Friday, March 18, 2022



It's once again my favorite time of the semester: the intro to comics unit for my Beginning Drawing studio art course. This time however there's an added bonus of banned books, and an opportunity to corrupt the influential minds of our youth expose students to the power of sequential art with pen + ink exercises and lectures on historical and contemporary creators all dovetailing into their upcoming critique. It's also now an opportunity to call attention to the rising threat of fascist populism being openly embraced and promoted by white supremacists (in no small part fueled by white fragility) at all levels of society including from the government down to local school boards. And I'm not even talking about the obvious issues (ex: slavery, indigenous genocide and colonialism etc.) but examining where and why theses issues intersect with comics and how they directly relate to current events.

Backing up a bit, in the precursor to the comics we experimented with pen + ink and I spotlight many illustrators such as Peggy Fortnum, Pauline Baynes - and especially Garth Williams. The above image from "Charlotte's Web" for example utilizes a deceptively simple composition, a variety of textures, coupled with linear perspective to enhance pictorial depth, a hint of landscape and even expressive animal anatomy. Many other seminal examples abound across his bibliography: from "Little House on the Prairie" to "Stuart Little" to "The Cricket in Times Square" Williams created a wealth of iconic imagery for many beloved classics in American children's literature. Which all makes this particular sordid chapter in censorship all the more surreal (but no less stupid): back in 1958, a segregationist/supremacist group - the White Citizens Council of Montgomery, Alabama – together with state politicians, had Williams’ book “The Rabbits’ Wedding” banned from public libraries for indoctrinating children’s minds with interracial marriage… because one rabbit had black fur and the other white. Just wait until they get around to reading "March" by Congressman John Lewis.

And now we have another chapter in the continuing fight against censorship with the controversy surrounding Jerry Craft's "New Kid," which also was the first graphic novel to ever win the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award in 2020. Adding to the insanity Pulitzer prize-winning Art Spiegelman's "Maus" suffered the same attempt at suppression and subsequent reinstatement.

All of this within the context of my class falls under critical race theory, which is one of the new code-words for patriotic culture warriors clueless idiots to get inflamed about. Tongue-in-cheek suggested students could turn me into the academic authorities and administration officials for disseminating leftist propaganda (in a College of Liberal Arts no less) and dreaded critical race theory. This is actually a thing as the bigoted group Turning Point USA currently operates a "Professor Watchlist" for reporting and subsequent harassment of any faculty members who would dare to espouse such dastardly and nefarious topic. But as with all such instances the Streisand effect kicked into overdrive for these titles, rocketing them to the top of best-seller lists - a pure genius move brought to you by the very same folks who repeatedly vote against their own best self-interest.

If your concern here is over the depiction of mice penises then I submit that you lack any sense of morality and basic decency

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