CSotD: Dare to be daring

As we’re discussing, debating and dissecting the current state and potential future of cartooning, Will Henry is going off in his own direction with Wallace the Brave (AMS), in which he has created a distinctive cast of characters but is not content to have them do setups and punchlines every day.

Today’s strip is a good example, because it simply depicts the family, plus Spud, having cider and donuts. With a Sunday, there’s room for several little bits to happen, like the element of whether Sterling is awake or asleep in the carrier, but there’s no crescendo and Spud’s appearance at the end raises questions it doesn’t bother to answer.

Henry embraces his freedom to simply paint a picture instead of telling a formal story, and that requires a fiercely character-driven strip, and it also requires not fretting too much over whether readers will get it.

And, honestly, some readers will never get it, unless it’s framed in simple, pie-in-the-face gags, preferably the same ones over and over.


As it happens, Wayno addressed this in his weekly wrap-up of Bizarro dailies, and it reminded me of a similar comment from Jim Toomey about his strip, Sherman’s Lagoon, in which he observed that people will accept talking sharks having dinner at a table, eating with silverware and plates, but then demand to know how the candles can burn underwater.

It seems cartoonists (and their editors) have often tried to shape their work to avoid confusing too many of their readers, but Henry is not one of those people, and I think Wallace the Brave is a logical extension of strips like Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County and Cul de Sac, in which readers were invited to jump in and hang on.

To which I would add that, in comic strips, the real barrier is not getting to the readers, because they are a mixed bag, but getting past the editors, who tend, in my experience, to have a staid view of what a comic strip should be and a very limited ability to process absurdity, by which I mean “absurd” like Ionesco or Beckett.

At the end of today’s blog, I’ll be including a link to yesterday’s videos from the AAEC Virtual Convention, but one thing that struck me in the discussion with Ruben Bolling, Marty Two Bulls and Lalo Alcaraz about this year’s non-Pulitzer was an agreement among them that newspapers need to become more inclusive.

I remember, when we had a gap on the comics page at a paper where I had some influence on things, giving the features editor three strips to consider. I pitched one in particular, because I said it addressed a younger adult demographic, but he said he just didn’t get it. He didn’t think it was funny.

One of his copy editors looked up from her screen and asked, “How old are you?”

Then he selected something else, proving my point.

I don’t know how many newspapers are carrying Wallace the Brave, but he’s got a couple of books out and I think his audience will find him.

While, if newspapers want to thrive, they’ll listen to their young underpaid copy editors, not just to the fossils at the top of the ladder.

Speaking of which . . .

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Pearls Before Swine – AMS)


Pearls skips through all the high-minded reasoning and cuts to the chase, while, in Sheldon, Dave Kellett explains the gulf between workers and management.

People need to eat, but the simple-minded concept that the labor shortage is due to extra unemployment benefits has been disproven by the ending of those benefits and the continuation of the shortage.

Not to mention the fact that not everyone qualified for unemployment in the first place.

The Great Resignation is a real thing, and, if management wants workers, they’re going to have to stop blaming everyone else and look into their own organizations.

The facts are the same today as they were when Rose Schneiderman was fighting for women’s suffrage. A century later, women and men still want more than just their daily bread, and they’d rather scramble for a crust on their own terms than accept a full loaf on condition of surrendering their souls.

And it’s not just the burger-flippers. The pandemic has given people at all levels the chance to contemplate that thing about how nobody ever said on their deathbed “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”


In case you missed it, or wanted to see it again

There were four Zoom sessions at the AAEC’s virtual convention yesterday:

  1. As noted, on the non-Pulitzer awards with the three finalists discussing the matter.
  2. A casual conversation about cartooning in the pandemic, with Scott Stantis (Chicago Tribune), Sage Stossel (The Boston Globe), Kevin Necessary (Cincinnati Enquirer), Steve Stegelin (Charleston City Paper), and moderator Alexandra Bowman (“Satire Can Save Us All”).
  3. A conversation between Kal Kallaugher and Keith Knight about “Woke,” Knight’s streaming series.
  4. And the one that I dug into the deepest, a session on legal challenges to parody, with Nicholas Wallace, who, as a student, had been challenged by his campus Federalist Society over a satirical pamphlet, Roslyn A. Mazer, Counsel to AAEC as friend of the Court in Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell; and Shawn Musgrave, the First Amendment Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting.


Mazer had appeared at a 30th anniversary commemoration of SCOTUS’s 1988 unanimous decision in favor of common sense, and you can read all about that event here.

Yesterday’s AAEC session on the topic is critical, and not just for cartoonists. What pleased me was that the three attorneys dwelt little upon Hustler v Falwell and spent far more time discussing the potential impact, should the current court —  as is anticipated — make changes to  NYTimes v Sullivan, the foundational case about public figures suing for libel.

The tone is casual but the thoughts are detailed, a rare combination that makes it eminently watchable.

The full YouTube playlist is here.


Here’s the one you should not miss:

6 thoughts on “CSotD: Dare to be daring

  1. Thanks for the link to the AAEC panel, which I will absorb soon. I went to one of their conferences in 2018 and can’t remember ever hanging out with a group of sharper, more interesting people. It’s weird to be sitting at a table with three Pulitzer Prize winners and you, feeling like the proverbial “One of these things is not like the other.” But they’re nice about it.

    My favorite part of the Wallace come is the word balloon tail that meanders through the fence post knothole. That right there gives away the game for the whole day’s strip. Enjoy the meander.

    My understanding is that dogs’ colorblindness is exaggerated. Their retinas have cones, just not in the numbers and variety that people do (dogs have two types, we have three). They’re not real strong distinguish reds and greens so wouldn’t pass a human colorblindness test (or maybe tell the difference between Indiana and Pennsylvania Avenues), but perceive yellow and blue all right. They do have more rods than we do, so see more sharply and better at night. Probably a fair trade.

  2. Perhaps part of the reason for the worker shortage is that 700,000 people are dead, and they worked somewhere.

  3. Hey all — the entire Saturday lineup of panels and conversations is now on YouTube. The AAEC has set up a playlist of the four sessions so you can just click play and watch the whole afternoon as if you were there:


    There are some seriously great presentations here, and every one of them is worth your time.

    — Pulitzer Prize Post-Mortem
    — Staying Creative (and Sane) During Doomsday
    — Fighting Legal Challenges to Parody
    — What’s Next for Woke, a conversation with Keith Knight

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