Opus 389, Part One (February 25, 2019). ONCE AGAIN, a whopper of an opus. I never learn, no matter how often I repeat myself: I ran off at the mouth (keyboard) too long and produced an opus twice as long as anyone could be expected to read at one sitting. So I cut it in half. The first half, Opus 389, Part One, begins in just a trice down the scroll; the second half, Opus 389, Part Two, will go up in a few days, thereby completing all of Opus 389.

            As always, to assist you in find your way through the plethora of goodies herein, we offer the list below so you can choose what to examine and what to dodge; here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:




Christ’s Second Coming Cancelled

Ted Rall Pissed

Setback for Censors in Maine and Kansas

Editoonist Casualties (Steve Benson, Gary Varvel, Charlie Daniels)

Plus Protest from Pat Bagley, Steve Greenberg, David Fitzsimmons

Comic Art Fetching Top Prices

Star Wars Resurrected

Perez Retires



Morrison Laid Off as Mad Editor

Conan Returns to Marvel




Jimmy’s Bastards



American Politics: A Graphic History

The Best of Don Winslow





Dingell’s Farewell Letter to Us All



William Stout and Hatlo’s Hat




If Not of A Lifetime

“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut


Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.

Wear glasses if you need ’em.

But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,

so we’ve added another motto:.

Seven days without comics makes one weak.

(You can’t have too many mottos.)


And our customary reminder: don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:





Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits




Okay: I couldn’t help it. Posting this headline was simply too much of a temptation to resist. It refers, however, to a comic book series not the actual event that everyone’s been expecting for two thousand years.

            The comic book promised from DC Vertigo is about the Christian savior returning to Earth and being disappointed by what he finds. But the series, Second Coming, has been cancelled by DC just weeks before it was due to launch, comic book retailers were told.

            Orders for the first and second issues of the series — in which Jesus Christ returns to Earth only to be appalled by what has become of his teachings, with humanity more enamored with the superhero Sun-Man — were canceled with the notice that "these issues will not be resolicited," according to an update sent by DC to comic stores and reported at hollywoodreporter.com.

            The series, which was intended to run monthly starting March 6, had been targeted by an online petition that described it as "inappropriate" with "blasphemous content." [Of course. We saw that one coming. Failing to take seriously someone’s religious belief will always result in worldwide alarm.—RCH]

            On Twitter, Mark Russell — who co-created the series with artist Richard Pace — revealed that the cancellation of the series at DC was his doing—:

            "Just so you know," he wrote, “DC did not do anything untoward to me. I asked for the rights back and they gracefully agreed. They’ve been a pleasure to work with, and it will still be released, albeit with a different publisher."

            In a follow-up tweet, he added, "I want to thank everyone at Vertigo who’s gotten it to the point where it’s as good as it is. Specifically, I want to thank Molly [Mahan, editor], Maggie [Howell, assistant editor], and Mark [Doyle, DC Vertigo executive editor] for all their support and hard work. Wherever it ends up coming out, know that this is still your book."

            [And it will be mine, too if it ever comes out. It’s just the sort of thing that appeals to an irreverent personality like mine.—RCH]

            The cancellation of Second Coming follows the December cancellation of another DC Vertigo series, Border Town, after writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel was accused of sexual abuse. Both Border Town and Second Coming were part of a high-profile relaunch of the DC Vertigo imprint in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

            I don’t know what Esquivel’s sexual proclivities have to do with his creation and writing of a comic book series. I suppose the idea is to deprive him of a livelihood because of his transgression. Surely we can find a better way to punish him without destroying whatever art he has created.

            As for Second Coming’s being cancelled, I can’t help thinking that the whole enterprise, the comic book and its title, were devised precisely to reach a point where it could be cancelled so that someone would announce “Christ’s Second Coming Is Cancelled.”

            It’s a put-up job if ever I saw one.




And Rightfully So

Cartoonist Rall lost his appeal at the end of January. He’s suing the Los Angeles Times for defamation and wrongful termination. The circumstance that brought all this on is painfully rehearsed in Opus 342a in August 2015. Says Rall: “There is one last slim reed of hope: the California Supreme Court. I am petitioning the high court to reverse the Court of Appeal’s anti-SLAPP ruling. But the odds are long. They hear fewer than five percent of appeals.”

            Rall’s anger infuses his report on the denial of his appeal. He rehearses an elaborate but (we think) accurate conspiracy theory, alleging that the Los Angeles Police Department, a major owner of the Times, used its influence as an owner to convince the newspaper to fire Rall, which it did, claiming, at the time, that Rall was lying about an encounter he had with the LAPD that he reported on in his Times blog. Rall was able to prove that he wasn’t lying, which led to the defamation suit.

            But truth, as it happens, has very little to do with the case. For anyone who wants to witness his righteous rage, we’re posting all of Rall’s diatribe in Part Two of Opus 389 (which will be posted in just a few days, kino sabe). Here’s how he begins (in italics)—:

            I was wronged. All I wanted was a trial by jury, a right enshrined in Anglo-Saxon legal tradition in the Magna Carta 803 years ago.

            Is this still America? No. America is dead.

            Not only have I been denied that fundamental right, I have been punished for having had the temerity to seek redress in the courts.

            Justice is when wrongdoers are punished and victims are compensated. Instead, the California court system has provided Anti-Justice. The wrongdoers are getting off scot-free. I, the victim, am not merely being ignored or brushed off. I am being actively punished.

            We continue Rall’s report next time. I encourage anyone interested in justice and American values to read it—and weep.




A bill proposed in Maine that would criminalize educators for assigning or providing “obscene” materials was unanimously rejected by the legislative committee. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) and National Coalition Against Censorship wrote to the committee advocating against the legislation, citing the law as counterproductive to the educational goals of students, teachers, and administrators.

            And in Kansas, according to the Wichita Eagle, the Andover Public Library board of directors has voted – nearly unanimously – to protect the rights of their patrons regardless of age. This victory is the conclusion of a challenge from one patron back in September to remove LGBTQIA kid books, Lily and Dunkin, I am Jazz, and George by Alex Gino, from the kids’ section and re-shelve them with adult books. According to one library board member, the challenge accused the books of being part of the “sexual revolution agenda, indoctrination of children” because the protagonists in the books challenged are transgender. With the Kids' Right to Read Project, CBLDF wrote to the board of directors imploring them to continue to keep LGBTQIA books accessible in their collection.




During the past month, newspapers have been laying off staff in record quantities. More than 1,000 people lost their jobs in a wave of cuts at BuzzFeed, Verizon Media Group (which includes Huffington Post and Yahoo News) and Gannett. Cuts at the digital platforms disprove the theory that websites are picking up the journalism torch from failing newspapers.

            Gannett is apparently threatened by a hostile take-over from Digital First Media, another newspaper chain, which, like Gannett, buys newspapers then guts them to achieve a profitable bottom line. How the lay-offs have anything to do with the DFM threat escapes me. Other observers, however, say DFM has nothing to do with it: Gannett is showing a loss for the fourth quarter 2018, and cutting cost is the unimaginative way to rectify the problem.

            Cartoonists are often the first to go, three at Gannett papers—:

            At the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Charlie Daniels, who six months ago was inducted into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, was forced out after more than six decades editooning in the city. At the Indianapolis Star, Gary Varvel took a buyout after 24 years on staff and nearly 8,000 cartoons (by his count). And the Arizona Republic layed off its Pulitzer-winning editoonist, Steve Benson, who’d cartooned for the paper for almost 40 years.

            The ranks of full-time staff editoonists have been shrinking steadily for years. In May 2008, there were 101 cartoonists in this category; today, after these three departures, the number stands somewhere between 44 and 48, depending upon how you count. Editorial cartoonists are clearly an endangered species.

            Daniels had turned down early retirement a few months ago only to have his job eliminated. He drew editoons and a comic strip, Rosy’s Diner, that dealt with local issues and events.

