a birdfight and a raffle

May 18th, 2007 | Wild Kingdom

Another installment of Mutual of West Bolton’s Wild Kingdom with Marlon Perkins Alison Bechdel: the  fierce rose-breasted grosbeak.

And you can buy raffle tickets here to win some framed art from Fun Home and support the Lambda Literary Organization.

27 Responses to “a birdfight and a raffle”

  1. Josiah says:

    We’ll stay here in the studio while Jim confronts the fierce rose-breasted grosbeak…

    (I tried to come up with a joke about rose-breasted lesbians that wasn’t offensive, but failed.)

  2. meg says:

    Heh — my mother calls me up daily with her own rose-breasted grosbeak and cowbird report. Strange that New England and the Deep South are getting the same birds at the same time, though.

  3. DeLandDeLakes says:

    And I would like to thank Mutual of Omaha for this production…

  4. Erika says:

    Love it! We get rose-breasted grosbeaks in south-central Wisconsin at this time of year, too. It’s an annual arrival that gives me joy.

  5. The Deb in Minnesota says:

    Alison, I come to your blog to find polynomials served up with spice cake and a rose-breasted grosbeak fight on the side. How interesting! Cowbirds are interesting too. I wonder how they came upon their breeding strategy.
    ::goes to the audubon website::

    By the way, I enjoy your Sydney character for her interesting flaws. I probably should find other adjectives besides “interesting” but my Roget’s is out being laundred this afternoon.

  6. towheedork says:

    Ten years ago, you’re left in the dust if you don’t have internet access at home. Now, no YouTube grosbeaks for the dial-up crowd. I guess I’ll, like, have to drag my ass outside and look for the real-life kind. *sigh*

  7. Jana C.H. says:

    Thanks, DeLand. I was racking my brains to remember “Mutual of… what?” All I could think of was our local insurance company, Mutual of Enumclaw. Same dactylic foot. I work in the insurance biz (alas!), and we deal with MOE a lot, but never MOO.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Lily Tomlin: The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win you’re still a rat.

  8. xckb13 says:

    Male rose-breasted grosbeaks share nest-warming duties with the females (they also sing their usual jovial song while sitting on the eggs). A perfect Stuart.

  9. DeLandDeLakes says:

    You’re welcome, Jana, but I don’t think I was even alive when ol’ Marlin Perkins was on. I am familiar with his sponsor from the occasional parody of the show that would appear in Berke Breathed’s “Bloom County”, which I read obsessively as a kid.

    Just out of curiosity, since this is a blog about cartoons and cartoonists (among other things), is there anybody else here who primarily learned how to read from comics? Although Sesame Street and my dedicated parents also played a large part in turning me into an early reader, I have to give a lot of credit to Bill Waterson, Berke Breathed, and Gary Larson for turning me into an early reader. My mom told me that I used to take compendiums of “The Far Side” to bed with me, which promted my Mom and Dad to look at one another and conclude, “This kid is either going to grow up to be a genius or a complete zero.” (Gee, I wonder what they ultimately concluded?)

  10. Ginjoint says:

    DeLandDeLakes – for me, it was Sesame Street and Charles Schulz. (R.I.P., Chuck.)

  11. xckb13 says:

    DeLandDeLakes – for me, it was also Bloom County and Outland, Calvin and Hobbes, and The Far Side! Along with For Better or For Worse for my ongoing soap opera needs (before I discovered DTWOF, of course).

    I have a big thing for newspaper comics in general (9 Chickweed Lane, Zits, Foxtrot are some of the longer-running ones I can think of that I really like) – my mother used to send me care packages at college on the East Coast that consisted of nothing but a short note and weeks of color comics from the LA Times (this was before the LA Times comics pages took a nosedive in quality and focus). Yes, I know that the East Coast has fine newspaper comic sources of its own, but it’s mother’s love from home that counts.

  12. DeLandDeLakes says:


    You’re not going to believe this, but the first time I ever got an idea of what “gay” was as a kid was from For Better or For Worse. Yes, really! Some minor character (I have no idea who) was going to come out to his mom, and they never actually said the word “gay”, so when I went to my mom totally befuddled, and asked her what they were talking about in the strip, she responded, totally soberly, “Your father and I will tell you that once we’ve figured it out for ourselves.” Ha ha ha! Naturally, that just confused me more.

