -Iâ??m sure itâ??s a factor. But Iâ??m not convinced”.

He’s saying it’s not a racist issue, but he’s not convinced racism is not a factor. Pick the bones out of that.

I’m more direct. I say that racism IS a factor, and that it’s also a factor in the protest being made by the African-American cartoonists concerned.

I’m saying that if you create a fairly ordinary strip where your main characters have black faces, you necessarily limit the fortunes of that strip. You’ll gain some papers because of an editor’s demographic needs, but you won’t get into others because those editors have already had those demographic needs satisfied.

One way round the problem for black cartoonists is to create a really funny strip which kicks ass in anyone’s language, and you won’t have to worry whether the characters have black faces or not.

So far that ain’t happened. Sorry.

#15 Dawn Douglass
February/6/2008
@ 6:26 pm

Wiley, I don’t doubt that that happened years ago, and I agree that it’s unfair.

But the reality is, if somebody goes in *today* with “a family strip” the chances of it getting picked up are the same as “a black family strip.” Both are next to none. Why? Because there are too many family strips already. It would be a marvel if a syndicate even signed a generic “family strip” today. In fact, there were already too many family strips when black family strips were picked up, which undoubtedly helped them to be picked up, because they were different.

Adam became Adam@Home in an effort to break out of the generic family strip label, because he was hearing the same thing that black cartoonists do: “Sorry, we’ve got that covered already.” There has to be a unique sales pitch that hits a reader demographic the newspaper doesn’t think it’s currently covering, like stay-at-home dads.

Editors today don’t want to see another version of what’s been done. It’s not like television where a winning show gets cloned a hundred times over.

Every cartoonist is under the (unrealistic) gun to do something wildly different, no matter what their skin color. That’s my point.

But even then, the reality is, there will always be room for whatever is exceptionally good, no matter what.

#16 Wiley Miller
February/6/2008
@ 8:22 pm

No, it still happens today, Dawn. And while I agree with you about a “family strip” in general being overdone, there are still variations that fall in that category. One that comes to mind is Cul de Sac. But no editor would ever refer to it as a White family strip. If that same feature was done by a Black cartoonist, and the characters were Black, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it’s been so far simply because editors would still add that extra hurdle of being pigeon-holed as a “Black strip”. This is how most editors think. It’s not racism in their minds, it’s demographics. But they’re wrong. If they did pick it up because of the superior material, they would drop one of the other “Black strips” they carry rather than one of the myriad of other family strips they carry… that just happen to be White characters.

#17 Angela Robinson
February/6/2008
@ 10:25 pm

In 1989 2 black comic strips appeared in more than 100 newspapers, CURTIS and JUMP START.

Fast forward to 2008, almost 20 years later, and only 2 black comic strips appear in more than 100 newspapers, CURTIS and JUMP START.

What was acceptable in 1989 is not necessarily acceptable in 2008.

To put it in perspective, what if after 20 years the only strips by female creators in a significant number of newspapers (over 100) was STILL only CATHY and FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE?

#18 Angela Robinson
February/6/2008
@ 11:13 pm

If you read the actual article, the top brass at CREATORS went on the record as being sympathetic to the cartoonists plight and supportive of their position that cartoon selection should in fact be colorblind.

“In defense of newspaper editors,” says Newcombe (of Creators), “it’s only natural to buy [comic strips] according to categories. You might have one according to sports, or one according to office etiquette or work. BUT I AGREE WITH THE CARTOONISTS: IT SHOULD BE COLORBLIND.” Emphasis added

Here is a link to the article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/05/AR2008020503396.html

#19 Darrin Bell
February/7/2008
@ 1:56 am

“If I believed it wasnâ??t a level playing field, Iâ??d be the first to support this, but I donâ??t think black cartoonists have a harder time getting slots than anybody else, and apparently the people who sell to the slots donâ??t either.”

Those of us who speak on a regular basis to “the people who sell to the slots” know otherwise.

“There is absolutely nothing unique about an editor pointing to a strip that has little resemblance to the one you want to sell to them as an excuse for them to say no”

I’ve never known a newspaper editor who cared to make up excuses. Why should they? They don’t have to kiss up to the syndicates or to cartoonists, and they know it. If they don’t like a strip, they say so. Editors aren’t afraid to just say “no, it sucks.”

“Sorry, but I donâ??t think playing the race card in an attempt to push your way ahead of others cartoonists who are ALL struggling to survive is a cool thing to do.”

