Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 02/15/06

Artist's Statement

I remain painfully jealous over the international cartoon furor, but I’m also secretly thrilled to see cartoons making the news for the first time since Boss Tweed. It’s surreal to read headlines like: “Cartoon Riots Continue for Fifth Day.” And of course it’s always hilarious and endearing to see the entire Arab world being manipulated into a hateful frenzy over nothing. I know this is not quite the incendiary Muhammadan-baiting cartoon I promised last week, but since I was a week behind the news I wanted to think up something that wasn’t obvious, that was subtler, more intelligent and inspired than any other cartoonist would be doing. I was blocked until my humor consultant Aaron e-mailed from Seattle with the suggestion that I should imagine some other, unlikelier group rioting in protest of a cartoon—perhaps fans of Bill Keane’s Family Circus. Aaron got lost in an ill-considered tangent about little Billy taking over for Bill one day and drawing something offensive, but I immediately realized that the unlikeliest possible group of outragees should be scientists, traditionally the most rational and even-tempered of factions. Certainly, scientists have their biases and blind spots and heated disputes, but in the end their rigorous, peer-reviewed methodology enforces a kind of superhuman objectivity and fair-mindedness. Ultimately this cartoon is still at fundamentalist Islam’s expense, presenting a tacit contrast to the more civilized response of empiricism to controversy. Notice how these things don’t seem happen so much in the West--the angry chanting in the streets and setting of things on fire and the attacking of embassies and kidnapping of innocent aid workers? It is not just because we are a Godless people who believe in nothing fervently enough to lacerate ourselves and trample each other and behead foreigners for it. It’s also because we are not completely batshit.

There’s something kind of poignant and pathetic about the footage of furious Arabs whapping American and Danish flags with shoes and setting them on fire, as though this could hurt us in the same way that the cartoons of Mohammed have hurt them. They have, as the saying goes, obviously mistaken us for someone who gives a shit. They seem to be operating on a whole different cognitive level of development, imbuing concrete symbols with life and real meaning, seeing images as reality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not indulging some racist theory that Arabs are less evolved than Westerners--most of my fellow Americans are operating at about the same level, far more concerned with the actual cloth (or decal) Flag than with the liberties it represents, believing that what they see on TV is real. Alas, here at Winter H.Q. I am away from my copy of John Ralston Saul’s indispensable book Voltaire’s Bastards, or I would quote its chapter “Images of Immortality” on the decline of imagery’s power in the West coterminus with the rise of photography. The bemused incomprehension I feel for those outraged rioters is that of a culture that no longer believes in the image contemplating one that still does, passionately and literally. Of course it’s also that of someone who’s enjoyed relative safety, privilege, and luxury his whole life rolling his eyes at the paranoia and rage of people who’ve always been threatened, oppressed, and impoverished. However, although this may make their reaction more understandable, I am not sure it makes it any less stupid or wrong.

Jack Chick is the author and illustrator of those little religious pamphlets you find lying around in bus stations and laundromats, horizontal in format, crude in execution, frequently condemning the evils of abortion, evolution, and Roman Catholicism, and extolling the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal savior as the only sure means to eternal salvation. Learn more at and repent, you idolatrous baby-killing Papists.

Thanks to my physicist pal Chris for help on the precise rhetorical terms for various logical and scientific fallacies in panel #2.

I had to look up a Klingon translation program online at an internet café for panel #3. The threat of anyone seeing this over my shoulder made me as nervous and embarrassed as the prospects of being caught looking at in public. For those not fluent in the galaxy’s most hostile tongue, the characters in this panel are saying, “Death before dishonor!’ and “Shut up! Your struggles only make it more painful!”

Do not worry, xenophobes and jingoists; I still intend to draw a cartoon in the near future all about Islam’s, and Arabic culture’s, many invaluable contributions to our civilization. But first another, more urgent matter commands my immediate attention: colleague Emily Flake informed me over lunch last week that an Iranian newspaper is sponsoring a “Funniest Cartoon About the Holocaust” contest. To any cartoonist with gumption, this is clearly a challenge. The Persians have thrown down the gauntlet. I am entering. And I intend to win.


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