A dispatch from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Yes, I was there again.  Read on for Jeff Smith, Congressman John Lewis, Sonny Liew, Thi Bui, Brigitte Findakly, Lewis Trondheim, Jennifer Holm, and more!

Cosplay

This was my fourth Comic-Con.  So, each day, I walked past the city’s homeless, and past lines of fans waiting to get into I-don’t-know-what. (There are events outside of the San Diego Convention Center as well as within it.) The nearer we get to the convention center, the more the crowds thicken, and we try to identify the costumes.  We’re not as caught up with popular culture as we should be, and the moment of identification is brief (once you pass the cosplayers by or they pass you by, it’s gone).  We recognized a group cosplaying as the kids from Stranger Things, but only after we had walked past.  A little girl — I would guess she was maybe 9 — was a great Princess Leia, clad in white, brown hair in symmetrical buns on either side of her head.  We saw many Wonder Women, though my favorites were the cross-dressed Wonder Women (which, alas, I failed to photograph).

Here are a few cosplayers. You could spend all con just photographing the cosplayers. I didn’t. So, this is but a brief and unrepresentative sample.

cosplayer (Mad Hatter, via Tim Burton): Comic-Con 2017

cosplayers (Guardians of the Galaxy): Comic-Con 2017

cosplayer (Handmaid): Comic-Con 2017

cosplayer (Beaker): Comic-Con 2017

cosplayer (Wonder Woman): Comic-Con 2017

cosplayer: Comic-Con 2017


Conspicuous Consumption

The exhibit hall is the largest I’ve seen and Comic-Con uses every corner of it. Merchandise and people as far as the eye can see. If crowds give you claustrophobia, you wouldn’t care for it. But if you don’t mind the shoulder-to-shoulder experience, you may enjoy seeing the toys, video screens, books, and occasional celebrities.

Comic-Con: conspicuous consumption

Comic-Con: conspicuous consumption

Comic-Con: conspicuous consumption


Books!

Predictably, I gravitate towards the books. (Although Comic-Con is mostly an entertainment industry juggernaut, there are still books!)  Here’s what I bought this year.

books bought at SDCC 2017

Little Nemo in Slumberland Vol. 1 (Sunday Press) Krazy Kat (Sunday Press)

I did not buy as much as in previous years because, well, in some cases I already owned them and in other cases (such as Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters), I decided to order it and have it shipped — as I did for the two gigantic Sunday Press books included above.  (Sunday Press reprints the comics at roughly their original size — so, a much larger … and heavier … book!)


The Art of Signing Books

I love it when artists draw a picture along with their signature!

Findakly and Trondheim draw and paint

Lewis Trondheim and Brigitte Findakly create a watercolor painting in the book itself!  Specifically, Trondhiem draws, and Findakly (who also did the coloring for the book) paints.  Just so we’re clear, that entire right page was blank: they created the art while we waited.

Poppies of Iraq (signed)

Poppies of Iraq is a beautiful book — an episodic memoir of growing up in Iraq, punctuated by destructions of the present. I saw the authors on a couple of panels, and they were great. Trondheim (who also speaks English) had a nice sense of humor, which both served as a counterpoint to Findakly (who was more serious, and spoke only in French) and seemed to me emblematic of their warm relationship with one another.  The story is Findakly’s, though Trondheim (also her husband) helped her write it.


Everyone says “Hi”

I failed to take photos with all folks I spent time with (notably, Susan Kirtley and her sister Kathy).  But here are a few!

Nel, Westman, Hatfield, Tisserand

Left to right: Me, Karin, Charles Hatfield, and Michael Tisserand.  (Credit: photographer at the restaurant… who gave us the option of either black and white or color.  We liked this one because it seems to suggest that we this dinner occurred some time ago.)  Great to meet the author of Krazy, and to hang out with both him Charles!

Nel, Westman, Thomas

The second annual Comic-Con breakfast with Ebony Elizabeth Thomas!

Reynolds & Nel

Hey, look — it’s the co-editors of Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Volume Three (and Barnaby Volume TwoBarnaby Volume One, and the forthcoming Barnaby Volume Four…)!  And they’re wearing matching Barnaby t-shirts!


Eisner Awards: and the winner is…

Eisner Awards centerpiece

Very excited that Michael Tisserand won for his biography of George Herriman — which (if you haven’t done so already) you should read.  Delighted to see Los Bros Hernandez win, and Sonny Liew get three awards for The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

Crockett Johnson, Barnaby Vol. Three (1946-1947), ed. Philip Nel & Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics, 2016)Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Volume Three: 1946-1947 — edited by me and Eric Reynolds — lost… making me a three-time Eisner loser. And that’s the way of awards.  Sometimes we win, but usually we lose. (Statistically, the odds are against you — as one of 5 nominees, our book had a 1 in 5 chance.) But the work is what matters. And I think we did a darn good job on this book, if I do say so myself.  (Hint: I do!)

Also, Johnson — who died 42 years ago this month — never won a major award. So, we are proud to help continue his losing streak (and mine)!

I went to a number of panels, and took notes.  I don’t have time to do proper write-ups for all, but here are photos and extracts from my notes.


Code-Switch: Diversity Behind the Scenes

Code-Switch panel

Thursday, 20 July 2017, 10-11 am

Program description: “Jimmy Diggs (writer, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Voyager) and Gigi Edgley (Chiana on Farscape) lead a diverse panel of science fiction, fantasy, and gaming industry leaders as they share their perspectives from behind the scenes of your favorite franchises. African American, veteran, LGBTQ, and female creatives discuss diversity of background and thought. Learn how obstacles overcome, stereotypes broken, and glass ceilings shattered have fueled creative magic! Panelists to include Dan Evans (VP of creative affairs, DC Comics), Rebekah Ganiere (author, Dead Awakenings), Alison Haislip (actor, host, gamer), Mark O’Bannon (author, The Dream Crystal), and Morgan Romine (director of initiatives, anykey.org).”

Mark O’Bannon: “I never discriminate for race, creed or color because there are so many real reasons to hate people.”

Alison Haislip (hosts a podcast called the Half-Hour Happy Hour: “I got my start on the G4 Network, Attack of the Show.  I never knew that I could be a host.  I’m an actress.  I did not know hosting was something I could do.  …A lot of people identify as a girl gamer — ‘I’m a girl gamer.’   I just say ‘I’m a gamer.’  But it’s important to realize that ‘girl gamer’ is important because we need people to identify.  Did anyone else cry when they found out that the next Dr. Who is a woman?”

Dan Evans III: “I don’t like the term ‘diversity.’ I’m with Shonda Rhimes: It’s all about normalization. I’m interested in doing the diversity subtly.  I’ve worked in TV for 30 years.  At the level I’m at, there’s not a lot of black people.  I’ve had to depend upon others to get here — and a lot of those people have been women.  So, I’m interested in representation of women — and not just the chick in the bikini.  …I think of myself as a girl gamer because I play a lot of games as girl characters.”


Spotlight on Jeff Smith

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Jeff Smith, interviewed by Larry Marder

Larry Marder: “We called ourselves alternative comics, but … we were independent because we had no alternative.”

Getting Bone serialized in Disney Adventures [c. 1998] was a turning point for Jeff because — as Larry says — “you were in the checkout line of the supermarket.”  Its audience took off.  Disney Adventures‘ circulation was 6 million.

Bone is now in 33 languages, and one of the first was German.

Will there be a Bone movie?  Jeff says, “Something’s finally happening: producer of Lego movies and Mark Osborne (director of Kung Fu Panda) are working on a Bone film adaptation.  However,” Jeff notes, “we’ve been here before…”  In other words, this isn’t the first time that a film has been in the works… but never materialized.

The panel provided some history of self-publishing, and how times have changed.  Writers and artists didn’t typically have their names on the cover of a comic book.  When Jeff Smith put his name on his books, some people thought that was really egotistical — but Jeff Smith thought, well, Bill Watterson put his name on the cover of his Calvin and Hobbes books.

Audience member asks of Jeff’s books: Why are all the titles four-letter words?  Coincidence?  OCD?

Jeff’s answer: “It was a coincidence with Bone and Rasl.  But Tuki was originally spelled Tookie.  The designer who did the Tuki logo spelled it that way.”  Jeff asked why?  Designer said, referencing Jeff’s earlier books: “well, it has to be 4 letters.”


CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Program description: “Get a global look at comics censorship from CBLDF! See how the new political climate is affecting free speech in the U.S., with increased scrutiny at the border and an abundance of local challenges to comics addressing diversity and equality. Explore how cartoonists are being prosecuted, threatened, and intimidated by authorities around the globe for making art. Learn how you can participate with CBLDF in making a difference and standing up for free expression! CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein and editorial director Betsy Gomez lead the conversation.”

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Musa Kart in Turkey.  President Erdoğan has cracked down on free expression.  Musa Kart was held for 5 months.  Still no charges filed against him. Erdoğan is accusing journalists and artists of supporting those who organized the coup.

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Zunar.  Malaysia.  Currently facing 9 charges of sedition for some Tweets suggesting that the country’s courts have been bought out.  He’s facing at least 43 years in prison for these charges.  The sedition act he’s being charged under predates the country’s constitution — and is in fact illegal under current constitution.

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Most important case of past few years is Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani who was jailed for depicting legislature as farm animals. Since incident, Farghadani was charged under rarely enforced law of contact with opposite sex who is not a family member — because she shook her lawyer’s hand.

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

We’ve seen a lot of “manga is a code word for porn” at customs & immigration enforcement.  [Note: it is not anything of the kind.]

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Beyond the violation of privacy, this policy may prompt other governments to prompt US travelers to hand over their passwords.

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

A cartoonist like Atena Farghadani would be affected: if she is arrested and needs to escape to US, she would have trouble traveling.  Or if Satrapi had to come to the US, say, for a film festival, could she come under the travel ban?

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Black Butler: these books were actually burned or removed from library so no one else could access them.

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

A common complaint against LGBTQ books is that the book doesn’t show negative effects of this lifestyle.  (Charles Brownstein makes this comment in context of Drama, where two boys share a kiss.). Kids who are most affected by these challenges are those who need to see themselves represented.

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

“We’ve signed onto 15 letters of support this year, so far.”

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

We’re seeing a larger trend of parental notification bills — and the language is always vague.

The result of such bills is that it affects what teachers are ultimately going to assign.

Charles Brownstein: “We’re in a cold civil war on the culture on that front. There’s a lot more stuff happening on the cultural level, things like the filtering bill that I’ve just described, like the anti-science bill…. using the legislatures to affect speech.”

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

CBLDF: State of Censorship 2017

Visit CBLDF’s Education Resources!


CBLDF: She Changed Comics

Thursday, 20 July 2017

She Changed Comics panelists (left to right: Betsy Gomez, Jenni Holm, Thi Bui, Caitlin McCabe, Joyce Farmer)

Program description: “Meet the women who changed free expression in comics! From the turn of the 20th century to today, women have overcome censorship and more to make comics, inspiring today’s landscape of increasingly diverse and empowering comics storytelling. Join Joyce Farmer (Special Exits, Tits & Clits), Thi Bui (The Best We Could Do), Jennifer L Holm (Babymouse, Sunny Side Up), CBLDF editorial director Betsy Gomez (She Changed Comics), and more for a discussion about the women who changed the format.”

She Changed Comics title slide

She Changed Comics started as a project during Women’s History Month.

Book She Changed Comics profiles 60 women.  Great survey and intro. to women creators in comics.

Betsy: How did you come to comics?

Joyce: started reading ’em at age 1.

Caitlin McCabe: I come from an unusual family. My dad introduced me (as a child) to works of R. Crumb. I grew up reading a lot of things I didn’t realize were controversial.

Thi Bui: I didn’t read a lot of comics as a kid, but when I was a child especially those written by women. Elf Quest.  As a grown-up, Marjan Satrapi’s Persepolis was a huge inspiration.

Jenni Holm: I’m one of five children. Our father loved comics. We had collected volumes of Prince Valiant and Flash Gordon.

Joyce Farmer: When I was a kid, I liked Little Lulu.  I was sort of androgynous. I read superheroes and Donald Duck.  My mother died when I was 11, and my father gave me an allowance, and I’d buy five candy bars and five c

Jenni Holm: I wanted the girl version of Peter Parker, but those were few and far between.

