Register Monday | September 24 | 2018

Nightsticks

When getting clubbed by police was funny.

Humour, according to Max Eastman, is “the instinct for taking pain playfully”; and he was certainly right about comics. In their early days, the comics were all about funny pain: sadistic pranks, outrageous mishaps, disproportionate reprisals.  Head injuries were especially popular, especially when inflicted by a cop. One of the many modern refinements absent from old comics was our attitude towards police brutality.  Police are always brutal, and the thud of nightstick against skull provides not just the soundtrack but the punchline for thousands of last panels. The single most frequent image in old comics is not an alley cat singing on a fence or a goat munching a tin can, but a policeman wielding a nightstick. Unless we count spanking, clubbing is by far the most common form of violence in early comics, and policemen the most insanely aggro of funny-page inhabitants.

Seldom can those policemen be classed as ...

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