UPDATE BELOW: Response from cartoonist
Today's installment of the Jump Start cartoon has at least two e-mailers upset. It shows a police officer apparently being shot by a shadowy figure.
One e-mailer, a former Anniston police officer, writes:
As a former officer in your fair city, I find the printing of this comic inexcusable. ... Rest assured that this will not be accepted by the law enforcement community. I feel the Star is treading on dangerous ground by allowing such images and messages to be printed. The comic section is intended to make us forget about the tragedies we face every day thru the avenue of humor. I challenge you, Mr. Davis, to find the humor in today’s "Jump Start." I even dare you to justify it.
[name and city withheld]
Another e-mailer writes:
How in the world could anyone find this cartoon humorous in any way? How in the world could you allow such a tasteless comic to be run in your paper?
If you ran this cartoon expecting a public reaction I certainly hope you get it. I think most law abiding citizens that see this will also be appalled and hopefully let you know. I think an apology to the Law Enforcement community and our citizens is in order. Please don't hide behind it being a syndicated cartoon you have to publish. As editor you are totally responsible for the content of your paper.
Regular Jump Start readers will recognize that the strip is in the tradition of others that deal with all of the complexity of life, the funny and the serious. For Better or Worse is another example of a strip that can be serious or humorous.
Today's Jump Start strip is one in a series that reminds readers of many things, not to take the work done by policemen for granted and how those helped by officers reach out to return the favor with gratitude. Hence, the mention of the officer's medallion, a gift from a homeless family whom he helped over Thanksgiving.
Tomorrow's - meaning Saturday's - strip will show that the large medallion actually protected the officer.
I will grant that today's strip out of context is in fact jarring. Even in context it's jarring to many, I would say. One regular reader told me it was a shocking reminder of the dangers police officers face daily.
Further, I would add that if I, as editor, believed that the strip was glorifying violence, I would have not run it.
Yet, in context, this series offers an uplifting view of the work done by police officers, as well as the dangers they face.
I didn't, but could have mentioned Batman, Dick Tracy and other comics where bad guys have attempted any number of violent acts against law-enforcers since the the 1930s.
The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle has a response from Jump Start cartoonist Robb Armstrong. He writes:
I am saddened and horrified whenever I learn of an officer or anyone else being shot at or murdered.
Sometimes I wonder if our society is becoming numb to news of a shooting or some other anti-social atrocity. I wonder if being in a seemingly endless war overseas has caused us to accept inexplicable violence as a normal part of life. ...
The point of this series is to implore officers to wear their vests every day. "Joe," the character in JumpStart who gets shot, happens to be wearing a steel medallion given to him by a homeless man. Joe and his family fed the homeless man’s family on Thanksgiving, and he is given the "Hero Medallion" as a display of gratitude. Joe is reluctant to wear the strange gift, but wearing it ends up stopping an assailant’s bullet. A later strip points out that all officers have a life-saving "Hero Medallion," it is their bullet-proof vest, and they should wear it proudly and fearlessly.
UPDATE II: Next two JumpStarts are online. Here and here.