Tuesday, February 28, 2006


It was about ten years ago that a man phoned me up and asked if I would consider doing the packaging for an herbal product that he and his wife had invented. He had an oddball sense of humor and we hit it off, I took the job and ended up doing the whole line of Airborne products. Yes Airborne. Those are my cartoons on Airborne! Those freaky-looking germs flying around the heads of the dorky business travelers on the goddamn box you see everywhere you go are mine. My clients who started Airborne are brilliant promoters, they came up with a product that filled a niche, and nine years later Airborne is HUGE. $67 million in sales last year according to Consumer Reports. It's changed their lives dramatically and changed my life too. Now my dad and my sister know what I do and believe that I actually work.

When a product does well, really well, word gets around, and many people who never had an original thought in their lives run to hop on the bandwagon. A couple years ago a friend called and said, "Hey, you've got to get over to Walgreens, they're knocking off Airborne! You've gotta get a lawyer and sue those bastards!"

Sure enough, "Walborne," was a straight knock-off of my box. Same dimensions, same colors, mine had four people, six germs, theirs has two people, five germs. The people on theirs are trapped inside the international "no" symbol (as in no copyright infringement) and the germs look like a toddler's rendering of aquarium fish, as opposed to mine, which are obviously, scientifically, germs. One germ, pictured just below the "W" on the top flap, totally out of place from the others, looks like a jaundiced, penis-nosed degenerate in a raincoat.

A month or so later I became aware of "Longs brand Air Shield." This one has three germs, six people, and the scenario of a carnival barker sneezing in the faces of a group of onlookers waiting at a turnstile. Longs couldn't have paid the hack more than $100 for this cartoon, and they shouldn't have. The people are illustrated in a "wacky" wiggly line that's so bad it makes me look like Rembrandt. But the germs were done in a different style, tightly rendered on computer and looking a little like goblins you might see in a crappy video game.

Designwise, CVS Brand phony Airborne, also called "AirShield" breaks from the pack of counterfeiters by using a computery 3D video game look for the lead illustration. Both the people, five, and the germs, four, are creepy half-human half-space-goblin zombie hybrids. The CVS design has more in common with Longs Air Shield than it really does with Airborne, which goes to show that multiple swipes of another swipe can spawn mutations and take on a life of their own.

GNC's "Airshield" from "YourLife" features the identical germs as the goblins from those other two Airshields, suggesting that all the Airshields belong to the same family. But for the lead illustration, GNC lifts the idea from a drawing I did on the back of the Airborne box, with germ-besieged office workers sneezing in their cubicles. Somebody got fancy with the lettering and made it look all shimmery like chrome. Like a shield. Nice!

Next up was "Leader Brand's Handborn & Airborn Germ Defense." The cartoon here shows two squat little figures, three germs, and one is sneezing a disgusting torrent of snot upon the other. A blast of dark green droplets that just misses being peas. The designer made a bold deviation from running the type on an angle or an arc, instead picked a clinical-looking font and slapped it on there straight. The result: a box that looks like it contains a powerful hemorrhoid ointment.

"Air Immune Blast," offers to "Blast your System," and the cartoon demonstrates the effectiveness of Fraudborne when you are car pooling! That's new. There appears to be only one tropical fish on this package, but it's grotesque, yellow, and bears a striking resemblance to Larry Flynt, which may be a selling point to the particular demographic of this knock-off. The car looks unintentionally like it's crashing into a starburst that announces "20% More Tablets." The artwork is even worse than the crap on the Longs package, but the straight ahead view into the sneezemobile is 100% fresh and original.

My favorite of all the faux Airbornes is "Air Defender," from Duane Reade, the NYC drugstore chain. This one hews so close to the original Airborne box design––serif font on an angle, black background, cartoon featuring the identical airplane scenario––it's astonishing. "Can you draw it EXACTLY like the Airborne box, dude! There's $65 in it for you." The copying of my art on this one is abysmally bad. And for some reason, instead of hacking out pathetic copies of my germs, they chose to use three circles representing views through a microscope, one, apparently an agar dish full of mosquitoes, one ringworm larva, and, the third one, googley-eyed maggots. I wonder why they decided to take such a bold step with that last detail? Must've been popular with the focus groups.

Let's not forget "Hairy Lemon," a product from Australia that contains the same ingredients as Airborne and does the same thing, but that has a totally different and original design. Go Aussies! And you won't find a more original name than "Hairy Lemon." I'm not sure it's a wise name, but it's original. Once I suggested to Airborne that they rename their product "Succulent Scrotum," but they didn't go for it.

Our last item is, again, a highly original Airborne-like product made with similar ingredients but with a totally different design. This one is from Egypt, and there are no cartoons on the box at all. In fact I only include it here because, in addition to remedying colds, Cevitil boasts that it helps with "bleeding mouth."
"...Developed by a school teacher who was sick of getting mouthbleeds! Take CEVITIL!"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Confessions of a Civil-Libertarian Pig

I have turned my back on the "Troublogtown community" long enough. And too many readers are giving me shit. I must blog.