I agree. Let me know when somebody does that.

#20 Wiley Miller
February/7/2008
@ 8:08 am

â??Sorry, but I donâ??t think playing the race card in an attempt to push your way ahead of others cartoonists who are ALL struggling to survive is a cool thing to do.â?

This isn’t about “playing the race card” nor is it about some kind of affirmative action to get a leg up on the competition. It’s about having a level playing field with EQUAL conditions by taking away an obstacle confronting Black cartoonists that doesn’t exist for White cartoonists. As I tried to point out before, have you ever heard an editor refer to any other strip as a White comic strip? No. They see it simply as a comic strip. All Darrin and others (including me for a couple of decades now) are asking is that their features be seen the same way, as a comic strip.

#21 Dawn Douglass
February/7/2008
@ 9:07 am

I’m not familiar with how all these strips were presented to editors, but I do know that Candorville’s pitch was that it was a racially mixed group of friends. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t point to race and then feel violated because editors think of it as a racial strip.

#22 Mike Cope
February/7/2008
@ 9:55 am

I suppose one solution would be for all cartoonists to draw about animals. That way, nobody would care if the cartoonist was black, white, or green.

Of course, then some editors would say that they already have an animal strip. In which case, only one feature would be printed on their forever shrinking comics page.

#23 Darrin Bell
February/7/2008
@ 10:26 am

“Iâ??m not familiar with how all these strips were presented to editors, but I do know that Candorvilleâ??s pitch was that it was a racially mixed group of friends. You canâ??t have it both ways. You canâ??t point to race and then feel violated because editors think of it as a racial strip.”

Then why does Candorville often replace strips that AREN’T pitched as “racial strips,” like Curtis? Why is Cory, whose strip wasn’t marketed as a “black strip” (I have the sales kit right here, it was marketed as a fish-out-of-water college strip) being told “we already have Candorville”?

#24 Jeff Darcy
February/7/2008
@ 10:29 am

Last night,watching CNBC’s “BIG IDEA” I listened to the Genius who creats Pearls before Swine talk about how he was dumped by a syndicate because they didn’t think his comic strip would sell because it didn’t fit any demographic. Likely the same reason Calvin and Hobbs was initialy rejected..lack of a large tiger demographic that reads funny pages. The real problem it seems to me is Syndication and Newspaper editors appear to be direct descendants of those talent scouts at Decca records who passed on the Beatles.

#25 Jeff Darcy
February/7/2008
@ 10:36 am

Just to add, What would be the response if an attempt was made to syndicate Peanuts today? Sorry, Charlie, we already have “Born Loser” and a bunch of kid and dog strips. Who needs Snoopy when you’ve got Marmaduke?

#26 Darrin Bell
February/7/2008
@ 11:06 am

“I suppose one solution would be for all cartoonists to draw about animals. That way, nobody would care if the cartoonist was black, white, or green.

Of course, then some editors would say that they already have an animal strip. In which case, only one feature would be printed on their forever shrinking comics page.”

I gave CBS an interview yesterday where I went on and on about the shrinking comics page, the problems facing all strips, and the practice of dumping the comics page on editors who didn’t sign on for that job in the first place. We’ll see Saturday or Sunday whether they include any of it.

Why don’t black cartoonists draw something other than black characters? Why do Latino cartoonists draw Latino characters? Who do women draw women? Same reason most white male cartoonists draw white male characters (with the curious exception of Greg Evans). We’re drawing ourselves. In a country like this, where so many people see absolutely nothing wrong with lumping all minority strips together and too many editors decline to even read through a sales kit because they “don’t have that many minorities in the readership,” that’s obviously going to limit our audience. But mainstreaming minority characters on the comics page has to start somewhere. This whole thing probably won’t change the situation for the current generation of minority cartoonists. We all know that. And speaking only for myself, I can’t complain about my client list or the lifestyle it gives me. But this isn’t about me. What we’re doing is we’re trying to plant a seed of an idea and hoping it’ll grow, so kids reading our work today won’t have to face the same issue 20 years from now when they try to break into the industry (if it survives that long).

