CSotD: Contextual Comix

Timing is part of context, at least to the extent that, had this Rubes (Creators) run in December, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to get the joke.

Not saying that’s a bad thing or a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with making an extra demand or two of your audience, and I probably laughed harder for having done a little work.


This Buckets (AMS) also took me a moment, and there’s no clue he could have provided that wouldn’t have simply trampled on the joke and ruined it completely. I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t get it instantly, but, again, it’s that moment of ??? that makes the gag work better.

There are plenty of strips that lay it out for the slow of wit. The ones that challenge readers are the ones that get cult followings but also the ones that get furious “This strip isn’t funny!” letters to the editor.


Political cartoonists continually demand that readers keep up. Since I haven’t been following the Olympics, I shrugged this Steve Breen (Creators) cartoon off until I saw another Russian-doping cartoon, at which point I went to Google News and found this article, which is worth reading, if only as one more reason to despise what the new, improved, post-Brundage Olympic Committee has come to.

Avery Brundage having been to the Olympics what Josip Broz Tito was to the Balkans: You couldn’t wait for him to be gone, until you saw the chaos that arose in his absence. Not that you want him back, but jeez …


Over in Britain, Andy Davey relies on readers having kept up with developments in the Middle East, where Ben & Jerry’s halted sales on the West Bank to protest Israel’s settlement policies. It’s predictable, of course, that people (in the Middle East and here in the US) who hate boycotts hate this one, though it’s perhaps a bit discouraging that anyone who thought getting Netanyahu out of office would slow the incursion into Arab neighborhoods, and houses.

But, yes, they were called “terrorists” for declining to sell ice cream in the occupied territories.


And Davey returns to consumer issues with this commentary on Britain sending an aircraft carrier into the disputed South China Sea, which China insists it owns, a claim disputed by most of the rest of the world.

A moral position it would be easier to maintain if we were still making our own clothing, electronic devices and cheap plastic crap.

There’s a thing that goes around from time to time, claiming that no two nations with McDonald’s franchises ever went to war, which is amusing, but it’s also worth bearing in mind that, even before the emergence of the global economy, one thing the Confederacy and the Third Reich had in common is that they lost in large part because their enemies controlled production.

Perhaps not the only thing, but let’s save that for another day.


Dave Brown doesn’t make nearly as great a demand on his readers, though he does challenge them to analyze the government’s climate change policy. (And to be familiar with the Emperor’s New Clothes.)

But everyone in the UK will instantly get the basic gag, because everyone in the UK has seen this clip of their Prime Minister at a solemn ceremony unveiling a memorial to police officers.

And we thought Dear Leader had trouble wrangling those pesky things!


As for cultural context, John Darkow (Cagle) proves that even a timeworn old image can be freshened, though he didn’t need either caption, and the cartoon would be much stronger without them.

The legend of Sisyphus is not simply well-know but a dread cliche in political cartooning, but the traditional context is simply of a task that seems to fail each time you near completion.

Adding the anti-vaxxer to the already-daunting slope adds something new that rescues the idea, and, while swapping the virus for the stone is an obvious move, it works.

In this case, without cheapening his vision, Darkow makes very little demand on his readers, and broadens his reach thereby.


A different kind of context: Paul Berge offers a selection of cartoons from a century ago, including two about pending legislation on rents, which neatly mirror our current situation, where the eviction moratorium has just expired despite the efforts of progressive legislators to avoid mass evictions in the coming weeks.

The context here is that, in our current conflict, landlords, rather than being painted as the traditional villains of the piece, are being seen as equally victimized by the economic disruptions of the pandemic, not just by the White House but also by some young legislators who rarely have a lot of compassion for anyone not at the very bottom of the ladder.

The deeper context being that conservatives insist that compassionate spending fuels inflation, while there is a stronger message, not just from honors-grads in economics like AOC but from economists generally, that the inflation we’re seeing is part of the unburdening of the supply chain and will self-correct if we continue the current pattern of economic recovery.

As the man said, “He who gets hurt will be he who has stalled.”


Not much of a surprise in Marty Two Bulls’ commentary on the final abandonment of Chief Wahoo, and I like his image of the old retiree eating his pathetic sheetcake on his last day on the job, the shadow on the wall furnishing all the context you need.

I’m happy if, along with Washington’s relinquishment of its clearly racist NFL team name, this will put an end to those ridiculous arguments that naming things for racial minorities is like the way places with distinctive ethnic identities — like Minnesota or Notre Dame — salute their fans with a nod to those groups, or that phony war-whoops are any more a compliment to Indians than minstrel show blackface routines are to African-Americans.

Anyway, they’re renamed for the Guardians, a pair of statues that have been around Cleveland for a century.


Though I’d have gone for the Cleveland Grovers. It has as much history behind it as most people grasp.

Best of all, they’d get to keep their new “G” logo!



4 thoughts on “CSotD: Contextual Comix

  1. For those of us who endured Cleveland baseball in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, we would have expected the name change of that time to be “The Cleveland Inept White Guys.”

  2. To Ms McNeil
    As an ex-Chicagoan and a South Sider, the Cubs truly deserved the ‘inept’ status.

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