I have a number of competing and conflicting thoughts on this whole cartoon controversy to share:

Simple Lloyd-Centered Response
My first thought was, 'there but for the grace of GOD go I.' Before this, I didn't even know it was taboo to draw Muhammad. And because nobody knows what he looked like there would be no way to do a recognizable caricature of Muhammad anyway. That's why Jyllands Posten had to type in the name "Muhammad" underneath their big-nosed-toga-wearing-bearded-guy drawings so you'd know who it was supposed to be. I'll never draw Paul Bunyan or Ulysses S. Grant in a turban again. Taboo! No cartoons of Muhammad. As a cartoonist it's good to know these things--especially since there's life and limb to be considered.

Whenever somebody is jailed or beaten or killed for drawing a cartoon in Egypt or Burma or wherever, it hits close to home, and I think, boy I'm sure glad the live in the USA where I can be as irreverent as I want to be. Here we can say or draw anything! And we do. I've drawn Jesus in so many compromising positions I couldn't begin to count them. If GOD hadn't intended for us to be irreverent, he wouldn't have given us satire. So when I learned that millions of people were angry over cartoons, first I thought, wow, those must be the most horrendous cartoons since Mike Diana's Boiled Angel was banned in Florida! They must be filthy and degrading. One look at them must be so poisonous to the mind that, after viewing, you will never be able to perceive beauty again. Of course I wanted to see them. So I found them online. What a disappointment! This is what they're mad about? Muslims pick odd things to have thin skin about. I mean, they can take the bombing, bulldozing, occupation, dislocation, and centuries of oppression, but somebody scratches out a little 4X5" of the prophet, and they react like eighth grade bullies, without a decent comeback other than giving you an ass-kicking. I take that back, the Iran newspaper that sponsored the holocaust cartoon contest had a decent comeback. Not perfect but I can appreciate the effort.

You can't draw cartoons of Muhammad! The concept is foreign to me. I don't go out of my way to insult another person's religion, but if I'm not allowed, it's my nature to want to do it more. That's it, I'm a godless civil libertarian pig.

Manufactured Outrage?
"How about drawing a caricature of Muhammad?" the editor at Jyllands Posten asks a Danish cartoonist by telephone.

"Do whatever you want with it, have fun, the only requirement is that it's got to really piss off the Muslims!"

The cartoonist: "Why would I want to do that? Does it pay?"

"785 Krones"

"I'm free. Can I have it to you by noon tomorrow?"

That's how it goes down in the cartoonist's world, and, that's a professional cartoonist mind you! He needs the $125. There's a little bit of difference between the responsiblity of a cartoonist and the responsiblity of an editor. Jyllands Posten, I understand, is kind of a Fox News-like Danish paper, and one of their hot button issues, of course, is immigration (those #%@* Muslims all over the place). The editor calculated that some Muhammad cartoons might be good for heightening the local antagonism. Boy, he was sure right! He manufactured the cartoons and then the arab leaders in the theocracy-leaning Middle East picked up the ball and delivered the uproar to enhance their jihadist street cred.

Not to let the cartoonists off the hook, but I saw the cartoons, they were typical hack work, not bad, certainly run of the mill editorial cartoons, but the newspaper decides what goes in and what doesn't. The thing that makes these cartoons bad, in my opinion, is that the cartoonists allowed themselves to be led into helping those with power rub a little salt into the wounds of the powerless. I'd like to think I would avoid drawing an editorial cartoon for a right wing newspaper, supporting their anti-immigration stance by drawing Mexicans and Central Americans as demons or taking potshots and the Virgin of Guadalupe. I may be wrong or misinformed or insensitive, but I'm not anybody's stooge.

Are Millions of Muslims Really Upset Over the Cartoons?
I find it hard to believe. Probably 99% of Muslims are just like you and me, (you might even be a Muslim reading this) and have nothing in common with murderous Allah-vigilantes. Probably disagree with it as much or more than I disagree with our own President Incurious, who makes all Americans look like mindless evangelical douchebags to the rest of the world. Most people would say, those cartoons are insulting, I wouldn't let my dog poop on Jyllands Posten let alone read it, and then worry about their own real problems. Or maybe if you were really pissed you'd write a letter to the editor. Believe me, I draw cartoons, nobody cares about mine that much––except for a handful of right wingers with a lot of time on their hands (you know who you are), and now a few Muslims (who are very polite by comparison, by the way).

What's the Cultural Equivalent?
I've read a lot of people searching for what would be the perfect analogy to this outrage were it inflicted on our culture. I'm searching too, but it's not easy. Smear poop on the New York Stock Exchange? Bad-mouth the Superbowl? Pour a million gallons of beer down the sewer on St. Patricks Day? Put a giant red brassier and garters on the statue in the Lincoln monument? Those are some suggestions. Some people say it is like insulting native americans with our baseball team logos. Yeah, we did that. What about the holocaust? If you show cartoons of the prophet you must also make fun of it and defend the freedom of holocaust deniers? Fair enough. Oh, they made horrible cartoons of the Japanese during World War II. What about those old racist cartoons of pickininnies and watermelon-eating sambos? It was done. Was it as bad as drawing the prophet? They were very popular at one time. You know, all the racist bric-a-brac of the day is a goldmine for collectors now. Cartoons are like uranium. Maybe those Danish cartoons will lose their radioactivity after a few decades if the world situation for Muslims improves.

There are some compelling articles I've read as to why these cartoons shouldn't be published. Check them out.

And if you like famous cartoonists, art Spiegelman and Joe Sacco weighed in on it.