For a long time I've thought I might be half-decent at making comic strips, except for the fact that I can't draw. Like, at all. Not even a little. I can barely print legibly let alone draw a representation of a real physical object. And since I did not think the world needed The Adventures of Stick Figures and a Talking Square nothing has ever come of it.

Eventually I realized that while this skill is not one I possess there are many friends and acquaintances who do. So we're trying something new here today; I wrote out a pseudo-storyboard and text/dialogue and told an artist who has done some comics in the past, "Do with this what you will." Our goal was not to create visually breathtaking art, but rather to try out a different way of making the points I would otherwise make with 1000 words.

Here is, in comic form, the first ten minutes of my Intro to American Government lecture on the 1st Amendment. Since that seems to be in the news these days. I didn't draw squat; that's all on R. O'Brien ( Click to embiggen.


And with that, a Merry Christmas and happy assorted other holidays to all.

48 thoughts on “THE SHIELDS ARE DOWN”

  • grumblebunnie says:

    Sums it up quite nicely. The fact that this concept is so very difficult for so many Americans to grasp is one reason (among many) why we are so fucked.

  • Not a bad comic. Actually a lot better than some of the stuff that's out there, but then again this is only the first one. I would be interested in seeing more if you want to make this a thing.

  • Make this a thing, please.
    Weekly column, monthly column, whatever. This is a refreshing addition to the blog, and will be most very welcome. I'd also be intrigued to see how you handle current events in this form.

    And yes, the concept that "actions have consequences" is a big mental hurdle to many idée fixe people.

  • Awesome comic. Happy Holidays to Ed and all at Gin & Tacos.

    Ed — if you want an annotated example of a "comic script", there's one in the collected Sandman Volume 3 (Dream Country). The comic itself may or may not be to your taste but Gaiman has an interesting discussion of what a comic script needs to do and how he tries to achieve it, which may be helpful for you. (You've mentioned you're not a great fan of Gaiman's wife, but be that as it may he is pretty successful as a comics writer.)

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Hey, Ed, I'm suing your butt!

    You stole my idea – "The Adventures of Stick Figures and a Talking Square."

    Ok, I'll let it slide THIS time. But you'd better watch your ass!!!

    To one and all here, merry, happy… whatever!

    PS: Great job on the comic strip!

  • "Get the fuck out of my house!"

    That is perfect. Great comic, do more of them. Feel free to tackle the 2nd Amendment next. Happy Holidays, Ed. Lose yourself in egg nog. Or something like it.

  • To Ed and all the gang who comment at G&T: may whatever you celebrate be excellent! Thanks for many hours of entertaining and thought-provoking (and sometimes argument-provoking) ideas.

  • So if I send out a Tweet, from a personal account, on my own time, that says "there is no god" and my employer fires me for it, with no job related cause for terminating me, you and the 1st amendment would be cool with that?

    ps "The Adventures of Stick Figures and a Talking Square" already exists, and can be found at

  • Eric the infrequent says:

    If your job is in entertainment and your public persona is inextricably linked to that job, then yes. Just as a fast food worker can be fired for off the clock behavior of they wear their uniform. Companies protect their image.

  • Happy Christmas, commentariat! I hope that you all have very jolly holidays, with respite from the office, or studying, or whatever you customarily do. May 2014 be a terrific year for all.

  • No, Ron. I would not be cool with it, but it would not be a First Amendment issue but rather a consequence of the bullshit right-to-work laws and the destruction of labor unions that your conservative friends have been affecting for two generations.

    Conservatives spend 40 years ensuring that people can be fired on a whim for anything and then whine when it starts happening to them instead of just to socialists, queers, women and hippies. Shocking!

  • State Action Doctrine in cartoon form; nicely done. But I do hope the second ten minutes of lecture included some, um, you know, wrinkles in that blanket? The Heckler's Veto, for instance, or V.O. Key's "informal" discriminations that befell early civil rights activists? Just because it's not a First Amendment issue for private actors to fire people, or refuse to rent to them, or to decline to deal with them in their stores, doesn't mean it's not a freedom-of-speech thing.

    And bah, humbug, everybody.

  • … also ditto grumpygradstudent: The landscape of freedom-of-speech protections is not coextensive with First Amendment jurisprudence. Quite often when you have the right to say or to believe something, the textual source is somewhere other than in the Bill of Rights.

  • Great strip. Yes, make it a regular thing as much as your nigh-crippling self-loathing will allow. (Seriously, get over that. I get it, but get over it.)

    What I find hilarious about conservatives (well, Murdochian conservatives) complaining about the consequences to people like Robertson and Deen and so forth is that they're being insanely inconsistent–by citing the First Amendment, they're essentially asking the federal government to step in and legislatively redress a decision made in the private sector.

    To wit:

    Robertson: "[Some ignorant shit that, as others have noted, we should not be surprised he believes.]"

