Pretty Young Things, part 2 UNCENSORED
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July 7th, 2009

Pretty Young Things, part 2 UNCENSORED

My editor sent me an email a few days before today’s strip was going to press saying “I can’t let you do this.” It had all the urgency of an intervention. My editor was refusing to let me OD. She was pouring my vodka down the drain. Apparently jokes about pedophilia, even mild ones like this, aren’t allowed on the comics page. But thank God for the Web!

Here’s the CENSORED version (below). I had to come up with something that would fit the existing art and I had about ten minutes in which to do that. It still works. In fact, all I did was replace the offending last two panels with an earlier draft of the strip, so this is still something I wanted to say. I like it more than I did when I grabbed it from my notes in a mad rush to meet the deadline. You might even prefer it:

This is the CENSORED version of today's strip. See the Director's Cut at

This is the CENSORED version of today's strip. See the Director's Cut at

The edited version of today’s strip removes all jocular (funny word to use, considering… oh never mind) references to Michael Jackson’s questionable relationship with small boys. In fact, they even removed “your possible depravity” from panel three in a second round of censoring (I’m not going to spend time doing the same here, but I will for the version that’ll go in a book collection). Some believe that’s for the best, because he was never convicted and because he’s dead and should be left alone.

But the uncensored version of the strip doesn’t assert that he was guilty. What it does is acknowledge that people have questions about him that are impossible to answer because of his own actions. He went through a child molestation trial and settled out of court for $20 million. Whether he was innocent or not, inviting young boys to sleep with him AFTER having gone through that was a stupid and naive decision. I bought his story. But I have to admit that as much as I admire him and his music, he handed people who don’t believe him plenty of reason to doubt his veracity. And I’ve never believed that we should only speak well of the dead. That’s dishonest.

**EDIT: Several of you have asked if I could make a poster available composed of the entire Michael Jackson/Lemont series. I’ve created an order button. If enough of you order to cover the production costs, I’ll go ahead and order a print run. If not, I’ll refund the money. Profits will be donated to Aids Project Los Angeles. Here’s how to order:

Domestic Orders: $15 (includes s&h)

International Orders: $15 (includes s&h)

Discussion (29)¬

  1. Aengil says:

    Mmm… I wouldn't say the questions are impossible to answer, just impossible to answer definitively. But then I can't say that you haven't abused children either. Does that mean I should say you might have?

    Just how much weight should we give to accusations? Michael Jackson wasn't just accused, he was tried, and found innocent. CBS's chief legal correspondant Andrew Cohen attended the trial and wrote afterwards, ""The case against Jackson was so bad that even you [directed at those upset with the verdict] would have acquitted him based solely upon the evidence. Yes, it was that bad." Note the trial included evidence from the 1993 accusations as well.

    Of course, it's not like Michael Jackson was so wealthy that manipulative parents, with a history of grifting, might have coerced their children into making up stories in order to try and profit… oh, wait…

    So sure, the question technically can't be answered definitively. But objectively, Michael Jackson was tried and found innocent. The question "did he abuse children" isn't impossible to answer, it was asked, investigated, and answered, "no, he didn't", and can be answered accordingly thereafter.

    I don't think we should only speak well of the dead either. But when the question was asked and answered, why keep asking the question?

    Do you believe there's no smoke without fire as well?

  2. Arlene Kelly says:

    I always liked the old Scottish verdict, used in New England for awile, "Not Proven" which a Scottish relative of mine said meant: not guilty but don't do it again.

  3. Ken says:

    I agree about the right to questions Jackson's veracity. I have doubts about the timing. Fans will be debating those difficult issues for years and gradually resolving how they want to regard Jackson. I' don't think most fans are ready to think seriously about his flaws this week

  4. Arlene Kelly says:

    I like the old Scot's verdict, used in New England for awhile (including at the Lizzie Borden Trial): Not Proven. It meant: not guilty but don't do it again.

  5. reyna25 says:

    I just think the published version is funnier.

  6. Aengil says:

    Firstly, apologies for confusing you with your character. Easy to do, but I should know better. Sorry.

    Secondly, *technically*, "not guilty" in a system that presumes innocence until proven guilty does mean "innocent", but I take your point that in practice it may not. However, I'd also urge against taking a stance where anyone accused of something, no matter how baseless the accusations and weak the case against them, is forevermore considered more guilty than someone never accused.