So why don’t I just draw animals, white, or nondescript characters? Sidney Poitier was once asked why he refused to play villainous roles on screen. He replied something about how he’d do so as soon as he sees black people selling deodorant on TV (I bet you’ve all forgotten it wasn’t until the early NINETIES that they started commonly featuring black people and other minorities in mainstream ads). I’m not an eighth the actor Poitier was – although I bet he can’t draw a convincing hamburger in under five seconds (but I digress…). I’ll create an animal strip as soon as the presence of minorities on the comics page is no longer considered controversial.

#27 Tony Murphy
February/7/2008
@ 11:23 am

Well said, Darrin.

At this juncture, I’d like to point out the hilarious irony in the title of this thread:

RACE IN COMIC SELECTION NOT A BIG ISSUE – 27 comments

#28 Mike Witmer
February/7/2008
@ 11:35 am

It’s extremely sad that this is even an issue in this day and age. It’s sick that it can’t just come down to the idea that editors look at a strip and say “is this funny…well written…relative…” It shouldn’t be a quota system. It should be a judgment based on the quality of work

#29 Mike Cope
February/7/2008
@ 12:35 pm

Darrin, I hope you didn’t interpret my previous comment as implying that you (or any other “minority” cartoonist) should draw an animal strip. I completely agree that it’s sad and stupid that ANY racial issue exists in 2008.

#30 Darrin Bell
February/7/2008
@ 1:16 pm

No, Mike, I knew you were joking, but it echoed earlier comments by others about how editors won’t know we’re minorities if we don’t draw minorities. I find it interesting that anyone would feel the need to point that out, as if it were something we didn’t already know, and as if it had anything to do with our stated goals.

#31 Josh McDonald
February/7/2008
@ 1:26 pm

“…I do know that Candorvilleâ??s pitch was that it was a racially mixed group of friends. You canâ??t have it both ways. You canâ??t point to race and then feel violated because editors think of it as a racial strip.”

But isn’t “racially mixed” Marketspeak for “appealing to many different demographics”?

#32 Malc McGookin
February/7/2008
@ 2:23 pm

“isn’t â??racially mixedâ? Marketspeak for â??appealing to many different demographicsâ??”

I don’t see how the two are unavoidably connected. A strip could be racially mixed and complete garbage, therefore appealing to nobody.

#33 Angela Robinson
February/7/2008
@ 2:24 pm

Josh said “But isnâ??t â??racially mixedâ? Marketspeak for â??appealing to many different demographicsâ??

I agree. It’s also more commonly known as, DIVERSITY. I think the use of the term “racially mixed” to describe CANDORVILLE was maybe a subtle way of saying to editors, “Hey! It’s NOT just a black strip, by a black creator, about black people, meant to be read by ONLY black people.”

“Racially mixed” is supposed to be INCLUSIVE, not EXCLUSIVE. Sadly, some people find this concept offensive and a veiled attempt to play the race card.

#34 Darrin Bell
February/7/2008
@ 2:32 pm

“‘â?¦I do know that Candorvilleâ??s pitch was that it was a racially mixed group of friends. You canâ??t have it both ways. You canâ??t point to race and then feel violated because editors think of it as a racial strip.’

But isnâ??t ‘racially mixed’ Marketspeak for ‘appealing to many different demographics’?”

Yes, I missed that particular comment. Candorville’s always been pitched as a mixed group of friends as a way to point out that not only is not ABOUT being black, but it also features more than just black characters. Any newspaper editor we’ve pitched it to can tell you the difference between that marketing approach and one that attempts to characterize it as a quota-filler.

#35 Dawn Douglass
February/7/2008
@ 3:54 pm

“Weâ??re drawing ourselves.”

It’d be interesting to know what percentage of cartoonists get to create characters based on themselves. Scott Adams did. But could somebody else who lives in that same tech/cubicle world succeed with a strip about work? Absolutely not. A few years ago such a strip was circulating the syndicates. People said it was funnier than Dilbert. But it wasn’t picked up. Why? Because the syndicates knew the newspaper’s answer would be “We already have Dilbert.”

Cathy G. got to create a strip based on her own life. But for decades no other single female cartoonist could.

Brian Basset did it, too. But if another married-with-children guy who works from home wanted to create a strip about his life, would it even get syndicated, much less make it into over 100 papers?

Darrin asks, “Why is Cory, whose strip wasnâ??t marketed as a â??black stripâ? (I have the sales kit right here, it was marketed as a fish-out-of-water college strip) being told â??we already have Candorvilleâ??” Well, let’s see: racially mixed 20-something kids in a city, both with realistic drawing styles and similar points of view.

