My feelings on Comics and 9/11

When the Cartoonists Remember 9/11 was announced last week, I had favorable feelings for it. It’s being spearheaded by King Features who has done similar group thematic work for National Breast Cancer Awareness and Earth day and a couple other good causes. I’m not sure I understand their motivation to do these collective work projects. I doubt it positively (or negatively) affects the number of comics they sell. My guess is that collectively the cartoonists generate favorable press and reminds people about the Sunday comics which is a very positive thing and I’m glad the effort is made. The Cartoonists Remember has receive A LOT of press from what I’ve observed. My hat is off to everyone involved for that reason.

But this morning as I flipped through the slideshow of the near 100 comics participating, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I suspect much of feelings are based on my own mixed feelings about the 9/11 commemoration in general. I found myself skipping quickly through the slideshow, stopping, assessing, feeling the same mixed feelings, and moving quickly on still confused why I was feeling the way I was. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was not being moved by the comics.

I caught a link to Dan Piraro’s blog that outlined why he opted not to participate in the comic commemoration. He was able to put into words what I was feeling.

I decided to decline for reasons I’m not completely certain of, to be honest. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to me. I suppose I want Bizarro to be about humor as opposed to predictable, scheduled sentimentality. I don’t mean to diminish the suffering the event caused, of course, but I couldn’t very well make a “joke” about it (it just isn’t funny) and a somber, “never forget” cartoon seems hollow to me.

Of course it was horrible, of course our country will not forget, of course our hearts go out to the many thousands of people who lost someone they knew that day. It seems trivial to have a cartoon character announcing that. I think of Bizarro as being like a miniature comedy show. If I had something funny to say about 9/11, I’d have done it just as I would in a comedy show. But for people to come to a comedy club to see a stand-up comic make a patriotic speech commemorating a tragedy then walk off stage, would be ridiculous.

For those that contributed, I hope the participation was positive experience and you’ve achieved what you wanted. I continue to struggle with the proper role of cartoons in commemorating that horrible day. Hopefully the rest of the reader’s reactions were more positive.

39 thoughts on “My feelings on Comics and 9/11

  1. I agree with Dan 100% and I completely share your feelings too, Alan.
    For me, I won’t read any comics commemorating that event today, nor will I watch any news today or go on any news sites on the internet. I only went here because I was trying to avoid 9/11 stories. But completely avoiding it all wasn’t a very realistic pursuit to begin with I guess.
    I’m not against these things being done today, I’m just avoiding them because they’re not FOR me. They are for people who, for whatever reason, need to summon it all up and feel it all again.
    I was there, in NY that day, I saw it all go down from the rooftop of the building where I worked at 29th and 5th. I still don’t want to relive it and don’t need to be reminded of it and really don’t need the scab to be torn off today.
    But I like your story and thanks for that. Thanks also for printing what Dan said, I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

  2. Alan, a brave and worthwhile discussion. This senseless and horrible event marked a tremendous setback to the things that make America great.

    The victims and responders certainly deserve our sympathy and sadness.

    But we mustn’t forget America is a country made up of notable ideas and ideals. Among these are that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That so many died while peacefully pursuing this dream is a travesty. That at so little has been done to preserve and promote the essence of our optimistic greatness is a tragedy.

    We should not forget the innocent victims of that day. We must not forget who we, the survivors are.

  3. Dan explained my feelings on the subject better than I was able to explain them to myself.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you and Dan P. more. Understandably, editorial cartoonists have a lot more leeway with a theme like this, but daily humor comic strip artists might be pushing it. We all have the right to commemorate the world-changing events of 9/11 in our own way, so I don’t find it bad that cartoonists want to make their voices heard. More power to those who want to do that. For me, I couldn’t ever see myself attempting to put that on my cartooning plate, at least using the characters that I’m currently working with. There is definitely a valid place for the concept, it’s just not right for me personally. There’s a time and a place for everything, my feelings of that day are just as valid as any of those cartoonists participating, I’d just prefer to keep them private.

  5. It was weird trying to read the comics in the paper today for me. Some of those comics that did commemorate 9/11 made me feel awkward and then when I came on the comics that just wanted to make me laugh – I found I didn’t feel like laughing anymore.

  6. I struggled with the idea for months, because I shared Krugman’s sentiments. I was on the verge of not participating, but it finally occurred to me that *somebody* had to say it:

    …But if politics and our response to 9/11 hadn’t been part of my strip from the beginning, I think I’d have passed too. The whole slideshow, to me, took on an awkward “tonight, on a very special episode of Diff’rent Strokes, Arnold and Dudley get molested” feel to me.

