Friday, November 6, 2020

Weapon of the People: DECODED — Gag-A-Day Political Cartoons by M. Rasheed

 

Click for full cartoon image folio on Instagram

“The musicians I knew in the late ‘50s had gone through that transition; suddenly they looked different and their music changed. I’m listening to people like Buffalo Springfield and I’m listening to Bob Dylan… I’m listening to these people and I realized  – these artists are using their talent to project their feelings and ideas, not just please people. And I suddenly was able to see my place and to realize I was in the wrong place.” ~George Carlin; Foundation Interviews (EmmyTVLegends.org)

“I went to a toddler group last week. Sometimes I do this obviously because I want to hang out with my daughter, but sometimes the material that comes out of going to something like that is GOLD. Now it’s me, fifteen women and a gay guy at this toddler group, right? So, I mean, it’s just like… it’s writing… it writes itself. I’m in a circle sitting Indian style… it’s strange, but man! That’s the things that I want to do ‘cause I feel if I live more of my life I could draw so much more humor from it.” ~Sebastian Maniscalco; Joe Rogan Experience #1237
     

A young anti-racism activist and his close-nit extended family, gather supplies and equipment for the coming "Revolution" as they observe and comment upon the turbulent socio-political landscape of the United States of America. The regular cast of characters may sometimes include the president of the United States and other prominent figures.

This series takes the form of Gag-a-Day editorial cartoons.

(2019 Best Comic Strip or Webcomic)

**************************

Muhammad Rasheed - On 16 Oct 2020, I finally got around to updating the Weapon of the People logo, switching it from the 'Pan-Africanist' red, black & green over to the red, white & blue of Old Glory. I hesitated after I had long already changed the colors over on my little Activist protagonist's tunic, because I really struggled with the decision. I even mapped the process of working towards my final decision out in public within a short series of cartoons:


Rasheed, Muhammad. "No Luxury for Slacking." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 26 Nov 2019. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2019/11/no-luxury-for-slacking.html>



Rasheed, Muhammad. "Now Pre-Registering for the Pan-African Ideal." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 27 Nov 2019. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2019/11/now-pre-registering-for-pan-african.html>



Rasheed, Muhammad. "Faith in a Higher Ideal." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 03 Dec 2019. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2019/12/faith-in-higher-ideal.html>



Rasheed, Muhammad. "To Stand not High, but Alone." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 04 Dec 2019. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2019/12/to-stand-not-high-but-alone.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - I'm of Generation X; I turn 50 yrs old later this very month. My whole life, as a child of the 'Integration' era I've been told that 'Pan-Africanism' is the key to finally conquering the global blight of the White Supremacist Ideology and the anti-Black systemic racism for which it stands. As I explained in my Activist character's profile entry from the FREE! Weapon of the People eBook, I created him as the ultimate anti-racism super activist who uncompromisingly represents the highest ideals of the Black Empowerment struggle — he was supposed to represent ALL Black people as a righteous symbol. 

And then I got my feelings hurt.

After The First Black President, Inc.® came and went, his biggest, most enthusiastic supporters — the Black American former slave class that he pandered to the most — found ourselves more impoverished than we were after George W. Bush's two-terms. This shocking state of affairs shook many of us out of the 'Integration' bamboozle and forced us to look deep into our political situation. The result of that painful and embarassing soul searching was the rise of the American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) political unification movement. Founded by Los Angeles, CA attorney Antonio Moore and former Democratic Party Congressional aide Yvette Carnell, the two potent, data-driven activist/political analysts inspired an organic grassroots movement  — with the people themselves forming #ADOS chapters in every major city across the country — dedicated to achieving the long overdue #Reparations and economic inclusion into a protected wealth-building ownership class, righteous Justice deliberately withheld from our ethnic group since the chattel slave institution was officially abolished. The #ADOS movement pointedly fought for the needs of our ethnic group identified along our unique lineage & heritage (instead of melanin) so we could target our government with the specificity of our group's specific justice claim. Considering all of the "black solidarity" and "Pan-African" talk my generation had been hearing continuously since we arrived on the planet 50 something years ago, one would think that "our Black brothers & sisters" — particularly the immigrants we were most in contact with — would not only be happy for this political awakening, but would be happy to support us in our fight. 

This would not be the case.