Come on. Just looking at Cory’s group of characters makes Candorville leap to mind. And that has absolutely nothing to do with racism. If Cory were doing a strip with no black characters at all and the setting were a high school, he’d be told: “We already have Zits.”

I understand what you guys want. We all would love to be able to create strips about our own lives and have them in lots of papers. But that’s not the real world. And if you don’t want to bend by creating animals and other characters outside of yourself like other cartoonists have to do all the time in order to create something different enough to serve the this market-driven business, then that’s your choice. More power to you.

#36 Josh McDonald
February/7/2008
@ 6:01 pm

“Come on. Just looking at Coryâ??s group of characters makes Candorville leap to mind.”

Honestly, I don’t see it. You’re talking about two very different, distinctive comics. Apart from the characters’ races, I see no similarities between the two.

“Well, letâ??s see: racially mixed 20-something kids in a city… ” describes Candorville well enough I guess, though I’d thought the characters were older than that. Young professionals, in any case. Whereas the “Watch Your Head” kids are in college … so you’re talking late-teens/early-twenties, mostly on a college campus.

“…both with realistic drawing styles…” … which are distinctive and nothing alike; have you looked at both these strips?

“…and similar points of view.” I’m not even sure what this means. The humor, the artistic style, the writing and dialogue, the topics dealt with, and the characters are all very different. Aside from race, what similarities are there?

#37 Cory Thomas
February/7/2008
@ 6:11 pm

“Come on. Just looking at Coryâ??s group of characters makes Candorville leap to mind.”

OK. Now I just think you’re toying with us.

#38 Mike Cope
February/7/2008
@ 6:22 pm

Quote from Dawn:

“If Cory were doing a strip with no black characters at all and the setting were a high school, heâ??d be told: ‘We already have Zits.'”

I agree with Dawn on this point … Back in November, I submitted a comic strip to the syndicates about a schoolteacher in a kindergarten class. One important piece of feedback that I received from Universal was that they already have a strip about preschool-aged children.

The unfortunate part was that I developed this idea completely isolated from this other feature, so I couldn’t blame osmosis “ala-Calvin & Hobbes” that is often reflected in new features. Still, I didn’t take offense to the comment, but rather, was humbled that the comparison was even made and then moved on.

HOWEVER …

To be judged at a racial level, no matter if it’s the main factor or not, is nothing less than inappropriate bigotry.

That’s the difference here.

#39 Angela Robinson
February/7/2008
@ 7:15 pm

Dawn said, “We all would love to be able to create strips about our own lives and have them in lots of papers. But thatâ??s not the real world.”

First of all, who says all of these black cartoonists are making strips about their own lives? I think you must be making that assumption. But in any event, that’s not the issue here.

The question is whether these cartoonists are entitled to create a character of their SAME ethnicity and have the strip be considered by editors based on its category (family, singles, workplace, etc.) and not pigeon-holed merely on the race of its main character.

For the record, most creators DO create a strip with characters of their same ethnicity. I just took a quick look at the approximately 153 strips on gocomics.com. About 90% were white males writing about a white male character (same age, younger, or in a family) OR white females writing about a white female character (same age, younger or in a family). There were maybe only twenty that were animals or other.

You stated earlier that you were impressed with Barack Obama. Would you consider voting for him because he would make a great black president or a great president? To me, it’s the same issue. Maybe we should tell Barack he can’t run for president because both Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton already ran, and they were black too. Actually, we’ve had so many, we won’t need another black presidential candidate for at least 20 years. (LOL)

#40 Angela Robinson
February/7/2008
@ 7:49 pm

“We’re drawing ourselves.” I just wanted to add that I took this comment to mean that the cartoonists were drawing characters that were of their same ethnicity and culture, NOT that their strips were an autobiography or a play-by-play of their own daily lives.

#41 Chris Hardiman
February/7/2008
@ 8:25 pm

“Come on. Just looking at Coryâ??s group of characters makes Candorville leap to mind.”

I read both strips and I think that the characters aren’t really that similar at all. The one exception to this would be Clyde from “Candorville” and Jason the Roommate from “Watch Your Head” — two thugs, relatively similar character traits. other than that, however, I just don’t see it.

The two strips are completely different too, in terms of premise, characters, art…one is political, the other isn’t…I could go on.

#42 Dawn Douglass
February/7/2008
@ 9:05 pm

Angela, I was responding to what Darrin said regarding his question: “So why donâ??t I just draw animals, white, or nondescript characters?”

