It was nearly Thanksgiving, 1990, and the Iraq War I crank-up was going full swing, with all the attendant flag-waving media zaniness. The days of drawing hippie-comix versions of Mack Sennett chase comedies were just about over, and it was time to get off my six-years-moping ass and dive back into the fight. I'd spent the last part of that summer and a good chunk of the fall out in the San Diego area, crashing with some artist friends from the old VERBUM digital arts magazine while trying to find work. I'd met some really hot artists and made some good friends, but had found absolutely zero work. When you're in a naval/defense/aerospace "company town" and the Berlin Wall falls, and the USSR collapses, you sort of find your main industry in the tank -- and when your main industry hits the tank, the rest of the local economy tends to follow you...but, anyway...
...I was maybe a couple of days out of San Diego heading back east, crossing west Texas near Midland and Odessa, where you could see the drilling from the highway and where the stink was so bad that rolled-up windows and AC didn't work on it. I'd been getting up at 3 or 3:30am in order to get a head start while the weather was cooler while crossing the Southwest, so I'd already been on the highway for a couple of hours when I pulled into a Shell station just before sunrise to top off before heading out on my attempt to cross Texas in less than two days.
This particular Shell station was right off the Interstate, one of those stations right off the exit, with the giant electric logo sign a mile wide on a pole a mile high so people on the highway can see them above the trees -- and the giant mile-high electric sign on this particular Shell station also had a massive giant shiny plastic yellow ribbon, tied in a perfect bow, around the pole under the Shell logo at the top of the sign. That's right, their gas supported more troops than anybody else's gas. Rolling up to the pump island and parking directly beneath this thing was like stopping to buy gas in the Twilight Zone. The sheets of yellow plastic and the light from the giant Shell sign in the predawn murk bathed the place in this weird yellow glow that sucked the color out of everything and made it look as if it were a black-and-white TV show.
The scene outside when I got out to self-serv my gas was nothing if not post-apocalyptic -- or at least pre-post-apocalyptic. Fat, nasty-looking ex-biker types of every kind, driving '77 El Caminos and old International Scouts and 4x4 pickups which had actually been taken off the road recently and which had actual guns in the racks (not like those goddamn' poseurs back in Virginia who drove spotless Ford F-150s with just the racks in the back). After a seemingly endless wait to pay for the gas, I had to slip my cash to yet another nasty-looking old biker type in the "cashier's cube" wearing a brown t-shirt and desert camo BDUs and one of those baseball caps with the name of an aircraft carrier embroidered on it.
...after which I -- in a smooth manner calculated not to draw attention to myself -- slipped back behind the wheel of the '88 Rabbit wagon with the Grateful Dead stickers on the back, started it up and -- once again, in an entirely casual manner -- calmly and nonchalantly floored it the hell out of there.
Maybe a half hour or so down the highway, away from the Outer Limits Rerun From Hell, with the sun breaking the horizon ahead and color perception returned to normal, my mind began to fixate on thoughts of coffee -- black with sugar, a box of Krispy Kreme chocolate cake doughnuts, breakfast burritos... and the two cartoons you see here. These two were sketched, scanned and made print-ready within days after returning to DCland from San Diego
OK, No Blood For Oil. Doesn't seem like a big deal now, everybody and their cat knows that's one of the main reasons we're there, and the meme is getting beat. Still, in December of '90, or early January of '91, to blurt this out was like George Bernard Shaw's great truth beginning as blasphemy.
There was a sort of "perfect storm" of artistic, social and technological events that sucked me back into political cartooning after all that time. I'd been inspired by the large-scale "flypasting" recently made popular again by cartoonist Robbie Conal out in Los Angeles. Some weird thing called The Internet was just becoming available through the BBS systems that maladjusted geeks like myself hung out on, which suddenly made it possible to send a picture to someone in Australia over a computer network. Most importantly, though -- even though it didn't seem that way at the time -- I found myself in late '89 hooking back up with a local network of activists which seemed to emerge almost totally intact from the DC dissident culture scene of the late '70s, and still active on most of the same issues the old DC Yippie collective was working on. Kind of weird it was, really; I heard there was some pro-legalization rally at the Sylvan Theater, and when I get there, it turns out half the old 10th & K Street crew was running the show and working the stage. As an added bonus, most of them shared a large group house up in upper Northwest DC, in the South side of the Divided Peoples' Republic Of Takoma Park. I lived the better part of a year in the old place on Butternut Street -- the "Nuthouse", it was called, of course -- right up until I left for California in August of '90, just as the Iraq War I hysteria was getting its legs. Returning home found the Nuthouse in full swing, getting ready to put on local antiwar events, helping organize for national events coming up, getting ready to host people from out of town coming to the big marches in January... and really into the idea of getting out and doing some of that there wheatpasting that everybody's talking about... and, there I was, the guy who used to do the comix in the old DC Yippie rag, still doing comix...
"Topping Off", medium-res jpg image, 356k
"The Latest Shipload", medium-res jpg image, 340k