Not Forgetting


Bizarro is brought to you today by September 11th.

If you’ve looked at today’s comics online or in the paper, you will have noticed that a large number of them are commemorating the 9/11/01 attack on NYC. Months ago, all of us in the industry were asked to do something in today’s comic for the anniversary. I suspect most cartoonists complied, though I’ve only seen a handful of them so I can’t be sure.

I decided to decline for reasons I’m not completely certain of, to be honest. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to me. I suppose I want Bizarro to be about humor as opposed to predictable, scheduled sentimentality. I don’t mean to diminish the suffering the event caused, of course, but I couldn’t very well make a “joke” about it (it just isn’t funny) and a somber, “never forget” cartoon seems hollow to me.

Another aspect of it, I think, is that I’m not affected by sentimentalist patriotism in general. I usually find that kind of obvious display a little insulting, to be honest. Of course it was horrible, of course our country will not forget, of course our hearts go out to the many thousands of people who lost someone they knew that day. It seems trivial to have a cartoon character announcing that. I think of Bizarro as being like a miniature comedy show. If I had something funny to say about 9/11, I’d have done it just as I would in a comedy show. But for people to come to a comedy club to see a stand-up comic make a patriotic speech commemorating a tragedy then walk off stage, would be ridiculous.

I live in NYC and have since spring 2002––just six months after the attack––so I’ve seen a lot of the effects of this tragedy first hand. My wife was less than a mile away from “Ground Zero” when it happened, knew several of the victims, and has shared with me her memories of that day and the weeks that followed many times. I do not disparage my colleagues who participated in today’s comics commemoration; we each have our own views and act accordingly. But something about the concept made me uncomfortable from the beginning. This post has been my first attempt at trying to articulate why I didn’t participate. Thanks for listening. If you have thoughts about today that you’d like to share, your comments are welcome.

By the way––hope you got a smile from the anthropomorphic tooth gag.


49 thoughts on “Not Forgetting

  1. I can totally agree with ‘ya here….it is really a lot of “sentimentalist patriotism” induced for scheduled — not that I’m against any of it in essence — but too many (politicians in particular ) seem way too motivated to drum it all of it up to be a lot more than it really is. Yes, it was a horrific and atrocious act by (essentially) religious zealots and it should not be taken too lightly or forgotten, but that doesn’t mean it should be fluffed-up with excessive meaning. Humanity is just obsessed with these petty rituals.

  2. Wow, until now, I couldn’t find the words to express why I object to 9/11 being “remembered/never forgotten” to a sickening degree. You helped me to articulate to myself my own feelings about the matter. It’s like the families of those affected are not allowed to have peace, until someone destroys all the footage of September 11th. I can’t imagine watching TV today and going, “Well, there’s your uncle Frank again. Look how fast he’s falling! He always was the fastest in the family!” which seems to be the only frame of mind that would allow one touched by the tragedy to enjoy the reopening of such horrific wounds on a yearly basis. Wounds can’t heal if they aren’t forgotten. But then again, we still have more innocent “Brown People” to kill, so I guess the wound’s healing would be a bad thing. Imagine all that money instead going to waste on liberal things like education or the arts or even full college tuition for every child affected by the tragedy.

  3. Just 10 more hours and this Fetishistic Maudlin Media Event will be over and my RSS feeds will be worth reading again. A round of applause and smoochies to you Dan for having integrity. Years ago I was in the audience of a playhouse to see a comical play when the director did in fact come out before the opening curtain to Demand a moment of silence for some tragedy, ten seconds before the curtain opened on a farce. It was emotionally manipulative whiplash and I found it wholly distasteful. My partner viewed it as grandstanding.

    Thanks for being above that. All this professed self-pity is embarrassing.

  4. For me the political actions in the following months (wars and laws) got me at least as upset as the actual morning. A bad time. It is clear that we have to honor the victims for the sake of their families, and the first responders for their bravery, but as far as remembering the morning itself- to what end?

    Humor time: regarding the tooth (a tooth with teeth), a clip from Futurama:

  5. Pingback: My feelings on Comics and 9/11 The Daily Cartoonist

  6. Remember that WWF ad ‘a tsunami kills more people than 9/11’?

    Since 9/11 2011, america has gone to war with two countries and killed 100,000+ civilians. Say, if an iraqi/afghani life is lesser than that of an american life, the rationale would be acceptable if the number of american troops dead in the war was lesser than the 9/11 tragedy itself. Nope, doesnt add up.

