Minority Comics Hold 'Sketch In'
LIANE HANSEN, host:
In the comic section of your newspaper today, some of you may see something you don't normally see. A demonstration. Call it a sketch-in. Eleven minority cartoonists have drawn their own version of the same strip to underline the lack of diversity on the comics page.
The idea was inspired by Cory Thomas, the creator of Watch Your Head. It's a comic strip about a group of black friends in college. Cory Thomas is in our studio. First of all, welcome to the program.
Mr. CORY THOMAS (Creator, Watch Your Head): Thanks for having me.
HANSEN: Describe the strip that you and others have drawn.
Mr. THOMAS: It's pretty much a strip that kind of addresses the fact that a lot of people assume that minority cartoons are interchangeable, despite the fact that they're really diverse in theme, location, styles of humor and all of that. So it pretty much plays on the fact that some people find them to be interchangeable.
HANSEN: So what you're saying is for a black comic strip artist to actually get published in a newspaper it's hard because most people think that, well, if we've got one black strip that's all we need.
Mr. THOMAS: Well, first of all for a new cartoonist in general it's difficult to get into newspaper because that real estate is shrinking. That's an extra hurdle that black cartoonists have to face where when grouping together cartoons based on theme, a lot of people will group together black strips with black being considered the theme when really it's not a theme at all. The black strips are as diverse in tone and character and visual style as any other strip.
HANSEN: And the newspapers, there's no problem with this, they're all participating?
Mr. THOMAS: Yeah. I mean, the material isn't particularly objectionable or anything. And I think people might be expecting something a little more militant than what it actually is. So I don't think what we actually have out there is anything that newspapers would object to.
HANSEN: Yeah, but it's just getting a point across.
Mr. THOMAS: Yeah, pretty much.
HANSEN: Why did you choose to put it in the strips today?
Mr. THOMAS: The dates as close as we could get to the Sunday, to the birthday of one of the pioneers of black comic strips, Ollie Harrington.
HANSEN: So how do you think the strips are going to be received by the readers?
Mr. THOMAS: First of all, I expect a lot of eye rolling. You know, here we go again, more complaints, whatever. I just want to, like, make sure that people understand that no one is asking for affirmative action, no one is asking for a special place or an extra place for black strips or anything like that. Just equal footing, just a removal of that one hurdle. And if we could achieve that most of us would be happy.
HANSEN: Cory Thomas is the artist for the comic strip Wash Your Head. His and other comic strips appearing in today's paper are making a statement about the lack of diversity in the comics. And, Cory, thank you for coming in.
Mr. THOMAS: Thank you for having me.
(Soundbite of music)
HANSEN: This is NPR News.
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