Comics Censorship


I’m breaking out of my normal routine today to tell you about a blog post by one of my friends and syndicated cartoonist colleagues, Rina Piccolo. Rina draws a popular cartoon strip called “Tina’s Groove,” and, just like the rest of us whose main income comes from newspaper cartoons, is subject to the ludicrously (and I use that word literally) puritanical standards of newspaper comics. We’ve all had comics pulled from our lineup that wouldn’t even be called “edgy” in any other form of mainstream comedy because they could result in our features being cancelled in a given market. Rina describes the situation and reasons behind this phenomenon rather eloquently and it offers an interesting view into the behind-the-scenes workings of the syndicated comics world.

If you’ve ever wondered why webcomics are so funny and newspaper comics are so damned dull, read her short post.

Thanks, Rina, for articulating the kind of disappointment we’ve all felt about this.

Tina's Groove



14 thoughts on “Comics Censorship

    • Actually, Phelps, it is precisely because of what happened in Garland, TX that we should be worked up over this censorship, indeed, any censorship. The founders of this nation warned about the tyranny of the minority. Today we have to contend with the tyranny of the vocal minority with an Internet connection and access to a worldwide audience.

    • Are you referring to my deafening silence or the lack of general news coverage over it? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t comment on this kind of thing because it has nothing to do with cartooning. But since you seem to be asking––that kind of event is organized by politically-motivated bigots who want to cause trouble, not by legitimate artists who have something important to say on the subject. None of the artists involved have a decent comic idea that requires a rendering of Muhammed to get their point across, they’re just inventing idiotic excuses to incite radical Muslims to violence. They get their wish, then they shout “free speech”. Our famous Freedom of Speech is about the relationship between U.S. citizens and our government; it has nothing to do with being protected from other citizens who don’t like what you draw, regardless of their rationale. If a crazy person lived down the street from you and became violent anytime he heard a Beatles song, and you set up speakers in front of his house to play Beatles songs then got shot at, I wouldn’t call that an offense to your “free speech” and you’d get no sympathy from me.

      Just my two cents.

      • That is exactly what I would have liked to have said to my brother when he asked what I thought about that attack. You got it right. Thanks Dan!

  1. When I was in university 35 years ago and Bizarro was just starting out, it was kind of amazing to see Dan Piraro negotiate the daily papers and still get in some pointy commentary here and there. I think it’s because his humour is “bizarre” and nobody’s going to understand it anyway, so editors don’t see it as a threat. But even Moderately Subversive is good to see in a newspaper.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Greg. I should mention that I’ve had quite a few gags stifled over the years for ridiculous reasons, too, which is why Rina’s editorial inspired me to draw attention to it.

  2. It’s not censership that matters here. It’s treating others as you would like to be treated. Those cartoon people in Garland broke that law knowing full well that Moslums don’t like it.

  3. Don’t you just love it – religious fairy tales and fantasies and miracles presented to children as real; and actual interpersonal relationships and sexual phenomena, even mainstream, hidden behind the blackout curtain!

    By the way, I haven’t used a period as punctuation in this comment, lest it be known that it is likely a depiction of an overheated prophet from some desert region . . .

  4. I suspect this type of thing happened to my two all-time favorite strips, Bloom County and Doonesbury. Struggling with the editors and so-called critics gets exhausting after a while.

    If a kid under 13 understood the implications of that comic strip, he or she already knew about the act — and that’s the responsibility of the parent, not the media.

  5. Hi, Dan:

    You are moving beyond your own sight lines to become a critic and teacher about what you do, what gets into mainstream, what doesn’t. It’s late, and I am exhausted, but I plan to read this, and no doubt as a life long in depth comics fan who has an original Dan O’Neill Were Chicken special in our living room next to the piano, I’ll have my two bits to say about the horrendous decline in mainstream newspaper comics pages.

    Your own work has grown on me over the years, and there is little more fun than watching a young talent find his voice, refine his act, and, if we are lucky, push his act beyond entertainment to necessary social commentary and satire. You are on the move on all fronts.

    Now, here, you are starting to talk about necessary topics that amount to soft censorship. In short, we are now at a point in the daily strips where in Baby Blues one can pick noses, in Argyle Sweater, dogs can sniff each other’s butts and worse, and Zits can start off with a name that can make old guys like me retch. After all, it is breakfast time, and smelly diapers can be joked about some other time.

    Times are changing in that regard. But what seldom happened is thinking. Trudeau fights a valiant rear guard action, and Wiley’s Non Sequitor is a brilliant new addition, as is Candorville. Luanne amazes in that strip’s ability to take stereotypes out of stereotypes and allow them to take on dimension.

    All of this is good enough, and at least tonight I am refraining from my thoughts about such as Sally Forth and Rex Morgan (our paper is the Santa Rosa Press Democrat).

    But with rare exception it is Trudeau who pushes it in political satire. Now more and more you are joining. That takes courage in this very dangerous world. Congratulations. More to come as time passes…

    John Dinwiddie
    Santa Rosa, CA

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