    Bizarely, enough, it was another cartoon that further solidified what “gay” was in my young, preadolescent mind- Smithers from The Simpsons, of course. Then, as I got older and my mom started taking me on day trips to Minneapolis and St. Paul, I started picking up copies of the local gay weekly and discovered Alison’s strip, which was just invaluable- it was so good to know at that young age that there were ways of having sex that didn’t produce babies. I even remember the first DTWOF strip I ever read- Mo and Sydney were arguing about the implications of Clinton’s blowjob. (Ah, remember back when that was supposedly the biggest problem on our national radar?)

  13. Feminista says:

    DEDL–It was Connie’s son Lawrence who came out in For Better or Worse. Lawrence and his partner now run a landscaping business,and Elizabeth worked for them during her summer vacation in college.

    My cousin came out in Minneapolis in the early 70s,and was out to the extended family by ’72. My sister and I were the only supportive ones in the family at first; then gradually nearly everyone came around. He and his partner just celebrated their 25th anniversary.

  14. Feminista says:

    P.S. My cousin also likes DTWOF,but hadn’t read it for years until I gave him the link. I got him caught up on the latest
    developments in what he called “an excellent executive summary.” Our family has a way with words.

  15. xckb13 says:

    Lynn Johnston of FBorFW said that the strips with the storyline about Lawrence coming out netted her by far the largest volume of mail and reader responses in the 28-year history of the strip. She received about 2,500 personal letters (plus hundreds of articles, etc.), over 70% of which were positive about the development. Ah, the enlightened days of 1993! I wonder whether the tally would be better or worse now, what with the ease of communication afforded by widespread email access.

    (oh look, I made a terrible joke, and it was actually entirely by accident)

  16. kate says:

    A–i like your version of the wild kingdom

  17. Deena in OR says:

    On FBOFW

    There for a while, that site and Doonesbury’s were the only two comic sites I checked on a regular basis. Oh, and this one, of course.

    Back to lurkdom…

  18. Jen says:

    Charlie Brown books from my bi-monthly Scholastic book purchases were big time early readers for me. Also the Saturday comics, especially For Better or For Worse (I’m about the same age as the Michael character).

    I remember when the gay story line of For Better Or For Worse came out (haha) and garnered alot of media attention here in Canada. I was in my first year of university and could REALLY relate to the Laurence character. Lynn Johnson and her production are practically considered a national treasure here and there was a bit of backlash (and probably much unreported support).

    Considering that there was a similar story line only a couple of years previously on the show Degrassi High, I’m sure alot of conservatives outside of major centres were wondering a) where the heck all of this talk about gays & coming out was coming from and b)how do we protect our children. Now, 15 years later, same sex marriage (not that there isn’t ongoing backlash and resistance there too…) but man, it does seem like a bit of a whirlwind

  19. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Yes, the local library’s hardbound collections of Peanuts were a big early influence on me, too. Although, like Ira Glass, I never, ever thought that Peanuts was funny- quite the opposite, really. Reading those strips was as close to melancholic as I got when I was six years old.

  20. ready2agitate says:

    xckb13 & Feminista,

    Always thought I was the only fbofw follower who was also a DTWOF fan. Bi-sexual, bi-spiritual, and bi-comical, to boot!

    Unrelated but I played Snoopie in 9th grade’s “Your a Good Man Charlie Brown.” Have wondered if there’s the equivalent of a Meyer-Briggs for which character one played…

    Much like AB made a beautiful drawing became T-shirt of all the folks in DTWOF sharing “gossip” a la Norman Rockwell’s Gossip, it would be fun to match the different dykes/trykes with “personality types”… um, or maybe not.

  21. Ginjoint says:

    On my fridge, I have a copy of Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” strip that he dedicated to Charles Schulz at the time of Schulz’s death. It’s 7 years old now and yellowed, but I still love it. In it, Groening’s rabbit character is talking directly to the reader, representing Groeninig himself.

    He says, “I think my favorite thing about ‘Peanuts’ was the negative stuff: the loneliness, the isolation, the absence of grown-ups, the unrequited love, the frustration of contained rage. Funny stuff!” That spoke right to me. (I do love spotting the “Peanuts” references in “The Simpsons” nowadays, too.)

    In the same “Life in Hell” strip, the rabbit/Groening states of the style of “Peanuts”: “I loved the sweet, curvy lines…I loved the smooth, clean lettering…I loved the emotions conveyed with such simple swoops of ink.” Now, I’m not sure how Alison feels about “Peanuts” (the feminist angles, or lack thereof, is probably a debate for another time), but that description gets close to how I feel about the style of DTWOF.

