I've complained about political cartoonists who didn't bother to examine the situation in Ukraine before sitting down at their drawing boards (or booting up their drawing boards or whatever one does). I don't like to belabor a particular current event, but these two pieces certainly deserve mention.
Both are by remarkable draftsmen, though Clay Bennett and David Horsey are quite different on other levels: Bennett is extremely sparse and almost entirely visual in his commentary, while Horsey deploys lots of word balloons and, since he moved to the LA Times, even writes a blog in which he basically does what I do only with his own work atop it.
While there is a strong case to be made that a good cartoon shouldn't require additional commentary, in this particular case, it's well worth reading Horsey's words, because he talks about having visited Ukraine and lectured on press freedom and political commentary.
This puts him in a better position to discuss the interplay of Ukraine and Russia, because it's not as simple as the cartoons I've seen drawn by people who hadn't heard about the breakup of the Soviet Union. (Let me be clear: I also dislike cartoons in which Uncle Sam is depicted as controlling the fortunes of west-leaning countries as if he were directly in charge, unless that is the only point being made.)
The concept of alignment may be more challenging to depict, but there is a difference between "simple" and "simpleminded."
Bennett silently depicts what happened: They didn't escape from the Soviets. They escaped from their own corrupt government.
Horsey humorously depicts the disruption to Russia's foreign policy, which, yes, includes a sort of revitalization of the old Warsaw pact, though Putin isn't finding all the former members anywhere near as compliant as he thought the Ukrainians were.
And nothing is set in stone over there. Part of what made Putin think he could retain close alignment was the impact of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine and much remains to be shaken out.
Somewhat disturbing in that I didn't learn a lot that was new, but it nailed down a lot that I was afraid was happening. The breakup of Yugoslavia was a whole lot uglier, but this isn't going to resolve itself without some serious conflict, and let's hope it doesn't get too violent.
On a considerably less apocalyptic note, the other disturbing part to me was yet another revelation that Russian words tend to stress later syllables than we would in English, which is to say that, not only is Chechnya pronounced not "CHECH-nya" but "Chech-NYA," which was okay because it wasn't pronounced over here much at all until recently, but now it appears that "Se-VAS-topol" is, in fact, "Sevas-TOPE-ul."
Well, okay. But I'm not going to use that bit of knowledge until after the NPR people shift to calling the capital of France "Pa-REE" 'cause I already knew how to say that the French way and when not to bother.
Observation without a cartoon
All the cartoonists who never got the note about the Soviet Union's divorce are now drawing cartoons criticizing the plan to reduce armed forces troop strength. Apparently, however, whoever is handing out the talking points failed to mention that the proposal is in response to the mechanization of war over the past half century or more, and so it is being depicted in terms of fear that the Huns will be in our backyards tomorrow or some such thing.
Someone should probably have told them that we're no longer lining up huge numbers of men in colorful uniforms and marching them into the cannons as we did at SeVAStopol, back when Harry Faversham's potential father-in-law was in Her Majesty's Army and war was glorious and the world was as it should be.
Go See The Cartoon I Can't Post
But I Hope You'll Also Go Here
One is that this festival is different from others and, for that reason, I think more important to the future of cartooning: Rather than a gathering of hard-core fans, it is an invitation to the general public to come and meet cartoonists and find out more about cartooning. The cartoonists also go into schools as part of the festival.
The other is that donating to the fundraiser is also a chance to score some signed copies of cartoon collections and other fun stuff. I really like campaigns where the premiums are things you might have bought anyway, and here you are with just that.
By the way, they are not giving away festival tickets as a premium to donors, because, guess what? The Kenosha Festival of Cartooning is free.
Here's the lineup:
Jeff Keane of Family Circus, Denis Kitchen of Kitchen Sink Press, Lincoln Peirce of Big Nate, Rick Stromoski of Soup to Nutz, Todd Clark of Lola, Scott Stantis of Prickly City (also staff editorial cartoonist at The Chicago Tribune), Terri Libenson of The Pajama Diaries, Michael Schumacher, author of "Al Capp: A Life To The Contrary" and "Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life In Comics," and Paul Buhle comic historian and author of "Comics In Wisconsin." And our panel moderator will be the amazing Tom Racine of Tall Tale Radio.
Also Anne and John Hambrock of "The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee," who are running it, which I hope doesn't mean we won't see them at all except in frenzied White Rabbitesque flashes, but I suppose it well might. And I plan to go find out.
I'm not claiming that letting people come meet these folks for free in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is going to save the industry, but there is an Alice's Restaurant factor at work, because can you imagine, I mean, can you imagine if 10 or 20 cities did this?
Well, one city does, and that's a start. And it's more than a start, because this is the fourth year of the festival.
But it still relies on the support of people who care about comics. And want to score some cool stuff, too.