33 Comments

  1. I think the oddity in Strange Brew is that there is an Aurcent there, or whatever is the other way round from the normal society Centaur, with a horse’s head and presumably human attributes below the waist.

    I suppose the social milieu and the reference to Arthur’s family reunions being “interesting” means that this Aurcent is some sort of social embarrassment: the wrong class or caste, or more likely state of birth legitimacy. Whatever pure noble antecedents went to make up the newborn Centaurs, something bestial and and unnatural perhaps created the Aurcent.

  2. @narmitaj, I think that’s just a horse. Centaurs come from horse/human sex (in some versions), so the family reunion includes centaurs, humans, and horses.

  3. I think narmitaj has it. I don’t see any evidence of purely normal humans (I even checked the original comic, but there wasn’t anything significant below the accidentally cropped lower edge of this image). The one ‘horsehead’ individual appears to have human arms and hands.

  4. In Greek mythology, Chiron was one of these folk and a great healer. That makes him the original Centaur for Disease Control.

    (Not mine. I just saw that recently and the cartoon reminded me of it.)

  5. I had a little problem with the first one, because I thought it was the centaur speaking. Then the caption made no sense.

  6. I was just thinking of Chiron the other day. He taught Apollo how to play the lyre. All I could think of was young Apollo waiting there, and suddenly this human-horse thing shows up with a lyre, and Apollo is like “YOU’RE the music teacher???!!”

  7. “Apollo is like “YOU’RE the music teacher???!!””

    I wonder if Chiron ever got used to being the centaur of attention?

  8. The reason Arthur’s family reunions are so interesting is because his family includes the evil Dr. Horsehead, nemesis to SuperCaptainCoolMan, who occasionally appears Sundays in the Curtis comic strip. See, for example –

  9. Curtis is another strip whose archive is concealed behind the King Features fortress, so it seems impossible to figure out when SuperCaptainCoolMan first appeared. I can’t escape the feeling that the whole strip seems stupendously derivative.

  10. Speaking of Curtis, it’s time for the annual strip that shows a city, then a block of apartment buildings, then one building, then the window, and finally Curtis in bed when he’s supposed to be up for school.

  11. The earliest SuperCaptainCoolMan I could find without getting past the paywall was from 2003. I have always thought it was meant to be derivative satire, poking fun at superhero tropes. Sort of like Fearless Fosdick, Li’l Abner’s “ideal”, poked fun at Dick Tracy. But Al Capp would do weeks of daily strips featuring an entire Fosdick storyline. SuperCaptainCoolMan has always been a one-off Sunday with the same basic punchline: Curtis gets caught reading comics in class and is sent to the principal’s office. I personally think SCCM and Dr. Horsehead are so ridiculously exaggerated that they’re quite amusing.

  12. @ DanV – I fully agree that “poking fun at superhero tropes” is the intent, but the end result still seems like more of a cross between Calvin’s “Stupendous Man” and “Spaceman Spiff”, with a teacher that even resembles a black(*) version of Miss Wormwood.
    P.S. (*) – This is something that I had never thought about until I wrote that line: as far as I can remember, I don’t think Watterson ever drew a black person in Calvin & Hobbes. Given the extremely limited number of characters, there wasn’t much opportunity (Schulz had it easier: adding Franklin didn’t serious stretch the cast of Peanuts). Another problem would have been that Watterson’s daily strips were strictly a “pen & ink” operation: he didn’t even use halftone transfers for gray areas, so it would have been difficult to render a recognizable character with a darker skin color. He might have been able to include a black kid in the background of the classroom in a Sunday strip, but even if he did, it wouldn’t have been very significant, since Susy is the only other kid that ever spoke on a regular basis.
    P.P.S. (*) – Schulz got some hate mail after Franklin appeared; some readers were unable to accept that Charlie Brown no longer lived in a monochromatic world. A few of these letters were reprinted in the 50th Anniversary collection.

  13. @Kilby: I was just thinking this morning about the (lack of) diversity in the comics I read. I came to the conclusion that, of the strips by white artists, Frazz may actually be the most diverse, with three named black characters who appear regularly. Plus an Asian boy who appears pretty often and a Hispanic girl I think is named Maria (the one Mrs. Olsen saved from getting run over a few years ago). Outside of Baldo, Hispanics seem to be woefully underrepresented, while outside of Chickweed Lane (where they seem to make up half the cast of late), Asians are practically non-existent.

  14. @ DemetriosX – The reason that I vastly prefer the diversity in Frazz is that race never defines the characters. This was one of the strong points about Schulz’s “Franklin”. Although one could argue that he was just a “token black”, his supreme characteristic was precisely that he was just another ordinary kid (who happened to be black): his race never bothered (nor surprised) anyone else in the strip. In contrast to that, Baldo seems to be stuck in the ghetto: while it is nice to have some Hispanic characters in the comics, the way the strip incessently calls attention to the fact that “Hey, we have a Hispanic strip here, isn’t that great!” gets a little tiresome at times. I remember running into a few strips that had the same one-track mentality about “black” issues, but I have not read Curtis for years decades, so I have no idea whether it still ever did suffer from this problem.
    P.S. One of the things I enjoy about visiting Washington is going downtown (or just about anywhere else), and observing not just the incredible diversity of people from everywhere imaginable, but also the fact that virtually all of them speak “normal” (American) English. There are areas (or pockets) in downtown Berlin that have similar levels of diversity, but in Germany, anyone who looks “different” almost always speaks German with a heavy accent (if at all).
    Another example: If you look backwards in a theater (or at the spectators in any live TV broadcast), in America you will see a wonderful mix of colors. In Germany, the crowd is almost always monochromatic (white), which is not just an indicator of insufficient cultural integration, but also the resulting disparity of incomes.