             Daniels was born in Richmond, Va. and grew up in Weldon, N.C. He was a private in the Marine Corps and studied Political Science at the University of North Carolina, where he started drawing cartoons for the Daily Tar Heel in 1955.

            Charlie came to Knoxville in 1958 as the editorial cartoonist for the Knoxville Journal. He moved to the Knoxville News Sentinel in January 1992 and has been the editorial cartoonist there ever since. He married his childhood sweetheart, Patsy Ann Stephenson. They have two children, four grandchildren and one dog Tinka, who is now deceased.

            Kentucky’s Senator Lamar Alexander read Daniels into the Congressional Record by praising his career achievement on the floor of the Senate:

            "Over the years Charlie has had plenty of opportunities to skewer me, and he has done it with vigor," Alexander said in a brief speech at 5:15 p.m. one day. "And actually it’s been honest and usually gentle and always effective.

            "For example, as I was working on legislation which became law this year to ban the use of cellphones on airplane flights, Charlie drew a cartoon characterizing cell phone yappers on long flights as the 'perfect hell,' with the devil asking why didn't he think of that.”

            In the House, Kentucky’s representative Tim Burchett said much the same thing: “Charlie was and is one of the best. I’ve been made fun of by people all over the world, but Charlie Daniel is my favorite.”

            Varvell will continue editooning through his syndicate, Creators, which will distribute his work around the country. His cartoons can also be seen on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, he says.

            He’ll also work in films with his son, Brett, who runs a Christian film company, and he’ll continue writing and illustrating children’s books. He did The Good Shepard in 2014 and Old Whiskers Escapes last year.

            “I dream of becoming the next Dr. Seuss,” Varvel said. “And if none of these work out, I have a very promising and lucrative opportunity that was e-mailed to me by a Nigerian prince.”

            Benson, the grandson of former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former LDS Church president Ezra Taft Benson, attended Brigham Young University, from which he graduated cum laude. He became the cartoonist for the Arizona Republic in 1980. In the late 1980s he was at first a supporter, then a prominent critic, of Evan Mecham, the first Mormon to be elected governor of Arizona. For his criticism, Benson faced backlash from many of the state’s Mormons.

            In recent months, Benson has focused on John McCain, Brett Kavanaugh and other newsmakers – not the least of them the 45th president, Donald Trump.

            According to an article in the Republic written by fellow staff members, Benson specialized in caricatures for departing staff members – some moving to other positions, some retiring. “He was a big presence in our newsroom as well – bouncing ideas off co-workers and sharing his cartoons with those who worked evenings as he finished up his work for the next day's paper.

            “We don't have his special talent to sketch a goodbye, but we are grateful for his devotion to political satire and his fearlessness with a brush.”

           Said Benson of the parade of departures of which he is now a member: “This is a worrisome trend. Cartoonists are canaries in the coal mine — and we draw darned good canaries. This is a foreshadowing of more to come.”

            The “more” will include editorial cartoonists but also newspapers, which have been dropping by the wayside with alarming regularity since the rise of the Internet.               

            While the depleting of editoonist ranks is a matter of concern throughout the profession, Benson’s forced departure particularly exercised the immediate past president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), Pat Bagley, who cartoons for the Salt Lake Tribune. He posted his angry reaction, as follows—:



Bullet, Meet Metatarsal. The Gannett newspaper chain just shot itself in the foot. Steve Benson, a 39-year veteran of the Arizona Republic and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning, was let go yesterday, January 23. He was swept up in a company-wide downsizing by unthinking business school graduates who have no clue what Benson does for them: he draws in readers.

            He makes them money.

            Full disclosure: Steve and I were editorial cartoonists together at the Brigham Young University newspaper the Daily Universe. When Benson went home for the summer, I was picked as a temporary “replacement.” He returned in the fall and I expected to be let go, but it was decided to keep both of us. Why? Because our cartoons were wildly popular with students, a fact not lost on advertisers. Double the pleasure, double the fun — double the revenue.

            I went on to the Salt Lake Tribune, and Steve, after a brief stint in Washington D.C. with a Republican Party publication, was hired by the Arizona Republic. He quickly became a legend, in no small part for helping bring down the corrupt governorship of fellow-Mormon Evan Mecham. (Fun aside: in the midst of the scandal Mecham called to tell Steve his eternal salvation was in jeopardy if he didn’t back off). Steve is an institution in Arizona, almost a coequal branch of government.

            Steve is more than a friend, which is why news of his daughter’s death in September was so shocking. Rebecca, a divorced mother, was cycling home from work when fatally struck by a car. As Steve said to me, she was his rock. As one can only imagine without having suffered such a loss, he has been struggling with a tsunami of pain since.

            Gannett made a business decision devoid of empathy. I get that. Money is the root of all corporate America. But there was a time when the people running the Republic knew their readers, the local culture, and, more important, their employees. They would know Steve’s true value, not only to the community but to their bottom line. They also would have known him as family and shared in his loss.

            Steve’s dismissal is not only a crime to journalism and Arizona, but to the future viability of the Republic; something the really-smart suits in corporate are too stupid to realize.



RCH: As Benson is an institution in Phoenix, Bagley is an institution in Salt Lake City. Both seem permanently parts of the cultural landscape in their home towns.

            Another voice in the chorus of condemnation comes from California and fellow editoonist Steve Greenberg:

IT IS HEARTBREAKING and infuriating that Gannett would whack two editorial cartoonists who have been longtime institutions in their communities, Steve Benson and Charlie Daniels, to maintain their profit margins, regardless of how they degrade the products they hope readers would still pay for. Gannett's top six executives in 2017 were paid between $1.66 million and $6.39 million (to CEO Robert J. Dickey). Clawing back some of those obscene payouts and trying to improve the editorial product might provide some basis for those salaries, but of course that would never happen.                

            Charlie has been at it for some 60 years (!!) and seems to have been energized by the Trump era. There have been few editorial cartoonists with that kind of longevity. It's impressive that he chose to be laid off rather than take an unwanted "early" retirement. Good for him for wanting to go down fighting.



And another cartooning legend, David Fitzsimmons at the Arizona Daily Star in Tuscon, chimes in:

MY FONDEST MEMORY of attending the 2013 American Association of Editorial Cartoonists conference in Salt Lake City was hanging with fellow cartoonist Steve Benson, the Arizona Republic’s inkslinger. My wife and I, and a clutch of other truant ink assassins that included Steve had sneaked away to enjoy a liquid lunch downtown.

            As we chatted about editors, and compared hate mail stories, Steve reached for his ever present sketchbook and began to sketch my wife and I with a ball point pen. Watching him draw was a wonder. As we revisited the glory days of the Governor Evan Mecham years, Steve finished the portrait. He looked at it, scowled and chuckled, signed it and presented the original to us with the flourish of a samurai. We had been skewered by a pro. “Now you know what it feels like.”

            Treasured and framed, our Benson original hangs in a place of high honor in our home, between a Pat Oliphant charcoal of Uncle Sam and an original Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau. Steve belongs among the masters of the ungentlemanly art.

            On Wednesday, January 23, Steve Benson was among the journalists laid off by Gannett. Steve started skewering targets at the Arizona Republic back in 1980. Thirty-nine years and 10,000 cartoons later, he’s gone.

            The nationwide layoffs came amid reports of a hostile takeover bid from Digital First Media, a monolithic hedge fund subsidiary that is slashing its way to being the largest publisher of hollowed-out newspapers in the United States.

            When I started in 1986, Benson enjoyed well-deserved national acclaim. As the years have passed my respect and admiration for Steve has only grown. The grandson of Mormon church president Ezra Taft Benson pulled no punches when it came to criticizing his fellow Mormon in the Governor’s seat, Mecham.

            Eventually Steve renounced Mormonism, became a vocal evangelist for free thought, and was shunned by his faith community for it. At this point, I felt the tone and targets of his cartoons changed for the better.