    Essentially, accusations of paedophilia seem to be the modern-day witch-hunt. We do after all live in a world where a paediatrician was labelled a 'paedo' in a name and shame campaign.

    And here's my point. It's not really about MJ from my point of view. It's about a society where any innocent behaviour that *could* be considered suspicious is no longer innocent. Where the possibility of depravity becomes the probability of depravity. How many teachers refuse to comfort a crying child for fear of being accused of inappropriate behaviour? How many parents already refuse to let their children share their beds when they're scared, etc., for fear of it being misconstrued?

    If an innocent teacher hugs an upset child and is later accused of touching them inappropriately, should they never hug an upset child again? If they do, should that really be considered reason to question whether they were truly innocent? Are they naive, or are they just refusing to let the fear and paranoia of others stop them doing what they know is innocent?

    Similarly if the MJ sleepovers were innocent, should he really have stopped them after a false accusation? I do not think it's right to wonder whether he was telling the truth when he said nothing happened because he continued doing something which, if he was indeed telling the truth, was perfectly innocent.

    (Actually, if he had stopped them, I would not have been surprised in the slightest if people then said "he must have thought there was something wrong with what he was doing, otherwise he wouldn't have stopped.")

    Don't get me wrong. I agree that Lemont has the right to question MJ's veracity. But while he might have the right to do that, I don't think he is right to do so.

    I simply don't believe that accusations found to be baseless and the mere possibility of inappropriate behaviour are cause to continually question someone's innocence. I think the reason that MJ's innocence is still continually questioned is not because there is reasonable cause to question his innocence but simply because 'mud sticks'. And I think that's a shame.

    I think a world where people stop doing good things out of fear of being misunderstood is poorer for it.

    But perhaps I'm just naive?

  7. jonthebru says:

    Censorship in this case is not logic, its just trying to avoid controversy. Either version is good, if I had seen the censored version first I would not have thought about anything else. Your craft is an amazing one, creating new content constantly must keep you on your toes.

  8. Peacezgood says:

    The published version is funnier because it says a lot in fewer words. Also, I don't think that the published version substantially changed the meaning of the cartoon. I actually like it better because you can read what you want into it. And the "what, what" at the end is more consistent with your other cartoons which have the "what, what" at the end. I like it. I can see why you liked the original one but with the fewer words, the drawings are more pronounced, and I love your drawings.

  9. I think he grew up literally SO fast that he never got past a childlike innocence as related to the world. He never HAD to deal with the world on a normal person's terms. maybe he even had a touch of Asperger's and didn't relate to cultural and conversational subtexts the way most people do. I don't believe he did anything out of malice as much as out of a honest inability to understand how others could read more into a situation than what he did. He still WAS a kid in so many ways. so I say, maybe smoke, but no fire.

  10. Anjilyn says:

    Poor Michael. The whole thing confused me. I don't know a lot about psychology or anything but I wonder how he would have turned out if Joe didn't fuck him up as a child?

  11. @bradspace says:

    I am disgusted that our society is so politically correct that your strip had to be censored. I definitely prefer the uncensored one. MUCH funnier. A DJ that I know often says that tragedy+time=comedy. MJ created and lived in situations that lend themselves to speed up the clock that may otherwise take a few more weeks.

  12. @danlyke says:

    Add this to the list of exhibits on why newspapers are dying. This is yet another thing that I can read online that I can't get if I get a big pile of dead trees that I have to figure out how to dispose of flopped on my doorstep every morning. If newspapers stopped pandering to the most milquetoast of the 60+ crowd and grew a pair, I might start reading them again.

    To the discussions above, "Not Guilty" and "Guilty" are legal terms and although they hopefully have something to do with whether the defendant did or did not do the acts of which they are accused, it is no guarantee.

  13. TCO says:

    He was a weirdo. Carving his face up and bleaching his skin and straightening hids hair to look white. Good riddance

  14. […] Darrin Bell posts his Michael Jackson comic strip that had to be rewritten before it could go out to papers. Darrin calls it “censorsed” on his blog. The topic is […]

  15. Cezar says:

    Interesting comic, thanks