  15. Baldo doesn’t seem all that stuck in the barrio to me.For the most part, he, Gracie and their friends seem like pretty average American kids. The only things that really stand out to me are Baldo wanting to build a low-rider, Carmen’s cooking and herbal medicine and Sergio occasionally wanting to get his kids to speak Spanish. All of which lines up pretty well with Carmen coming to the US as a teen or adult, Sergio being the first generation born there and the kids the second generation.

    The most diverse strip I read is probably Jump Start. I didn’t bring it up before, because Robb Armstrong is black. But even there, there’s only one Hispanic and one Asian character, and they rarely show up.

    Diversity in Germany is pretty thin, very true, which is the source of a lot of problems. But I have to say that when I first moved here to a Düsseldorf bedroom community, I saw more black faces than I did when I lived in Portland. Düsseldorf also has the largest Japanese community in Europe for some reason. In the little village where I live now, we have a guy of African extraction (his German pronunciation is fine, but his intonations are odd; I don’t know if he grew up here or not) and a Syrian family. Their kids seem to assimilating quickly.

  16. Foxtrot (albeit now in Mon-Sat reruns and Sun new ones) has Marcus, Jason’s best friend, and the Chinese-American friends of Eileen’s, Phoebe and Eugene Wu.

  17. Foxtrot also has one of the very few disabled characters, though she appeared very rarely: Peter’s girlfriend Denise, who is blind. The only other disabled character I can think of Luis from Safe Havens and maybe a nameless kid from Frazz.

  18. Bloom County of course has the guy in the wheelchair (I forget his name), though he hasn’t show up often in the current revival (or all that often in the original run). And B.D. in DOONESBURY has an artificial leg, after losing the original in the Gulf War. On the non-human side, Buckles’ best dog-friend, in the comic of the same name, is crippled in his back legs (or perhaps has lost them altogether) so is always seen with a “doggie scooter” (I don’t know the correct name) — his handicap doesn’t seem to be one, since he gets around just fine.

    One of the many once-prominent-but-long-since-dropped-down-the-memory-hole characters in LUANNis Zane, a wheelchair user who was Bernice’s boyfriend for a couple of years. Daredevil has had an occasional guest shot in the newspaper AMAZING SPIDER-MAN stories; he of course is blind but has a super-sense which (like Gordie LeForge in the ST:TNG tv show) is “even better” than mundane eyesight. REX NIRGAN M.D. has recently introduced a couple of supporting characters who are on the spectrum, though pretty high-functioning. MARY WORTH had for a while a minor character (one of the many with whom unlucky-in-love Dawn was sort of invovled with) who had lost one of his arms; I think he also wound up getting a prosthetic.

  19. “his handicap doesn’t seem to be one,”

    We have Daisy2Legs, and we call her PAWdicapped . . . she doesn’t need no steenkin’ doggie wheelchair, either, she sez.

  20. I always found it interesting that in Frank Cho’s Liberty Meadows, the character of “Frank”, thanks to his always wearing glasses, had the roundest possible round eyes he could possibly have (if you doubt that Frank was a stand-in for the author, in the earlier incarnation University^2, Frank was a duck, “Duk” being Frank Cho’s Korean name…)

  21. If you dare, look up the Dennis the Menace cartoon with the caption “I’m havin’ some race trouble with Jackson. He runs FASTER than I do!” Unfortunately, it appears that the only way Ketcham knew how to draw a black character was like an advertisement for a 19th-century minstrel show.

  22. Since cartoon characters tend to be caricature-like, I think most cartoon artists would tend to shy away from drawing a character intended to be recognized as racially different. The nature of cartooning would tend to draw attention to the differences, and the point of diversity is to minimize them.
    Johnny Hart mostly got away with the two female characters in BC. Eventually, the dynamic in Beetle Bailey got strained (Lt. Flap, originally drawn and written in a non-stereotypical way, looks increasing stereotypical to modern eyes, and Gen Halftrack and Miss Buxley eventually needed a substantial change in their working interaction.)

  23. @ Andréa – According to the Wikipedia reference, there were very strong negative reactions to the comic, and Ketcham didn’t use the character again afterwards. Still, I agree with you that drawing a face like that shows an unbelievable amount of Insensitivity stupidity on his part, and it doesn’t make his editor look good, either.

  24. @ Brian in StL – Nice catch, and thanks for the link to the “Snopes” article, that was quite interesting.

  25. The thing with the Dennis the Menace protests is that none of the sources really make it explicitly clear what exactly the contemporary people were protesting — was it that the character was portrayed in an insultingly stereotypical way, or was it that the character existed at all in Dennis’ previously all-white world? Based on the pushback Schulz got with Franklin, I would say the default assumption would be that it was the latter. Just because we modern day enlightened folk clearly see the poor stereotypical depiction, doesn’t mean that it was popularly obvious in the day. The sources insinuate it was the former, but don’t clearly spell it out one way or another, and based on many previous examples of laxity on the part of Wikipedia editors (one just recently mentioned here), I’m loathe to trust the tacit, facile assumptions.

    I guess the final bit of the final quote from Ketcham in the Snopes article tilts the scales finally in favor of the former assumption (so he seems aware that the protest were that he depicted Jackson as a “mini Stepin Fetchit”), but I really wish they would explicitly state, and not rely on our catching innuendo, because, after all, you do know how to whistle, don’t you? A lot of times with innuendo, there is no “there” there.

  26. I imagine that there were some of each sort of protest. Schulz mentions objections from southern papers to Franklin.

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