    Gay/Black Community: "We found that seriously offensive, and we are no longer going to spend our money on the advertisers who support your show or the network that airs it, and we are going to actively encourage others to do the same. Just to be clear, this is about money. As in, we have it, and we will no longer give it to you."

    A&E Executives: "Hmm. Well, you guys have a lot of disposable income. And the white-guilt-riddled audience for our channel will in all likelihood want to side with you because they're terrified of being thought racist. So that's a lot of money we're talking about. We'd like to continue to get that money of yours, so in choosing between your money and the money generated by the ignorant asshole, we're going to opt for your money. We've crunched the numbers, and your side had the larger number. Just to be clear, this is about money."

    Fox News: "Hey! No fair! The ignorant asshole said stuff that we totally agree with, and the capitalist system we normally fellate into exhaustion 24/7 responded by making a rational decision based on the interests of shareholders! This will not stand! First Amendment! Government legislative document says you can't! The free market cannot be trusted to do its job!"

    Lewis Carroll: "Seriously, you guys don't need me anymore." (Exits.)

  • I sincerely hope that Hairless Cigar-Chomping Reptilian Humanoid Capitalist Guy has not made his last appearance on G&T.

  • This is fantastic. I dream of a world where everyone has taken this comic's message to heart. Thanks for doing all you do, Ed, and a happy Christmahanukwanzaa spendphase to all.

  • @J Dryden – Your post would have made a good comic strip.

    Ed – Good job and I too vote to make these a regular thing.

    To everyone else; Merry Whatevermas, be safe, I'll be expecting to read you when we all return.


  • Well played, Ed!

    Ron – Your example is orthogonal to the first amendment.

    Look it up.

    ["It" may refer to more than one thing in this context.]

    Happy near-solstice celebration of your choice, everyone.


  • Not an American, but this is an issue that applies everywhere, and I am not so sure that Ron hasn't got a point. As discussed by Charles Pierce here:

    I don't like racism or other hate speech any more than the next guy. But how much worth is freedom of speech if merely saying things that the majority of your society disagrees with can be punished by losing your source of income? Really what is to keep somebody who is concerned about the brand of their university, organization, company, or school from firing you for, say, publicly criticizing the pope or the policies of the current government?

    The logic of you have a right not to be imprisoned for speaking your mind but your boss has the right to fire you for it leads directly to a society where nobody will dare to say anything controversial.

  • Alex, what you are grasping is the contradiction between private property rights and freedom of speech, and the larger issue which is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. A government can claim that all citizens have freedom of speech, but if the majority of those citizens spend most of their day working for a private entity, enforcing their rights to freedom of speech would mean infringing on the property rights of those capitalists. When that kind of conflict arises, it is decided in favor of the capitalist and his property rights. Of course our modern society, especially in America, has been raised to believe that authority and oppression can only come from the state(ignoring why their is a state in the first place and which class it serves).

  • Brilliant! Was traveling yesterday, and this is such a perfect way to start my Christmas morning.

    I'm beginning to sense a bit of a theme in some of your posts (like the one about conscientious objectors): There's a lot of stuff you can do, but you have to accept the consequences.

    That shit blows my mind.

  • To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, the freedom to take the consequences is the freedom on which all the others depend.

  • Arslan,

    You make that sound like a shadowy conspiracy; that is not even necessary. It is enough to build a climate in which institutions are so concerned about appearing "impartial" that any of their employees publicly writing that the prime minister is wrong about policy topic of the moment needs to be censored lest the institution loses funding, or a climate in which a religious mob is braying for the firing of any company employee who publicly says that they find that particular religious tenet irrational.


    I enjoy reading Pratchett's books but this part of his philosophy has always worried me. Every second of his works contains some variant on the cheery idea that somebody walking into the Shades district of Ankh-Morpork has only themselves to blame if they are robbed and murdered, or that somebody who says certain things in the Mended Drum has only themselves to blame if they are killed.

    Please tell me how that is different from "any woman who wears skimpy clothes in a bar has only herself to blame if she gets raped". Among civilized people we call this victim blaming.

    Yes, it is humorous fantasy but he is using it to convey his philosophical and supposedly humanist ideas.

  • Conspiracy? What conspiracy? It's openly coded in the laws guaranteeing private property. A & E is a private corporation, with the purpose of providing profit to its stockholders. Any corporation whose leaders think an employee may have compromised their profitability by their public speech is guaranteed the right to deny them access to their means of production(i.e. their job).

  • @alex: Pratchett's kidding. They are comedic, satirical novels. He is making fun of victim blaming. Duh.