            Steve won the Pulitzer for editorial cartooning in 1993. By then it was clear. Try fencin’ with Benson and you’ll lose.

            These days Benson is one of the most brutal critics of President Trump. Forgive me. My tense is wrong. Benson was one of the most brutal critics of President Trump, until he was sent packing.

           Newspaper cartoonists are often tasked with drawing up retirement cards for departing employees. After 39 years one can only guess how many “Goodbye and Good Luck Cards” Steve Benson has drawn for souls departing the Arizona Republic.

            I’d be honored to draw your involuntary retirement card, Steve.

            I’d draw you with the Arizona sun smiling down on you because I know you love the West. Then I’d draw you standing tall with a sword that resembles a pen in one hand, and the U.S. Constitution, as your shield, in the other. I like to save the face, the fun part, for last. Mop of unruly hair. A disarming smile that says don’t take it personally. And the squinting good-humored eyes that could make you feel bad guys were in the crosshairs of a professional. All it took was one cartoon to hit the bull’s-eye.

            A fearless evangelist for democracy, and for social and economic justice, Steve Benson’s peerless line work was confident, his renderings beautiful, his color lush, and his compositions striking. A joy for this cartoonist to behold. Steve’s concepts were consistently powerful, provocative and memorable. And his cartoon likenesses of Rose Mofford with a towering coif, and Joe Arpaio as a bilious gasbag with a nose the size of Eloy were definitive. No senator or sheriff was safe when Benson dipped his nib in his inkwell.

            Now, north of the Gila, the bad guys are a little bit safer.

            Steve leaves a legacy that is unmatched. For evidence I refer you to the thousands of Steve’s cartoons, carefully torn from the editorial pages of the Arizona Republic by readers, that are enshrined on refrigerators in homes, haciendas and trailers all across this wonderful state. For a cartoonist, there can be no greater tribute.

            Unless, like me, you count hate mail as a badge of honor, a tribute to the strength of your work. To all of the thousands who wrote letters to the editor calling for Steve Benson’s head you finally got your wish. It only took four decades.





In yet another sign of the prosperous times that the Trumpet has rained upon us, producing an awful lot of cash sloshing around the upper echelons of the global economy, Rob Salkowitz at forbes.com says Heritage Auctions reported record sales of $58,544,323 in its comic and comic art category in 2018. That’s a 32% increase over the department’s previous record, set in 2017.

            Most of the biggest movers were in the comic art category. ... Once disdained by the fine art world as “commercial art” and “illustration,” comic art is increasingly seen as culturally and aesthetically significant, with more work now exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. It’s also attracting the attention of well-heeled collectors and investors, who are sending prices skyrocketing.

            Heritage reports this year’s biggest sale as Frank Frazetta’s original oil painting Death Dealer 6 (1990), published as the cover to Death Dealer No.2 from Verotik in 1996. The canvas brought $1,792,500 at Heritage’s May auction, nearly tripling the highest price paid for a piece of U.S.-published comic book artwork.




The Kickstarter Comics category had a massive year in 2018, with backers from around the world pledging a record $16 million to projects large and small. For nearly a decade, Camilla Zhang reports at kickstarter.com, comics makers have been coming to Kickstarter in pursuit of creative autonomy. Said Zhang: “This sense of independence has fostered the robust community of comics lovers we see on Kickstarter today. And it keeps growing!”



Marvel’s Original Star Wars Comic Book Resurrected 33 Years Too Late

The special issue comes decades after the publisher lost the license for the sci-fi property, according to hollywoodreporter.com To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Marvel Entertainment — and to continue the successful relationship between the company and its Disney sibling, Lucasfilm — Marvel announced the 108th issue of its original 1970s Star Wars comic book series, just 33 years after the 107th.

            Star Wars No. 108 will be a one-shot special issue set in the continuity of the original comic book series. Indeed, the issue — announced by ComicBook.com — will actually be a sequel to an issue from that series featuring characters who haven’t been seen since Marvel originally lost the comic book license to the property in the mid-1980s after 107 issues.




After more than four decades in the comics industry, Betsy Gomez reports at ICv2, George Perez has announced he is retiring from the business. Perez, who began his comics career in 1973, drew several beloved runs on The New Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, Superman, Fantastic Four, and The Avengers, as well as the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinity Gauntlet events.

            Perez cited health problems as the primary factor in his departure. “With respect to future published work in comics and such,” Perez said in a statement. “...while I know it’s been no secret that I’ve been dealing with a myriad number of health issues (diabetes, heart ailments, vision issues, etc.), they have indeed forced me to, for all intents and purposes, formally retire from the business of creating new comic stories.”

            Perez is also stepping back from commissions, and he is cutting back on convention sketches as well. He plans to attend six or seven conventions this year, Gomez says, and he plans to donate the money from head sketches and his appearances to charity, and he reminds fans that he’ll be just fine.

            “In closing, please don’t feel sorry for me about all these life and career changes,” Perez said. “Thankfully I earn more than enough income through royalties to have a comfortable life wherein I may never need to work again. Unless, of course, something really tempting comes along and I’m given sufficient lead time. Hey, you never know.”




Bill Morrison, current prez of the National Cartoonists Society, became editor of Mad magazine in June 2017, after the retirement of 30-plus year editor John Ficarra, when publisher DC Comics moved their offices from Manhattan to Burbank. BleedingCool.com has learned that Morrison has been laid off as editor of Mad in a round of new layoffs at DC. Morrison relaunched the long-running American semi-satirical magazine with a new No.1 and shepherded the magazine into the Trump era. Morrison was the co-founder and creative director of Bongo Comics, along with Matt Groening and Steve and Cindy Vance.

            Marvel Comics more or less invented the concept of the interconnected fictional universe as we know it, said Christian Holub at ew.com, “but that doesn’t mean they’re not open to outsiders every now and then.” And he went on to report that Marvel reacquired the license to the Conan the Barbarian comics last year, and then kicked off 2019 with two new series featuring the character. “But Conan’s new reign at Marvel won’t be limited to just his own titles,” said Holub, “Entertainment Weakly can exclusively reveal that the character will be a key member of the new Savage Avengers series, fighting evil alongside classic Marvel superheroes Wolverine, Venom, Punisher, Elektra, and Brother Voodoo.”



Fascinating Footnit. Much of the news retailed in the foregoing segment is culled from articles indexed at https://www.facebook.com/comicsresearchbibliography/, and eventually compiled into the Comics Research Bibliography, by Michael Rhode, which covers comic books, comic strips, animation, caricature, cartoons, bandes dessinees and related topics. It also provides links to numerous other sites that delve deeply into cartooning topics. For even more comics news, consult these four other sites: Mark Evanier’s povonline.com, Alan Gardner’s DailyCartoonist.com, Tom Spurgeon’s comicsreporter.com, and Michael Cavna at voices.washingtonpost.com./comic-riffs . For delving into the history of our beloved medium, you can’t go wrong by visiting Allan Holtz’s strippersguide.blogspot.com, where Allan regularly posts rare findings from his forays into the vast reaches of newspaper microfilm files hither and yon.




Beware the man whose god is in the sky.—George Bernard Shaw

A woman is only a built in a girdled cage.—Dunston Barswig










Four-color Frolics

An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue. A completed episode displays decisive action or attitude, telling us that the book’s creators can manage their medium.



Cover is one of Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld titles. It’s a very arty book. While the visuals brim with artistic pretensions, the book, judging from No.1, is essentially a writer’s book. The only action—the only narrative—is in the words, and the words are all spoken by one or another of the characters. What the characters say carries the story. And David Mack accompanies the speech balloons with artful renderings. What else can he do? There’s no action to depict. Or very little.

            The central character appears to be a comic book artist named Max Field. (Maxfield Parrish is a famous American painter of fairytales and nursery rhymes.) At a comic convention, he is approached by Julia, a beautiful black woman, who buys several thousand dollars worth of Max’s original art. They go to dinner, and she tells Max that she’s a CIA operative; then she gets a cell phone call, excuses herself to answer it, and never returns.

