Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cartoonists protest

According to the Detroit Free Press,
When you look in your Free Press Sunday comics, know that "Candorville" by Darrin Bell is a protest. He and at least nine black and minority comics artists are drawing the same comic Sunday in their own styles to protest the notion that their comics are interchangeable.

They feel lumped into a limited category as "black strips" -- even though each of these comics has its own voice, content and nonracial category (family strip, kid strip, friends strip, political strip, etc.).

We tell you this because the other African-American comics artists the Free Press carries -- Robb Armstrong of "Jump Start" and Nate Creekmore of "Maintaining" -- aren't participating in the protest.
The interchangeable strip is here. It is the Candorville version. It's the only one carried by my local newspaper. I don't read the other strips involved in he protest so I don't know if their complaint is valid. I used to read Candorville until it became to painful to waste those few precious seconds. Since it's the only one of the strips I can respond to, I hate to break it to the creator of Candorville, but if he finds himself in a comic strip ghetto, it's one of his own making.

As you can see from the strip I linked, according to Darrin Bell, it's the fault of the stupid white reader for not being savvy enough to understand Candorville's modern, relevent, edgy humor. The stupid white reader longs for the simpler, safer, whiter world of yesterday, exemplified by Blondie and Dagwood. As a long time comics fan, (ask my wife and kids) I take issue with Darrin Bell's inaccurate and self-serving caricature. It is the job of the artist to communicate the idea to the viewer/reader. If the reader/viewer finds that artistic vision lacking, the creator needs to reassess the creation.

Candorville is trapped in the early 1970s world of newly integrated TV shows where dumb white people didn't know how to react to their black neighbors, coworkers, etc. He's using jokes and stereotypes that are 30-40 years out of date. They were funny back then. They are painfully dated now. His is a black strip in the sense that his characters are caricatures and he focuses on the view that white folks can't relate to black folks because all white people are racist whether conscious or unconscious. He has a very limited view of the world.

Let's contrast that with another strip by a black artist, Jump Start. Read it for a few days, or weeks, or months. You will be treated to characters that are more than lines on paper. Over the years, they have grown and changed. They have developed. They have humanity and a range of human emotion. This is a strip that has heart. Rather than a creator that tries to show off his supposed superiority, Robb Armstrong works to create a believable world on the comics page. His characters go off on flights of imagination, but these flights are entertaining and believable. This is a strip in the tradition of other great family strips like, For Better and For Worse, and Gasoline Alley - back when it was being done by Frank King.

My advice to the cartoonists who are protesting; take a good look at your strip. Be honest. Are you focusing on your ethnicity and politics to the exclusion of all else? Or are you dealing with universal themes?

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4 Comments:

At 11:29 PM, Anonymous DK said...

Answer: Candorville focuses on universal themes and not on race "to the exclusion of all else." You thinking the opposite has me thinking these cartoonists have a point.

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger Jungle Mom said...

True 'art' will appeal to all humanity on some level.
Once in the jungle, I was playing some classical music and soon had a house full of amazon indians sitting and listening to the 'beautiful sounds'.

 
At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the opposite experience with Candorville. Like the guy in that February 10 strip, I assumed it was going to be all about race and all PC, but after reading it for a few years, I realized there's much more to it. It's now the first thing I read in the Freep every morning.

I agree with DK that to argue otherwise is to prove the cartoonists' point.

"Jungle Mom," while I love classical music, my husband definitely does not. It just doesn't appeal to him in the slightest. So after 20 years of arguing about it, I've concluded that I don't think "true art" is universal at all.

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger Harry said...

Jungle Mom,
Sometimes I'll bring a Jazz or Classical CD into the classroom and put it on. There is always a variety of reaction from enjoyment to kids covering their ears. If I leave it on long enough, almost all of the kids end up enjoying the music. Then they don't want me to take it off.

Anonymous,
On the other hand, my sister doesn't "get" music. None of it works for her, and at best she tolerates it. I don't know her history with Classical music.

As for Candorville, he's used the white-people-don't-get-it joke way too many times. His strips focusing on character are infrequent and derivative, not to mention unoriginal. I think he's completely PC, but that's to be expected on today's comics page.

I'm not sure I understand your (and DK's) point about arguing proving the point.

On the other hand, I'm glad to see others taking comics seriously.

 

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