Rasheed, Muhammad. "The Ridiculous Hurdle of Fake Pan-African Skinfolk." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 21 Sep 2020. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2020/09/the-ridiculous-hurdle-of-fake-pan.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - Black immigrant-tied Americans, Caribbean natives and overseas Africans alike went on the warpath and immediately started attacking the #ADOS movement. Most notably, high profile immigrant-tied figures like the rapper character Talib Kweli and journalist-broadcaster talking heads Joy Anne Reid and Roland Martin began viciously slandering the movement, its founders and activists in clear efforts to tear down the rapidly rising movement before it could gain further momentum. Initial efforts of the ADOS activists to patiently explain that our fight to enfranchise and empower our own ethnic group, after a century and a half of struggling as an exploited wealthless bottom caste in this country we built, was not an attack against or snubbing of the rest of the Black diaspora, but our efforts to educate the oddly hostile mob of skinfolk were futile. 


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Root Cause of A Divided Diaspora." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 24 May 2020. Pen &amp; ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2020/05/root-cause-of-divided-diaspora.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - It was clear that what was taking place was a formal mobilization of rival Black ethnic groups designed to keep ADOS subjugated on behalf of white supremacy. The only thing we could do to pushback against this sloppy treachery was to keep fighting for our own group unification and economic uplift until we finally achieve the strength of political capital to force others to respect us. In these final hours before we find out which side won the 2020 presidential election, #ADOS are still in that fight.


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Bringing the Division with Them." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 23 Sep 2020. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2020/09/bringing-division-with-them.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - The heartbreaking and disappointing truth of this narrative, revealing the colossal lie of "Pan-Africanism" to be nothing more than a myth, is what drove my decision to not only strip my new cartoon series' brand of the RBG colors, but to replace them with the full support of the #ADOS movement, making my main protagonist an active advocate of the formal mission. The more the artist learns and masters the complex politics involved, the more accurately my character will reflect it. I'm proud to dedicate my art to fighting for my people and I'm glad to have stumbled upon the #ADOS movement during my own independent study.  

Muhammad Rasheed -  I'm actually surprised to find myself today as a self-identified political cartoonist, since I've spent the majority of my artist identity as a dedicated genre creator and devoted fan. Although I had never shied away from adding socio-political observations to my work before, I would have never dreamed that the focus of my work would ever wander into the "artivism" realm. I'll use this space to walk the interested reader through the journey of how I arrived here.

Muhammad Rasheed - Back in 2007 or so, I made the acquaintance of a North Carolina public safety fellow who was kind enough to take one of my cartooning basics workshops I taught at the local art supply store. He fascinated me because, even though he was still at an amatuer cartoonist skill level, he was publishing his public safety-focused gag cartoons in some highly-regarded speciality magazines in the state. For myself, other than doing some purely-for-quick-laughs gags for the Museum of Black Superheroes HeroTalk message boards crowd... 








...and a handful of VERY specialized gags at the Destroyer property message boards...





...I hadn't even thought of creating formal single panel gag cartoons since I was made to do it as an annoying assignment way back in art school. But watching my former student operate (despite the fact that he actually had strong networking connects at those public safety mags since those were his people) it intrigued me to maybe consider giving that medium of cartooning a try. I really liked the idea of formally staying busy, continuously keeping up my skills, when I was in between graphic novel long-form story projects.

It would be five years later after I had joined yet another now defunct (maybe it's me...?) message board that I would finally start practicing single panel toons. The Cartoonist Forum had an embedded app that generated throwaway bubblegum wrapper level jokes, provided for easy inspiration for the members. I decided to take full advantage of the tool and set myself a schedule to create one gag cartoon per day. Here's the first one:

 


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Nursing Home Smokers." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 16 Mar 2012. Marker w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2012/03/daily-gag-cartoon-1.html>





Muhammad Rasheed - I kept it up for a total of 48 of them. Along the way I got bored with playing around with the generic joke generator and experimented seeing if I could come up with some more interesting material of my own. I made one featuring my wife and daughter to see how that would feel on me, and the last ten or so I played around with the unusual partnership between me and the ole public safety cartoonist who originally inspired all of this:


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Grown Up Words." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 09 Apr 2012. Marker w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2012/04/daily-gag-cartoon-29.html>



Rasheed, Muhammad. "Oh, Shit." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 07 Apr 2012. Marker w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2012/04/daily-gag-cartoon-26.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - Both of those attempted series concepts fell flat since I not only had zero interest in adding yet another family-oriented strip to the world (“I always wanted to be the next Bil Keane!” ~Not Me), but I also hated the whole "It's funny because they're opposites!" buddy comedy trope and light-weight resented myself for trying to force it. Interestingly, my favorite of the lot was the very last one, where I just made fun of this one trending social media meme. At no time during this 48 day adventure did I ever manage to conjure any passion or enthusiasm for it, and my interest in the idea would wane until I even stopped thinking about it altogether, as I would return my attention to finishing my two graphic novel series mentioned above. Bye-bye, single panels. I just assumed it was the format itself that didn't click for me and I moved on.

