Comic Strips That Might Not Go Over Well Today

I don’t necessarily agree with everything on the list, but it was an interesting read.

44 Comments

  1. Once you exclude the more overtly racist examples, I would say that the majority of these could be published today.

  2. Okay, I’ll say it. I found it to be smarmy and smug click bait of utterly no merit. Yes, a serious discussion about the change in in social attitudes as reflected in comics would be (and has been many times) a very interesting topic of discussion but to have zero nuance or analysis but just a hey, look at this and pretend to be flabbergasted because a narrow micro viewpoint is not reflected over all comics for all times and we can find sample we can present with no need for context or analysis or explanation. It’s too simplistic, easy, and *exceedingly* pointless endeavor.

    ANd what the heck was the point of technical introduction of comic *strips* (“Before there were comic books, there were comic strips. The first strips appeared i… comic strips live on in both their original format and in the form of webcomics”) if that’s to be *completely* ignored and the samples include disney comic book stories french graphic novels and even animated cartoons.

  3. woozy: I didn’t get the impression that I was supposed to be flabbergasted. I thought it was just a fun quick read of the ways in which some things have changed.

    I had the same feeling as Usual John: The materials with racial or ethnic issues wouldn’t be OK now, but most of the other seem probably OK. The one with Donald Duck seemed particularly strange to include, since cartoon characters try to kill each other all the time.

  4. The Peanuts looks like an opener. Shultz loved hockey, and most likely was on Franklin’s side : There was, and is, no legitimate reason more black men can’t make the NHL.

    With a little work, they could have found much worse than this insipid collection.

  5. I disagree with most of the items on that list, but I agree with Usual John and woozy.
    P.S. One extremely obvious item that the authors missed is “The Katzenjammer Kids”.

  6. I think the Little Orphan Annie’s anti-union and anti-semitism[1] and Buck Roger’s Yellow Perilism would have made for interesting discussion with more analysis.

    Eisner’s Spirit and Ebony White *has* had many complex discussions here and elsewhere but this article just wanted to feel smug about how unenlightened the bad ol’ days were that it didn’t care what the comic actually *does* say about society of the time.

    Drug use in Garfield, Calvin’s graphic inappropriateness, and Little Nemo’s bad parenting (!!!!) were grasping at straws though (and including a Mr. Magoo comic was just weird…..).

    I think the topic would make for an interesting read but click-farm generated listicles rarely have any insight.

    [1] But neither of those would have been censored today.

  7. I agree that it’s over-hyped. Many of these wouldn’t be censored today because they wouldn’t be written today. Some others, I see no problems with.

  8. I, for one, found it interesting, although most of them were tamer than I expected. Was anyone shocked by Calvin making an anatomically correct snowman? Or Piglet giving a gift to Pooh that includes the bees? After all, in the TV specials Pooh didn’t seem to care about the bees when grabbing honey. And Lucy’s insensitivity doesn’t make it a racist comic. That would be like saying Norman Lear was bigot because Archie Bunker was.

  9. This article reminds me of decades-old holiday songs that get some people in a tizzy these days.

    Let’s compile a list of current-day comics reflecting today’s standards that probably won’t age well in several decades. 😀

  10. I’m guessing Harold Gray’s agitators were meant to evoke bearded Bolsheviks, unions being tarred as communist rather than Jewish.

    Sexism in Asterix is a bit more pervasive than the example shown. Women exist mainly as short-tempered wives and occasional eye candy. Once in a while there’ll be a pair of attractive young lovers, who are generally present for one book only. At some point they added the ornery old Geriatrix and his hot young trophy wife, who goes unnamed even when she figures prominently among the short-tempered wives. Cleopatra makes a few appearances, pretty and not to be messed with (and mother of Caesar’s illegitimate son). Bravura, by the way, is a Roman agent and harbinger of an army of pretty Roman girls, banking on Gallic chivalry. Asterix’s tribe welcomes them with a marketplace full of bargains, and the girls forget their military mission entirely in favor of shopping.

    For some juvenile amusement, do a search for Out Of Context Comic Panels. Several bloggers have compiled collections, mostly legit, of characters in inappropriate poses or making unsuitable remarks: Heroines from 50s romances declaring their passion for Dick, Archie’s gang seemingly up to (or just back from) naughty doings, superheroes reacting to unfortunately targeted rays and projectiles, etc. A particularly infamous Batman story had the Joker embarrassed by a boner — that is, a dumb mistake — and unleashing a whole boner-themed crime wave, requiring Bruce and Dick (heh) to discuss boners at length and research history’s greatest boners.

  11. Minor note: the BUCK ROGERS comic strip story was true to the original pulp magazine Buck Rogers origin tales in 1920s issues of AMAZING STORIES, which indeed involved a future world in which “yellow” Asian villains had conquered America, and Buck and other rebels struggled heroically against them to free the land.