Betsy Gomez: I was once asked which female comics artists influenced me, I said Terry Moore (who is not a women), but wrote Strangers in Paradise, which has two main female characters.  I also read a lot of Vertigo, an imprint which was run by women.

Joyce Farmer: Wrote Abortion Eve, post Roe v. Wade, because had been working as a counselor for women considering abortion.

Joyce Farmer: For Tits & Clits, I actually had to hide copies of the work, and records of having sold it.  This made her change the works she was doing — did mediocre stuff.  “Censorship damages the creativeness of the people who are working.”

Joyce Farmer: “When you’re responsible for two older people who don’t want you to help them, and they don’t want you doing it, they …”  Dad had a sarcastic Danish sense of humor.  Book is Special Exits: A Memoir.    

Thi Bui, The Best We Could DoThi Bui: I started this in my 20s, and was angry about the misrepresentation of Vietnamese people and the Vietnam War.  I wanted them not to be allegory, but to be real people.  I had access to those stories through my family.  I was also trying to figure out my own origin story at the same time.  It took me about 15 years total to write it, and I became a parent in the meantime, which unlocked a lot of empathy for my parents….  and that’s how the title changed from Refugee to The Best We Could Do.

Thi Bui: It’s comics because it’s revenge against Hollywood. I didn’t have a Hollywood budget, but I could draw.

Thi Bui: My book is not the first to come out about Vietnam American stories. GB Tran’s book came out in 2011.  And when I found that out, I was discouraged, but then I realized that we need more stories — this, as we know, is the danger of a single story.

Jenni Holm: The comics you read as a kid stay with you your whole life.  Also, I remember everything from elementary school.

Betsy: Do you prefer prose or comics?

Jenni Holm: I prefer comics because I collaborate with my brother.  He does the majority of the art, and I do the writing.  I also do the layout.  I like the collaboration.

Betsy: A lot of women work in kids comics.  Why?

Jenni Holm: More opportunity for women.  I think we will look back at this period and see this as a renaissance for kids’ comics.  My latest series is called Sunny Side Up.  The elevator pitch is this is a girl in 1976 who goes to Florida and spends the summer with her grandparents in a retirement community.  Would DC or Marvel ever publish this?  No. But children’s publishers are willing to take risks.

Betsy: Women are overrepresented as far as censored books go.  Why is that happening?

Joyce Farmer: Because women see thing differently.

Jenni Holm: A lot of the books are getting attention because they’re New York Times best-sellers. They’re big shiny targets.

Betsy: Books by (or co-written) by women that have been challenged: This One Summer, Drama, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Fun Home, Persepolis, Saga, Stuck in the Middle.

Thi Bui: Censorship being used as a weapon.  It seems to come with the territory of getting a bigger voiec — people trying to shut you down.

Betsy: How will women continue to affect comics in the future?

Jenni Holm: We’re raising a new generation of comics readers, girls and boys.  This generation is growing up known that there are women creators, and that is normal.

Thi Bui: And that there’s more than one way to do it.  There’s more than one way of being a feminist, and more than one ways of telling a story.

Betsy: What are you working on? Where can we find you at the convention?

Nancy Farmer: Special Exits in translation in 5 languages.

Thi Bui: Best We Could Do is at the Abrams booth. I’m working on a PEN America comic on refugees.

My next project is on climate change & Vietnam, which is the country in world with largest percentage of population at risk of coastal flooding.  Only other country with higher percentage of population at risk is the Netherlands.


Writing from Life: Turning Personal Experience Into Relatable Stories

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Writing from Life panel

Program description: “Poignant stories often come from a place of truth, but once you’ve lived through something, how do you turn it into a piece of art that you can share with the wider world? Moderator Jessica Tseang (comic book historian) aims to find out with panelists Sonny Liew (The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye), Eduardo Risso (Dark Night: A True Batman Story), Gemma Correll (The Worrier’s Guide to Life), Lewis Trondheim (Poppies of Iraq), Brigitte Findakly (Poppies of Iraq), and Tillie Walden (I Love This Part).”

Note: Tillie Walden was not here.  And, left to right, Jessica Tseang (moderator), translator, Eduardo Risso, Sonny Liew, Gemma Correll, Lewis Trondheim, translator, Brigitte Findakly.

Another note: I loved that the panel had people who speak French as native language and Spanish as native language, and translators for both, and even people asking questions in French.  This was the most international panel I attended at this year’s Comic-Con.

Gemma Correll: The book is a collection of comics made over several years, some of which were made for herself.  I can see the ridiculousness of a lot of the anxieties I have.

Jessica Tseang: Did you find it relatable to make it relatable to everyone?

Gemma Correll: It’s all personal.  But the overall theme of anxiety you can relate to.  Modern life is anxiety-provoking.

Jessica Tseang: Did you have anyone personally talk to you about the book?

Gemma Correll: Yes. I wish it were a book that had existed when I was younger.

Sonny Liew, Art of Charlie Chan Hock ChyeSonny Liew [re The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye]: It’s a book that’s about Singapore’s history, done in form of real art book ostensibly done by Charlie Chan Hock Chye (fictional character) — and is derived from a Wayne Wang film.  This book is a different perspective on Singapore’s history.  I wrote the book mainly for Singaporeans at first.  Singapore is a unique country, and has had one ruling party since its independence in 1965.  Imagine if the US had been ruled by Republicans for all its history: think about how that affects what gets told, and what gets left out.

Lewis Trondheim: The book is about my wife Brigitte Findakly’s experience; she was born in Iraq in 1959.

Brigitte Findakly: I wrote the book when I realized I would not be returning.

Lewis Trondheim: But it’s also funny.

Brigitte: I wanted to talk about the good times I had there.  Iraq is a different country than what it is perceived today.

Jessica Tseang: How did you make it relatable to others not form Iraq?

Findakly and Trondheim, Poppies of IraqBrigitte Findakly: People can better understand when it is an autobiography.  Several people said they learned more about the Iraq reading the book because it’s an autobiography than from the other theoretical books they read about Iraq.

Lewis Trondheim: You don’t need to have a traumatic childhood to write a memoir.  You have to find a way to write it, get a point of view that’s interesting — with humor or not.

Jessica Tseang: From an artist’s point of view, how did you get involved in the story?

Eduardo Risso: For me, it was a difficult subject to draw, because he’s not used to drawing along these kinds of themes. I was creating the art and trying to experience Paul’s attack as Paul experineced the attack himself. [Dark Knight: A True Batman Story was inspired by writer Paul Dinello’s mugging]

You as the readers will probably the best judges to tell if he did a good job with the art, but it is Paul’s gift to be the storyteller, and all he could do was do his best to draw the art.

Sonny Liew: If we only wrote about what we know, we live to 68 and maybe have two books in us.  Because we are all human beings, we can all relate to others’ experience.

Brigitte: I wanted to keep my memories because Isis was destroying everything over there.


Moonlight and Magic: Black LGBTQ Contributions to Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comics, and Genre

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Moonlight and Magic panel

Program description: “The Black LGBTQ experience has brought unique and significant intersectional perspectives to our society and popular media: Black Lives Matter was founded by three black queer women; Black LGBT authors Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany created legendary works; bisexual writer Roxane Gay brought Marvel’s Black Panther to deep critical acclaim; and Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture. Join Prism Comics with moderator Faith Cheltenham (BiNet USA VP, Tor.com co-creator) and panelists Viktor Kerney (Prism board member, GayMediaSoWhite creator), Ajuan Mance (8-rock.com), Sean Z. Maker (Bent-Con), Monica Roberts (TransGriot, National Transgender Advocacy Coaltion), William O. Tyler a.k.a. WOT (Queerbait), and Eliot Sutler, Esq. (BiWoCC) as they discuss the power of the Black LGBTQ experience and its positive effect not only on popular media but on society and the world at large.”

Faith Cheltenham asks the panel: What are some tips?

Monica Roberts: I’ve been me for 25 years, but only recently I’ve had the gender marker that matches my gender. One tactic I’ve used to combat that. Flipping the gender script. If person is female, and let’s say her name is Jacuqeline, I’ll say “OK, Jack” or call them “sir.”

Victor Kerney: As a creator, in my long life I’ve learned (I’m in my 40s), I’ve learned you can’t ask for permission — just do what you want to do.  Growing up, Lamar Latrell — black gay character from Revenge of the Nerds — was a role model to me.  Still is.  I created my web comic because I wanted to see a black queer person in the lead…..  Don’t ask.  Just do it.  We have always waited and asked, and have always had to wait for our turn.  My tip is don’t wait, don’t ask, just do it.

WOT: To add to that, be unapologetic about it.

Ajuan Mance: I want to give a shout-out to Essence magazine.  That said, my way into doing art and illustration is just what ….  Essence celebrates well-dressd black men — and it’s OK to celebrate Idris Elba….   But I wanted to draw black men just as they are, and show all other black media how it’s done.  In the process, I learned a lot about my own biases.

Sean Z. Maker: Ramonah Rising — black Cinderella sci-fi story.  Was trying to develop it, but studio said “urban markets weren’t interested in science fiction.”  [So, he’s instead published them as comics]

A few notes from later in panel —

Viktor Kerney: I want to get back to your point of how we are limited to certain things. We’re not in fantasy unless it’s voodoo. … We should be able to do all types of things.

WOT is working on a comic about seeing Moonlight for the first time. “In Moonlight I saw a black gay person who like me was shy, very interior.  The experience of seeing yourself on the screen for the first time… is indescribable.”

Faith is creating a site called Yes, Black People.  We’re bringing The Green Book back.  A non-profit social experience.


Women of Color in Comics: Race, Gender, and the Comic Book Medium

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Program description: “The Women in Comics Collective (WinC, pronounced “Wink”) is an international organization that highlights the merit and craft work of women working in the comic book and multimedia industries. Their membership is made up of artists, writers, educators, filmmakers, show producers, art gallery directors, cosplayers, game developers, bloggers, and toy makers. Focusing on female and racial representation in comics, fandom, and the industry, panelists include moderator Regine L. Sawyer (writer, publisher, WinC founder), Jewels Smith ([H]afrocentric writer and creator, activist), Vanee Smith-Matsalia (writer, educator), Jay Justice (cosplayer, activist), Alice Meichi Li (comic book artist, illustrator), Leen Isabel (cosplayer, artist, creator of Pole Dancing Adventures), Jazmine Joyner (comic book store owner), and Jules Rivera (comic book artist).”

Encouraged by the moderator — who provided the hashtag #WinCpanel — I decided to Tweet this one, which means that I took fewer notes.


Biographical and Autobiographical Comics

Friday, 21 July 2017

Biographical and Autobiographical Comics panel

Program description: “Charles Hatfield (comics professor, CSU Northridge) leads a spirited conversation about the spaces between fiction and nonfiction with cartoonists who have worked in fictionalized memoir (Mimi Pond, The Customer Is Always Wrong), fictionalized biography (Sonny Liew, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye), biography (Box Brown, Andre the Giant), and memoir (Sarah Glidden, Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq).”

Charles asks what does it mean to talk about non-fiction in comics, since they are all drawn?

Mimi Pond on her book’s disclaimer: episodes in The Customer Are Always Wrong are true, but they’ve been assigned to characters to whom they did not necessarily happen.

“You can’t capture reality. You have to shape it” — Jules Buck, quoted by Mimi Pond.

Sarah Glidden: “I think about this a lot.  You’re forming a narrative, even of your own life.  Whether you’re telling a story of someone else, or your own life — of how I missed the bus this morning. … Storytelling is a very human way of understanding the world.  Because there is lots of chaotic things happening.”

quotation from Sacco's Journalism

Box Brown on his forthcoming Andy Kaufman book… and the research.  He prefers talking to sources because of affect – hearing the emphasis, the nuances conveyed by the source.

Sonny Liew: “This book was tricky because a history of Singapore had to be factual….” “I did a timeline of Signapore history and a timeline of comics history, and tried to figure out where they match up.”  What comics were popular at a certain time?

Sonny Liew faked the children’s drawing by drawing with his left hand.