Muhammad Rasheed - One day, on 07 Jan 2015, two allegedly "islamacist" terror figures forced their way into the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satire rag and shot up 23 people, killing 12 of them in what would be the second of three attacks on the seemingly reckless publication staff. The point, as reported by the media, was that the gun men were radically upset over the magazine's cartoonist staff continuously drawing insulting depictions of the prophet Muhammad, founder of the religion of Al-Islam (peace be upon him). 

At the time of this incident and the global outrage and et cetera surrounding it, I was a member of several Facebook cartooning groups, though I hardly did anything with them other than share a completed cover from one of my graphic novel series and the occasional preview pages dump. But I happened to wander into one of the larger ones, Cartoonist Cafe, with its 10,000+ membership, and to my surprise found a shitload of insulting prophet Muhammad cartoons EVERYWHERE. Confused, I looked around the joint to see what the heck was going on. It turns out a "solidarity movement" of sorts had formed among the cartoonists around the world, especially in the West, where to show their support to the French cartoonists who'd been slain and hurt, the group would also draw insulting pics of the final prophet-messenger of Abraham's God. 

Hm. I was STILL confused. How was this display supposed to be helping anything? Is insulting the other billion Muslims who aren't terrorists honoring these people? Honestly, if this were indeed the case, then perhaps they weren't worth honoring in the first place. From my point-of-view they actually deserved the Darwin Award if anything, but I didn't present that part of my thoughts to the group (had I been in full-blown Weapon of the People beast mode back then, I certainly would have) and instead noted that someone else had already asked what I wanted to ask: 

Was this the best idea they could come up with? How was insulting all the innocent non-terrorist Muslims helping anything? 

I read the replies to this fellow's reasonable query with interest, looking to glean some profound insights, but none were visible. There were, however, quite a few knee jerk reactions in sputtering defense, with weirdo accusations of having their own free speech attacked (Huh?). I entered the fray and spent a day or so going back-n-forth in lengthy arguments that of course failed to move them and made me no wiser other than revealing how futile it is to bang one's head upon a stubborn xenophobic wall pretending to a nobility of convictions. 

And then one of the guys drew a caricature of me as a troll.     

"What?! How DARE you!" 

I promptly drew one of him equally crude with even less relevance to the topic at hand: 


And then something changed. Instead of continuing my arguments by typing out my responses in the usual fashion, I started expressing my responses in the form of an editorial cartoon to provoke immediate passionate outrage. It was a stunningly accurate display of the "A picture is worth a thousand words" adage, so much so that I only got six images in before I was unceromoniously KICKED OUT OF THE GROUP! I described the illustrated drama in detail here:

Supporting Hebdo: A Cartoonist's Critique of a Critique by M. Rasheed

To be clear, thousands and thousands of words of argumentative prose got me nothing but dismissive scowls and a troll caricature, but just six political cartoons — inside of a cartooning focused group, mind you — roused a furious army against me and banished me from the group. This was pretty intense stuff, but though potent, the true import of the event hadn't yet impressed itself upon me in its fullness. When I documented the event on this site in the above link, it caused the stalking moderator who kicked me out to feel... whatever that nut was feeling.. and he reached out to invite me back into the group. I accepted, but since I was soured on being further engaged in the previous capacity, as it obviously no longer felt like a Free Speech protected space (for my specific demographic anyway), I returned my group membership to its previous dormant state. I did start drawing single panels again seemingly out of the blue, but it may have been triggered by the rush I felt drawing those six editorial cartoons. I even started participating in an FB daily drawing group, coincidentally moderated by the same knucklehead who kicked me out of Cartoonist Cafe. But the seeds for what would eventually become Weapon of the People had begun to grow in earnest as I was now starting to produce passionate editorial cartoons within the scope of my expanding political interests.

A year later, I ran into yet another FB cartoonist group, with insulting prophet Muhammad cartoons littered all over the floor. I don't know if many of these were of the same crowd as the other, but they certainly were equally unimaginative and one-note with their 'Je suis Charlie' shtick. I immediately drew my sword and they were obliging enough to engage:

The Dream of a Consequence-Free Moon by M. Rasheed

Although a fun argument in general, it also stands out to me in hindsight as a missed opportunity, since the key lesson from 'Cartoonist Cafe-gate' had clearly been lost on me at the time. Drawing my own cartoons as part of my argument was far more effective than just the words alone (note that the cartoon cover for the copy/pasted argument was done well after the fact). But after this I had started to build up the habit of drawing more cartoons as part of my online rhetoric, and the comments they generated would inspire yet more cartoons, repeating the same inherently inspiring formula from the Charlie Hebdo battle. NOW I finally saw where my strengths lay and it was at this point that I started throwing everything I had in that direction—the basic framework of Weapon of the People was in place. It was around this time when I would make a cartoon featuring the nearly fully-formed proto-protagonist & proto-antagonist duo for the series to come:



Rasheed, Muhammad. "Black Wash: Different Paths, Different Battles." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 20 Sep 2017. Brush & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.patreon.com/posts/different-paths-14469749>


Muhammad Rasheed - I was doing some experimenting trying to find my voice and get into a comfortable groove. What was in the way of that was this old dream pestering me. I always wanted to publish one of those classic mass market paperback comic strip collections of my own. 