            Mack draws this narrative in a linear fashion, sometimes sketchy, sometimes just elliptical. Sometimes he’s exactingly detailed—particularly with faces. Sometimes he leaves out more than he puts lin. And he varies his treatment from page to page—sometimes, from panel to panel. In the middle of the book is another narrative, about a boy and his father and a sword the father either gives the boy or doesn’t. This segment is rendered full-color in a somewhat more painterly fashion (albeit still watercolor). Some of the panels in the line art segment are watercolored. Artsy, as I said.

            Max has some sort of difficulty with his father. Related to the sword narrative? Perhaps.

            The issue finishes with Max going to Istanbul, his expenses paid, to attend a comic convention. There, he runs into Julia again.

            In No.2, we find out that Julia has recruited Max, without his fully knowing it until later, to plant a listening device with the president of Turkey. Another dinner. More mysterious talk. Another, longer this time, painterly segment with the kid and a sword. The issue opens and closes with Max getting beat up by a hulking brute of a guy. No reason.

            The book is almost too mysterious—that is, too much happens without discernible reason or without consequence. Suspense is created in this way. Bendis almost goes too far in the mysteriousness direction; but he offers enough explicable story to keep us going. And he gives us likeable enough characters that we don’t lose interest.

            But it’s still a very artsy endeavor.



JIMMY’S BASTARDS has reached No.13, which, judging from “The End” at the bottom of this issue’s last page, must be the finale of the title. As we pointed out when we reviewed the first issue in August 2017 (Opus 369), the book is an outrageous assault on civilized sensibilities—all in the name of good clean fun which is neither good nor clean but thoroughly obnoxious. Garth Ennis at his raucous best, thumb at his nose, fingers waving at us all.

            The hero, a smug supercilious but handsome lout, commits all sorts of carnage in the name of James Bondian justice, but he’s no Bond. He’s too crude. Still, he seduces beauteous women and blows up bad guys to a fare-thee-well. So we shouldn’t complain. It’s all a joke anyhow.

            I haven’t followed the title, but I chanced upon this issue and bought it just to see how it’s coming along—not knowing this is the last issue. As a finale, the issue lives up to all that preceded it: all the crass, odious, repulsive, loathsome, abhorrent, heinous, execrable and sometimes fetid comedy that Jimmy and his cohorts have done for twelve issues finds its culmination herein.

            In the opening segment, Jimmy is being beaten by a guy who looks just like him. (How and why this came about—if, in fact, the guy is Jimmy’s double—I dunno; like I said, I haven’t followed the title.) In a parallel action, a bad guy is trying to overpower a black woman who is Jimmy’s sidekick (but who has not yet, I gather, succumbed to his sexual advances).

            Jimmy nudges his opponent over a cliff, and the black girl tosses a hand grenade at her assailant. The grenade blows up as he catches it next to his crotch. The results of all that are depicted by Russ Braun in wonderful if nauseating detail, as you can see in our visual aid.

            Back home, Jimmy and the black woman have dinner, and the conversation meanders, touching on (I think) all the illegitimate children Jimmy must’ve fathered in the years he’s been copulating with anything female that crosses his path. In fact, it may be that the black woman herself is one of his offspring—so his attempt to seduce her, or hers, him, is grossly inappropriate and perhaps even sinful.

            But that’s all just hints, sort of. Had I read all that has gone before, I’d be less cautious about this conclusion. But as it is, I daren’t dare more. The End.





            Percale perchance to dream.—Dunston Barswig

            This is the great tragedy of California: a life oriented to leisure is in the end a life oriented to death—the greatest leisure of all.—Writer Anne Lamott, quoting her father




Previews and Proclamations of Coming Attractions

This department works like a visit to the bookstore. When you browse in a bookstore, you don’t critique books. You don’t even read books: you pick up one, riffle its pages, and stop here and there to look at whatever has momentarily attracted your eye. You may read the first page or glance through the table of contents. And that’s about what you’ll see here, beginning with—:



American Politics: A Graphic History

By Laura Locker and Julia Scheele

176 6.5x10-inch pages, b/w; 2018 Icon Books paperback, $17.95

DO NOT BE DECEIVED, as I was, by the book’s subtitle. This “graphic history” is not a history form of “graphic novel.” There is no sequential pictorial narrative. None. The back cover blurb insists that this volume is a “unique non-fiction graphic novel”; but, you’ll see in a trice, it isn’t. Rather, this book is illustrated prose, half-page prose essays explaining various aspects of contemporary American political life—First Amendment, Second Amendment, Neo-Nazi Hate Groups, Antifa, How to Spot Fake News, Immigration, National Debt, How Congress Works (if it ever does), and so on—with pictures providing visual interest on the rest of the page.

            Occasionally, errors crop up. The telegraph was invented in 1844, not 1940. Maybe that’s a typo rather than an outright error, but in explaining DACA, Bronco Bama’s executive order protecting from deportation immigrants who were brought here as children, they say that among the qualifications for successfully applying for protection (brought here before the age of 16, etc.) applicants must “have a criminal record with no felonies or serious misdemeanors.” Surely they don’t mean that. They probably mean that if an applicant has a criminal record, it must not include any felonies or serious misdemeanors.

            While most of the essays seem objective rather than partisan, that assessment probably reflects my own liberal tendencies. In other words, the authors of this book are probably more liberal than conservative —because I, an avowed liberal, see them as objective.                       



The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy

By Frank V. Martinek (ostensibly) and several artists; edited and introduced by Craig Yoe

272  8.5x11-inch pages, color; 2018 Gussoni-Yoe Studio/ Dead Reckoning/Naval Institute Press hardcover, $29.95

IN HIS INTRODUCTION, Yoe tells us that Martinek started writing a comic strip about the Navy after an admiral complained to him about the difficulty of recruiting that the Navy encountered in the landlocked midwest. So Martinek invented Don Winslow, the most stalwart naval officer of all time, in a newspaper strip that debuted March 5, 1934 and ran for over two decades until July 30, 1955. But Don Winslow had an exciting life beyond the funny pages.

            A radio serial ran 1937-39 and again 1942-43, and Universal produced two movie serials,  “Don Winslow of the Navy” in 1942 and “Don Winslow of the Coast Guard” in 1943. He starred in a series of prose novels, Big Little Books, and comic books, the subject of this volume.

            The Don Winslow comic book from Fawcett ran 73 issues from February 1943, at the height of World War II, until September 1955, its demise concurrent with that of the newspaper strip. This book presents a selection of 28 stories, from the first in Don Winslow No.1 through No.60, August 1948. Throughout, the bland looking, nearly featureless but regulation handsome Winslow thwarts evil-doers with ingenuity and fisticuffs a-plenty. 

            Winslow faced a recurrent villain, the Scorpion, and, once WWII was over, a Dragon Lady-like villainess, Singapore Sal, frequently appeared, flaunting her bosom and her fluctuating desire for Winslow as a lover instead of as foe.

            In his 10-page introduction, Yoe covers the history of the character in all the entertainment media that starred him. He also lists the writers and artists who worked on Don Winslow in its various incarnations.

            The drawing in the comic books is wholly serviceable, but it achieves stylistic distinction only under the hands of Carl Pfeufer (pencils) and John Jordan (inks). Yoe credits the two for several covers, but I think they performed in the stories, too—more than half of those in this volume: Pfeufer had a distinctive way of showing rapid, sudden movement—the speed lines throwing a punch, say—and that mannerism is evident in over a dozen of the stories.

            Yoe dedicates the book to his father, Duane O. Yoe, who served in the Navy in World War II. Although Don Winslow may not have the bulgy muscles of superhero comics, it’s a valuable addition to our shelves of comics, reminding us of how comic books served in the war effort—and of the men (and women) who did the service.