Sarah Glidden: “I was always recording, whenever someone was talking.  I transcribed everything, which maybe is not the most effective use of my time. Maybe that’s why it took 5 years. But it was really important to me for this to be as close as reality as possible.”

Charles asks if, for writing non-fiction, the medium of comics is advantageous or a curse.

Sarah Glidden: “Comics the way that I figured out how to tell stories best.”

Mimi Pond: “The great thing about being a cartoonist is that you’re the screenwriter, production designer, casting director…. You have complete control.”

Sonny Liew: “I was going to make the book a coffee table book, but then I realized that I would only dip into a book like that.  I wanted people to read the story, and that’s where comics came in.”

Singapore’s National Arts Council withdrew its grant for Sonny Liew’s book, on the day it was published.

Sonny Liew, on the creative process: “You walk around with all these narrative structural knots in your head,” and wait for them to work themselves out


Diversity in Comics

Friday, 21 July 2017

Diversity in Comics panel

Program description: “Brian Buccellato (Detective Comics, The Flash), Elena Salcedo (editor-in-chief, Top Cow Productions), Joe Illidge (senior editorial manager, Lion Forge), Ani-Mia (international cosplayer), Blake Northcott (Michael Turner’s Fathom), Hannibal Tabu (CBR’s The Buy Pile), Marcus To (Joyride, Red Robin), and Khary Randolph (Mosaic, The Amazing Spider-Man) discuss the shifting landscape of diversity in modern comics. Moderated by Vince Hernandez (VP/editor-in-chief, Aspen Comics).”

Joe Illidge: “People think diversity is anti-white, and that’s pretty ridiculous…. To me, the fictional universes that you’re spending your time and money on should reflect the world. And if it doesn’t, then that’s the failing.”

“Part of a panel about diversity is about making the term ‘diversity’ obsolete.”

Hannibal Tabu tells a story of going to an invitation-only reception at a major comics company he declines to name — he accompanied a charismatic white-guy friend (who talked their way into the reception).  While there, an exec asks Hannibal: Were you invited? Hannibal says: No. The exec says: Well, you know, you have to build an audience before blah blah blah.  Hannibal realizes that this guy is going out of its way to tell him that the door is closed — and he hasn’t even asked Marvel for anything….  In the process of telling the story, he accidentally names the comics company (Marvel).

Khary Randolph notes that black artists get asked to do black characters — and only black characters. “But I like drawing Spider-Man, too.”

Joe Illidge: “It’s progressive segregation. It’s putting all the black people into Wakanda.”

Joe Illidge: “You can’t just look out for yourself.  We have to look out for each other…. If anything, being black has given me more empathy for others” — specifically other underrepresented groups.


Behind the Music: Fantasy, Fiction, and Fandom

Friday, 21 July 2017

Behind the Music panel

Program description: “Fantasy Fanatic or Composer Connoisseur? Come join CW3PR and Impact24 PR to hear about what makes your favorite fiction stories so FANTASTIC. Some of the top composers around will give insight on how they contribute to many of the most popular fantasy/fiction titles in the TV and film worlds. This will be a can’t-miss, colorful, fascinating journey into the minds of the industry’s most imaginative! Panelists include Jeff Russo (composer, Legion, Fargo), Sean Callery (composer, Jessica Jones, Homeland, 24), Mac Quayle (composer, Mr. Robot, American Horror Story, Feud), Kris Bowers (composer, Dear White People), Siddhartha Khosla (composer, This Is Us, The Runaways), Joseph LoDuca (composer, The Evil Dead series, Spartacus: Blood and Sand), and Blake Neely (composer, The Flash, Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale) with celebrity moderators Rachel Keller (Legion, Fargo) and Jeremie Harris (Legion, The Get Down).”

On how they compose music for film & TV —

Jeff Russo (Legion): “I start with a good healthy dose of self-doubt. I then move on to self-loathing. Then I move on to my instinct — how does it make me feel?”

Mac Quayle (joking): “I haven’t mentioned this anywhere before, but Mr. Robot is basically just Feud played backwards, and pitched down a little.”

Advice for aspiring film/TV composers (advice which, I think, works well for many other professions)

Jeff Russo: Never say no.

Mac Quayle: It’s not necessarily about what you can do, but it’s about how fast you can do it.

Sean Callery: I think when you’re playing back your music for a showrunner and they say “I don’t know about this,” you say, “Oh, cool” — even though your night is just beginning.

Siddhartha Khosla: The most important thing is investing in the relationships you have with the people you work with.

Kris Bowers: Being a good person. Most of the work I’ve got has been through a friend.

Blake Neely: Trust your instincts.

Joseph LoDuca: I agree with the “never say no” part. Everyone who is here is here because they said “yes” no matter how anxious they were when they said it.


Comics as a Force for Social Change

Friday, 21 July 2017

Program description: “Panelists discuss the importance of comics in today’s turbulent political landscape and how comics authors and illustrators can foster social change both by creating work that gives underrepresented communities a voice and bring new diverse talent into the spotlight as well as by using their influence to shake up the culture and norms of the literary world. Thi Bui (The Best We Could Do), John Jennings and Damian Duffy (Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation), Rachel Ignotofsky (Women in Science), Kate Schatz (Rad Women Worldwide), and Miriam Klein Stahl (Rad Women Worldwide) share their ideals with Dr. Travis Langley (Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth).”

This panel featured great panelists and a moderator who seemed unaware of the panel’s topic.  Rather than ask his panelists about the subject, Dr. Travis Langley instead genially lobbed them very general questions.  To their credit, the panelists managed to steer us back towards the panel’s ostensible topic.

Damian Duffy: Comics allow you to take control of images, as a reader, in a private space.

Thi Bui: We have a problem in the US with forgetting history.  My son is 11 and I can have deep conversations about history with him because he’s read Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa series about 20 times, and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

John Jennings: Literacy is not just reading and writing.  It’s multimodal.  Political literacy, social literacy.  …. It’s very empowering because anyone can make a comic.  You can draw it, take it to a copy shop and make a comic.  It’s subversive that way.

Thi Bui: One of the reasons that I gravitated toward comics is because I was making sculpture, and no one I knew could afford to buy them.  But if I make comics, and I make them cheap, then everyone can get in on that and buy it.

John Jennings: Comics are real.  They’re sequential images.

Rachel Ignotofsky: Comics are fun. And they represent who people are or who they want to become. And because comics represent who you are, it’s important to tell different kinds of stories.

Damian Duffy: There’s a deeper honesty to comics because of presence of author/artist — sense that they’re there telling you a story.

Thi Bui: I made my comic in response to movies about Vietnam — but for really cheap.  Comics are helpful for revisiting familiar narratives.  You become callous when you think you know something, and comics can give you a different perspective.

John Jennings: I think comics are inherently surreal, and I think that’s an advantage.  Comics speak symbolically.  Because everything in a comic is a picture, comics can…

Kate Sanchez: The community of comic-book makers.  Comic-Con was a place for socially awkward comics creators to interact…. Comics are an intense craft.

John Jennings on comics: Insiders see content; outsiders see form.  And form is a lot easier to push than content.

Man in audience from UN [who also has a panel on Sunday]: The UN in 2015 launched 17 sustainable development goals — gender equality, climate action, ….  And we’ve created a website called Comics Uniting Nations.  We’re doing one on Syrian refugees.  If there’s a way we could connect with you on these…?


Spotlight on March creators Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Saturday, 22 July 2017

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Program description: “The record-breaking success of the March trilogy by Civil Rights icon John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell has pushed the comics medium to incredible new heights. March is the first graphic novel to win the National Book Award, Coretta Scott King Book Award, or Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the first graphic novel since Maus to reach the New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller list, and the first book in history to receive four simultaneous awards from the American Library Association. Now, join the authors for an emotional look back at their stunning accomplishment-and the way it’s inspiring new generations to speak up, speak out, and move their feet.”

This was the best panel that I saw.  They spoke the truth, and they did so eloquently, passionately.  Congressman Lewis spoke with clarity, compassion, and the conviction that comes from having faced violence for his beliefs. Both Aydin and Powell spoke with an emotional vulnerability that was very moving.

John Lewis: “We’re three southerners — we grew up in the deep south.  But we’ve been touched by the spirit of history.”

John Lewis: “I come here today because I’m very hopeful and very optimisitc about the future.   In spite of it all, we must never ever give up.  We must never ever lose that sense of hope — that we can overcome, that we can prevail, and that we can win a victory for all humanity”

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell: March Book OneJohn Lewis: “Dr. King inspired me to get in trouble — what I call ‘good trouble,’ necessary trouble.  And now more than ever before, we need to get in trouble.  When you see something that is not right, not just, we have a moral and mission and a mandate to speak up — and get in trouble.  And come to that point when you will not let anything turn you around.”

John Lewis: “I meet a lot of people who come up to me and they say ‘Congressman Lewis, I need a hug,’ and I say ‘well, we all need a hug.'”

John Lewis: “We are never too young, too old to March”

John Lewis: “I got arrested 40 times in the ’60s, and another 5 times since I’ve been in Congress.”

Audience applause followed this statement.

Andrew Aydin, whose mother died a few weeks ago, speaks of the people who aren’t on the stage, but who enabled them to be up on the stage.

Andrew Aydin: “We need a new generation who will stand up and will not follow this leader [Trump].”

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell: March Book TwoAndrew Aydin says of John Lewis he “showed me that the Civil Rights Movement was filled with nerds.”

Andrew Aydin: “Today is a celebration of all the outsiders.  Today is a celebration of what can be done with no power, no money, no ideas.  Just a piece of paper and some ink.”

“The last thing I said to my mother was that I promise to do good with my life.”

“When you see something like March happen, you know it is because of someone’s love.”

Not a dry eye in the house after — and during — Andrew Aydin’s speech.

Nate Powell is grateful for librarians and teachers who have made March part of the curriculum.

Nate Powell: “Young people hunger for what is just out of reach.  Young people hunger for a map to get there.”

Nate Powell: “It’s been a weird year to be a parent… .  Seeing social and legal progress get undone.”

Nate Powell: “It’s not that March works despite being a comic.  It works because it’s a comic.  We’ve all had our lives transformed by comics.  It’s an honor to be able to contribute.”

Nate Powell: “As we were dong March, we realized that the story we were telling was less about 1964 1965 and more about 2016, 2017, 2018….”

“We are amidst an information war.  … No matter what happens, remember what you know is true in life.  There are things called facts.  I did not anticipate that we would have to rekindle a fight for the legitimacy of these accounts.”

Nate Powell: “If you have been inspired by March, now is the time to take that forward, now is the time to remember that you are far from alone.  This is not a drill.  Thank you for doing everything you do to stay loud, to stay vocal, to show up.  Thanks.”

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

They emphasize that they’d like questions from young people and educators.

First question is from a Bernie bro, who asks: why did you support Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders?

Crowd grumbles audibly. Andrew Aydin offers brief answer, noting that Sanders poached some of Congressman Lewis’s staff and, upon seeing Lewis one day, shouts down the hall at him, “Any more staff that I can steal?” He doesn’t elaborate. Bernie bro wants to ask another question, but he is asked to stand aside.

Q: how can we move hearts and minds now?

John Lewis: “It is very important that we tell the truth…. make it plain, make it clear.”

John Lewis: “During the Civil Rights movement, before they would beat us and jail us, they would beat the reporters, beat the photograpehrs.”

Andrew Aydin: “If we don’t have a shared understanding of truth, if we don’t have a shared understanding of how we got here,… if we let the lies stands, then we’re ceding the first battle.  And that’s the big one.”

Question from Ebony Elizabeth Thomas: “The barrage of fake news and lies, that divide us from one another.  One of my mother’s points is that fake news is not new.  How can we help young people distinguish fake news from real?”

John Lewis: “We have to make truth available to young people, but also to their parents.  We need to have people tune in and not tune out.”

Heidi Tandy captured Lewis’s full answer:

Student asks for way to make difference on college campuses.

John Lewis: “We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about love, and say ‘I love you.’  I see members of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and I say ‘I love you brother,’ ‘I love you sister.’ ‘How was your break?’ We shouldn’t be afraid to be more human — we all need to be a little more human.”

College student asks how we can transform people from slacktivists into activists.

Nate Powell: “Use that [sharing on social media] as a stepping stone to show up in real life.  ….There is value in spreading things on social media, but that’s only the first step.”