    ( )

  7. Honestly, I think far to many adverstisers through out all manner of media today used it as an opportunity to plug their products and try make themselves look like they gave a shit in the process.
    I would rather have seen that money spent to potentially help the family of a dying first responder as they are systematically crushed with medical bills.
    Like all of you, I remember. No one can possibly forget that day.

  8. I understand how one could opt out of this and decide to treat this Sunday’s cartoon like it was any other Sunday. Opening today’s paper it seemed about half did decide to avoid any mention of 9/11. That is fine by me. The half that decided to have a 9/11 theme were fine also. I can see both sides.

    I do a single panel daily and had to decide how to handle today’s. I don’t have the artistic ability to make a very sentimental cartoon like a flag draped over a small boy at Ground Zero, nor would I if I could. But, at the same time I felt like I had to base it on 9/11, at least loosly.

    I was deeply affected that day even though I lost no personal friends or family. It was a horrible event that makes me cry to this day. I hope that no one can look at my cartoon and call it mean spirited or in poor taste. It’s an innocent cartoon in my opinion and I hope the masses of peope who look at my site (all 18 of them) enjoy it.

  9. For me, it’s hard to do almost anything I do with an additional ‘special’ set of parameters imposed by someone else. It doesn’t feel right, it’s not organic, and I lose my true voice. When I was asked whether I wanted to do a memorial strip, I asked if I could just submit art and was told I could. The thought of my characters commenting on 9/11 just didn’t sit well with me. My characters think about nail polish and hair straightening, not the real meat that makes up life.

    I think handling 9/11 and other complicated situations is tough for anyone who doesn’t usually handle such complicated situations in their work. So far, the most complicated situation I’ve experienced related to my strip has been the use of the word lesbian.

    Yes, I said it. Lesbian.

    Hope everyone has a great Monday with a LOT of laughs.

  10. As I said in my blog, it’s wrong to tell anyone how to mourn. Some want to talk about it, some are pained by hearing about it. As one of the ones who doesn’t want to hear about it, it’s hard being around the talkers.

    And, as Donna suggests, it’s also tough on cartoonists when someone wants them to draw a cartoon on a particular topic. Why is this (or any of the other “cause days”) any different than the person who approaches you at a cocktail party and says, “I have this great idea for a cartoon you could draw …” ?

    There was some clown over at GoComics posting the same comment on any comics that hadn’t gone along with the idea, railing at them for not caring. I guess that’s what makes it different.

  11. I think it was nice when you read the comics in the newspaper or read the comics online as you usually do and came upon each comic related to 9-11. I didn’t enjoy them all bunched together on the website, but I assume that was just there so people could see them all if they wished. But to read through the comics and come upon them randomly seemed nice.

  12. I did a tribute with my strip Charmy’s Army on Comics Sherpa. I got 12 hits…. I was hoping for more… but come on, I am just a wannabe cartoonist! LOL… If anyone cares to check it out, look me up on Comics Sherpa.

    As for the participation and the lack of participation…. this is America, the greatest nation on earth. We are free to chose to do what we want or what we do not want to do. 12 people chose to read my strip and millions chose not to waist their time…. lolol……

    I respect whatever side each of my peers side on with this issue. May God bless America… home of the brave!!!!

  13. ?I have this great idea for a cartoon you could draw ?? ?

    I’ve developed the ability to vomit on demand when I hear this line (or any variation). Then the subject automatically gets changed and the focus becomes concern for my health. If anyone wants to learn, I can teach you for a small fee.

  14. Donna, I know exactly what you mean. Ever notice how folks always love your work until you wanna get paid for it? I always get the “I got something I want you to draw up for me line” man, I hate that. “You can just whip it out, right? A drawing that is…..

  15. Tony Cochran’s “Agnes” was the best comic that I read. The only one that didn’t make mention to the event or the idea of not forgetting. Good job Tony!!! 🙂

  16. I read on a writer’s blog this weekend that, unless you were there, or had friends or loved ones who were affected, he didn’t want to hear your memories of that day.

    I feel the same way about anyone, artist, business, etc., who commemorates a nat’l tragedy. It reeks of sentimentality and blatant opportunism.

  17. I agree with Dan. I always loved Seinfeld because they steadfastly refused to ever do a schmaltzy sentimental episode. Why? Because they were a comedy show. Simple.

  18. As someone who actually participated in the “official” cartoon event, I gotta say, I sympathize with the views here. When King Features sent us the request to participate in that Sunday’s theme, my first inclination was not to do it; I usually don’t participate in that type of thing. Time passed and I figured I’d missed the deadline anyway, but when the cartoon came up on our own schedule, it seemed weird to just ignore such an important event, given that Edge City is vaguely topical. In any case, I came up with an idea we thought wasn’t too stupid and drew it up. Only later did I find out I didn’t miss the deadline after all and agreed to be included in the show. Personally, I’ve heard enough about 9/11 to last the next few lifetimes. But our comic, at least, came not so much out of trying to fulfill a request as it did our own personal impetus.