In college, the whole world opened up. ... For the first time I my life there was hope, hope that I might find my place in a community. I felt that my strange new friends and in certain new books, I was meeting my other half. Some people wanted to get rich or famous, but my friends and I wanted to get real. We wanted to get deep. (Also, I suppose, we wanted to get laid.)—Anne Lamott





The Antics and Attitudes of the Leader of the Free World

THE TRUMPET likes to be on the front page of every newspaper in the nation every day, and to that end, he twitters with as much nonsense and outrage as he can every morning. And a salivating news media, desperate to attract back readers/viewers who’ve all gone to the Web for news and information, plays right into the Trumpet’s hands, scanning his tweets every day for quotable material. To what extent this is part of an ingenious Trumpet plan or merely the incidental overflow of a giant ego we can’t say. But it’s there.

            Cartoonists, observing all this, are happily willing to participate, but they do it to make fun of the Prez, and he, knowingly or not, plays into their hands, becoming an object of international and national ridicule.

            A month could not go by without the Trumpet appearing on the cover of several national magazines, and we see four of those covers near here.

The New Yorker offers John Cuneo’s “Walled In” portrait of the Prez and The Week, which specializes in painted editoon covers, has Will McPhail (often seen in the pages of The New Yorker) on the cover with an interpretation of the political struggle between the Trumpet and Nancy Pelosi, newly empowered, thanks to the November 16 election, as Speaker of the House (third in the line of succession to the Presidency).

            At The Nation, Barry Blitt shows Trump in the Oval Office with the walls closing in on him. With investigations cropping up on all hands, the Trumpet is losing his power—namely, his ability to inspire fear in all those around him. (As evidence—only three Republicons voted in the Senate against a bill that opposed the Trumpet’s call to withdraw forces from Syria and Afghanistan; all the rest voted to oppose him.)

            The Time cover resorts to the format of a political cartoon, depicting the power contest between Pelosi and the Prez as a juvenile game in which the Trumpet deploys Twitter as a weapon against Pelosi’s more effective subpoena spitballs.

            The Trumpet brags about the number of times he’s been on the cover of Time, believing his appearances there are a measure of his grandeur. But when he’s caricatured on magazine covers, it’s not worship: it’s ridicule. He probably doesn’t know that, but we do.

            Next around the clock just below the Time cover, we return to the more familiar world of editoonery with Clay Bennett’s pictorial interpretation of Martin Luther King’s famous quotation. This may have been published on Martin Luther King Day; I can’t remember. Regardless, Bennett, as always, is apt.

            Adam Zyglis is next with mocking vision of Trump who sees himself (in the mirror) as a political Strong Man, his ludicrous uniform reminding us of Strong Men in other countries, dictatorships. Admiring himself in the mirror, the Trumpet reveals that’s what he aspires to.

            In our next visual aid, Jeff Danziger uses six panels of a comic strip to display the wayward reasoning process of the Prez. The format permits the editoonist to show, step-by-revealing-step,  the deterioration—or, rather, the reconfiguration—of the Trumpet’s so-called thinking: from the towering height of his ego, Trump translates every scrap of reality within his tenuous grasp into something that feeds and sustains that ego and its appetites. And baffles his staff in the process.

            Next, Pat Bagley conjures an image that reveals who actually runs the country. It isn’t Trump. It’s the right-wing social and news media mavens Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, whose approval Trump desperately needs—so desperate is he that just before Christmas he reneged on signing the House-Senate compromise bill funding the government, thereby giving up $2.5 billion for his cherished Wall. But he made Coulter and Limbaugh happy. What else is a President for?

            Just below Bagley is my own sketch of the Trumpet as barstool bloviator. From the beginning of Trump the Politician, I’ve seen him as the fat guy enthroned at the end of the bar during Happy Hour, drinking steadily as he pronounces on every conceivable topic, political and societal. We know this guy. We’ve seen (and heard) him a thousand times—a man of opinions and volume and not much else, sinking slowly into alcoholic insensibility. Notoriously, the real Trump doesn’t drink (except at the fountain of self-admiration) but he’s often insensible regardless.

            At the lower left, Scott Stantis focuses on an aspect of the Trumpet that the Trumpet continually extolls. Captioning the picture “The Art of the Heel,” Stantis has captured in word and picture the essential Trump as Negotiator in Chief. The picture shows him wrecking the game of chess by upsetting the board and scattering the pieces on the floor, thereby contradicting the implication of the caption, which recalls the title of Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal, while also suggesting the character of the Trumpet (as a heel).

            Every good negotiator knows that his weapon of last resort is to walk away from the bargaining table. If the other parties to the negotiation really want a deal with him, they’ll call him back. And throughout his life, Trump has negotiated from the position of the man in the room with the most money: if you want some of his money, you’ll negotiate—“cave in”—and do it his way. So he deploys this proven method here in his “negotiation” with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

            Rather than actually negotiating with them, however, he simply leaves. “Bye bye,” he says— an actual quote, you’ll remember. At their historic encounter, he abruptly left as soon as they answered his opening gambit—Am I gonna get my Wall?—by saying, No.

            But Schumer and Pelosi don’t want a deal bad enough to do it his way. So his ploy, leaving the negotiation, his red tie trailing behind him, didn’t work. And, as it turned out, it never did work with them. For once, Trump faced negotiators who had more power than he had.

            In our last Trumpery for this Opus, Tom Toles begins by explaining how Trump’s White House runs as a “well-oiled machine.” The gag is mostly verbal although the picture of the Trumpet in full braggert mode sets the mood. At the right, Ruben Bolling is also in an explanatory phase: the multi-panel format shows how the Trumpet manipulates the media, seducing it into doing his will.

            At the lower left, Rob Rogers also uses the comic strip format in taking up the subject of Trump’s horror at the Honduran Death Caravan of Doom. By invoking an antique fable, Rogers explains how the Trumpet is losing his power to persuade by repeating himself at every trivial prompt. The format enables Rogers to show Trump repeatedly sounding the alarm just like The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

            With the renewed understanding of the Trumpet that our foray through Trumperies has nurtured, we can now examine the editoons of the last month or so.





It seems no one can adequately explain the reason that women tend to strike matches away from themselves while men tend to strike them toward themselves.—ReMind





The Mock in Democracy

THE WALL was undeniably the Big Political Event of the last two months. And the Trumpet behaved as childishly as Chris Britt portrays him at the upper left in our first exhibit. Taking a less obvious visual role in the cartoon is a group of government workers, unpaid as well as unoccupied during the shutdown caused by Trump’s infantile behavior. In Tom the Dancing Bug, Ruben Bolling uses the comic strip format to extend a portrait of Trump similar to Britt’s. The sequential format permits Bolling to show (1) how the “tantrump” develops over time and (2) the extent of its pervasiveness in the Boy President’s life.

            At the lower left, Tom Toles offers another hilarious interpretation of the Trumpet’s behavior: it’s self-destructive, but Trump doesn’t realize it—which is typical of Trump’s strategies.

            Kai Wright in The Nation pokes a hole in Trump’s Wall Theory: “The fall of 2018 was peppered with militaristic pageantry. Border Patrol agents rained tear gas down on hundreds of protesters in Tijuana after a group of frustrated migrants scaled the border fence from the Mexican side (which suggests the futility of a wall, but anyway...).”

            Reminds me of that old saying: 30-foot high wall, 31-foot tall ladder.

            Another fallacy of Wall-thinking is revealed by the image that dominates our next exhibit. On the left, we have a photograph of the U.S. border taken from Tijuana where the border meets the Pacific Ocean. The Wall is there ostensibly to prevent “invasion” by undesirable immigrants. But it takes only a moment’s reflection to realize that to enter the U.S. at this place on the border, one need only wade out to sea a few yards, then double back on the other side of the wall.

