Generosity For All Seasons

12 December 2003

    Ahh, Christmastime is here. It is the treasured season to be jolly and generous. The spirit of Christmas pulls hearts and wallets open in support of all manner of causes. Cartoonists have made a tradition of being giving and bighearted not only at Christmas, but also all year round. Let’s have a look at just a few of the kindhearted things our favourite artists do to help many deserving causes.

    Animal rights and animal care are big issues for a number of cartoonists. With pets as their main characters, some cartoonists have a sensitive outlook on the lives of animals. Their great desire is to spare them from pain, hunger and loneliness. Jenny Campbell, co-creator with John Gibel of Flo
and Friends,
uses her skills to help the Geauga Humane Society in Cleveland, Ohio. She began her effort by donating her time as a dog walker. She continues to help the Society by applying her artistic talents for the cause. Jenny said, “My drawings are everywhere now, from the big sign in front of the building to the T-shirts and hats we sell at events.”

    The creator of Bloom County and his inimitable characters Opus and Bill, Berkeley Breathed and his wife, photographer Jody Boyton, are strong advocates of PETA and the drive to protect animals from abuse. They are also part of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a group trying to save the whales and other sea creatures from imminent disaster. While pregnant herself, Jody protested the cruel use of stalls to contain pregnant mares for months at a time, to gather urine used in the production of the menopausal drug Premarin.

    Not in My Backyard cartoonist Dale Taylor makes use of his main character Wyman the Weiner Dog to help the Virginia Dachshund Picnic. His adorable Dachshund designs are featured on t- shirts used for fundraising for the annual event.

    Taking on the issues of breast cancer, Funky Winkerbean creator Tom Batiuk researched cancer topics for four years before bringing Lisa’s Story into the comic strip. The storyline followed the character through finding a lump in her breast, diagnosis, treatment and recovery, receiving both praise and criticism for Batiuk’s depiction of circumstances. Also, Batiuk has received awards for his Funky Winkerbean contributions to promote education, music and art.

    The late, great Charles Schulz, the artist behind the magic of Peanuts, was a philanthropist of high order, donating millions of dollars to charity. As a gesture to his home town of Santa Rosa, Schulz built an ice arena in 1969 to serve the area. Dubbed "Snoopy’s Home Ice,” the Redwood Ice Arena hosts a large number of events including annual figure skating championships, hockey tournaments and concerts. The arena can be converted in a matter of hours into a 3,000-seat concert theatre.

    The family of Charles Schulz continues donating to his favourite charities, providing an Endowed Chair of Illustration at the College of Visual Art and scholarships at the Art Instruction School, where Schulz honed his own skills and taught aspiring artists. In addition, the Linus Project carries on through the past endorsement of Charles Schulz. The group enlists volunteers to create new, handmade washable blankets to give as presents to sick kids up to age 18. See http://www.projectlinus.org/ if you would like to share your talents through your local chapter. Since 1996, almost 800,000 blankets have warmed children around the United States and Canada.

    By donating originals of her comic strip and copies of her books, For Better or For Worse creator Lynn Johnston has helped with diverse fundraisers such as the Scleroderma Foundation and the House Rabbit Society for protection of rabbits. She also donated the final Farley strip series to the Cartoon Research Library of Ohio State University. Lynn takes part in Dystonia awareness whenever possible, sharing information on a rare disorder that she suffers from along with another one percent of the population. She also gave her endorsement to Amnesty International Canada, for their Plan of Action to stop torture. Visit http://www.amnesty.ca

    Occasionally, an important cause will draw cartoonists squinty-eyed into the sunlight from their dimly-lit studios, where they sit hunched over drawing boards, furiously scribbling and sketching. Such a cause was literacy, where Jim Davis, creator of Garfield; Greg Evans, creator of Luann; Tony Cochran, creator of Agnes; Jef Mallett, creator of Frazz; and Mark O'Neill, creator of Potluck Parish joined together to support International Literacy Day in Pasadena, California, September 2001. Tony Cochran compared the wonder of reading to the sensation of dance. "Reading is like a dance with minds. It is sometimes an artful ballet, sometimes a passionate clutching, and sometimes it is piloting your barrel shaped balding Aunt Francis through a spirited toe crunching hokey-pokey. Don't go home without dancing. Read."

    There is an unending list of worthy causes and so many cartoonists who give from the heart, too numerous to name and describe. Thank you to all of them for giving so much all year long, and for sharing their joys, troubles and laughter in those four little panels with us every day.

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© Susanna McLeod 2003
TheCartoonists.ca  
   
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)