    @arslan and the rest of you stinking commies: merry marxmas! Hope the big guy with the big white beard forcefully redristributed you something nice this year! :)

  • @Alex/ Arslan's debate- I believe it has to do with the level of representation that a person has with the company- ie, if a person is a manager, they are considered an agent of the company. If a junior producer for DD got on facebook and ranted about "dem queers" and didn't public identify himself as a A&E employee, nothing would probably be done. Hell, I bet plenty of people at networks who are not "public faces" have given money to political campaigns, forwarded emails or even worked for political causes and nothing would be done to them- religious and political free speech. Since Duck Dynasty Guy (no, I don't know his name, or care) is a "public figure", he can be considered a representative of the network. And as J Dryden put it, A&E loves the money from advertisers.
    Now, I am rather cynical by nature, and given some of the comments that have come out of the Duck Dynasty clan's mouths as this has continued, I believe that there is no way that any of this isn't planned. I imagine something like this happened:

    Duck Dynasty People- We want more money. We make a shitload of cash for A&E, and dammit, our contract blows.
    DDP- "Hey A&E, we want a new contract".
    A&E Television Exec: "And I want a midget stripper to feed me donuts. Ain't gonna happen. Go fuck yourself, a contract is a contract".
    DDP- *calls agent* Would another network pick us up if we got fired? What, CMT is willing to increase our pay AND get us Carrie Underwood backstage passes? Sweet!
    DDP- Now, how to get fired *thinks*
    DDP- "Hey reporter guy- I'm gonna say some ignorant shit about black people and gays- nothing that will actually alienate any of my customers who buy the Duck Dynasty shit OR that will offend anyone who watches the show enough to make them turn off the channel- just enough to get us fired by A&E."
    A&ETE- "Woah, fuck me! You pissed a lot of people off! I'm gonna fire the DDP"
    A&E Beancounters- "Yeah, most people know they are ignorant already, and while we might lose a sponsor or two, let's not get crazy, these assholes are our gravy train"
    DDP- "Can we get a new contract?"
    A&ETE- "shit, I guess. I love you guys! Which one of you used to be ZZ Top? I'm a big fan!"

    Purely speculation on my part. But it would make sense.

  • Khaled, your speculation is more detailed than my own. I think it's a ploy by DD and/or A&E to get more ratings for the show.

    It's also some great bread and circuses for the masses.

  • eau,

    YMMV. There is never any indication anywhere in his works that this should be seen critically, and it fits right in with his libertarian view of freedom everywhere else in the novels, as in "the choice between forced labor and death is a still a free choice *because consequences*". (A hidden assumption here is, for example, that the appropriate punishment for fraud is a public hanging.)

    Likewise, it is very hard not to walk away from the various night watch novels with the impression that Pratchett considers democracy to be stupid and an enlightened tyranny to be the ideal form of government, and the Aesop of Interesting Times is basically "never try to overthrow an insane, murderous regime because if you are interested in changing things for the better you will invariably turn into a dictator yourself, and the peasants you want to help don't care about politics anyway".

    (Spoilers ahead:) Yes, in the end the Agatean Empire does get a better government, but only through the outside interference of a goddess who has been using all protagonists of the story as pawns. Which just underlines that a core part of Pratchett's political philosophy is to deny the populace any agency. Other authors would have the peasants come to the aid of the heroes at a crucial moment or suchlike.

    Of course, this being humorous novels you can always retreat to the position that he doesn't mean what are very clearly the take home messages of the various stories. Haha, it was all a clever joke! He really means whatever I find most appealing at the moment.

  • 1) That was first class edutainment, and I thank you for it. Going to link to it like crazy.

    2) Turns out people DO want "Adventures of Stick People" so maybe just drop the square:

  • @alex: first off, I would suggest extreme caution when explaining the meaning and intent of any fictional works in which the power of narrative is overtly and repeatedly shown to override things like logic and physics.
    That said, Interesting Times is about China. No, actually, it is about the anglocentric version of china represented in the western histories and literature Pratchett grew up with (the novels of James clavell, for instance). Throw in some references to Robert E Howard, CS Lewis, etc., and you've got yourself a nice little canvas on which to sketch out a few gags/musings about vigilantism, 'might is right', cultural sensitivity, and the law of unintended consequences. Doesn't that sound more like the Pratchett you know and love than some ridiculously simplistic, not to mention ignorant and lazy, take home about democracy being the sucks and 'yay! Librrtarianism!'?

    I'm also pretty sure you're cherry-picking the 'enlightened tyranny' stuff. That system is far more efficient than democracy, no question. Better? No. And Pratchett hasn't, and wouldn't, say that is. Unless he was kidding, of course.

  • Aaaaaaaand we can put this one to bed, inasmuch as, per my scenario, A&E re-crunched the numbers and figured "Oh shit–looks like the bigot's side of the spread-sheet is larger after all. Fuck it–we'll call it 'free speech' and be done with it." See, Fox Newsies? The free market will ultimately give you what you want, inasmuch as what you want is the lowest common denominator of human sludge.

  • The free market will ultimately give you what you want, inasmuch as what you want is the lowest common denominator of human sludge.

    I now consider myself enlightened, having discovered what both Duck Dynasty and Cracker Barrel are. (Apparently the latter withdrew their Duck Dynasty merchandise from sale before discovering that explicit racism and homophobia was exactly what their customer base liked in a horizontally-marketed reality TV tie-in.)

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