            On the right, Jimmy Margulies continues the characterization of Trump as an insecure child, deploying an image from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts—Linus (Trump) sucking his thumb and clutching his security blanket (the Wall). Just below Margulies, Mike Luckovich depicts Trump the Child once again, making construction of the Wall a kid’s game of blocks, and Luckovich has added a jibe to remind us about the Prez devoting 60% of his day to “executive time” (watching tv).

            In our next visual aid, Mike Peters starts us off with a visual metaphor showing Trump as a folding chair: “I don’t fold,” he tells Pelosi. But, of course, he does. The picture refutes his words. And so did his actions: he signed a compromise bill that gives him only token funding for the Wall.

            In a pathetic attempt to reclaim lost political prowess, the Trumpet pronounced that he had won the Wall funding legislative battle. Pelosi, he reminded us, said she wouldn’t give him a penny for the wall, but he got $1.3 billion for the Wall. Ergo, he won. Even though he didn’t get the $5.7 billion he kept asking for.

            This looney rhetoric conveniently overlooks an actual fact. If he had signed the funding bill which he was presented with just before Christmas 2018, wherein, as I mentioned earlier, he would have received $2.5 billion for the wall. Instead, acting upon the “advice” of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, he got nothing.

            Or, to shine the brighter light on it, he eventually got $1.3 billion, about half of what he would have received had he not obeyed Limbaugh and Coulter.

            But then, just as he announced he’d sign the bill, the Trumpet invoked the “emergency powers” granted to the executive branch by Congress. Declaring a “national emergency,” he said he’d achieve security on the southern border by taking money from other appropriations to fund the building of the Wall.

            Trump had been threatening to make this move for months, and Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in the Senate, had announced his intentions from the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon just before Trump’s announcement on Friday morning. Earlier on Thursday, according to a tick-tock by the Washington Post, Trump was still threatening to veto the bipartisan spending deal that allotted $1.3 billion to border barriers. In order to get him to sign the bill and keep the government open, McConnell made a Faustian deal: he agreed to support the declaration of an emergency and encouraged other Republicans to support it.

            But he doesn’t have to continue supporting it once the bill was signed.

            Back to our display: at the upper right, Steve Sack takes up the contentious issue of the “emergency powers” and how Trump might expand on that notion to satisfy other whims, waving his emergency powers like a magic wand. At the lower right, Clay Jones turns our attention to another aspect of the “national emergency” that Trump thinks justifies his use of emergency powers. For many—like Jones and moi—Trump is the crisis.

            Steve Sack goes in a different direction at the lower left: he conjures up an entirely cockamamie situation—Trump getting his paper towels back from Puerto Rico—as a way of ridiculing one of Trump’s Wall funding ideas, using disaster funds set aside for other disasters, ones that haven’t yet materialized. This, of course, is unconstitutional.

            As many are presently engaged in pointing out, Congress makes the laws; the President executes them. In appropriating money for the Department of Defense (from which Trump proposes to get his Wall funding), Congress made a law: here’s money and here’s how to spend it. If Trump takes allocated funds away from the purpose for which Congress appropriated them, he’s breaking a law.

            So, what’s new about that?



MITCH McCONNELL’s role in preventing government from doing anything has expanded in recent years to preventing government from doing anything that the Trumpet might object to. This mutual interdependence is something that editoonists have taken note of. At the upper left of our next exhibit, Matt Davies offers a telling visual metaphor that reveals the relationship between Trump and McConnell. Next around the clock, Bob Englehart’s image varies the interdependence theme somewhat, and below Englehart, Rob Rogers uses four panels to reveal McConnell’s fundamental hypocrisy.

            At the lower left, I’ve stuck one of Steve Brodner’s expository essays on the meaning of the Trumpet. Has nothing to do with McConnell, but it’s fun to understand Trump as a shark about to devour the Republicon Party.



TRUMP CALLED A PRESS CONFERENCE to announce that he’d sign the funding bill and invoke emergency powers to pay for the Wall, in direct opposition to Congressional intentions in passing the bill (i.e., enacting the law). His discourse was littered with sentence fragments and thought fragments. It was, in short, a typical Trumpicky display. At The New Yorker, John Cassidy describes some of anti-fact antics (in italics)—:

            Trump sought to justify his action by trotting out some of his old lies about undocumented immigrants, and some he’s added to his repertoire more recently. “We have far more people trying to get into the country today than probably we’ve ever had before.” (The number of interdictions at the southern border is running at roughly half the level it was a decade ago.) The crime and drug problem in El Paso is “a hundred per cent” better since the construction of a border barrier. (El Paso has long had one of the lowest crime rates of any city in the country.) Federal prisons are full of illegal immigrants. (Even setting aside people being held for immigration offenses, undocumented immigrants make up a tiny proportion of the federal-prison population.)

            Trump’s description of the situation at the border is almost entirely fictitious, of course, but in one sense it is real. It’s a central element of the political narrative he has constructed for his white-nationalist base over the past three and a half years, and, as he helpfully sought to explain, it’s one he can’t easily back away from at this stage.

            “I ran on a very simple slogan: Make America Great Again,” he said. “If you’re going to have drugs pouring across the border, if you’re going to have human traffickers pouring across the border in areas where we have no protection, in areas where we don’t have a barrier, then it’s very hard to make America great again.”

            It will be interesting to see what the courts make of Trump’s admission that, when it came time to declare a national emergency, he didn’t “need to do this.” At the least, it was good to get it on the record from his own lips.

            Inside the Reagan Administration there used to be a saying: “Let Reagan be Reagan.” In the Trump Administration such a statement would be entirely redundant. The President lets it all hang out: the incoherence, the fabrications, the mendacity, the raging but delicate ego, the attention-deficit disorder, and, occasionally, the revealing shards of self-illumination. He just can’t help himself.

            [Trump took questions from reporters in front of him, and in one of his responses, he achieved a new high in confusion.]

            Playboy’s Brian Karem ... asked Trump to say where he gets his figures. “I get my numbers from a lot of sources, like Homeland Security, primarily,” Trump replied. “And the numbers that I have from Homeland Security are a disaster.”



WHEN IT COMES TO THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS, I couldn’t resist joining in the fun with the cartoon at the upper left of our next exhibit. It is, alas, mostly verbal. Apart from showing the Trumpet in a curtsying mode, taking what he believes to be a well-deserved bow for the excellence of his address—which picture, now that I ponder it, adds an element of ridicule to the verbiage—it’s mostly words. The “state of the union”—by which, he, ego rampant, means himself—is just fine, he assures us.

            The State of the Union address was one side of the negotiation with Pelosi; keeping the government open was the other. When Trump agreed to sign the funding bill keeping the government operating, Pelosi did her part and invited Trump to address the Congress with his analysis of the state of the union.

            The back-and-forth over these matters stuck Steve Sack (and some of the rest of us) as juvenile. It wasn’t, of course: it was a contest over power, and Trump lost. But Sack takes a shot at it nevertheless at the upper right. Accusing someone of having cooties evokes childhood more than anything else. But Pelosi wasn’t wholly innocent of childish behavior either, Sack believes, showing her willing participation by a sign on Trump’s back that we are to assume she affixed there. (I disagree about the label of childishness for Pelosi; but this exercise is about Sack and his cartoon more than it is about me, of which we have a plenitude of instances already.)

            The Trumpet persists in this infantile behavior. Once at the podium in the House to deliver his speech, he starts right in without an introduction. By so doing, he snubs Pelosi: the Speaker traditionally introduces the Prez (“It is my honor and distinct privilege...”). Trump’s message in their continuing scrimmage—“See? I don’t need you at all. I can do everything myself.”

            Below Sack, I jump in again with a sketch that quotes, as I recall, a remark by Pelosi, referencing the “Mexico will pay for it” Wall refrain of Trump’s campaign days.

