Editor’s note: A few readers wrote to us to express their displeasure at Harry Bliss’s Feb. 10 cartoon on the comics page. We contacted Bliss through the Tribune Content Agency that syndicates his work. The following are two of the letters we received as well as the cartoonist’s response:
The Feb. 10 Bliss cartoon depicts a Jew unable to ward off a vampire using the Star of David (sometimes called the “Shield of David”). The trope is that vampires fear crosses because they are a symbol of God. The cartoon seems to imply that the Shield of David is not a true symbol of God, or that Jews and their symbols are less godly than Christians and their symbols, or that Jews are too stupid to know they are supposed to use a Christian symbol to ward off pagan vampires.
Perhaps Harry Bliss is not thinking about the wave of anti-Semitism inspired by our new president and his strategists, but printing this comic helps normalize a hateful agenda. I am deeply disturbed and disappointed that the Globe would sanction publishing such an offensive cartoon.
I found the publication of the Bliss cartoon on Feb. 10 to be terribly insulting. The cartoon shows, in the foreground, a bearded character with glasses, holding a Jewish star on a string up to Count Dracula. He states, “Seymour! It’s not working!”
Now, what the heck does that imply — that only Christians can fend off Dracula with a cross? That Jews are blood suckers, in league with Dracula, and, of course, the Star of David won’t work?
Can you imagine if the character were wearing a turban and holding a crescent moon and star? That would be decried as hate speech.
I would like to know why that cartoon is considered humorous.
I’m saddened to hear my cartoon offended readers. It’s never my intention.
I am Jewish. My Aunt Greta survived the Nazis by hiding in a forest in Czechoslovakia as a 7-year-old girl. This notion that my depiction of the Star of David (which I wear around my neck as I write this) in my cartoon was intended to cash in on any right-wing agenda is disturbing at best.
The Jewish people, my people, have always had the gift of intelligent, mirthful introspection. It is this sincere, absurd, and often irreverent humorous tradition that I and countless other Jewish comics (Jon Stewart, Mel Brooks, Richard Lewis, etc.) lovingly explore in our art and craft. Indeed, I see this very tradition as a much-needed elixir to the devastating injustices we have faced for centuries; it is essential to our way of life as survivors.
Count Dracula is a myth, pure entertainment based on ideas of the supernatural. Thus, the very premise of the gag is absurd. I assumed this fact would be enough of a suspension of disbelief for most readers, but it seems I was mistaken. I cannot control how my art is interpreted. I continue to learn, and learning is good.
Again, I’m sorry this drawing was seen by some as something so far removed from its source.
Interestingly, my cousin, David Codell, a Harvard graduate who served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was thrilled to see the cartoon in the Los Angeles Times, and I’m sending David the original drawing to hang in his law offices. David’s father was named Seymour.