I’m headed out to Logan Airport so I can fly to Minnesota and explain things to my grandchildren, so, in lieu of my usual posting which would cause me to miss the plane, here are some old favorites, starting with a Cul de Sac.
I miss Cul de Sac, but I miss Richard Thompson more. Aside from being a brilliant artist and insightful cartoonist, he was a good guy and a great and generous audience for other people’s wit.
Also in that category was Jerry Bittle, whom I got to know in the run-up to his launch of Shirley & Son. I emailed him some thoughts as a single dad, because we get trashed in the comics so often, which blossomed into a friendship.
I needn’t have worried. The strip centered on Shirley and her son, but the faults of the father were more goofy than toxic and I knew enough well-intentioned dads that I didn’t take any of it personally.
As a country boy, I’m also sensitive to rube humor, but, again, Jerry’s touch in Geech was such that the rural setting was secondary to the celebration of cluelessness.
The strip was full of nitwits but what sets it apart is that there was no Andy Taylor or Oliver Wendell Douglas acting as a sort of narrator: It was as if Norm, Cliff, Coach and Woody were the only characters in Cheers.
Cheers, I would point out is a sitcom set in one of America’s major cities.
Nitwittery is not a rural/urban phenomenon.
And I can tie clueless couples and nitwits together in this Jump Start from 2001, while offering a salute to all the health workers in my family.
I used to hear these stories, back before HIPAA, but the ethical privacy limits of that rule have kind of descended over everything, such that nurses don’t bring so many stories home even when they don’t deal with actual medical events.
But, based on things I heard before that, there isn’t much exaggeration in this one.
There’s also the nitwittery of editors who think that, because they ran Jump Start, a strip about a cop married to a nurse, there was no reason for them to run a strip about college students, which is a constant problem for launching strips in which characters contain an abundance of melanin.
You would think attracting college students would be a likely goal, and Watch Your Head was set on the campus of an historically black college, but that’s not how editors choose their lineup.
Cory Thomas dealt with larger racial issues, like diversity in action movies and superhero comics.
The above is how he first wrote the strip.
Here’s how it came out post-editing. I suppose, if watering things down had worked, the strip might still be around, but it didn’t and it isn’t.
Sometimes that’s not the worst outcome.
Which is a good time to plug the Ollie Harrington exhibit that just opened at the Billy Ireland in Columbus.
Harrington sidestepped a lot of the issues Black cartoonists face today by working in the Black Press, where he was a hero.
Then he sidestepped the politics of the time by moving first to Europe and then to Eastern Europe. If you’re anywhere near Columbus, you should go see this.
Racial issues were more upfront in South Africa at the end of the last century, and remain so today, and Madam & Eve continues to stick pins in those who deserve deflating.
The freeing of Mandela and disassembling of apartheid didn’t solve all the issues, and this Sunday strip from roughly that era remains a favorite, primarily for the multi-panel stare, which is two-sided and thus contains far more than if those panels included dialogue.
Though sometimes the dialogue should carry the message, and this 2002 Six Chix piece by Margaret Shulock is as devastating as a Richard Pryor monologue on the topic.
Shulock died last month; DD Degg posted an obituary memorial that’s worth your time.
Speaking of humor that cuts to the quick, this bit of self-deprecation from Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, remains one of my favorites, and seems to gain impact the farther I get from having been cool.
Or, y’know, from having known people who were.
And Arlo & Janis has always mirrored whatever midlife crisis I’ve had, but I might have this episode engraved on my headstone. If you stick around here long enough, you’ll see it more than once because it really does sum it all up.
I have a kind of fantasy/thought experiment in which you get to Heaven and St. Peter says that you’re in, but, first, you have to go back to Earth and relive a year of your life. You get to choose any 365 day period, but you have to go through it all and you can’t change anything.
Pick your start date. Not as easy as it seems at first.
Well, the clock on the wall and the telescope in Bizarro both agree that I need to wrap this up and head for the airport.
If the world is still here tomorrow, I will be, too.
Finally, for those who truly were cool back in the day, here’s a chance to scratch that earworm I planted with the headline.
Fly Jefferson Airplane: Gets you there on time!