No cartoon today, guys (please, hold your applause). Instead, a little story.
As some of you know, I moved to Canada in the mid-80s, and the simple act of crossing that border had a profound impact on my view of the world, not the least of which was watching the nightly news on that quaint old-school medium, the television. This was, after all, the mid-80s, long before the Internet was an accepted form of getting information and news about the world around you.
I left the US partly in fulfillment of a promise to someone no longer with us and partly for political reasons. After seeing this country thrown into the wringer by the Reagan, Carter, and Bush I regimes, I decided I'd had it. It didn'tt appear things were going to change all that much, not at the governmental level anyway, so off I went.
Seeing Canada now as a resident on his way to citizenship as opposed to a casual visitor, I was almost immediately struck by one very big shift in attitude. And what made that apparent was the evening news.
(Bear with me. This is all relevant.)
I'm an information junkie, no doubt about it. Politics, pop cuture, even (shudder!) sports -- you name it: I love it all. So while the CBS Evening News was part of my old regimen, the CBC Evening News was part of my new one. And what surprised me almost immediately was how American news broadcasts were very US-centric, while Canadian news was more international, with information shared from news agencies and networks like BBC World Report. A crisis in Southeast Asia wasn't seen for the impact it might have on Wall Street: it was reported for the impact it would have on the citizens of that specific country. If a plane crashed in Europe, you didn't find the focus to be on the three Americans aboard, but the 247 people from around the world who died because it happened.
Now, don't misunderstand: yes, it makes sense that the US would want to focus on itself when telling us about these things. But here's the difference: when you're in the US, all you know is what's going on in the US and its impact here. When you're outside the US, to be blunt, it's no longer just about this one country.
And that was never more apparent than when I moved temporarily back to North Carolina. Thanks to the Internet, I could keep up with the stories involving Canada and Finland and Japan and South Africa. I didn't have to listen to an endless stream of now-repetitive "news" about GOP gaffes and Democrat blunders and the never-ending wars in the Middle East -- which, let's face it, don't even need to be reported anymore. All three of those have brought "cut and paste news" to a new, very low level.
The Wall Street-generated economic meltdown impacted more than the poor and middle class here, but you'd never really know it, would you? How banks across Europe got snookered into derivatives, and what the resulting fall-out did internationally was somehow lost in the shuffle because, to most Americans, it didn't matter. The frame of reference stopped at the border.
Sometimes, when working on "Doc and Raider," I forget that some folks don't look at things outside their immediate sphere, and cultural obscurity can result. Yes, there has been a Barbie movie -- eight of them, actually, all of which are pretty dreadful with downright weird CG animation. But they must be huge sellers, for some bewildering reason, because Mattel keeps making them.
Yes, there's a guy named George ("I Guarantee It!") Zimmer who runs a nation-wide company called Men's Warehouse -- it's been around for decades and advertises extensively not only on TV but in print and the Net. The clothes are of marginally acceptable quality for those in a mid-business career and pretty much epitomize the "upwardly mobile businessman" in a frighteningly shallow and simplistic way: you won't find much beyond gray pinstripe -- and yet the chain, like the Barbie movies, has been wildly successful, carving out its own spot on American culture. It's the McDonald's of tailored suits.
I cite those two examples because comments coming back from some folks here, some privately, some not, find the recent cartoons "bewildering" and "stupid" because they didn't get the references. Initially, that surprised me, seriously, until I stopped, thought about it, and realized that Bilerico, like many other places on the web, is, through no fault of its own, sometimes very inward-looking. Face it: with few exceptions, a lot of the discussion here centers around ENDA, DADT, NOM, and... well, for the most part, that's about it. That's not surprising: those are major issues for the GLBT community here. But to be honest, I find it difficult to get worked up about them because Canada, like other enlightened countries around the world, has moved beyond these issues and resolved them... and so have I.
Now hold off on the torches and pitchforks, okay? You guys know where I stand on ENDA and DOMA and DADT and how I feel that the chance of any of those getting handled straight-up runs the equivalent of that proverbial snowball's chances in the lower levels of Hell. I will be shocked if DADT is dealt with anytime before January 2013, if then. I find the delays unsurprising -- and unavoidable, given the political climate in this country. So forgive my lack of shock when Pelosi puts them on the back shelf yet again.
Does this mean I'm insensitive to the plight of folks in the States? No. Does it mean that, as an artist, I ignore my obligation to help fight the good fight? Not at all. Anyone who reads the comic at the blogsite knows that DnR takes on these issues -- and more. But I'm not going to be handcuffed by them either.
It's a big world out there, folks -- one with social injustice and piss-poor Barbie movies. The latter may not seem like much to you, but, through my little character Didi, I can take a slight jab at their utter ridiculousness in their presentation of women. "Doc and Raider" isn't an editorial cartoon, nor was it ever meant to be. Rather, it's my sometimes cynical bewilderment at what the world in toto has become.
I have a lot of stories to tell about these folks: about a woman realizing she can be more than a downtrodden housewife, about a couple separated by not only an international border but language itself. These are not LGBT issues per se: they are the kinds of things that affect us all, whether straight or gay or black or white or Christian or Muslim.
But more than anything else, DnR is a reflective work, my holding a small mirror up to the world around it and reflecting back in my own unique way. "But it's not funny!" I hear on occasion as well. Well, sometimes it's not because it's not meant to be. Sometimes it's just an observation, like sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Yes, when it started running here, I was pretty concerned at the lack of response (right, Bil?). I was told, for example, "It's all CG and I hate that so I never read it". Yeah, that stung (who doesn't want their work at least considered before dismissed so out of hand?), but I've resolved that within myself as well. If you get it and want to tell me so, great. If not, that's okay too. If it's bewildering and stupid and you think it should come with annotations, yup, that's okay too.
As for the future of the strip, I have no plans to change it: it will still remain bewildering and stupid to some readers. That's because I have no intention of following the well-trod paths of strips like Troy, which by the way is a fun comic. Still, that wouldn't be me -- that would be me trying to be like the guy who creates Troy, and I'd prefer not to do that, if it's all the same to you.
For whatever its response, Doc and Raider will continue to be something that looks at society and politics and pop culture and even (shudder!) sports, as well as the GLBT community... and even Barbie movies. If you get it, great. If not... well, in the Grand Scheme of Things, it probably doesn't matter, does it?
If you've been staying with the current bewildering storyline, it'll be resolved on the blogsite this weekend. That's docandraider.blogspot.com.