    Ten years after 9/11, america has only succeeded in making the world a more fractured, insecure, xenophobic place to live in. 

    And for that, i’m truly sorry.

  7. That’s a tremendously thoughtful post, Dan. I faced some of the same dilemmas in thinking about today. I don’t think remembrance cartoons have to necessarily slide into mawkish sentimentality (although that view requires me to ignore the vast majority of editorial cartoons about, well, any tragedy).

    But my personal connection to 9/11 is tenuous; my first visit to New York City happened many months after the attacks. Compassion for the victims and their families, admiration for the first responders, outrage at the ongoing aftermath – I feel all of these, but this is all well-tilled ground, and nothing I was inspired to draw would have added to the huge volume of commentary on those subjects.

    Instead, I reflected on my personal experience of 9/11. I’m in Vancouver, so that experience came a great distance from those attacks, but I imagine it was shared by many others: the shock, the fear, and the gradual emergence of a new equilibrium. The result wasn’t exactly somber, but it is reflective, and it’s definitely a departure from the usual for my cartoon.

    That worked for me. But if it hadn’t, then I wasn’t about to add one more shadows-of-the-twin-towers cartoon to the world’s overloaded inventory. And that’s why your post resonated strongly with me.

    Also, I guffawed at the anthropomorphic tooth gag. Especially at the eyeball sitting on the sofa, hinting at the untold horrors these people must have endured before they finally handed over their stash of cellophane-wrapped toothbrushes.

  8. Yup, I’m on the same page as you about this. I find the whole ‘Rememberance’ to be not to my liking. And for those who seem to thrive on trying to relive that day, and uber patriotism -and drama for that matter- to be smug. Your right Dan, we all feel for the victims and their family’s. Some of which are my own co-workers. But to close down an entire industry of Cartoonist and ask that they all instead draw a funeral march is not helping with coping with that day.

    Honestly, I think for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 I’m going to leave America for about a week and find some Zen on the other side of the planet and get away from the self-pity.

  9. I saw the original art on display at MoCCA, and I agree. Some strips do a decent job (Heathcliff, surprisingly), but other, like Barney Google, are just too earnest.

    It always seems that way whenever one of these “very special” comic strip events occur. It’s kind of like changing your Facebook photo to help raise awareness for some cause… What does it accomplish?

  10. I understand how you feel…..It was sort of strange to see the tributes in the comics this morning….but, I don’t know why…I respect all the cartoonists who did acknowledge 911 and there is a reason for that perspective, too. My Brother lives in New York and was asleep when it happened. His wife called him from Kentucky and informed him. He lived in Greenwich Village at the time..he went on his roof and saw….He is a Jazz musician and had a weekly gig at a restaurant in one of the towers…..He still lives and performs in New York and now lives in an apt. near Times Square.. It is especially for artist, writers, musicians etc… I have no idea how people living in New York must feel…Only you guys do..

  11. OH!! and I like Mr. Toothy on so many levels..Reminds me of my own bad tooth that just won’t go away no matter how many toothbrushings or dental flossings I throw at it!

  12. When my syndicate asked me to participate in the remembrance of 9/11 I quietly declined for many of the same reasons you mentioned here. 9/11 was a mass murder of innocent people and the reaction since compounded those murders with the killing of even more innocents….to commemorate this in a comic strip seemed disrespectful to those who died.

  13. my cartoon was easy to come up with, because it’s a reprint of what I wrote 10 years ago (minus a couple of weeks). I understand exactly what you man, and for what it’s worth, I think John Yamnicky would feel the same way…

  14. Dan, periodically you write something that moves my respect for you another small notch higher. I can seldom find anything but heartfelt agreement with what you write.

    And I really like your blog and your cartoons.

    Regards, Joe

  15. I think I agree. Everyone in media today feels the need to make note of what happened, even ordinary radio djs, and I find it refreshing that you are choosing not to comment. It doesn’t mean you don’t remember, find it sad, etc, etc, but comic strips are not necessarily the right format for such a thing.