And btw, regarding your observation that only Curtis and Jump Start are still the only two “black” strips with over 100 newspapers, The Boondocks launched with over 100 newspapers, a feat unheard of for decades. It had over 300 papers in the first few years. After seven years, Dilbert didn’t have nearly that many.

Okay, let me try to make this as plain as I can one final time…

1) Yes, I agree that having black characters doesn’t necessarily make a strip “racial” and yes, every strip should be judged on a variety of factors. What I don’t accept is that a newspaper saying that Cory’s strip is too much like Darrin’s strip makes them bigoted or racist. ALL strips constantly get compared on such shallow basis. When there are many hundreds of strips to consider and very few slots to fill, and when your goal is to get as wide variety of comics as possible, then you *must* have a wide hoe. There is no other way to do it.

2) Yes, editors discriminate. It’s THEIR JOB to discriminate. Calling somebody a racist or bigot, or even implying that they are, is inherently offensive (and ignorant of editors’ task, IMO) and is just going to cause anonymosity among editors who already think comic pages are more pain and more cost than they are worth. Of course, people will bend over backwards to keep from being called racist, which puts more responsibility to not play the race card unless an offense is truly valid. The success of The Boondocks, the fact that all cartoonists have heard “It’s too much like [X]” and so on, belie the assumption that editors must be making decisions based on racial bigotry since so-and-so’s wonderful strip isn’t in more newspapers.

3) Cartooning is a zero sum game right now. When anybody gangs up together to exert pressure, it comes at a cost to those who don’t have that united power. I don’t think it’s appropriate. Should panel cartoonists gang up to pressure newspapers to make more space for their format? No, because that added space would come by cutting the space of other cartoonists. When times are hard, we should look out after EVERYbody’s interests and not start splintering off into us vs. them groups.

4) Now is not the time to put even more pressure on editors. There are tons of deserving cartoonists who aren’t in the number of papers they should be and would be if the industry were healthy. But it isn’t. In fact, it’s dying. I won’t post the url here, because it’s a mile long, but today’s New York Times has a story in their “Media and Advertising” section titled “An Industry Imperiled by Falling Profits and Shrinking Ads” which says:
The talk of newspapers’ demise is older than some of the reporters who write about it, but what is happening now is something new, something more serious than anyone has experienced in generations. Last year started badly and ended worse, with shrinking profits and tumbling stock prices, and 2008 is shaping up as more of the same, prompting louder talk about a dark turning point.

“I’m an optimist, but it is very hard to be positive about what’s going on,” said Brian P. Tierney, publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News. “The next few years are transitional, and I think some papers aren’t going to make it.”

If things don’t change, and very soon, newspapers will start dumping more comics and the industry will start dumping more newspapers.

Sorry, but I can’t help but feel that this campaign is a bit like flogging a dying horse because it won’t carry you further. I know that isn’t the intent, but like I said, being called a racist hurts. Believe it or not, editors are human, too.

#43 Charles Brubaker
February/7/2008
@ 9:14 pm

Thought I drop by to link to Keith Knight’s contribution to the strip project thing.

http://www.buzzle.com/showImage.asp?image=24652

#44 Angela Robinson
February/7/2008
@ 11:00 pm

Dawn said, “And btw, regarding your observation that only Curtis and Jump Start are still the only two â??blackâ? strips with over 100 newspapers, The Boondocks launched with over 100 newspapers, a feat unheard of for decades.”

I said “as of TODAY,” CURTIS and JUMPSTART are the only two strips by black creators that appear in over 100 newspapers. I am very aware that The Boondocks launched in over 100 newspapers. In the recent past, so did ZITS, BALDO, SIX CHICKS, and LIO. However, Boondocks has been gone for almost two years now. So, editors surely can’t be using Boondocks as an excuse as to why there are not more strips by black creators on their pages TODAY or why they catagorize these strips mostly by race and not by the topics they cover (as they do with strips by white creators).

Part of the reason Aaron MacGruder moved on to television was because after almost 8 years the number of newspapers carrying The Boondocks was decreasing, rather than increasing. But, it wasn’t due to the floundering newspaper business (other popular strips were still growing), he had just peeved off an awful lot of people.

