Anatomy of a Censorship: Why a Strip Is Spiked
When Censorship Takes the A-Train...
This week in "Candorville," almost nobody was offended by a cartoon that was seen by many even though it didn't run. Sound contradictory? Well, so much involving Michael Jackson can quickly get that way.
To clarify: Yesterday, Comic Riffs asked you whether you were offended by a censored "Candorville" strip that alluded to Jackson's child-molest cases. A whopping 95 percent of respondents replied: No, not really -- because "it's fair game when commenting on Michael Jackson."
This came after creator Darrin Bell's syndicate, Washington Post Writers Group, censored the strip, prompting Bell to rewrite the last two panels (as pictured above).
Although he blogged about the changes, Bell had no issue at all with the censorship by his editor, Amy Lago. (Full disclosure: Lago was my comics editor when I was syndicated by United Feature Syndicate.) Bell tells Comic Riffs: "I think Amy was right to say no to that cartoon if she thought it was indefensible. That's her job. Censorship is part of the editorial process and it's the reason papers trust syndicates."
For her part, Lago -- a seasoned comics editor -- stood by her decision. As a window into this process, she explained The Anatomy of a Censorship to Comic Riffs:
"There are certain detestable acts, such as rape and pedophilia, that can stop some readers from finding any humor whatsoever in a strip -- or in a column or in a standup routine. Darrin's original strip brought back the pedophile accusation in Panel 3. And also turned it into a punchline. I found that insensitive and felt it would have been hard to defend to anyone who has been the victim of a pedophile and feels that the subject is no joking matter.
"Granted, Darrin's not known for treating issues with sensitivity -- he calls out hypocrisy in 'Candorville.' And his point -- that hero-worship of a suspected pedophile is creepy -- is a candid one. And it's entirely fair. But we stand by our judgment that pedophilia isn't a joking matter, at least not for newspapers yet. And Darrin, though making a larger, more important point, did turn it into a joking matter in that third panel.
"We told him it was fine in the first panel, the set-up, because it was far enough removed from the joke. But we felt we couldn't send the strip if he referred to it in the third. It was still just too close to the joke.
"He was free to post it on his blog, of course, where he could defend it. It's a good point, and it was a sharp strip. It was more succinct than the final, and for those who would not be offended, it's a better strip."
To which I would add, there are two things that can be especially invaluable to a cartoonist: Having a good editor, and when needed, having a good blog.
ELSEWHERE 'ROUND THE PAGE...
CAPTIONS WE'D LIKE TO SEE: Somehow in today's "Blondie," I'm hungry for a bonus tagline that skews these proceedings. Perhaps an introductory panel that reads: "The Early Love Life of Jared the Subway Sandwich Guy." But, you know, FUNNIER. This Riffster welcomes any and all suggestions.
WHEN COMICS SEEM CONSPICUOUSLY INSPIRED BY HOLLYWOOD: First off, this is more of the bizarre "Close to Home" panels I can recall in recent memory. And that's sayin' something. The reason, though, isn't one of quirkiness, but rather: How the @#%& can this strip pull off a gag obviously inspired by the Pixar film "Up" -- yet make NO direct allusion to it? At least turn "Mr. Reed" into "Mr. Fredricksen" if you're going to filch so blatantly. What's next: Monsters who need children's screams? If it's possible to despise the spirit of a gag, well, that's exactly the righteous indignation I've got percolating at the mo'.
In a more subtle fashion, I read the swell "Rhymes With Orange" and half-guess it was inspired by the recent "Jon & Kate" Mediapalooza -- as the real-life pair altered their seating habits and choice o' furnishings as the marriage seemed to curdle. Maybe it wasn't, but the mere connection by virtue of the timing makes this Riffster smile just a little more.
TWEET NOTHINGS: This is one of the best Twitter cartoons yet this year -- in that wry and economic New Yorker fashion. Plus, Dave Coverly's "Speed Bump" keeps the punchline under 140 characters, to boot. Bravo.
A FINAL NOTE: If you never read "Pibgorn," by Brooke "Chickweed Lane" McEldowney," today's strip is about as visually wild a webtoon as you'll find. Feel the burn.
If you've got a strip you love or loathe today, then you're invited to share them links.
THE RELATED READ:
| July 9, 2009; 7:05 AM ET
Categories: The Morning Line
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