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell: March Book ThreeAndrew Aydin: “It takes about 300-500 votes to get elected to most municipal posts.  It’s easy to get that many likes on Facebook.  Imagine if people put that energy into organizing races.”

Q: “I’m a high school student and I have two questions for you guys.  What do you like about your jobs?”

John Lewis: “I love my job. I love meeting people. I love trying to make things happen.  I love speaking up for health care.  I happen to believe that health care is a right.

Q: “My second question: in September, can you come to my school to tell my classmates how we can change the world together?”

Andrew: “We can work something out.”

Student says “In case you’re wondering, I go to Gabrolina [? I didn’t catch the name] High School.”

John Lewis: “We have a right to know what is in the water we drink, what is in the air we breathe, what is in the food we eat.”

Nate Powell: “Activism works because people are thinking creatively and nimbly and doing things that folks don’t anticipate…. What is going to work is almost always the thing that has not been considered yet.”

African American woman in audience, standing next to her son (who is tall): “I worry every day that my son is not going to come home, that some barbarian in a uniform is going to mistake my son for a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old….”

Journalist from Mexico asks for encouraging words.

John Lewis responds: “People who make sacrifices for justice will be remembered.  Their story will be told.”

John Lewis: “You must never ever give up — never lose that sense of hope. You must believe deep within that you will have that victory.  …Some people may be murdered.  That happened during the civil rights movement.  Build a strong movement, and you will overcome.”


Spotlight on Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Spotlight on Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim: title slide

Program description: “Legendary French cartooning couple Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim are the duo behind Poppies of Iraq, a nuanced and tender chronicle of Findakly’s relationship with her homeland, Iraq. Trondheim brings Findakly’s memories to life in a poignant family portrait that covers loss, tragedy, love, and the loneliness of exile. Join Findakly and Trondheim for their spotlight session, moderated by Karen Green (curator for comics and cartoons and librarian for ancient and medieval history at Columbia University).”

Lewis Trondheim, Karen Green, Brigitte Findakly, and translator

Karen Green: Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Zeina Abirached’s A Game of Swallows.  Why is it women who are telling these stories?

Lewis & Brigitte both mention Riad Sattouf (who is male, and thus a counter-example).

Brigitte: There’s something about these kinds of stories where you’re not necessarily ready to tell them immediately.  You need the chance to digest and to crystallize, and for the story to become clearer.  For me, it was what was going on in Iraq in the past few years that made it necessary to tell these stories.

Lewis: Sometimes people say, “Is there a need for any more books about the middle east?”  I say “Is there any need for R. Crumb if Art Spiegelman is also doing autobiography?”

Karen: Why the photographs?

Lewis: The photos were on the website of Le Monde; it was never our intention to include them in the book.

Brigitte: I felt like putting the photos in made it feel like the person was sitting next tom me, I like I was showing them a family album or something along those lines.

Brigitte: You’ll notice that most of the photos that are in the book are from an older time. It didn’t feel right to put the more recent photos in the book.

Karen: scattered throughout the book, you have these “In Iraq,” you have these little interludes”

Lewis: A spotlight.

Karen: A spotlight.

Karen: There is this breakneck contrast between memory and the present.  There’s almost like a constant punctuation of destruction.  Was this an attempt to unsettle the reader?

Lewis: It was not our intent.  We started to do the story for Le Monde.  And then things happened in the news.  I wanted to link the past and the present together.

They started to work on the book when Isis invaded Mosul.

Lewis: One of the things that happened was when the Paris attacks happened is that everyone called to see that we were OK.

Lewis: Even if we are living in the south of France, they are worried.

Brigitte: Only when I came to France did I learn how dangerous Iraq was — both because of news and because my parents could talk openly.

Brigitte: As a child in Iraq, there were many coup d’etats.  And the consequence — as a child — was that there was no school the next day.

Karen: What country do you think of as home, when you think of home?

Brigitte: I don’t think of myself as Iraqi or as French.  I don’t have that sense of home with either place.

Lewis [joking]: We’ve lived in the same place for 17 years, and one reason is she doesn’t like the house very much.  I think she likes nothing.

[Audience laughs, as does Brigitte.]

Brigitte: I do like change, I like travel.  Whenever I go somewhere, I like to learn about it.


Unconventional Comics

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Unconventional Comics panel

Left to right: Andrew Farago, R. Sikoryak, Melanie Gillman, Gemma Correll, Simon Hanselmann

Panel description: “Comics are all about super powers and saving the world, right? Discover the rich and growing market for comics that may lack super-powered heroes but are super all the same. Moderator Andrew Farago (Cartoon Art Museum) discusses with panelists R. Sikoryak (Terms and Conditions), Simon Hanselmann (Megg & Mogg), Gemma Correll (The Worrier’s Guide to Life), and Melanie Gillman (As the Crow Flies) how they were inspired to write their unconventional books and why the comics format was right for their work.”

Andrew Farago: Do you consider yourselves to be unconventional comics? 

R. Sikoryak: All comics are unconventional.

Melanie Gillman: The word “unconventional” often gets applied to experiences that don’t get represented in “mainstream” circles — non-binary, queer people, people of color — maybe that’s what we’re talking about.

Gemma Correll: That word offers a narrow definition of what comics are.

Simon Hanselmann: I think I’m on the wrong panel. I was supposed to be on meat-and-potatoes comics. [On his comics:] It’s essentially just The Simpsons with more drugs.  Should I go?

Andrew Farago: Did you all grow up as comics readers?  And were they conventional?

R. Sikoryak: I grew up with mass-market mainstream comics.  I grew up reading Peanuts, newspaper comics, superhero comics, Marvel comics.  But I was a weirdo.  Maybe the comics were conventional but I wasn’t.

Melanie Gillman: My household we didn’t have comics.  So for me, early comics were comics sold and marketed as picturebooks.  The Raymond Briggs books, some Maurice Sendak books were comics.

Gemma Correll: Raymond Briggs, Posy Simmonds, Beano, Bunty.  But I read more history.

Simon Hanselmann: I grew up with Asterix, Tintin, Garfield, Punch, lots of manga.  I went through a Marvel trash period.  Then I found Black Hole and Eightball….

Andrew Farago: [question on influences]

R. Sikoryak: Things are different than they were in the early ’80s.  There were definitely trailblazers for me.  I was lucky to work with Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly when they were putting out RAW magazine, and they were pushing boundaries.

Melanie Gillman: I was indebted early on to queer women web cartoonists.  Lucy Knisley

Gemma Correll: Julie Doucet.

Simon Hanselmann: Self-publishing since the ’80s, and smoke a lot of weed.  So,… pffff.

Audience

R. Sikoryak says his audience includes “people who like to waste their time on the internet.”  Melanie Gillman agrees, and notes that lack of gatekeepers have helped them get their work out there.

On-line audience

Simon Hanselmann: I’ve gotten a couple of death threats.

Gemma Correll: Me, too.  My friend actually went to the trouble of finding the mothers of the teen-age boys making the death threats.

Andrew Farago: reason that people made death threats?

Gemma Correll: Feminism.

Simon Hanselmann: cross-dressing.

“Fetishism is keeping the book industry alive” — Simon Hanselmann


Spotlight on Sonny Liew

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Sonny Liew and Paul Levitz

Panel description: “Sonny Liew discusses his Eisner-nominated The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, his three-continent journey to find sources of creativity, the comics culture in Singapore, and his collaborations with Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Superman) and Paul Levitz (former DC publisher), who will moderate the conversation.”

Sonny Liew: My first big comic was with a Singapore newspaper, a daily tabloid. I was a philosophy student at Cambridge, and on holiday, when I sent my strip to the paper.

By the time I was 19, we had email. (Sonny Liew is in his early ’40s.  )

Sonny came to RISD to learn to draw to paint.  Didn’t take art courses at Cambridge.

Sonny Liew: My parents were always very supportive of what I wanted to do.

The Flight anthology helped established me here in the U.S.  A popular anthology.

I had done Frankie, … [and others] that all featured female protagonists.  So, I ended up doing Jane Austen adaptations at one point.

My heroes at the time were Chester Brown, Dan Clowes.

Paul Levitz compares Charlie Chan to Chris Ware’s Building Stories in its scope and ambition.

Initially, Sonny Liew had thought that other friends would illustrate parts of the book [The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye] in different styles, but he couldn’t explain it in a way that would convince them.  He couldn’t initially interest a publisher in it.

Paul Levitz: So… how do you do it?  You get a grant from the government to insult them?

Sonny Liew initially thought he could finish in a year, but he couldn’t.  So, the Singaporean publisher redrew the grant — applied for a new grant.

Paul Levitz: Which artist’s style you had Charlie work in at different times?  Carl Barks, Walt Kelly, who else?

Sonny Liew:

  • Frank Miller
  • Kurtzman, Kirby, and Tatsumi (combined)
  • Herge
  • [others I failed to note]

Audience question on use of humor.  Why Liew used humor — why silliness –?

Sonny Liew: I don’t think about adding humor in a conscious way. So, humor and comics seems to me very much part of its language.

Paul Levitz: What’s next?  You should be positioned to do anything you want at this moment in your career.

Sonny Liew: I want to do a book on capitalism, but it’s a lot of research.  I’m maybe three months into the research, and it’s a lot of research.  [Thomas] Piketty — I’m reading around in the book.

The next project isn’t quite concrete yet, and so he’s not sure which publisher.

Audience question: What would you like other artists to take away from your work?  What would you like them to be inspired?

Sonny Liew: Comic art in Singapore — showing people in Singapore that they can get published and create comics.


That’s all.  Apologies for errata — I did edit my notes, but only lightly.  If you spot errors, feel free to point them out and I’ll make corrections.


My previous years’ reports from Comic-Con:

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Why Campus Carry Threatens Higher Education

No guns. Sign on door of ECS Building, Kansas State UniversityToday, I’m joining other members of K-SAFE (K-Staters Against Fatal Encounters) and the KCGFC (Kansas Coalition for a Gun-Free Campus) at the statehouse, in Topeka.  There, we’ll hand out flyers that — we hope — will show our legislators the grave danger the “Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act.” Yes, this is really the name of the act that invites guns into dormitories, classrooms, counseling services, lecture halls, football stadiums, and faculty offices — and that will go into effect on July 1, 2017.

Here is a pdf of the flyer I’ve brought.

Below, the text of the flyer.


Why Campus Carry Threatens Higher Education

  • According to legislation passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2013, state and municipal bodies cannot ban any legal gun owner from carrying concealed handguns on their campuses and public spaces, beginning in July 2017.
  • The 2015 Kansas Legislature amended the law to drop any requirements for firearm or permit training for carrying concealed weapons.

These moves are currently supported by the Kansas Board of Regents, who are legally charged with the safety of all Regents institutions.

Guns will be permitted on all university property:

  • Dormitories
  • Dining facilities
  • Classrooms
  • Laboratories
  • Libraries
  • Tutoring centers
  • Test-taking locations
  • Lecture halls
  • Recreational facilities
  • Student Union meeting rooms
  • Counseling Services
  • Sporting event venues (football and basketball stadiums, etc.)
  • Faculty offices

70 percent of state university employees in Kansas oppose campus carry.

— survey conducted by the non-partisan Docking Institute of Public Affairs (2016)

“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings”

— Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008)

“Concealed carry does not transform ordinary citizens into superheroes. Rather, it compounds the risks to innocent lives”

New York Times, 26 Oct. 2015

Concealed carry threatens free speech. A faculty working group a the University of Houston has advised its professors: “Be careful discussing sensitive topics.” “Drop certain topics from your curriculum.” “Don’t ‘go there’ if you sense anger.”

The Atlantic, 4 March 2016

K-SAFE: K-Staters Against Fatal Encounters


Kansas Coalition for a Gun-Free Campus: #FailCampusCarry


Further resources that may be of interest:

In Higher Education

Gun Control

Kansas

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Innocent Children and Frightened Adults: Why Censorship Fails (at From The Square: The NYU Press Blog)

NYU PressIn recognition of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, I’ve written a short piece for From the Square: The NYU Press Blog.  It’s called “Innocent Children and Frightened Adults: Why Censorship Fails.”  Here’s a brief excerpt:

While censorship will not keep young people safe, censors and would-be censors are right about two things. First, books have power. Second, responsible adults should help guide young people through the hazards of the adult world.