If black creators took your advice and decided never to bring their legitimate concerns to the attention of editors for fear of being perceived as “rocking the boat” or “ganging up on people,” there would STILL be ZERO strips by black creators in newspapers today like there was in 1988. And, if woman creators had not been aggressive about wanting space on the comics pages, they too would still be absent (or grossly underprepresented) like in the early ’80s.

#45 Rich Diesslin
February/8/2008
@ 1:55 am

How about this – describe the utopian editor.

#46 Rick Stromoski
February/8/2008
@ 6:23 am

>>How about this – describe the utopian editor.

One who bought Soup to Nutz.

http://www.rickstromoski.com

#47 Darrin Bell
February/8/2008
@ 6:34 am

“â??Weâ??re drawing ourselves.â? I just wanted to add that I took this comment to mean that the cartoonists were drawing characters that were of their same ethnicity and culture, NOT that their strips were an autobiography or a play-by-play of their own daily lives.”

“Angela, I was responding to what Darrin said regarding his question: ‘So why donâ??t I just draw animals, white, or nondescript characters?'”

————-

So saying that my choosing to draw a character who’s roughly the same age (30-something now, not 20-something) and ethnicity as me, is the same thing as creating a strip about my life? Candorville, unlike, say, “K-Chronicles,” is not an autobiographical strip. If it were, I’d have an illegitimate son with a crazy vegetarian, Hillary Clinton would be stalking me, and my best friend would be selling fake botox out of his trench coat in the nearest alleyway. I’d also be receiving regular visits from my time-traveling 88 year-old self before being reincarnated 3000 years from now as a flying squid creature who can’t tell the difference between the Congressorus Republicanus and Congressorus Democratus exhibits in the Museum of Anthropology.

If only I would “bend” a little instead of just illustrating my diary…

———-
“How about this – describe the utopian editor.”
———-

I’m not sure what that would be, but I know it would begin with one who has the title of “Comics Editor.” Right now, almost all the nation’s comics pages are thrust into the hands of features or managing editors who may or may not care for that responsibility. These are editors who have other responsibilities they consider far more important. Many of them resent having to deal with e-mails and phone calls from readers who are inexplicably passionate about something the editors secretly consider to be unimportant.

#48 Wiley Miller
February/8/2008
@ 7:35 am

“How about this – describe the utopian editor.

One who bought Soup to Nutz.”

I think that’s only half of a utopian editor, Rick. A real utopian editor is one that won’t DROP Soup to Nutz (of Non Sequitur).

#49 Rich Diesslin
February/8/2008
@ 11:19 am

Darrin, good start. Rick, I almost ruled out “the one who picks your strip.” Anyway, if you don’t know what you want, I guess continuing to beat a dead horse is a good solution. Good luck with that. ;)

#50 Chris Hardiman
February/9/2008
@ 10:50 am

“So saying that my choosing to draw a character whoâ??s roughly the same age (30-something now, not 20-something) and ethnicity as me, is the same thing as creating a strip about my life? Candorville, unlike, say, â??K-Chronicles,â? is not an autobiographical strip. If it were, Iâ??d have an illegitimate son with a crazy vegetarian, Hillary Clinton would be stalking me, and my best friend would be selling fake botox out of his trench coat in the nearest alleyway. Iâ??d also be receiving regular visits from my time-traveling 88 year-old self before being reincarnated 3000 years from now as a flying squid creature who canâ??t tell the difference between the Congressorus Republicanus and Congressorus Democratus exhibits in the Museum of Anthropology.”

Well, I think that in every comic strip (or at least those still done by the original creator) there is, to a point, some part of the cartoonist being put into the strip, and into the characters. But cartoonists generally write fiction, and fiction can be about anything the writer wants. They don’t have to write exclusively about something that they know. And even if they do, then it is most likely fictionalized.

Yes, most African-American cartoonists tend to write strips with mostly African-American characters. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t write a strip with white characters, or nondescript characters, or animals. George Herriman, considered by many to be among the greatest cartoonists in history, was a Cajun man with some African ancestry. His most famous strip, “Krazy Kat,” was about animals. Sure, different times — a strip about African-American characters definitely wouldn’t be accepted back then — but it shows that there are other subjects that African-American cartoonists can tackle.

#51 Josh McDonald
February/9/2008
@ 12:34 pm

“…But cartoonists generally write fiction, and fiction can be about anything the writer wants.”

But GOOD fiction almost always relies on the author’s own knowledge and experience. Take any of the best comics out there, and chances are it’s about something the cartoonist knows well.

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