    Obviously problematic, but at least the comic was adapting the basic (prose) core story plot, however iffy it may have been, and not coming up with the iffy premise on its own hook.

  12. MinorAnnoyance, it’s generally assumed that the Joker story you’re referring to was very deliberate on the part of writers who figured they could get away with it. In these more enlightened times, they would be given an Arlo Award.

  13. Bill, if that is what is assumed about the Joker’s boner, it is almost certainly assumed wrongly. Green’s Dictionary of Slang documents no examples of “boner” in the erection sense prior to 1966. The Batman story is from 1951.

  14. Random House agrees with Green’s. And I really don’t think the kid’s strip, “Boner’s Ark”, was trying to titillate with its name.

    BTW, the “stupid error” meaning of “boner” goes back to 1912

  15. “This article reminds me of decades-old holiday songs that get some people in a tizzy these days. ”

    You put this in the plural. There was more than one?

    And technically that one shouldn’t be considered a decades-old holiday song because it had only been associated with Christmas in the last ten years or so.

  16. I don’t know when the Peanuts strip was published, but for a good bit of the history of the NHL. the players came almost exclusively from Canada. The black population of Canada has always been small. In 1996 it was 2%, less than the percentage of South Asian or Chinese. It was probably even lower at the time of the strip. That’s a main reason there were few black NHLers.

    That’s not to say that racism didn’t exist, it certainly did. It took some doing to break the color barrier there as well. Unlike with baseball, it didn’t represent a large number of qualified players that had been held out from playing by policy. The second black NHL player came in ten years after the first. Currently around 3% of NHL players are black.

  17. @ M.A. – The primary problem with publishing “Asteríx” in today’s America would not be its treatment of women, but the pervasive undercurrent of racism. Perhaps it’s a bit much to expect racial sensitivity from a comic that consistently pokes fun at the residents of every country it visits (sometimes brilliantly so), but the few blacks that appear are almost always shown as fat-lipped buffoons.
    P.S. @ Mark M – “Norman Lear was [a] bigot because Archie Bunker was.
    As a kid, I remember my utter surprise when I heard that Carroll O’Connor was supporting a Democratic candidate. It seemed so out of place for the person who I knew only as Archie Bunker.

  18. “it had only been associated with Christmas in the last ten years or so.”

    I think that pretty much any song about winter is now considered a holiday song. Just as “holiday” by itself almost always refers to Christmas.

  19. @ Kilby: Blacks in Asterix are not necessarily buffoons, but visually they do all conform to the grotesque stereotype. They’re generally slaves or servants, silently going about their duties. The lookout on the pirate ship is the only one who ever gets a speaking part, and at best he’s no more hapless than the rest of the pirates (who, by the way, were originally parodies of a contemporary French adventure comic).

    Asterix is still in print in English — in recent years they rendered the originals more economical by collecting them three per volume, and a new artist and writer are doing new adventures in precise imitation of the style.

  20. @ Kilby addendum: But while I’ve seen Asterix books at Barnes & Noble, I haven’t seen any of the many animated and live action movies anywhere in the states — at least not since the VHS era, when the earliest animations were marketed here. And I don’t expect Parc Asterix to be cloned in Florida any time soon.

  21. The pirate lookout is not only unfortunately drawn. In French, he also speaks in what can only be called a racist dialect (much as the article mentions for Ebony White in The Spirit). That’s probably part of the parody and I suspect isn’t the case in more recent stories. The racist character design is really a problem for most of the major francophone comics. The long-running cowboy series Lucky Luke has that problem with both black and Native American characters, although they are almost never buffoons, don’t speak in dialect and are treated with respect by Luke.

    As for the rest of the list, it’s largely a bit facile. I was expecting a list of comics from only a couple of decades ago, not mostly pre-WWII comics that displayed the racism and sexism of their day. That Calvin strip would have no problem being published today, in my opinion. The Peanuts is a little more problematic, but I agree that Schultz was probably trying to draw attention to a lack of black hockey players. Mitch, the “opener” means it’s likely the first strip in an arc that deals with the topic in greater depth.

  22. @ DemetriosX – In the German translations, the lookout’s dialect is rendered in standard German, but he drops all of his “R”s (they are replaced by apostrophes), and as such, the wording is usually written so that it contains a number of “R”s to be dropped.
    P.S. @ Minor Anoyance – There’s an exception to the rule about black characters in “The Mansions of the Gods“. The leader of the Romans’ (slave) construction crew is drawn to the stereotype, but he is well-spoken and fairly clever, just not in the way that Asteríx had expected. Instead of using the druid’s magic potion to escape, the slaves use their new-found strength to negotiate pay raises and better working conditions (in parallel to strike-happy French unions). This album was turned into a movie, and was even dubbed in English, but it doesn’t seem to have been released in the US. However, Amazon has a number of the other Asteríx movies (both live action & animated) as DVDs. Watch out, because some of the disks are Region 2 PAL imports. Some of the older (animated) movies are interminably slow, but the newer (live action) films are tolerable, at least for kids.

