Insights from the Head Boy


Politicians don’t read the polls.
Celebrities don’t read the tabloids.
And cartoonists don’t read each other’s stuff.

All myths.

You may recall an article last week titled, “Bravery in Afghanistan“, in which I gave a brief synopsis of six well-known cartoonists traveling to Afghanistan as part of the USO’s and National Cartoonists Society’s efforts to give back to the troops.

I posted the article and heard nothing from any of them.

At first I thought I went too far and they were angry at me.

Then I realized that, as usual, I was probably being ignored by the greater cartooning society. It’s like when I was in junior high school and ate my lunches alone, invisible to the rest of the student body, left to wallow in my own insignificance and self-loathing. (I also had a confidence problem.)

But then I got an email from “Mr. Nice” – namely Rick Kirkman of the popular cartoon strip Baby Blues. Going back to the junior high school analogy, he is the kid that everyone likes to hang out with and gets elected Student Body President (at our school the title was “Head Boy”) – not for his platform, but because everyone likes him.

Rick “Head Boy” Kirkman sent me commentary on each of the artists who went to Afghanistan, so I thought you might like hearing what a guy who was actually there had to say. Here is part of the original article with Rick’s commentary:

The Afghanistan group included these six guys:

Jeff Keane, President of the National Cartoonists Society (Family Circus) (As our leader, he is sometimes referred to as “Sgt. Rock” – and not after the comic book character.)

Rick note: “Jeff Keane needed a helmet strap extension to get it over his chin.”

Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues, deemed “too nice” by the rest of the group)

Rick: “I may have taken the whole “be prepared” thing a little too far, but you never know when someone’s going to need to borrow a roll of duct tape, a staple gun or shoe stretchers. In hindsight, I may have overpacked a bit–my right arm is now an inch-and-a-half longer than my left.”

Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), standing in front of a raw sewage outlet in Kuwait.

Rick: “Stephan blamed the smell on the sewage outlet in Kuwait, but there was an even nastier smell in Afghanistan that he kept trying to blame on something called the “poo pond.” Pastis in both places. I’m not saying there’s a connection, but…”

Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), on the chair he took with him to Afghanistan.

Rick: “Garry’s throne had to be ditched so we could fit a Chinook helicopter in our cargo plane on the ride home.”

Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine and owner of a caricature empire) – too big to make fun of.

Rick: “Tom fit in so well that we had trouble convincing the army to let him go back with us.”

(Bacon’s note: Translated, that means Tom is too big to make fun of.)

Mike Luckovich (Ed. Cartoonist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The only Southwest Asia “rookie” in the group he pretty much wore this outfit the entire trip. He should have asked a few more questions before packing.

Rick: “Luckovich was quite fetching with his body armor over his tuxedo, but he kept complaining about all the Afghanistan dust ruining his patent leather shoes.”

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Rick and all the cartoonists who traveled to Afghanistan in early November were consistent in praising the quality and hospitality of the men and women they met. As usual, it was the cartoonists who felt humbled by the impressiveness of those who wear the cloth of the nation on the front lines.

I think Rick’s final comment really sums it all up: “Although nobody will admit it, the greatest thrill of the trip was finding out we got groin protection with our body armor this time.”

He has my vote for Student Body President. Thanks Rick, for your insight.

By the way, Tom Richmond has finished his great three-part narrative. (Click on the image to read Part I, then look for the links at the top of the article to get to Parts II and III.)


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