Penance and Ink

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

“Catholic schools have created more cartoonists than any other force of nature.”

My friend and colleague, Pulitzer Prize winner, and “Mother Goose & Grimm” creator, Mike Peters coined this little pearl of wisdom while reflecting back on his Catholic school days.

It’s weirdly revealing and certainly true that an awful lot of cartoonists I know grew up Catholic, many attending Catholic school at one time or another.

By cartoonists, I mean from all genres of the art — comic strips, gag cartoonists, animators, illustrators and of course, editorial cartoonists, though I know less Catholics in the latter discipline, and many of them are lapsed.

I myself am a proud 12-year veteran of Parochial schooling — as are my four brothers and one sister.

Why so many Catholic school cartoonists?My theory is that more than a few of us were introverted class clowns, and we adapted to the strict regimen of “life in uniform” by acting-out underground — drawing little doodles in the corners of our David and Ann readers (the Catholic school version of Dick and Jane).

We were smarter than the usual extroverted variety of class clown, who adhered to more public displays of acting-out. Their outward attempts at staging one-man fourth-grade vaudeville shows at their desks would typically result in them kneeling on pencils at the front of the classroom or being forced to keep their noses inside a little chalk circle on the blackboard throughout recess.

Not that fledgling cartoonists like myself weren’t caught every so often passing vicious caricatures of Sister Antoninus to the kid next to us, and whose snort of suppressed laughter bought us both a couple of good raps on the knuckles.

But reflecting back, I understand now that those cracks of the ruler were preparing us…

…for one day working with editors.