  23. Peppermint Patty’s comment is racist, but I think we can draw a line between racist comments based on stereotypes and racist comments based on simple observation. The latter is the sort that could be made by an unknowing child, ignorant of institutional and structural racism in society. The comment is only offensive because racism exists in other contexts.

    Schulz, of course, probably should have known better. His heart was in the right place with Franklin, but he (self-admittedly) knew he didn’t have the necessary cultural context to address racial issues head-on. This is a rare misstep, and it’s likely a modern editor would reject it… though I don’t believe it’s been censored from Classic Peanuts reruns, either.

  24. @ Andréa – Nice to see that your copy (from GoComics) made it through the filter. I read Rubes on Leigh’s “creators.com” site, and the URL I posted got moderated by WordPress.

  25. I use the RSS that you suggested some time ago, and from there, it’s possible to ‘view graphic’, which on the GoComics site, you can’t. So that was an added benefit – thanks again!

  26. @ Andréa – There’s a trick for that which works with GoComics on a desktop browser(*). In GoComics, click on the graphic image of the comic (so that it is highlighted). Then click with the right mouse button on the highlighted image, and choose “view selection source” from the menu. On the bottom line of the text that then appears, you will see “src=“, with the link to the image. You can click on that link, or just copy the address, and paste it here in WordPress (adding “.gif” to the end, of course). While it is perfectly true that the method using comicsrss.com is much easier, that site only shows the past two weeks, so if you want anything older, you have to go to GoComics.
    P.S. (*) – I have not been able to get this method to work on an iPad (neither with Safari nor with Firefox). There just doesn’t seem to be a way to “tap” for the right mouse button.

  27. The right-click command I find to use at GoComics as Kilby describes, is “Inspect Element (Q)” in Windows desktop Firefox, and “Inspect ( Ctrl+Shhift+I)” in Windows desktop Chrome. Both of these view source for the whole page, but highlight the part that handles this graphic.

  28. I have to go through similar gymnastics whenever I use a GoComics comic too, of course — which is why I use other sources whenever possible.

  29. With Firefox, I switch View->Page Style to No Style. Then I can find the raw image easily and get its link.

  30. @ Kilby: I’ll have to revisit “Mansions of the Gods”. Not one of my favorites, as it felt like a very specific satire of a long-ago French controversy I’ve no knowledge of. What comes to mind is the stuff about government’s forceful marketing, and the influx of Romans being intended to crush the local Gallic culture (they do disrupt what there is of an economy). That it was picked for a recent movie suggests the theme is still somewhat timely. Does France have issues with rich foreigners — or even rich French — overrunning quaintly French countrysides?

  31. @ MA – I have no idea whether there was a specific antecedent. The story was written in 1971, the movie (which I had never heard of until I looked for a link to the book) was made in 2014 (the first 3-D animated Asteríx movie). When I read it, I figured it was a satire of overly planned, heavily marketed, encapsulated developments, and that has been going on for a very long time (both in France and in the US, but hardly at all in Germany).

  32. “Buck Rogers” is based on the novel “Armageddon 2419 A.D. A book that happens to be available for free over at Project Gutenberg. In the book, the darn Chinese have successfully conquered nearly all of North America except for some plucky rebels and the lost-in-time hero, you=know-who. So complaining that a comic strip adapted from this book has Chinese antagonists seems..condescending? When they were adapted into movie serials, in the 30s,, the bad guys were organized crime bosses. Thank goodness that by the 80s, the bad guys had become alien babes who looked like their wardrobes could malfunction at any moment, but never quite did..

  33. re ““Buck Rogers” is based on the novel “Armageddon 2419 A.D. A book that happens to be available for free over at Project Gutenberg.” — a neat trick, since the comic strip began in January 1929, and the original “Armageddon 2419 A.D.” novella (from the August 1928 AMAZING STORIES) wasn’t combined with its sequel (“The Airlords of Han” from the March 1929 issue) into an alleged “novel” and published thus as a “book” until 1962.

    If you’d phrased it as “Buck Rogers’ is based on the story “Armageddon 2419 A.D.” — a story which happens to be available as part of the later book of the same name over at Project Gutenberg” — I wouldn’t have had any quibble to quib. (But, of course, what fun would that be?)

  34. I was in Congo earlier this year for work. People there asked me what I knew about their country. I said I’d read ‘Tintin au Congo’ and ‘In the heart of darkness’. Everybody laughed; “You’re not very up to date”, they said. They were right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s