            At the lower left, Dan Wasserman reminds is of another “union” the state of which remains in limbo. His image is of a detained child, separated from her family by the thoughtless action of Trump’s government. The teddy bear beside the girl in her prison cell is a nice touch, albeit an obvious one. Nothing devotes a sympathetic kid better than having a teddy bear on the premises.

            And many of the kids taken from their parents at our southern border remain in U.S. custody (captivity) despite Trump’s claims to have re-united the families he broke apart. His administration of the “zero tolerance” policy was so inept that officials don’t even know where some members of broken families are.

            The shutdown is the topic in our next visual aid. John Darkow’s visual metaphor borrows heavily from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts to characterize the negotiation between Trump and Pelosi. To extend the metaphor, “Pelosi” will try to kick the football, and “Charlie” will pull it away at the last minute. The Trumpet’s attempts at negotiation were sometimes deceptive (“Would I lie?”), but in the last analysis, Pelosi kicked his ass.

            Pelosi is extremely difficult to caricature. The best are those that display the grimace of her grin. Darkow does one of the best lately albeit, here, with the grin.

            Next, Clay Jones shows us how the Trumpet reacted so sympathetically to the shutdown once it commenced. Actually, he said absolutely nothing about the hardship federal employees faced without paychecks for a month. Ted Rall’s zinger about not paying taxes for the days the government was shut down looks like the start of a campaign.

            Adam Zyglis changes the subject to the national emergency Trump is claiming exists. The image is complex in its meanings. With his pants on fire, Trump is lying, and that’s the national emergency. The pull-box at the left just gives Zyglis a way of putting his picture into words: “In case of pants on fire,” pull the lever.

            The Democrats taking over the House of Representatives is heralded in the next display.  The party’s “rising star,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortz, doesn’t suggest any new political course of action to Nate Beeler at the upper left. In his picturesque metaphor, she is just an air-head. And dubbing her “Palin” on her name tag seconds the motion.

            Using Speaker Nancy Pelosi as his symbol, Dana Summers depicts the real power of the Democrat House—the power to investigate. And that power may permit the Democrat donkey in David Horsey’s visual metaphor to clean up after the disruptive and un-housebroken Trumpdog.

            Steve Sack uses several panels to show what the next Prez, if he/she is a Democrat, might use national emergency declarations for—all things that the Trumpet and his party oppose.

            Next, Clay Jones suggests that the mob of lawyers and other governmental factotums clustered around the Trumpet constitute a “collusion” despite Trump’s habitual denial.  Tom Toles makes effective use of the multi-panel format to show us how Rudy Giuliani evolves from one nonsense statement to another—all taken from actual quotations, I think.

            Next in Toles’ multi-functional visual metaphor, the Trumpet is painting himself into a corner with paint buckets of lies, corruption, emoluments, and obstruction—and in the corner into which he’s painting himself is the office of Robert Mueller, whose special investigation threatens the Trump presidency. Whatever Trump is doing, it’s leading him (or trapping him) to Mueller. Toles little self-caricature at the bottom makes another pun by referring to a bucket list.

            Political comedian Will Durst chimes in on this topic: “His malfeasance is so large it can be seen from space. Rick Gates testified under oath that he stole money from Paul Manafort who stole money from Donald Trump who stole money from everybody. These guys are the Russian nesting dolls of crime.”

            At the lower left, Mike Luckovich puts the Trumpet at one of his numerous “daddy needs love” rallies where he once again proposes that Mexico solve the problem. Nice.



IN OUR NEXT EXHIBIT, Matt Wuerker takes us into an arena not much on anyone’s mind over the last few weeks—foreign relations. His cartoon addresses aspects of our complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia—chief among them, our dependency upon the Saudi oil fields for fuel to run our vehicles (in Wuerker’s metaphor, our government). In order to gain access to the oil, however, we must “shred our principles” here, at the gasoline pump. Among the principles lately discarded, our interest in bringing to account the Saudi prince most likely responsible for the murder of a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was writing anti-Saudi government articles that the Washington Post was publishing.

            Wuerker doesn’t explore the latter here. But it was likely that Trump’s financial arrangements with the Saudis deterred him from questioning the “official” Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death. The Trumpet wants those arrangements to continue—as does his son-in-law, also deeply involved with the Saudis.

            Another question that was raised not too long ago is: what did the Trumpet and Putin talk about during their long conversations of which there is absolutely no written record. Did Trump give our country away? Dunno.

            My answer to that question appears next around the clock in a rough pencil sketch.

            In Britain, everyone is all worked up over Brexit, the plan to leave the European Union. No one, apparently, can find a suitable formula for arranging the departure and its aftermath. As Clay Bennett puts it, the doorknob to the door leading out has fallen off. A nicely provocative metaphor.

            The next cartoon, at the lower left, isn’t necessarily an editoon although it voices a common complaint, here made comical by invoking an image of Stonehenge, said to be a prehistoric clock.

            Trump’s lying, his apparent inability to discern the difference between reality and his delusions, is always good for a few swats by the editoonist’s pen. If a cartoonist can’t think of any issue to draw about on a given day, he can turn to Trump’s lying just as he once turned to the weather. Trump’s lies, like manifestations of the weather, are always there, ready to be deployed.

            Tragically, we’re so accustomed to the fabricated utterances of our Liar in Chief that we no longer regard them as unusual. According to a tally being kept at the Washington Post, since Trump took office, he’s told 2,000 lies as of January 13, not quite two years into his term.

            Over the past month or so, I’ve clipped several cartoons about Trumpet lying. They’re not hard to find.   Clay Bennett gets us into the proper frame of mind by showing us what’s on Trump’s desk today (or last October 23). Rob Rogers hits a hilarious note by showing us Trump’s euphemism for the thousands of lies hovering over him like a cloudy day. And Pat Bagley shows us how to anticipate what the Trumpet will say in his State of the Union address.

            Bob Englehart at the lower left brings up another topic recently in the news—Jeff Bezos’ fight with the National Enquirer —which finds itself on this page because the tabloid, like the Trumpet, traffics in lies. The Enquirer sought to get Bezos to do its bidding by threatening to publish photos of him, nude. Bezos’ reply: publish and be damned. Or words to that effect. And Englehart shows us what we’re likely to see. A naked Bezos, yes, but with the Amazon arrow in a conspicuous place, a telling image that invokes the power of Amazon’s owner to protect his, er, vitals from damage.

            By the way, did you ever notice how in the full Amazon logo, the arrow goes from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ in Amazon? A clever way to suggest the breadth and depth of the company as marketplace. From A to Z, all encompassing.

            Speaking of lying institutions, Steve Benson and Darrin Bell (who also produces two syndicated daily comic strips, Candorville and Rudy Park) turn our attention to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s custodian of the Lies of the Week. Benson’s metaphor conjures up Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting of God bringing Adam to life by touching him with a divine finger (even though TrumpGod’s hand is tiny). By saying the election of Trump is evidence of God’s intervention in American politics, Sanders converts God to Trump and credits him for her very being.

            Bell’s Sarameter behind the Press Secretary registers her announced hope as a delusion, like much of what she says in her official capacity.

            Incidently, as anyone noticed lately that when Sanders refers to “the President,” she often says “we”?

            Steve Sack’s weather forecast at the lower right is more an impersonation of the status quo in Washington than it is a forecast. But it covers the ground with stunning caricatures and puns aplenty.

            Daylight Saving Time is again under scrutiny in Rick McKee’s comical rendition of a right-winger’s attitude toward government interference with his daily life. The teddy bear is a revealing touch.



THE NEXT COLLECTION, while tagged “miscellany” in my file, is mostly about the weather, of which we’ve had plenty lately. But Steve Sack touches on another annoyance, while informing us that 5 billion (with a ‘b’) robo calls are being sent every year. All of them to my phone, which is a land-line.

            Mike Peters’ comment on the winter weather works best if you remember that in addition to editooning, he also produces the syndicated daily comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm, about a fairy tale character and her mostly human canine. Peters here reminds us that dogs urinate by lifting their legs to point their peters (sorry) at some upright object nearby. If it’s a metal object, as Grimm is finding out, the danger is considerable. Makes me cringe in sympathy.

