Thursday, July 21, 2005
Coincidence or Prescience?
I was on a bus in Rome when I heard about the first London bombings. [News about the second attack is just filtering through.]
The bus had a monitor with a brief news feed. At 4pm on 7.7 it said 45 people were dead. Ten minutes later it said 33. We think this revision was due to British news media playing the incident down. As if they could.
I had left the UK a week earlier. Before leaving I had written two new scripts for my comic strip Public Servants. This appears on the back page of the eponymous fortnightly magazine for senior public managers.
I sent them to the artist, Matt Buck, to draw.
When I returned to the UK, on July 11, he had drawn them. But the second had to be hastily rewritten and redrawn, because it had turned out to be terribly prescient, and its meaning had changed completely.
This item is about the script and how it changed.
The first version was as follows:
Gerhardt talking with Nigella
1. Gerhardt: The department needs to be more public-facing and customer oriented.
2. An alarm goes off, startling them.
Gerhardt: Oh my god! It's a security alert!
Nigella: Could be a terrorist! What do we do?
3. Maurice sticks his head round the door.
Maurice: It's alrght, it's just a member of the public got in the building.
Matt drew it with a big explosion effect, and had the characters jumping under the table. This is shown.
Clearly, the meaning had now completely changed, and this was now unacceptable, and the editor, needlessly, asked for a change.
My initial reaction was to change the last two panels to the one finally used the following issue, yet to be published. This has them standing in the foyer of the building, now bristling with security measures, and saying "The only trouble is the public can't get in."
This undemocratic effect of security measures was an irony that couldn't yet be appreciated, however, so Matt suggested a more sympathetic tone.
We went through a couple of variations, illustrated, and ended up with the one finally used.
We tried to avoid being mawkish, a common error by cartoonists in a situation like this, by using the silhouettes, and the ambiguity of linking arms - for solidarity, or to keep people out, or in, or what?
Do you think we have succeeded?
Let us know.
In the meantime, you can view more Public Servant cartoons at www.cyberium.co.uk and links.