However, like all attempts to safeguard children’s innocence, removing books from libraries and curricula are not only doomed to failure; they are an abdication of adult responsibility and, as Marah Gubar writes of associating innocence with childhood, “potentially damaging to the wellbeing of actual young people.” A responsible adult recognizes that innocence is a negative state — an absence of knowledge and experience — and thus cannot be sustained. Shielding children from books that offer insight into the world’s dangers puts these children at risk. As Meg Rosoff notes, “If you don’t talk to kids about the difficult stuff, they worry alone.” Books offer a safe space in which to have conversations about difficult subjects. Taking these books out of circulation diminishes understanding and increases anxiety.

Check it out!

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The Sound of Silence; or, the Kansas Legislature’s Latest Blunder

Remain Vigilant (small version)In 2013, the Kansas Board of Regents revoked university employees’ right to freedom of speech, making a fireable offense any speech that might be conceived as disloyal, impair discipline, or fall under the broad category of being “contrary to the best interests of the employer.” Now, the Kansas legislature is proposing legislation that prohibits university employees from “using such employee’s official title when authoring or contributing to a newspaper opinion column.”  So, if you write an op-ed piece, you cannot identify your title or place of employment.  This law would only apply to university employees.

Here’s a question for the Kansas legislature: What makes you think those of us employed by Kansas universities would want to be identified as such? Given the state’s hostility towards freedom of inquiry and towards education at all levels, what advantage would a university employee gain in publicizing his or her academic affiliation?

After the Board of Regents’ violation of our rights, I have stopped including my university affiliation in all of my publications.  Here’s what my byline looks like on an article coming out in a couple of months:

Philip Nel's byline

If the Board of Regents restores our freedom of speech, and the legislature ceases trying to curtail those freedoms even further, I may consider acknowledging my affiliation in future.

But don’t bet the farm on it.

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Freedom of Speech Returns to Kansas Universities?

Good news for employees of Kansas universities. Freedom of speech appears to have been restored!

Kansas Board of RegentsYou see, the Kansas Board of Regents’ recently passed social media policy says employees of Regents-governed Kansas universities do not have the right to freedom of speech. To be specific, employees can be fired for speech that “impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers,” “has a detrimental impact on close working relationships for which personal loyalty” is necessary, or is “contrary to the best interests of the employer.” According to a separate policy on political activity, “personnel are free to express opinions speaking or writing as an individual in their personal capacity and not as a representative of the institution in signed advertisements, pamphlets and related material in support of or opposition to parties and causes.”

So, then, what of Coach Bill Snyder’s public endorsement of Senator Pat Roberts?  Does it violate either policy?  If not, then what precedent does it set?  Given the lack of public criticism from either the Regents or Kansas State University, it seems to suggest that outspokenness is welcome.

Snyder endorses Roberts (Facebook ad)

Note that, in the ad above (from the Pat Roberts for Senate 2014 Facebook page), it’s Coach Bill Snyder. The Roberts campaign has carefully Photoshopped the K-State logo from Snyder’s jacket and cap. But the title “Coach” only has meaning in the context of “Kansas State University.”

1. Political Activity.

But does this violate the “political activity” policy? I asked the Kansas Board of Regents yesterday.

Here’s the Regents’ response.

To clarify, I followed up with this question.

The Regents did not answer that one.

This morning, however, President Kirk Schulz issued a “reminder about university policy,” which does offer an answer: “Kansas State University does not endorse political candidates, and employees do not speak for the university when they endorse candidates. Employees should also avoid using their university-affiliation in any endorsements or statements.” On the one hand, since Snyder’s university affiliation is not specifically named in the advertisements, his endorsement is within the letter of the law. On the other hand, this statement distances the university from Snyder’s endorsement and reminds university employees that they should “avoid using their affiliation” in public statements on political candidates. In the video below, some of the photos indicate that Snyder and Roberts were taken at K-State. And, of course, that word Coach can only be meaningful in the context of “Kansas State University” — even if you omit those three words, they’re there by implication.       

Facebook: Coach Snyder & Pat Roberts (1)What I take away from this is that, though President Schulz isn’t crazy about the idea, faculty can endorse any political candidate they like and can use their title in doing so.  So, for instance, a sentence like “University Distinguished Professor Philip Nel endorses Paul Davis for Governor of Kansas” is acceptable speech — even if President Schulz would prefer that such statements were not made. As evidence, I would point to the Coach-Snyder-for-Pat-Roberts advertisements appearing on Facebook today.

2. Social Media Policy.

Facebook: Coach Snyder & Pat Roberts (2)That this passes muster with the architects of the social media policy is also welcome news. For example, in the ad, Coach Snyder says that Senator Roberts is “as good as it gets for the state of Kansas,” is “a great friend of the state of Kansas,” and “he genuinely cares about the people of the state of Kansas.”  As anyone who has followed the Senator’s career in government knows, he’s an advocate of torture, in favor of workplace discrimination, against student loan affordability, and believes that guns are more important than human lives (or, at least, that massacres like Sandy Hook are acceptable collateral damage).  Now, it strikes me as at least possible that some people might look at Roberts’ record and say that the university’s most famous employee’s endorsement of such record is “contrary to the best interests of the employer.”  I mean, one presumes that Kansas State University might want to stand against workplace discrimination, for student loan affordability, and might even want to prevent a Virginia-Tech-style massacre on its campus. Evidently, though, Coach Snyder’s employer would prefer that he not make such statements, but is unwilling to take any public action against him.

The most intriguing line of Coach Snyder’s endorsement is his claim that Senator Roberts is “an honest individual.” His campaign advertisements against Greg Orman and statements in debates all provide ample evidence to the contrary. His ads allege that a vote for Orman would be a vote for President Obama, but in fact Orman (running as an independent) has said he will caucus with whichever party wins the Senate.  Roberts said he missed a Senate committee hearing on Sept. 16 about on threat of the Ebola outbreak because “The hearing was held out of session, during September.” However, as The Kansas City Star points out, “The Senate was in session that day.”  Roberts misses quite a few votes, actually — and most of those he attends are simply to vote “no” (on immigration reform, on Steven Burns as a new member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, etc.).

Yes, a cynic might argue that Coach Snyder’s speech is not facing censure from the Regents because their leaders also support Roberts, but — either way — this political advertisement sets a precedent. Employees can publicly say whatever they like, regardless of whether it’s true, false, or good for the university. While Coach Snyder’s standards for political office are remarkably low, I support his right to speak in favor of the candidate of his choice.  And I’m glad that, in doing so, he’s set a precedent for the rest of us to support the candidates we favor.  As Ms. Rosenberg (on Twitter) says,…

UPDATE, 31 Oct. 2014, 10:20 pm:

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On Reading the Expurgated Huck Finn; or, Why We Should Teach Offensive Novels

NewSouth's Bowdlerized edition of Mark TwainAs you may recall, three years ago NewSouth Books published an edition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which editor Alan Gribben replaced the n-word with “slave,” and the in-word (“Injun”) with “Indian.” Many (including yours truly) criticized Gribben’s decision, and most critics focused on Huckleberry Finn. But who actually read his edition? As I write a chapter on Bowdlerized children’s literature, I decided to read Gribben’s expurgated Huck Finn. My central questions were: What’s the effect of Bowdlerizing this novel? How does it change? How doesn’t it change? Does it approach Gribben’s goal of creating a book that “can be enjoyed just as deeply and authentically if readers are not obliged to confront the n-word on so many pages” (12)?

These are my answers. (Trigger warning: the n-word appears multiple times below. I’ve included it because it’s offensive, and I didn’t feel I could talk about the novel’s offensiveness without using the offending term.)

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn (Norton Critical Edition)1. Reading an expurgated edition heightens one’s awareness of what has been changed. When listening to the radio and I hear a word that has been bleeped, silenced, or (more typically) electronically garbed, the omission stands out more than if it had not been altered. If I know the unexpurgated version of the song, my brain instinctively fills in the missing word; if I don’t know it, then the absent rhyme prompts my brain to produce an uncensored version of the lyric. The same is true with “slave” in the NewSouth Edition of Huck Finn: each time I encounter the word “slave,” I first think “Is that an expurgated n-word?”  I assume that it is, but always verify my assumption by checking my Norton Critical Edition of Huck Finn. In its many omissions, the NewSouth edition actually made me more aware of the 219 instances of the word “nigger” in Huck Finn.

2. Gribben insists that this edition “is emphatically not intended for academic scholars” (16). I take his point, and would not assume that younger readers would be reading (as I was) with a non-Bowdlerized edition on hand. However, racism is the central theme of Huck Finn. Not only is it impossible to create an “authentic” version of the novel without the n-word, but presenting this text to young readers as Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn perpetuates structural racism. Using “slave” instead of “nigger” naturalizes the racism in Huck’s caricature of Jim. Retaining the n-word makes us pay closer attention to Huck’s racism: though he is less racist than some of the other characters in the book, our narrator casually slings around the n-word, too. Gribben downplays the profound significance of removing this word: “Although the text loses some of the caustic sting that the n-word carries, that price seems small compared to the revolting effect that the more offensive word has on contemporary readers” (13).

The problem is: the caustic sting is the point. Enduring the repeated offensiveness of the n-word is a core experience of reading Huckleberry Finn. Since I am neither a nineteenth-century Americanist nor a Twain scholar, I take the edition’s back cover at its word when it describes Professor Gribben as a “Twain scholar,” and notes that he “co-founded the Mark Twain Circle of America,” and “compiled Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction.” I wonder, however, if Twain scholars still think of Gribben as a Twain scholar? To claim (as Gribben does) that Huck Finn can be both “authentic” and free of its racial slurs is preposterous.

Alan Gribben3. If I am correct in identifying the pink-faced Gribben on the back cover as white, then the NewSouth edition is also a telling example of how white privilege conceals itself from itself. Gribben tries to dilute Huck’s and Twain’s racism in order to preserve a classic American novel, obscuring the ways in which (as Toni Morrison has argued) the predominantly white American canon depends upon not just blackness but upon racism. Gribben colludes in the partial erasure of racism from American literary history, perpetuating a kind of “racism lite” — what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls “racism without racists.” Though Huck, Tom, the King, the Duke, and Uncle Silas all treat Jim as less than fully human because of his race, they never once — in the NewSouth edition — use the n-word when doing so. But changing the word does not change the stereotype. In the NewSouth edition, Jim may be called a slave, but the book still caricatures him as a nigger.

Even when Twain’s novel tries to assert Jim’s humanity, such as the scene in which he remembers his deaf daughter Elizabeth, it still calls him “nigger” and represents him as one. Just paragraphs prior to the Elizabeth scene, Huck hears Jim talking in his sleep about “his wife and his children,” feeling “low and homesick.” He then observes, “I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks does for their’n. It don’t seem natural, but I reckon it’s so…. He was a mighty good nigger, Jim was” (125). Changing that line to “He was a might good slave, Jim was” (393) not only softens Huck’s racist condescension towards Jim, but conflates racial category (“nigger”) with job description (“slave”) — and there are moments (in Twain’s novel) when Huck distinguishes between slave and nigger. For example, at the beginning of Huck’s crisis of conscience, he makes the distinction: “Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d got to be a slave” (168). When this passage appears in the NewSouth edition (as it does, unchanged), there’s no way of knowing that Huck is making this lexical distinction between the two terms because NewSouth replaces all instances of the n-word with “slave.”

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn (1884)4. The distinction is important because Twain’s characters suffer from varying degrees of racism. Though he makes liberal use of the n-word, Huck is actually less racist than (for example) his father. On some (though certainly not all) of the occasions Huck uses the n-word, he is reflecting the judgment of the community. During that same crisis-of-conscience scene, he says, “It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom” (168). In conveying others’ imagined evaluation of his behavior, he echoes their style of speech: in context, the n-word could be read as Twain’s criticism of those who think that people of color should be enslaved. In contrast, Huck’s father consistently denies the humanity of people of color. Pap’s use of the n-word not only offers some indication of where Huck may have learned to deploy the term so frequently, but allows readers to make a moral distinction between father and son. Pap describes “a free nigger,” a “mulatter, most as white as a white man” who is a “p’fessor in a college and could talk all kinds of languages,” and then rails against the man’s right to vote: “when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote again” (27). In changing the word “nigger” to “slave,” NewSouth not only partly obscures where Huck learned his racist language, but also diminishes the full violence of Pap’s hatred.