  16. Dan, you nailed it. The pablum a lot of you colleagues drew up ran the gamut from dumb-sentimental to jingoistic. Comics should be funny, editorial cartoons sharp and cutting, the cloying dreck Young & Marshall (Blondie) or Steve Sicula (Home & Away) put out is just horrible. Scott & Borgman (Zits) found a way to internalize it and make it kinda work. But the really good ones stayed away like you (Amend, Pastis, Conley, Mallet) or turned it on its ear (Trudeau, Alcaraz, Bell). I guess more people than you think agree with your view of things….

  17. I agree with you completely, and after all is said and done, my agreement is unimportant at best. I personally am ready to “put this all to bed.” Our national retaliation has changed very little, except perhaps discouraged possibly, a repeat performance. I don’t read Bizarro for topical commentary or sympathetic folderol. I follow your strip because the interpretation of same requires the use of your brain. How rare in today’s 20 millisecond entertainment bursts. I find your mini-apology surprising but be that as it may. I understand what all the emotional out pouring is based on today, for me it is akin to peeling back the nearly formed scab away, simply to see if it hurts.

    Leave it alone, move on, allow for healthy healing. Thank you for all your craziness.

    In our world as it is, we need more laughter, more escape, more skewed humor.

    G.W. Dodd

    Bellingham, WA

  18. Honestly, it was really nice to have some comics like yours not be about remembering 9/11 and what not. I want to read the comics to be entertained, to laugh and not have to think about serious and sad and tragic things that have happened. So because of that I found myself frustrated by certain comics that had an extreme patriotic message or only said “Never Forget” and what not. So… thank you, it was rather refreshing!

  19. Well said, Dan. My wife and I went on a full media blackout yesterday to avoid the saturation coverage that we felt certain would depress us without adding anything to our understanding of the event or its lasting impact. Reading the comics section undid my plan, though I thought some of them were well done and not overly obvious. Others…not so much.

    And Toothy…does he floss his own little meta-teeth?

  20. It’s like that obligatory clapping you get on a talk show when someone says, “No woman should be abused by a man.” Well, yeah. Does the audience really think they’re expressing profound thoughts by applauding such obvious sentiments?

  21. Thanks for a really insightful message, Dan.

    We had an interesting discussion at our house yesterday. My GF said that she objects to making heroes out of people who just happened to be the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s absolutely tragic what happened, but it doesn’t make them into heroes any more than it does you or me. I think the heroes are the ones who risked (and sometimes lost) their lives, not just happened to be there. (And I work for a company that lost 100+ people there.)

  22. I love Mr. Toothy. I am a graphic artist at a dental college and have had to use similar tooth images way too many times. I’m enlarging this cartoon and hanging it in my office to keep me smiling. Thanks.

  23. I wanted to rush in, throw myself at your feet and sob my gratitude for your NOT going along with what has been memorably called a “manufactured occasion for forced solemnity.” Do you suppose that now we can hope not to repeat this maudlin fiasco until, say, the 100th anniversary? And really, why do we need to “commemorate” a tragedy none of us will ever ever forget? Thank you for the whisp of sanity in the howling gale of kitsch.

  24. I’m glad you didn’t give in to the calls to participate in the calls for “remembrance.” I think that years from now, these cartoons that attempt to do so will be seen as giving justification and cover for the militaristic vengeance that we’re continuing to exact, much like the propaganda cartoons that were rampant during WWII.

    A couple days ago I wrote something that puts some much-needed perspective on 9/11:

    Dan, you might appreciate where I go with it. :)

  25. I tried to avoid the expected TV rehashing this tragedy. I don’t know why;

    I’m a proud American citizen with all it’s flaws. I’ve read some comments

    from your fans and they have expressed what I felt guilty about. I’m guessing

    the media simply feel it is their duty to talk about and interview for the whole

    week; they cannot do any less than their competition. I appreciate your honesty

    and how well you expressed yourself.

  26. Well said, in that you captured a feeling that is hard to nail down, yet nail it down you did. To me, the events before, during and after 9/11 were like a horrible traffic accident, followed by a revenge plot that continues to kill and maim thousands, physically and psychologically. A lot of money has been made off of the ensuing military adventure, but to what purpose, aside from making money for the few, the positioned, the corporate masters? How do I commemorate the capitalization of state-sanctioned murder? 9/11 will not be forgotten during our lives–it is a strange scar, a hollow wound. Peace to all.

  27. Thanks for not wearing your sorrow on your sleeve. This syndrome is in the same vein as candlelight vigils and roadside memorials. It’s not about the victims. It’s “Look at me! I can mourn with the best of them”!

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