            The speaker through the window is another character from the strip, the cat. Who, need we remind you, doesn’t need to go outdoors thanks to the litterbox that all cats actually prefer. Which prompts me to respond to the feline’s admonition to Grimm: “Easy for you to say.”

            Next, just below Peters, Gary Markstein invokes a pun to remind us of the fate of the homeless in cold weather, and then at the lower left, Drew Sheneman reveals the flaw in the climate-denier’s thinking. It’s a provocative arrangement of the two panels. At first, I thought it might be a more powerful statement if their order were reversed. But now that I’m thinking about it, I think Sheneman’s order is best. Only someone who is established as believing that if it’s dark out, there is no sun (the function of the first panel) can also believe if it’s cold out there is no global warming. Besides, Sheneman’s order lets the cartoon end on the rhetorical point he wants to make.

            Still in the miscellaneous category, Bill Bramhall illuminates the sins of Facebook by showing Mark Zuckerberg invading the privacy of one of the millions of Facebook users. That she got into the tub/shower of her own free will does not lessen Zuckerberg’s sinfulness.

            Big Pharma’s face in Dave Granlund’s cartoon makes me laugh out loud. He’s so obviously a chiseler of the most annoying sort—fiendishly cheerful as he takes our money, enjoying every moment of his chisel (even though he knows it’s wrong). That accurately describes Big Pharma as far as I’m concerned. And the frosting on Granlund’s visual cake is Big Pharma’s admission that, “Yes—it’s a suppository.” The price increase will be administered by shoving it up our collective rectum.

            A couple late arrivals. Matt Davies shows us how the Trumpet deals with his committee’s report on climate change. Characteristic of our delusional Prez. Too true to be good.

            And then another from the talented Steve Brodner in the same area of concern, science. The clock is labeled “Atomic Scientist Doomsday Clock Co.” And the Trumpet is doing his best to turn the clock back. The expression on his face is visual gold.

            Finally, from Tom Tomorrow (aka Dan Perkins) a cartoonist’s perspective on all the hate mail he gets for lambasting all the charlatans he can see from his drawingboard.Nuff said.





More on the Writing Life

Publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. ... The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.—Anne Lamott

            “...its own reward.” Writing is a way of exploring the world around us, forming our opinions of it. Hence the reward: we understand ourselves, and the world, better after having written about it.

            Finding the truth, telling the truth.  But words do more, much that we do not intend. Words that describe also end up defining—and in that, they are deceptively incomplete, wrong, about reality. Reality cannot be reduced to words, no matter how many.

            If you look at what you’ve written and think you’re captured reality, you’re deceiving yourself. And if you believe too deeply that you’ve caught the firefly in the jar of your verbiage, you will make a big mistake.

            There’s more to see, more to write about. More to understand. Even through writing.





By John D. Dingell February 8 at 4:03 PM

John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He was a giant in the House. He either authored or substantially crafted many laws now taken for granted—Children’s Health Insurance Program, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Medicare.

            Known as “Big John” and “The Truck” for his 6-foot-3-inch frame and imposing personality, he, like his father before him, introduced national health insurance legislation at the start of every Congress. And in 2010, his bill was turned into the Affordable Care Act.

            He dictated these reflections to his wife, Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died.

ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES to knowing that your demise  is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

            In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition. And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.

            My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.                                   

            Think about it:          

            Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.

            Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today, the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.

            We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.

            And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time, they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

            Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

            I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress. And it’s simply not possible for me to adequately repay the love that my friends, neighbors and family have given me and shown me during my public service and retirement.

            But I would be remiss in not acknowledging the forgiveness and sweetness of the woman who has essentially supported me for almost 40 years: my wife, Deborah. And it is a source of great satisfaction to know that she is among the largest group of women to have ever served in the Congress (as she busily recruits more).

            In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

            It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).

            I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.

            As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.

            May God bless you all, and may God bless America.





Pornhub, the streaming pornography service, announced a 6.3 percent increase in traffic from the Washington, D.C. metro area during the partial government shutdown.





Pictures Without Too Many Words

JUST AT THE CORNER OF YOUR EYE is the delicious cover of Bud Plant’s winter catalog, drawn by William Stout, who deploys some images that vaguely call to mind the work of Jack Davis, and so Stout, in accordance with the custom of the craft, adds a thank-you to Davis at the lower right. But he doesn’t just say “thank you”: no, he says he’s tipping the Hatlo hat to Davis. And in deploying the Hatlo hat, Stout references yet another cartoonist— Jimmy Hatlo.

            For years until he died in 1963, Hatlo produced a daily panel cartoon entitled They’ll Do It Everytime (which ran February 5, 1929 - February 3, 2008). The premise of the feature was that whatever good intentions we may have, our greed and personal comfort always supercede our intentions—every time.

            Hatlo relied upon contributions from readers for most of the feature’s run, and he dutifully thanked whoever contributed the day’s idea. After a decade or so of that, he amplified his thanks by tipping the Hatlo chapeau to the contributor. Just to the right of Stout’s picture are a couple TDIET (as it was usually abbreviated) installments, and at the lower left of the uppermost cartoon is the “Hatlo hat” thank-you box in which a tiny hat-tipper is tipping his hat in thanks.

            The lower TDIET was produced some years before the deployment of the Hatlo headgear. I’ve posted it here because of the name of that day’s idea contributor. C.C. Beck. And if you don’t know who that is, you’ll have to await another opus to find out.

            After Hatlo’s death, TDIET was continued by Bob Dunn and Al Scaduto.

(the better part of the period from 1929 until 2008 until he died in 1963)





In my misspent youth, we sang the Delaware Song. It goes like this—:

What did Delaware, boys,

What did Delaware?                                                           

I ask you now as a personal friend,

What did Delaware?

She wore her New Jersey, boys,

She wore her New Jersey.

I tell you now as a personal friend,

She wore her New Jersey.


The first two lines of each verse are repeated numerous times; I’ve shortened the recitation here in order not to bore you too much. The song goes on, cataloging some more states—:


What did Idaho, boys?

She hoed her Maryland.


What did Ioway, boys?

She weighed a Washington.


How did Wiscon-sin, boys?

She stole a New-bras-key.


What did Tennessee, boys?

She saw what Arkansas.

How did Flora-die, boys?

She died in Missouri [“misery,” right?]


Where has Oregon, boys?            

She’s gone to Oklahom.


Why did Califon-ya, boys?

She phoned to say Hawai-ya.

What did Mississip, boys?

She sipped a Minnisoda.

Having written this all down, now, perhaps it’ll stop running through my head like water through a sieve.



AND THAT, ARISTOTLE, IS A HALF-SAMPLE of what we peddle here and have done for the last 19 years, without let-up or fail. We’re in our $ubscribers’ inboxes twice a month, once with Rants & Raves, the online magazine of comics news and reviews, cartooning history and lore; and another time with Harv’s Hindsight, our history and biography department.

            In a few days, you’ll get the other half of our sample. More book reviews (Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel, The Unknown Anti-War Comics, and graphic novels— Dry Country, The Stranger, Miss: Better Living Through Crime), and critiques of the magazine cartooning pratices in Esquire, The New Yorker, and Playboy, the only places you can find single-panel cartooning anymore. We will also examine the current crop of newspaper comic strips, as we do in most opuses. (What are they doing? What venerable taboos are they breaking?) And we’ll say fond farewells to Batton Lash and Tomi Ungerer.

            All lavishly, promiscuously, illustrated with exemplary excerpts from contemporary works and from some deeply historical cartooning enterprises, too.

            If you’re not eager to $ubscribe by now, perhaps you will be after browsing the forthcoming Opus 389, Part Two.

            It’s merely $3.95/quarter after a $3.95 introductory month.

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