5. Reading the word “nigger” should make you at least uncomfortable, and at most angry. Since Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is also satirical, a key emotional experience of reading is the collision between anger and humor. On the one hand, the novel has lots of satirical targets — romantic adventure narratives, religion, human gullibility, superstition in general, and (in particular) superstition in “niggers.” Its attempts at humor bump uncomfortably into its racism. The novel invites us to laugh at the superstitions of Nat (the slave who feeds Jim, on Uncle Silas’s plantation), and of Jim himself. Yet, because it presents both characters — especially Nat — as racial caricatures, the jokes aren’t funny. (Well, racists may find them funny, but other people are less likely to laugh.) Other jokes — the mocking of the King and the Duke’s con-artistry, Emmeline Grangerford’s morbid poetry — work much better. The different affective tones make for an unsettling read.

Young people should learn to read uncomfortably, to be able to cope with experiences that upset them. Huck Finn’s mix of comedy and bigotry offers an ideal occasion to do just that. In its attempts to sanitize the novel’s bigotry, Gribben’s NewSouth edition makes it harder to have that conversation.

6. Though his efforts were well-intentioned, Alan Gribben, in his NewSouth edition, attempts to conceal racism’s history and pervasiveness in American culture, while enshrining as a classic one of the books that perpetuates racism — and, in some ways, critiques racism. (I’ve dwelled on the novel’s shortcomings here, but it’s fair to call Twain a racial progressive in nineteenth-century America. Despite and because of that, it’s also fair to call both Twain and the novel racist.)

7. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic American novel and a racist American novel. Indeed, its racism can not be separated from its genius. These twin qualities provide two excellent reasons to teach it in American high schools and colleges. White Americans need to confront America’s racist past so that they can stop perpetuating that racism in the present. People of color need to learn about America’s racist past so that they can survive in America’s racist present.

Robin Bernstein, page 1 from "Signposts on the Road Less Taken: John Newton Hyde's Anti-Racist Illustrations of African-American Children"8. There will be those who, upon reading this, say: You’re judging a nineteenth-century novel by twenty-first century standards. If you are one of those people, I highly recommend an essay by Robin Bernstein:

  • “Signposts on the Road Less Taken: John Newton Hyde’s Anti-Racist Illustrations of African-American Children,” The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 1.1 (Spring 2013): 97-119.

If you lack access to it, I will send you a pdf (my email address is at right, under “A note on mp3s”). In it, she makes the excellent point that the “that’s what everyone thought back then” argument is a weak one: “In the 1850s, some people held radically egalitarian beliefs, while others espoused white supremacy. The same is true today. What has changed is less the array of thinkable thoughts than the proportion of people espousing each belief. … But the full set of racial beliefs has remained relatively stable” (97-98). As she notes, this “relative stability of the range of racial beliefs is important because it refutes a narrative of history that falsely implies that progress is inevitable” (98). In Mark Twain’s time, all people did not hold the same beliefs. To defend Huck Finn’s racism on the grounds that they did colludes with a white supremacist understanding of history, excusing past bigotry without acknowledging the damage inflicted upon real people both past and present.

9. Gribben’s NewSouth edition not only fails to achieve its stated goals. It does real harm to those who read it. Lying to young readers is not educating them. Racist literature should of course be taught alongside other fiction and non-fiction that provide students with more accurate visions of history, allowing them to evaluate critically what they read. But lying via omission is a poor — indeed, a dangerous — solution to dealing with racism.

10. I hope it goes without saying that I welcome criticism of my analysis, above. This chapter is a work in progress. Furthermore, like Alan Gribben (if I’ve read his photo correctly), I am a white male. In the U.S., my skin color and gender allow me not only to evade the daily pain of racism, but also to benefit from it (see “white privilege” in no. 3, above). So, while I hope I’m discussing race and racism with nuance and sensitivity, I know that my own privilege may blind me to the ways I which I’m failing to do so. Where you see me failing, please call me to task. I want to know what I’m getting wrong. Thank you.

Indeed, if you’ll be at the American Studies Association conference next month, elements of the above will appear in my paper — which also addresses Doctor Dolittle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the role of affect in teaching about all three of these novels. I’d welcome your criticism and comments there, too. The session (no. 408) is Sunday at 12 noon. And, if you’re able to come, you’ll also be treated to three much wiser panelists: Brigitte Fielder, Lori L. Brooks, and Melissa Adams-Campbell.

Related posts on this blog:

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Kansas State University’s NEW Academic Freedom Statement

Uncensor KansasIn response to the Kansas Board of Regents’ draconian, unconstitutional social media policy, a group of concerned faculty and students from Kansas State University drafted an Academic Freedom statement, during this past summer. I was not a member of this group, but I fully endorse their statement, which can be found as no. 3 on Kansas State University’s Optional Syllabi Statements (scroll down).  For your reference, I’ll also reproduce it here:

Academic Freedom Statement

Kansas State University is a community of students, faculty, and staff who work together to discover new knowledge, create new ideas, and share the results of their scholarly inquiry with the wider public. Although new ideas or research results may be controversial or challenge established views, the health and growth of any society requires frank intellectual exchange. Academic freedom protects this type of free exchange and is thus essential to any university’s mission.

Moreover, academic freedom supports collaborative work in the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge in an environment of inquiry, respectful debate, and professionalism. Academic freedom is not limited to the classroom or to scientific and scholarly research, but extends to the life of the university as well as to larger social and political questions. It is the right and responsibility of the university community to engage with such issues.

I encourage faculty and staff at Kansas State University to adopt this statement, and faculty and staff at other Kansas universities to adopt a similar statement.

Remain Vigilant (small version)I would also encourage all Regents who voted for the Social Media Policy to be swiftly removed from the Kansas Board of Regents, since none of them have any business serving on such a body. But, that, of course, is a subject for another blog post — and has already been covered in great detail on this blog, as well as in the local and national media.

On this blog, see:

Finally, thanks to the group who drafted this statement! (I’m deliberately not naming them in this post because I don’t know if they want to be publicly identified. It’s conceivable that their work might be seen as disloyal, unharmonious, etc.)

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Comic-Con 2014: San Diego, July 26

Hello, and welcome to today’s tiny sliver of what Comic-Con is like. In each of my day’s reports, I’m giving you but one person’s glimpse into this vast enterprise, the attendance of which tends to be around 50,000 people. If you were here, your focus might be different than mine. Or if you did attend this year’s Comic-Con, I’m sure I saw things that you didn’t — and vice-versa.

I missed the earliest panels I’d planned to attend today because I was still writing up yesterday’s experience. Fortunately, today’s will be more brief….


Berkeley Breathed: The Last Comic-Con Panel!

Berkeley Breathed

To a packed room, Breathed offered a satirical presentation, addressing his correspondence with Bill Watterson, marketing, and his (possibly imagined) film projects. Breathed’s deadpan delivery kept the line between satire and truth deliberately vague, but subtle tonal shifts usually let you know when he was kidding. Usually. It was great, quick, and impossible to summarize.

The Breathed / Watterson Feud

Breathed began by saying (tongue in cheek), “My heart is heavy for my close personal friend Bill Watterson.” And so, he added, “I thought I’d take the opportunity to shoot down the rumors.” He then proceeded to invent the rumors he was going to shoot down, as well as spread some mock-scurrilous rumors about Mr. Watterson himself.

Dear Mr. Watterson

Of the documentary, Looking for Mr. Watterson, Breathed said “They never found him.  They had celebrities, Cathy Guisewite,…” and then he put up this slide which (in case it’s too blurry) is Mother Theresa wearing a Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt.

Mother Theresa (wearing Calvin & Hobbes t-shirt)

Dear Mr. Breathed,...But of course they never found Mr. Watterson himself. Berke Breathed himself was interviewed, and “was stupid enough to mention a few critical letters” that Watterson had written to him. This, Breathed suspects, may be a source of the friction between himself and Watterson. But, he assures us, “I take my business just as seriously as bill does.” And so, he said, he’d like to announce his new Kickstarter project, Dear Mr. Breathed You’re So Fucking Easy to Find! In that film, Breathed promised “to set the record straight,” and added, “I can compete with Bill’s film on every level.”

Bill the Cat, Opus, & Gainsborough's Blue Boy

Breathed showed us glimpses of his film projects, though it wasn’t entirely clear which of these were actual film projects and which were invented for the purpose of Breathed’s talk.  The films included

  • Flawed Dogs.
  • Something About C-Mo, in which a dog learns to read and spell — with Cheetos.

The big difference between Breathed and Watterson (says Breathed) is that Breathed agreed to do some merchandising, but Watterson refused.  Letters sent from Watterson to Breathed included satirical cartoons at the bottom, playfully mocking Breathed.  But, Breathed explains, “I was forced into merchandise with a gun to my head. I gave it all to… — no, I didn’t give it all to charity.”

Because he’s sure Bill Watterson wouldn’t mind, he wanted to share with us “a few selections from his new life.” Breathed stressed, “this isn’t payback.  I just have a few photos, and I don’t think he’d mind me sharing.” One photo is Watterson standing between sexy young women — though it’s clear that Watterson’s face has just been digitally added (it’s from that same black-and-white photo from Watterson’s days as an editorial cartoonist).

Breathed concludes by saying that he will be signing at the IDW booth.

Questions from audience…

Will there be reprints of Academia Waltz?

Berkeley Breathed, The Academia WaltzBreathed replies, “Yes, actually. The contract is on my desk right now.” He doesn’t really think they should be, but IDW really wants to do it.

Another audience member calls out “They [Academia Waltz strips] got me through law school at UT!”

Breathed asks, “Do you think they should be reprinted and sold?”

The same audience member responds, “Well, maybe I’m remembering them better than they were.”

Will there ever be an Opus movie?

The Opus movie, Breathed says, has been held up by Weinstein brothers. “The last note I got from Bob Weinstein said ‘Does the penguin have to talk?’” There was a collective groan from the audience.  So, Breathed said, “Will there ever be a movie? It’s a huge roll of the dice. And I’d need to have more control than I have now.”

Is there anybody right now who you’re reading?

Breathed responded, “I’m not reading the comic pages anymore.” He said, “I got into comics in a backdoor way. I didn’t come at like Bill did.” And in the Q+A Breathed spoke seriously of his admiration for Watterson, who was so dedicated to the craft of making cartoons. Unlike Watterson, “I wanted to make films,” Breathed said. Again underscoring the purity of Watterson’s dedication to his art, Breathed claimed, “Charles Schulz was the richest entertainer — bigger than Spielberg, bigger than George Lucas. Bill Watterson walked away from that kind of money. He’s a hero.  He’s doing it right.”

Questions about other publications, other forthcoming work…

Berkeley Breathed, Bloom County Volume 5Breathed says, “Everything I’ve ever drawn will be published by IDW.”  The Bloom County books did not include all of the Bloom County strips. IDW’s complete collection will include everything, which, Breathed says, is a good thing because those old strips have started to disintegrate. That’s due in part to the way he stored them — under his python’s cage. One thing pythons do a lot, he says, is pee. So, turning to the IDW representative there, he said, “that’s what those stains are. I did tell you that, right?”

He says he would not do Bloom County in the current media landscape. At the time he did it, “Bloom County was fun because I had no competition. You had Johnny Carson, you had Saturday Night Live.  And yes, you had Doonesbury, which was great. But his tone was so lofty, that it [comics] was just waiting for a smart-ass like me.”

So, we won’t see more comics from Breathed, but “I still love movies. Those are my passion. And so that’s where you’ll see me.”

Calvin says, "Come back"

Breathed concludes by saying, “I’d love some more drawings from Bill, with his drawings on the bottom, cutting me to death.”


CBLDF: Banned Comics!

