Oct 28, 2022
This cartoon was thought of by Grace Alden, co-written by me and Grace, drawn by me, and colored by Frank Young. A team effort!
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I love this cartoon.
I love collaborating with Barry, because it’s real collaboration. He listens to my cartoon ideas, he listens to my scripting ideas, and we collaborate especially well in the word-by-word fine-tuning which we often do at the end. Barry does the real heavy lifting with all of the cartooning, of course, which is not just “drawing”, but as I’ve come to learn from him also includes pacing, and what works to deliver a punchline.
And in this case, “punchline” is particularly apt, because for me, this one delivers a gut punch. If I’m in a physical competition, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve lost. It doesn’t matter how hard I’ve worked. It doesn’t matter that people don’t know how low my testosterone levels are (and the T levels of trans female athletes are usually very low, well below the values for cis female athletes). If I win, once, it was unfair.
This cartoon beautifully illustrates this, both confirmation bias and cherry-picking. People believe what they believe, and they rationalize in support of it, and there’s no better way to rationalize than to cherry-pick the evidence and present only the evidence which supports your argument.
This cartoon does what the best advocacy cartoons all do: it illustrates the point of a nuanced argument with a pithy example.
Thanks for making it real, Barry!
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There was a photo circulating a couple of years ago, of two trans girl track athletes in Connecticut leading a footrace. It was circulated a lot among social media, and even printed in a couple of UK newspapers, with the implication (or, sometimes, explicit statement) that it was unfair for them to compete, cis girls had no chance of winning, etc..
The families of two of the cis girls who didn't win that race even sued.
But a race isn't a season. The two girls went on to lose some races (oddly enough, no UK newspaper reported that), and - as the judge wrote in his decision - statistically, there was no sign that other girls couldn't beat them. By the end of the season, a girl who sued did so much better than them in one event that she became state champion.
That was very much in my mind as Grace and I batted the script for this back and forth, and as I drew it.
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This one was fun and interesting to draw. I don't draw sports or jocks often, so it's well outside my comfort zone. I wanted to show how lean and muscular serious runners are, but I didn't want to draw muscles in so much detail it looks like an anatomy book.
I think Frank had a challenge, too, since he had to subtly make each panel's color atmosphere look different enough so that readers could see them as taking place on separate days. Frank did a really nice job here; he used white highlights to really pop June out, and did nice details like the subtle clouds behind June in panel two.
I'm also pleased that I got to do a "stacked" layout for three of the panels. It's the sort of layout trickery that comics can excel out, but which rarely seems called for in political cartoons.
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I drew June with one enormous hand, as big as her head, in one panel, and didn't notice until after Frank had colored the cartoon. When I pointed it out to Frank, he said he hadn't noticed, but now he couldn't not see it. (We fixed the hand.)
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Thanks so much for continuing to support these cartoons! We couldn't keep making these cartoons without you. Heck, without y'all, I might be forced to get a real job. (Barry shivers in fear. All the readers who have real jobs roll their eyes.)
I'll wait at least six days to post this cartoon in public, but those of you who are patron-ing at the $5 level or above, please feel free to show it to folks without waiting.
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Yet Another Example of Pervasive Anti-Billionaire Bigotry is now available for anyone to buy, in either softcover or hardcover.
It's really big - about 8.5x11", containing about 200 cartoons, plus a ton of process drawings and prose. It could conceivably be a great birthday present for a progressive you love, or for a conservative you hate.
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TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has eight panels. Every panel shows a runner on a track, and in all but the last panel she's actively running a race. She has her hair done in two afro puffs, and is lean but muscular. Let's call her June.
In every panel but the last two, June is wearing a different outfit, but all her outfits consist of a tank top with shorts. She also always has a paper taped to her shirt with a number on it, but the number changes form panel to panel.
There's an additional tiny "kicker" panel under the last panel of the cartoon.
We see three runners during a race, but the panel is laid out to focus on June, who looks tired and not like she's winning this race. (One of the other girls we can see is well ahead of her.)
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: And here's June Davis in fifth place!
A profile picture of June running; we can see bits of the runners ahead and behind her, but they're mostly off panel. June again looks tired, her mouth open as if she's gasping for air, cartoon sweat beads flying.
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: ...June Davis in sixth place!
A close-up of June running, looking very determined. It's raining, and big raindrops splash off of her shoulders and head.
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: ...in second place!
Panels four through six together take up the space of any of the other panels in the cartoon, as if one of those panels had been divided into three panels. This is meant to indicate that a lot of time, and a lot of races, are passing.
A longish shot, showing June from the upper legs up. Again, June runs and we can see other runners behind and in front, although they're mostly cut off by the panel borders. June looks determined but also annoyed.
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: ...in fourth place!
A closer shot, showing June from the elbows up. She looks like she's working hard, with a determined expression and her arms pumping hard.
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: ...in third place!
A long shot shows June's whole figure as she runs hard (and again, with girls in front and behind). She's leaning forward, a picture of speed, with the background done as horizontal speed lines.
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: ...in fifth place!
A shot of June, arms raised, happy but exhausted looking, as she hits the... What is that called? The big ribbon that the runner in first place gets to run through and break? Whatever that's called, June has hit it; it's stretching around her, about to rip.
UNSEEN ANNOUNCER: ...it's June Davis in first!
JUNE DAVIS (thought balloon): Finally!
In the foreground, June is sitting on the track, leaning back on her arms and looking tired and sad. In the background, we can see two middle-aged people, both of whom look angry. They're both dressed in "casual nice" clothing. The man has a black mustache and his arms crossed; the woman is raising and shaking a fist.
MUSTACHE MAN: Dammit! The trans "girl" won!
WOMAN: Unfair advantage! Real girls have no chance!
TINY KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OF THE STRIP
The mustache man is talking harshly to June, sticking his finger in her face. June, again, looks tired and sad.
MUSTACHE MAN: You can't have a chance to win. It wouldn't be fair.