  19. Interesting discussion. I guess I also have a different take as a participant. While I respect a cartoonist’s decision whether or not to address 9-11, I’m of the opinion that comics don’t necessarily always have to be funny. I do get Dan’s reluctance, though, and it makes sense for his panel.

    In my case, I felt that not dealing with the topic would be wrong (and kind of strange as well) for the characters. I wanted to show how parents attempt to explain the day to their kids. Granted, the family format helps. In fact, it opened up a discussion for my own kids.

    To be completely honest, as much as I hate collective sentimentality, too, I would’ve done this on my own.

  20. Of all the comics I reluctantly read, Lio seemed to be the one most forced. I have mixed feeling about cartoonists who participated in this sentimental media event. I await the next bandwagon event with dread.

  21. Maybe a little more time needs to pass. I always loved how Charles Schulz remembered D-Day, but since that was way before my time there was something classy about it.

    There were several cases of weird tributes. The Guardian tried to Tweet 9/11 events at the actual times they happened, but abandoned it after a lot of complaints.

    I think the intention was good, but Dan Piraro summed it up best for me.

  22. I agree with Terri that comics don’t HAVE to always be funny. Most people say mine is NEVER funny…… Oh wait, is that not what was meant?

    Seriously though, I do agree with terri. I like to throw in a tear jerker every once in a while to build up my characters…. Maybe that is why I am still just a web cartoonist! 🙂

  23. I have to agree with Dan Piraro on this. I read the comics to be entertained, not to be beaten over the head with political agenda. Especially when these are not political cartoons run on the Op Ed page. Though I do think Doonesbury did it the best. I skipped a lot of them that day because I’m tired of the breast beating that goes on constantly over this subject. No, I haven’t forgotten what happened, who could, I’m just ready to move on and do something more constructive. I lived in OKC during the Murrah Building bombing and the same problem arises there. I have respect for those who died and more for those who helped, but it’s just time to move on now. There will always be new disasters and we can’t be ready for them if we keep dwelling on the old ones. Or do we all need to be like Queen Victoria and dress in black mourning for the rest of our lives and retire from active life?

  24. I mourn the dead and injured from 9/11 but I wonder how many folks in this country actually mourn the innocent dead in Iraq.
    I wonder how that must have looked to the rest of the world yesterday as if even our grief is superior to the grief of others.

    It took no time at all to demonize them and once we did that then we could justify any action against them.
    Not to mention we all know that like most wars it was based on a complete lie so the rich could get richer while the poor get deader.

  25. Why these victims? Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed in brutal ways around the world. This nation cannot move on because it refuses to. Anger, hero-based revenge, and hatred is just too popular and profitable.

  26. I have no problem with anyone who did or didn’t participate. I fully understand Dan’s feeliings. We were initially very reluctant to do it. It was only because we found a way to illustrate a private family moment as a reference that we decided to do it. We were particularly sensitive to not push any agenda, belief or any jingoistic message, only to commemorate the loss of life. My only regret among this is that it was promoted at all. I would have preferred that it had been quietly done without any fanfare.

    I think anyone presuming to ascribe motives across the board to any of the cartoonists who participated demonstrates part of the problem our country has devolved into. Can’t anyone see anything today without it being through the prism of cynicism and anger? The amount of that here on this discussion, I find disheartening. So many seem to immediately jump to distasteful conclusions.

    This tenth anniversary, I think, had been awaited with a lot of apprehension. Perhaps, with this now behind us, there won’t be the impulse to do any more extravagant commemorations. I hope that’s the case. I suffer burnout from it also. I didn’t watch any of the ceremonies or news specials.

    From the readership response we’ve received, I think our approach was appropriate in tone, and they seemed to have found something cathartic in it. So for that, I don’t apologize.

  27. Perhaps I come from a different time period than most of you. I’m 16 years old and I only have a vague memory of that day. With respect to Justin Thompson, I believe it is important that we never forget. I do not want this to become another page in a textbook.

    I enjoyed the comics yesterday. I didn’t mind that they had a message and weren’t funny.

  28. @Keith and Marc – do you you guys REALLY think mourning the 9/11 victims somehow takes away from all the other things worth mourning about? Seriously?

    Comics can be funny or not and they don’t “have” to be anything…

  29. @Dave. Do you always try to interject your mindset into what you presume to be the thoughts of others?

  30. Personally the Sunday comics were very stressful for me to get through, as were any of the News programs. I wonder if back on 12/07/51 folks had felt the same (10th anniversary of Attack on Pearl Harbor).

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