  22. Feminista says:

    Ginjoint and others–You may or may not know that Groening grew up here in River City (Portland,OR) and that many of the names of the Simpsons characters relate to our fair city. (Ah,references to The Music Man and Car Talk in the same sentence; unintentional,or course.)

    For example,Rev.Lovejoy is named after Lovejoy Street. Groening’s father really is named Homer,and his younger sister is Lisa (she’s a freelance writer). Homer G. worked in advertising,and young Matt scribbled and doodled his way through Portland Public Schools before landing at Evergreeen State Univ. in Olympia,WA,where he met Lynda Barry. Kindred spirits, indeed. However,they didn’t get involved romantically,but continued to inspire each other with their sometimes twisted,often hilarious take on Life.

  23. Ydnic says:

    I definitely learned to read from comics, back in the early 1950s. My one and only memory of not being able to read is from when I was four and my brother and I posed ourselves as the characters in a comic book. We made up stories to match the poses.

    I remember lots of Disney comics, and Classics Illustrated. But my mainstays were Pogo and Peanuts. Much of Pogo went right over my head, but there were some passages that were guaranteed to make me giggle till I fell over. I’ve followed countless newspaper cartoons all my life. My dad, a commercial artist, was also talented as a cartoonist, so cartoons were ubiquitous in my early life.

    The first time I saw a DTWOF strip (12 years ago), the art AND the writing both just blew me away, and I’ve been a constant fan since. It’s beyond wonderful that Alison’s finally getting the recognition she deserves. Fun Home is simply breathtaking.

  24. Ginjoint says:

    Thanks, Feminista! I did know that Groening’s father was named Homer (didn’t Groening also name his son Homer?), but that was it. I’ve read Lynda Barry’s novel Cruddy, and 2 of her graphic works, One Hundred Demons and The Good Times Are Killing Me. I’ve tried to get her Freddie book but it’s currently out of print. I love her brain.

    I have to admit, sometimes the style of drawing in a graphic novel will sway whether I purchase it or not, regardless of story line. Not always, but sometimes, and I’m not proud of that, because maybe it’s not entirely fair to the author/artist. But some drawing styles are so sharp, almost violent, that they give me a headache. Or there’s a marked lack of detail, which makes it difficult for me, personally, to get drawn (sorry) into the story. You all?

  25. Jana C.H. says:

    I think it’s perfectly legitimate for the artistic style of a graphic novel to influence whether or not you buy it. The “graphic” is as much a part of the artform for as the “novel”. Likewise, if I find the writing style of a regular book off-putting I am unlikely to read it, no matter how significant its content.

    I understand the concept of using ugly drawings to represent ugly ideas or circumstances, but too much ugliness puts up a barrier to the reader. For example, I’ve never much liked Lynda Barry’s drawing style. I often catch myself thinking, “Read it anyway. It’s Lynda Barry; it will be good.” I feel the same about John Backderf, who draws “The City”. I know why he draws ugly. It’s not because he can’t draw attractively; he has an artistic purpose, and it’s effective. But I still don’t like it.

    No creator of ugly comics should change, of course, but he or she might not get as much of my business as otherwise. Such is the way of the world.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith E.G. Forbes: Never spoil a good story with too much truth.

  26. Chris says:

    d00d. You share a publisher with Roger Tory Peterson now. And Kenn Kaufman. 🙂

    It’s been around -15 degrees F/-27 degrees C here today; I got stuck in one of the two sunlit rooms in the apartment, snoozy cat commandeering my lap. It helped, sort of, to watch videos of spring and summer, reminding me of what’s been for millennia and what will be again provided we humans don’t screw it all up for every single other species trying to coexist with us.

    The “singer everyone has heard”, sez Frost anyway, loud in your May woods, the grosbeaks fightin’ over the plummiest grosbeak amenities–the sounds of bird and frog surveys I used to do in northern hardwood forests much like yours. Yeah, and the cringe of cowbird recognition. Speaking of screwing it all up. I need to refresh the brain on cowbird population and distribution over time, but I’m pretty sure that historically they were tied to prairies/edges along with the buffalo, probably not present in eastern North America at all, and of course we wonderful whities came along and effed that up but good.

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