(WARNING: If the above cartoon seems blurry and/or difficult to read, seek medical attention immediately. Or, just click on it and look at a larger version.)
About a month ago, I took a week off from my 365-new-cartoons-a-year-for-23-years schedule and another cartoonist filled in for me. He did seven cartoons, but this Sunday panel printed many weeks later than the Monday through Saturday ones, because my own production schedule isn’t in sync.
This parody of the children’s book classic, The Little Prince, seems innocuous enough at first glance, but apparently possesses a seedy underbelly that is roiling with controversy. Read this letter sent to the editor of a major North American newspaper:
We once called the comic strips the funny pages. Why are they no
longer funny? The bulk of the current offerings are negative, some
verging on the abhorrent. In this latter category, I place this
feeble attempt at humor. At best, it elicits a sigh of disgust. At
worst, it mocks The Little Prince, the wartime masterpiece by Antoine
de Saint-Exupery. This runaway world best seller may be understood on
several levels. It captivates as a children’s tale. It symbolically
tells the story of creation. At its peak, it is the autobiography of
a sensitive and lost soul dedicating his work to a dear friend in need
of consolation. The friend is cold and hungry in Nazi-occupied
France, while the author is safe in New York. Lines for the story
appear in every book of quotations. “It is only with the heart that
one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (The
original French is even more beautiful.) Writing like that deserves
better treatment than an ill-considered distortion.
I’ve seen many such letters over the years from readers who did not like the way I treated a religious or political topic, but never one about a piece of literature. I never quibble with a person’s opinion of a creative effort, we all have our individual opinions and perspective, which is part of what makes art interesting. But as a humorist, I don’t feel that any topic is above parody under the right circumstances.
I also wonder who this reader sees as the victim of this “ill-considered” act. I don’t believe in victimless crimes. To me it is simple: no victim–no crime. That’s why I don’t believe in laws against things like gay marriage, marijuana, physician-assisted suicide, or parody. Imagined victims are a big part of our society, however. I’ve gotten many letters over the years from people who object to my putting the hidden stick of dynamite in my cartoons for fear it will “give ideas to terrorists”. If a terrorist is getting his ideas from the funny pages, he’s much more likely to be a danger to himself than to any of us.
All this aside, the most curious line in the letter is this one: We once called the comic strips the funny pages. Why are they nolonger funny?
Since when have newspaper comics ever been funny?