I had a few of those when I was a kid and I just always thought they were badass and I totally wanted some in my Second Sight Graphix backlist. During this time I was trying to force myself into that direction even though my over-wordy style wasn't a good fit for that medium of cartooning. I developed a multi-paneled strip format featuring my new li'l Activist character and the blue onesie-wearing antagonist and tried to make it work. Here's the first one in the attempt:


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Favoring the Consumer." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 22 Sep 2017. Marker w/Adobe Photoshop color. <http://www.mrasheed.com/2017/09/weapon-of-people-favoring-consumer_22.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - In those days, I still had my Activist walking around with that bag of money, representative of the fictional "Black Spending Power" of Nixon's equally fictional "Black Capitalism" bamboozle. This was before I discovered #ADOS and had not yet seen what the data actually revealed, namely that the fabled 2.6% of the $110 trillion in national household wealth that ADOS controlled was only in the form of illiquid Baby Boomer assets/pensions. It wasn't "spending power" at all. We are a wealthless bottom caste only getting by on tentative labor income, tethered to the whims of some white-owned, market-monopolizing corporation.


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Team Bootstraps." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 23 Oct 2020. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2020/10/team-bootstraps.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - Anyway, I abandoned the comic strip collection paperback dream and instead switched over to working towards color collections of my single-panel gags, which was 100% feasible. I borrowed a copy of a syndicate's collection and counted 280 cartoons in it, so I certainly have more than enough to start publishing them. I just need to find a way to break away the time and scrape together the fees at some point. 

Muhammad Rasheed - In the late summer of 2017, I started seeing the marketing for another drawing challenge. Called "Inktober," it was a massive global phenomenon and it looked both fun and challenging. I made a note to take part and started collecting the instructions and prompt words and mentally preparing myself to strictly adhere to the one-a-day rule. 

Inktober 2017 by M. Rasheed

I had a BALL! doing that challenge and more importantly proved to myself I could stick to that kind of a schedule with no issue at all — that part wasn't even the challenge for me. It was the secondary, self-imposed challenge I created near the beginning, where all the prompt words had to be interpreted in some way through the American chattel slavery lens. It was at this point that my life had now officially changed. I would start doing single-panel dailies religiously as I had originally planned from the public safety guy's inspiration, but now I had found the true spark of my passion and would draw from the anti-racism "artivist" position from now on (with some spillover into religious topics).

This was very serious for me; I prayed about it and made a formal vow and let my family know that this was now my thing. I then created and posted the first official Weapon of the People: DECODED Gag-A-Day series cartoon:


Rasheed, Muhammad. "Political Correctness: Weaponized for Bipartisan Racism." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 08 Apr 2018. Pen & ink w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2018/04/political-correctness-weaponized-for.html>


Muhammad Rasheed - Now here we are! :D It's been very fun and quite fulfilling. Its definitely My Purpose. Even though I call it a Gag-A-Day series, I don't strictly adhere to that as a rule, since I noticed early on that I queue new ideas very rapidly, but if I don't draw them up right away then the concept will get cold to me and the final execution will feel stiff. I don't like that, so I tend to create as I go. Sometimes I'll just do one for the day, while other times I'll dump as many as five or six. To date, I'm 47 cartoons ahead for the year. If I wanted, I could take December off altogether and still meet my mandatory 365 toons by 31 Dec, but of course I'm not going to do that. God willing, I'll actually end the year in the 400 range. 

For those of you who've been following along the way, I appreciate you. Thank you so much for your interest, support, your shares, likes, comments and even your salty parody reviews that fuel even more cartoons. ;)  <3



Rasheed, Muhammad. "After Trump." Cartoon. The Official Website of Cartoonist M. Rasheed 06 Aug 2017. Marker w/Adobe Photoshop color. <https://www.mrasheed.com/2017/04/notes-while-observing-doodles.html>


Very respectfully,

M. Rasheed

Cartoonist | Socio-Political Commentator | Graphic Novel Serialist | Shemesu Heru
Second Sight Graphix
www.mrasheed.com


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