Charles Brownstein, Carol Tilley,  Jeff Smith, Gene Luen Yang

Moderator Charles Brownstein led a discussion on banned books, featuring panelists Carol Tilley, Jeff Smith, and Gene Luen Yang. And, while I don’t know that there was “new” information (to people who follow these discussion), hearing the panelists on this subject was worthwhile, and these sorts of panels are vital for helping to create awareness. Indeed, if such panels aren’t held at every Comic-Con, they should be.

My sense is that the rising number of challenges to Bone may have motivated the timing of this session. As Jeff Smith said of this past year’s Banned Book list, “Fifty Shades of Gray was number 5, and I was number 10.” Smith explained, “Bone has been challenged for a number of years now, but this was just the first time it made the top 10.”

Jeff Smith, Bone Vol. 2 (Scholastic)Why? Smith said, “Bone has been challenged for sexual situations, political viewpoint, racism and violence.” Carol Tilley added, “And smoking.” To which Smith responded, “And smoking. And drinking and gambling. And racism.” Gene Luen Yang asked, “Racism? How do they get racism?” Smith responded, “I don’t know. I don’t get to talk to these people. These comics are almost like Rorschach Tests that say more about the people making the challenge than about reading the books.  I think they see their kid reading the books, and they don’t see what came before or what came after.”

Brownstein noted that “The challenges that occur in comics are along the same lines of those that occur in [non-comic] books.” So, he asked, “Why, when we have freedom of speech?” (Since I live in Kansas, where university employees do not have freedom of speech, I thought, “How nice that Mr. Brownstein lives in a place where there’s freedom of speech. I guess he must not work for a corporation that prohibits freedom of speech either.”) Tilley answered Bronstein’s question: “One of the most frequent reasons for a challenge is this vague reason called ‘inappropriate for age.’” She then paraphrased Dorothy Broderick: “It’s not just conservatives who want to censor materials. The only difference between liberals and conservatives and censorship is what they want to keep their children away from.” This is something I often tell my students when I teach about censorship — as one must do when teaching children’s literature, young adult literature, graphic novels….

Yang weighed in: “I am a parent. I have four kids. I’m really stunned that Bone is on the top 10 list. Because I’m fairly prudish. And I can’t imagine parents who are more prudish than me.” He then explained why freedom of speech is important. “First, there’s an individualism that’s at the root of America, but … reading should happen within the community, within the family.  So there should be material in there that makes people want to have a discussion.  Second, America is a collection of subcultures. And what makes that exist is freedom. So, you have to have a basic respect for freedom. So, those are the things that guide my work as a teacher, as a parent, as a creator.”

Addressing the question of audience, Smith explained, “Bone was not originally intended as a children’s book.” He just wrote it for other comics fans, really. At that time, “there were no kids reading comic books back then, pretty much.” So, “I was writing Bone as a pastiche of funny animal books and Lord of the Rings books.” For this reason, he said, “I certainly didn’t censor myself because I was writing for 30-year-olds.” The audience of Bone transformed it into a book for young people: “Readers turned Bone into a children’s book.  It was not me.” In any case, he says, he still finds it surprising that it would be a target of censors: “We used to joke that Bone could be banned some day because it’s the most squeaky-clean comic.”

Gene Luen Yang, American Born ChineseSpeaking about challenges to his work, Yang began “On the internet, I think people are just mean. When American Born Chinese came out, MySpace — remember MySpace? — chose it as the book of the month. And there was this long discussion of how American Born Chinese was racist and a manifestation of my self-hatred.”  However, these readers missed the point. “The whole point of Cousin Chin-kee was so that I could cut his head off at the end.” Yang also admitted that he abridges his own work when he reads it to his children (he has four): “When I read American Born Chinese to my kids, I only read the Monkey King parts. But my eldest, my son, snuck off and read the whole thing. But that’s OK. Because he can talk about it with me, his dad. You have to be realistic. You can’t police everything that they watch. They’re going to encounter things that are out of their comfort zone.” I found it interesting that he limits his own children’s reading (including self-editing his own work), but also seems OK when they push back against these limits and read things he’s asked them not to. Broadly speaking, it’s a metaphor for parents’ efforts to protect their children from the various danger they will surely face — well-intentioned, even necessary, but also impossible to sustain.

Charles Brownstein: I wasn’t allowed to read comic books when I was growing up, which of course is why I work in them.

Gene Luen Yang: Me too. I wasn’t either!

Underscoring the humility with which he applies rules in his own household, Yang said, “The thing with parenting is from the moment they’re born until the moment they leave your house, there’s just a constant breakdown of authority in your house.  That’s just the way it works.  That’s what they sign up for.”

Back on the subject of freedom of speech, Tilley said, “Even though it may sound a little silly, a 3-year-old and a 93-year-old have the same intellectual rights.” And that’s an excellent point, as is Dorothy Broderick’s point (quoted by Tilley) that “Libraries have something to offend everyone.” Amplifying that idea, Tilley added, “Libraries should have something to offend everyone”


Comic-Con Personified!

Chatting with Scott McCloud & Ivy Ratafia (Scott’s wife) after the “Banned Comics” panel, Ivy noticed a young woman who had made herself an entire dress out of the giant Comic-Con bags you get when you register. (Last year’s — and perhaps other years’ — also had a cape that unfurled down the back. You can see her using some of that fabric, too.) Very creative!

The front:

Comic-Con personified! (front)

 

The back:

Comic-Con personified! (back)


Spotlight on Willie Ito

In case Willie Ito’s name is unfamiliar to you, the conference program offers a useful professional biography:

With nearly 60 years as an animation artist, Comic-Con special guest Willie Ito has done it all. He worked at Disney on Lady and the Tramp‘s spaghetti scene with mentor Iwao Takamoto and on One Froggy Evening and What’s Opera Doc at Warner Bros’ famed Termite Terrace under Chuck Jones’ direction. He went on to The Beany and Cecil Show with Bob Clampett and then Hanna Barbera for the beginnings of The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and many other cartoons. Ito has great stories and experiences to share. After HB he went to Disney Consumer Products and spearheaded implementation of collectibles and licensed products worldwide. He has also designed comic books, comic strips, coloring books, and more. Join animation expert Leslie Combemale of ArtInsights for a spotlight on Willie’s life, including the part of his childhood spent in a Japanese internment camp that inspired his most recent venture, a series of children’s picture books based on the experience.

Leslie Combemale and Willie Ito, a bit choked up over receiving his Inkpot Award

At the very beginning of the panel, a representative from Comic-Con presented Willie Ito with an Inkpot Award, and he was touched by the recognition.

Being at this panel was like listening to a memoir in progress. As I sat there, I kept thinking: Is someone recording this? Willie Ito needs to write his autobiography. And if he doesn’t write it, then someone else should!

Beyond the fact that he worked at pretty much every major animation studio, Ito — who is an American of Japanese descent — also lived in California during World War II.  I did not manage to transcribe everything he said, but it’s a heck of a story.

Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937 poster)Leslie Combemale began the conversation: “When you were really little, you wanted to work for Disney.” Willie Ito answered, “I grew up in San Francisco in an enclave called Japantown. … On the outskirs of Japantown was a neighborhood theatre.  This was 1939.  We made a habit of going to the movies once, maybe twice, a week.  This was before television.  I used to listen to the radio a lot — Buck Rogers, Lone Ranger, and all those classic shows.”

Ito then recalled seeing the Seven Dwarfs, singing, in color (in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs): “And I said that’s what I want to be!  Not one of the Seven Dwarves, but an animator.”

He also enjoyed comics: “I was a big fan of the Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Looney Tunes [comic books].  I was basically into funny animals.  And along with the comic books, I would get coloring books.  They used to have for a time these books called the Big Little Books, and they were reprints from the newspaper.” He said, “Every Sunday, I would go downstairs, and there was this big, thick, San Francisco Examiner.  I would go straight to the comics.”

Combemale asked, “What was the first thing you remember drawing?” Ito replied, “I remember there was a coloring book, and I remember tracing it, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s even better than Walt Disney!’ Of course, back then, I thought Walt Disney drew it all.”

Ito recalled one morning, going off to the beach, accompanied by his uncle and the woman would become his aunt. They were very focused on each other, and quite happy to let him play on the beach on his own. Later that afternoon, the fog rolled in, and they decided to call it a day. As they approached the city limits, they saw that a checkpoint had been set up. They didn’t know why. Officers were asking for proof that people entering the city of San Francisco actually lived in San Francisco. Finally, Ito recalled, “we got into the city, and then we saw the headlines: WAR! I never knew what war meant.  So, I asked my Uncle ‘What does “war” mean?’ Pearl Harbor had been attacked.”

Executive Order 9066At that point, “rumors immediately started swirling around about what our fate would be.  Finally, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Order 9066.  We were going to be evacuated into internment camps, in 6 months. You couldn’t take everything with you — only what you need.”

Combemale, alluding to Nazi Germany said, “That sounds like somewhere else, at the same time.”

Ito replied, “Mmm-hmm.  My first thought was ‘I can’t take my comic book collection!’” He realized, too, that he would have to leave behind his Dopey bank — that is, a piggy-bank featuring the likeness of Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Another memory from that time: “I remember coming home one day and there were FBI agents there, looking for anything that might be considered contraband.  They were tall, 6-footers.” Ito explains, “One of the crazy things they did was confiscate the lawn-mowers because the Japanese gardeners are going to mow arrows” that would point Japanese pilots towards key targets. He chuckled as he said this — indeed, describing the bigotry he faced, he often chuckled. I was struck by his ability to speak of these events without any apparent malice. I expect that, had this happened to me, I would have been bitter. Perhaps he was bitter at one point, and learned to let go of bitterness?

Describing the internment camps themselves, Ito said, “They put us up in stables.  They didn’t really have time to build barracks.  For the first, early arrivals, we were literally in horse stables.  So, the internees would come, and this was where they stayed.” When they arrived, the internees asked, “Where are the mattresses?”  The guards said, “You see those white bags?” Ito explained that there were “stacks of white bags.” So, the guards said, “Fill them up with hay.” (They were, literally living in stables.)  So, Ito says, “if you had allergies….”

Combemale asked, “How long were you there?” Ito said that they were in the stables for six months before they moved into the barracks. He added, again with wryness (rather than bitterness), “We were considered a security risk to the government, because we could signal to the Japanese ships or something.”

The story was riveting, and would, as I say, make for a great memoir or film. On the experience of being in the camps themselves, Ito said, “The rumor in our communities was ‘What’s going to happen if Japan wins the war or the U.S. wins the war?  We’re just going to be lined up and executed.’” Again, he was able to speak of this calmly, without bitterness towards his captors.

Combemale asked, “Did it keep you sane to be doing drawings while you were there?” Ito didn’t have paper, but they did have Sears catalogues from which they would order what they needed. So, Ito told us, “I would take the expired catalogues, and draw on the margins.” Ever the aspiring animator, Ito made flipbooks in the margins of the Sears catalogue.

To conclude the internment narrative, Ito reports that when he got back to his house after the war, his Dopey bank was still there!

What was really wonderful about this conversation is that Combemale had the judgment to simply let Ito talk, recount his experience. She’s an excellent listener — an ideal quality for an interviewer to have.

What's Opera, Doc?Combemale: You were also in Chuck Jones’s unit on What’s Opera, Doc? You said he was an interesting person to work with.

Willie Ito: I admired him from afar. One time, we were watching a pencil test, and, at the end, I sort of blurted out, “Charles M. Jones, Super-Genius.” And Chuck sort of looked at me like “… hmmmm….”

Ito recalls another moment when he was watching a cartoon with Jones: “I would be watching a Friz Freling cartoon, laughing with tears rolling down my face.  And Chuck Jones would be looking at me, glaring.”

Ito was hired by Walt Disney Productions for the “Lady” unit (i.e., the unit working on Lady and the Tramp).  He “reported to Milt Kahl — one of the 9 Old Men! And Iwao Takamoto was there!” And I didn’t manage to capture the full history of Ito’s working career — at a certain point, I was just listening and not taking notes. (Sorry!)

Ito worked a year at Bob Clampett. He said, “I want you to design all my characters– and they were all puppets.” This was a great opportunity for Ito because “I got to work in design, layout, etc.  So, after that, going to Hanna Barbera, I felt like a veteran. I could do it all!”

