A Womb With a View

A Womb With a View
March 15, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Banned Parenthood

The biggest thing I struggled with in creating the Umbert the Unborn comic strip was the question of its message. Many  people advised me to make the strip more mainstream and avoid the pro-life issues altogether-that having an unborn comic character alone would be a positive pro-life gesture. The problem with that is the byline reads "by Gary Cangemi." Anyone who knows me knows that it is impossible for me to be subtle or subliminal about important issues such as abortion. I simply would not be able to contain myself and my inner Umbert would have to be unleashed. I don't think the word abortion has appeared in any mainstream newspaper comic strip except perhaps Doonesbury, the "A" word simply isn't used. But for me, that's not a taboo, it's a dare. Thus, when I began the Umbert strip, I said to myself, "Why not?  Snoopy has the Red Baron, why can't Umbert have Planned Parenthood as his chief nemesis?"
I quickly learned that Umbert could get away with it. By confronting abortion and its proponents directly and honestly, Umbert leapfrogs over the cringe factor and leads readers straight to his point, arrived at through his naive yet flawless logic. In Umbert's way of thinking, an organization that calls itself Planned Parenthod should not be in the business of aborting children. ("I don't know what they're planning, but it sure isn't parenthood!")
Newspaper editors of course would shudder at the idea of a crusading pro-life baby sandwiched between such poignant comic strips as Beetle Bailey and Blondie. After all, who wants to deal with abortion while ingesting their Rice Krispies?
I toyed with the idea of a mainstream version of Umbert, called "A Womb With a View," but eventually dismissed it. It just isn't in my nature to do something halfway. I would rather do it my way and fail than succeed at a watered down version. The womb needs a champion to defend the unborn against the Planned Parenthoods of the world. The very idea of an organization which kills children in what should be the safest place on earth...a mother's womb, should be a source of shame for every taxpayer in America whose hard-earned wages are being used to keep this evil enterprise operating. As long as I can lift a pen, Umbert will be that champion.
By the way, a few years ago, my pro-life friends in Missouri purchased the rights to Umbert to run the strip as an advertisement in their local mainstream newspaper and sent me a copy. Imagine my delight at seeing Umbert the Unborn positioned directly below one of the most popular strips in America...Garfield. Coincidentally, I live on Garfield Avenue.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another Fine Mess-age!

My studio is full of memorabilia of the things I loved as a child growing up in the suburbs. Among them is a shelf I have dedicated to the memory of Laurel and Hardy who, in their time, were the funniest two guys on the planet. I couldn't get enough L&H films on TV and reveled in the inevitable disasters to which their simple-minded antics invariably led. It's sad when young people enter my studio and have no clue who these two geniuses were. Their films are never shown except once a year on TCM. 
Anyway, so what does this have to do with Umbert? A few years back I decided to include a pair of fraternal twins in the strip and thus I came up with Doby and Toby. What a perfect way, I thought, to pay tribute to my childhood favorites Laurel and Hardy than to model the twins after them. Thus Doby is the chubby, bossy "Ollie" and Toby is the hapless, dull-witted "Stan" (who thinks Doby was adopted).
Doby and Toby are played strictly for laughs; no heavy duty messages or issues with these two. I would imagine that the odds of multiples in the womb being aborted are relatively small though I have heard of instances where it has been done. A couple in Australia reportedly aborted their twins sons because they already had three boys and wanted a girl. Such thinking is beyond my comprehension. 
The idea of twins interacting in the womb, however is nothing new. The first recorded instance of it occurs in Genesis, when Jacob and Esau reportedly jostled in their mother's womb. With Doby and Toby, I try to illustrate (as did Laurel and Hardy) that two souls can have a tumultuous relationship and yet still be friends or, in this case, brothers for LIFE.
Happy Easter/Happy Passover!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No Respect at All!

Like most cartoonists, I get many of my ideas from the popular culture and, when I can turn a popular idea to serve the pro-life cause, I never hesitate. So it was a natural for me to borrow Rodney Dangerfield's classic line, "I get no respect, and superimpose it on the lack of respect for unborn human life in today's culture. Once I did that, the Umbert comic strip practically wrote itself for two weeks. Rodney's impeccable timing and unabashed frankness were easy to parody in the character of Ronny Dangerfetus. As I drew each panel I even found myself clutching at my tie and stretching my neck from side to side.
The strips went over so well, I even incorporated them into my public speaking engagements, doing a riff of Dangerfetus cartoons whenever I sense the audience getting a little restless. It works every time.
But seriously folks, RD reminds us that respect is something to which every human being is entitled from the moment our Creator confers that humanity upon us. In a perfect world, maybe every child would be planned for, wanted, and loved, but, as Ronny Dangerfetus would say, "how's about two outa three?"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Are You Reddy For This Pro-Life Parody?

Ever since I was a kid reading MAD Magazine, I have loved song parodies. During my stint as political cartoonist for Scranton's weekly papers, I discovered I had a knack for writing song parodies to skewer the local politicians and thus was born "Scranton Carols" which I did every December. One day I even heard one of the local talk-jocks singing them on the air.
After launching the Umbert the Unborn comic strip, I figured it was only a matter of time before I would find a way to incorporate song parody into the strip. I did a series of Umbert strips in 2007 in which Umbert stages a Broadway Musical called "Unborn Babes on Broadway,"sending up some of Broadway's biggest hits with a pro-life twist. Later, I parodied a couple of popular songs, including Helen Reddy's feminist anthem, "I Am Woman." In it, little Vita, child of a single mother who is contemplating an abortion, sings to her mom, reminding her that she too is a woman with rights that need to be respected.
Unfortunately, I cannot produce these songs in any audio format unless I secure permission from the copyright owners, but there is no law against you singing them yourself. You know the tune, just substitute my pro-life lyrics and have a blast!