A Boy of Heart MountainIto would go on to spend 14 years at Hanna Barbera. At the time he went, he told Chuck Jones that he was going to take that job. Jones advised him against it because it was television, and those studios wouldn’t last. He said that staying at Warner Brothers would provide steady work because they would always be making these cartoon shorts. Yet, Ito recalled, “while I was there [at Hanna Barbera], Warner Bros. closed down!”

The panel did not get to cover as much of Ito’s career, but the focus on his earlier life was riveting. If you’re interested in learning more about it, Ito has a book called A Boy of Heart Mountain, which “educates children about sending an entire group of people to camps, for a while.”


Spotlight on Jeff Smith

Tom Spurgeon & Jeff Smith

As the program says, “Comic-Con special guest Jeff Smith discusses his foray into the world of online comics with his new title TUKI: Save the Humans, as well as the 10th anniversary of Scholastic’s color version of Bone. Moderated by Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter).”

Jeff Smith, Bone Vol. 1 (Scholastic)Tom Spurgeon did a great job of moderating this discussion with Jeff Smith, which began with the announcement of a new edition of Bone Vol. 1, commemorating the tenth anniversary of Scholastic Graphix. It’s a new special edition with, as Smith says, “eight new pages, including the rat creatures’ ode to quiche.  And other drawings from scholastic artists.  It comes out in Spring of 2015.  That’s just the first step of the rollout of things we’re doing next year.”

Tom Spurgeon: Doing the whole series over again?

Jeff Smith: No, just the first volume.

Tom Spurgeon: Do you think in terms of legacy formats at this point?

Jeff Smith: Yes. IDW now wants to do a legacy edition of all nine books. I’m like really? At 100 bucks a pop? Oh, all right. [Laughs.] No, I’m not going to do that.  At first, I thought they wanted me to add a new section to it.  And I thought maybe I could add a scene during winter?  I realized that I couldn’t get my mind back into that space.  And the book was done.  I shouldn’t do any more to it.

(A note on my reporting. I’m capturing the contours of the conversation, but not every last word. So, what you see is as close to a direct quotation as I was able to transcribe, but it’s not the same as, say, reading the transcription of a recorded event.)

Jeff Smith, RASLI liked Smith’s practical approach to what he’s known for. Rather than (as some artists might) chafe under being known primarily for Bone, he said, “Bone is going to be — I’m never going to get out from under that shadow. So, I think I need to enjoy that.  Whereever I go, I’m the Bone guy.  I’m Jeff ‘Bone’ Smith.” And you could see that he does enjoy it. After the panel, for example, he kindly consented to a photo with a fan and her Fone Bone plush doll.  The Cartoon Books booth had plush dolls of all three Bones — as well as his copies of Bone, and newer works, such as RASL, and the first issue of TUKI.

Acknowledging the difference between these three projects, Smith said, “I wanted to get TUKI going while RASL was underway, so that people could see that all three had the same strand of DNA running through them.”  Smith spoke of enjoying drawing TUKI after RASL.

Jeff Smith: I don’t have draw buildings and cars, as in RASL. I can draw streams and mountains, which is much more natural to me.  With Bone, I had an Encylopedia Britannica, a leather-bound set. I did all of Bone with Encyclopedia Britannica.  When I was doing Shazam, I would go to the public library and get books out on New York City. That was the last time I went to the library.

Tom Spurgeon: There’s a moral there, but it’s an uncomfortable one.

He’s also enjoying TUKI because, as he says, “I did want to do humor again.  There was not much humor in my noir [RASL].”

Jeff Smith, page from TUKI

Indulging us comics nerds in the audience, Spurgeon and Smith had a conversation about how Smith designs a page.  How does he know to put those three inset boxes, of varying sizes, at those specific places on the page?  How does he do his layouts?  Smith responded, “I experimented with it, did several versions.”  Presumably, people read the top left panel first (because we read from left to right), but, Smith explained, “I put the flower and the bird up there to keep your eye up there.” The idea is that Tuki is hunting, and he sees the one animal that has strayed from the herd (in the middle panel).

Looking at Tuki, Spurgeon said, “You’re one of our great character designers,” and noted Smith’s many distinct characters — Fone Bone, Thorn, the rat creatures, Gran’ma Ben, Rasl, and now Tuki — who, in Smith’s new graphic novel, is the first human. “What is it you look for in a character?”  Describing Tuki, Smith said, “I worked with him for a while. He’s African, so he’s going to be black. He’s also not human. He’s Homo Erectus,” which (as I understand it) is the phase in evolution just before Homo Sapiens.

Tom Spurgeon: Are you drawing sketches?

Jeff Smith: There are a few pages in my files: What does Tuki look like? They didn’t have clothes, then. So, what do you do? They didn’t wear loincloths. I realized that our ancestors did carry things with them…. So, that allowed me to create something to cover up his junk. [Laughs]

Tom Spurgeon: How precious are you with your tools?

Jeff Smith: [Joking] Excuse me?

Tom Spurgeon: ToolS.

Jeff Smith, Tuki (comic #1)Smith also talked about his research for the character, noting, “Some people think Homo Erectus couldn’t talk, but until Homo Erectus there was no voice box. So… it’s debatable.”  On his artistic style for this work, he noted that “RASL had some kind of Jack Kirby faces,” whereas TUKI “is going to be more Sergio Aragones.”

Tom Spurgeon: How is it to be an influential cartoonist?

Jeff Smith: Well, it’s very flattering. I like it.

Tom Spurgeon: As I recall, you didn’t expect it.

Jeff Smith: No, no one expects it…  I guess, in a way, I feel like it’s kind of a stage you reach.

Smith also talked about, in Bone‘s early issues, hiding the fact that Bone was a fantasy, because he figured that if he was clear that it was, then that would be the end. No one would read it. So, instead, he spent the first third of the book inviting readers to get to know the characters, and like the characters, so that when he revealed that it was fantasy, they’d stick with it. But he eventually had to admit that it was fantasy: “There was a certain point where I couldn’t hide it any more. I had to come out. I had to come out of the closet!” [Laughs]


The Highlight of My Day — and my Comic-Con

After the panel, I introduced myself to Jeff Smith, and we walked down to his booth. I explained that I was the guy who co-wrote that article on Bone and Moby-Dick (for which he kindly supplied images), and that I’m working on Barnaby for Fantagraphics with Eric. He said, “Oh! You’re Phil!” And he said that he really loved the article — that it was great, that we really got it (Bone). This made my day. He went on to say that this article was one reason he agreed to write a foreword for the third Barnaby book — and that he’d just been talking to Eric about this.  This made my day again. And my Comic-Con.

Jeff Smith, from Bone Volume 3

It’s also an example of the unpredictability of what you write. My friend Jennifer Hughes and I wrote this article because we thought it would be fun to co-write an article, and I thought it’d be fun to re-read Moby-Dick, fun to re-read Bone, and I’d always wanted to write something on Bone.  It’s not part of a larger project for either of us.  It was just fun to do.  So.  Thanks, Jennifer!  And thanks, Jeff!

Note: nearly all photos from the Berkeley Breathed event are courtesy of Karin Westman.

Comic-Con 2014:

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Was the Cat in the Hat Black?

Children's Literature 42 (2014)Like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat owes a debt to blackface minstrelsy.

In my “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: Exploring Dr. Seuss’s Racial Imagination” (in the new issue of Children’s Literature), I explore the implications of this fact.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

In 1955, Dr. Seuss and William Spaulding—director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division—stepped into the publisher’s elevator at 2 Park Street in Boston. As Seuss’s biographers tell us, the elevator operator was an elegant, petite woman who wore white gloves and a secret smile (Morgan and Morgan 154). They don’t mention that she was Annie Williams, nor do they say that she was African American (Silvey). Seuss was on that elevator because Spaulding thought he could solve the Why Johnny Can’t Read crisis by writing a better reading primer. When Seuss sketched this book’s feline protagonist, he gave him Mrs. Williams’s white gloves, her sly smile, and her color. However, she is but one African American influence on Seuss’s most famous character. One source for that red bow tie is Krazy Kat, the black, ambiguously gendered creation of biracial cartoonist George Herriman (Cohen 325). Seuss, who admired what he called “the beautifully insane sanities” of Krazy Kat (qtd. in Nel, Dr. Seuss 70), also draws upon the traditions of minstrelsy—an influence that emerges first in a minstrel show he wrote for his high school. The Cat in the Hat is racially complicated, inspired by blackface performance, racist images in popular culture, and actual African Americans. The Cat’s influences help us to track the evolution of the African American cultural imaginary in Seuss’s work, but also, more importantly, to exemplify how children’s literature conceals its own racialized origins. Considering the Cat’s racial complexity both serves as an act of desegregation, acknowledging the “mixed bloodlines” (to borrow Shelley Fisher Fishkin’s phrase) of canonical children’s literature, and highlights how during the 1950s—a turning point for African Americans in children’s literature—picture books were a site where race, representation, and power were actively being contested.

If you want to read the full article, you can access it via ProjectMuse — unless, of course, you can’t.  So, if you work for (or have access to) a library or university that subscribes to ProjectMuse, then please do get the article that way.  Doing so generates revenue for the Children’s Literature Association.  If you can’t get the article that way, then please contact me, and I’ll send you a pdf. (You can find my email address at right, under “A note on mp3s.”)

Thanks to generous individuals (such as Charles Cohen, who provided the photo of the Cat in the Hat toys that you see on the issue’s cover), the article also includes some illustrations. Here are two, both of which are racialized interpretations of the Cat in the Hat — one from 1996 (in which the Cat represents O.J. Simpson) and one from 2012 (in which the Cat represents President Obama).

Alan Katz & Chris Wrinn, The Cat NOT in the Hat! (1996) Loren Spivack, The Cat and the Mitt (2012)

The Cat NOT in the Hat! can be found only in the Library of Congress. Dr. Seuss Enterprises successfully sued its publisher and prevented its distribution on the grounds that it was not a parody: It merely mimicked Seuss’s style to comment on the O.J. Simpson case (Dr. Seuss v. Penguin Books, 1996). Distribution of the book was suppressed. To the best of my knowledge, all copies — save for the one in the Library of Congress — were destroyed.  The Cat and the Mitt is a special election-year version of Loren Spivack’s The New Democrat, which can be purchased from Mr. Spivack’s website.

There would be more than eight pictures in my article, but Dr. Seuss Enterprises (the corporate entity which oversees the licensing and production of all things Seuss) would not grant permission to reprint any images to which it controls the rights. As I’ve always had good relations with the Seuss people in the past, I asked why. I received no response, but my guess is that the “no” has something to do with the fact that the article addresses Seuss and race. When I wrote the Seuss bio. for the Seussville.com website, my original version included commentary on Seuss’s racist wartime cartoons — I framed the issue in what I thought was a sympathetic way, noting that his earlier stereotypes ultimately yielded to greater understanding (as in the anti-racist Horton Hears a Who! and The Sneetches). Such an approach offered a redemptive reading of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s work on race. But I was asked to cut that. Since I was writing for a corporate website, I did as I was asked to do.

Published in an academic journal (instead of on a corporate website), this new article has the freedom to offer a more complicated, more nuanced reading of Seuss and race. I realize that it still needs work, and I will rewrite and revise further for the book-chapter version. But it’s the best work I’ve done on Seuss and race so far. So, I thought I’d share a snippet here — with, as I say, more available for any who wish to pursue the topic further.

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Posters for Harmony, Loyalty, and Discipline

Remain Vigilant (small version)Under the Kansas Board of Regents‘ brave new social media policy, the faculty and staff of Kansas universities must make sure that their speech is harmonious, loyal, and conducive to discipline.  So, the Kansas Board of Regents’ Committee for Harmony, Loyalty and Discipline is here to help you monitor speech. Our staff artist, Comrade Warner, has created these four handy visual aids — all designed to be printed as 24″ x 36″ posters. These come to you under Creative Commons: so, please print, make posters, put on t-shirts, remix, distribute.

Remember: Report speech that may promote disloyalty. Report suspect faculty immediately. Surveillance is freedom!

Stamp Out Fires: Report Suspect Faculty Immediately


Report Speech That Could Promote Disharmony


Report Speech That Could Promote Disloyalty


Remain Vigilant for Speech That Could Impair Discipline by Superiors


For more information, here’s

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