The Start …

Talking out of his Arse!

This was the first cartoon that I got a real heavy response from, unsurprisingly mainly from Disabled people. I think it appeared in Disability Arts in London Magazine (DAIL) first when the irrepressible Kit Wells was Editor. He loved it, especially as he knew that lots of non-disabled professionals read the magazine and thought that they were into safe territory with a publication about disability arts! In fact, it was mainly Kit and then the lovely Colin Hambrook who succeeded him, who encouraged me into my trademark irreverent ways (so you know who to blame!).

I remember when I’d been invited to participate at a talk along with other Disabled people and some non-disabled media professionals, and I put up a random showing of my cartoons as a bit of light relief. As soon as this cartoon appeared, there were cheers and whistles from the Crips in the audience whilst the journalists looked at each other with panic on their faces. I managed to keep a wide eyed, innocent expression on my own face until the ruckus died down!


Fellow Crips tell me that this cartoon has a really empowering feel to it, more so than any other Crippen cartoon I can bring to mind. It also survived its re-emergence as a coloured cartoon, after I reprocessed it from its original greyscale format (some conversions just don’t work for some reason, and I don’t mean in a technical sense). Another funny fact about this cartoon is that whenever I tried to email it as an attachment to magazines or other publications, it would always fall foul of their filters. It took me a while to realise that it was the fact that I’d used the term ‘arse’ in its title. I now usually send it as ‘bottom’ or something similar!


I think that this was one of the first times that I’d also included another Disabled person, other than a wheelchair user, in my cartoon. I’d previously stuck to portraying wheelchair users as this was what I was familiar with and to make my point in a really obvious way. I don’t know what prompted me to draw a woman with short arms though (perhaps a Freudian would have a field day with this?!).

When I first started creating Crippen cartoons, I had this misguided idea that I shouldn’t draw someone with an impairment that I wasn’t experiencing. I suppose that’s why you don’t see many Black people in my earlier work as well. This changed very quickly when I started getting emails from people with other impairments and from other cultures who wanted to see their groups portrayed in my cartoons.

I like to think that I cover the range of impairments and cultures in my current work, although I can still get pulled up by someone who feels that they’re being under-represented. I’m still struggling with portraying someone with a learning disability who doesn’t have the obvious Downs Syndrome condition, for example, or someone who has a mental health issue or is HIV positive and or lives with AIDS. In these situations, I usually try and convey the fact through the dialogue or through props associated with the character. Though sometimes then people accuse me of being too wordy! It’s not easy being a disability cartoonist I can tell you!

Description of cartoon for those who use screen reading software

A young white male wheelchair user is lifting up the coat tails of a white male adult who is standing with his back to him. He is staring intently at the older man’s bottom. The older person is using a pointer to indicate words on a large black board along side of him. The board reads ‘How to report about the disabled – readers like to be reassured that the disabled are off the streets and being cared for … the disabled are very grateful to everyone for everything …the disabled know their place’. A young black woman with very short arms is standing alongside of them both and is saying to the older man: “It’s just that he’s never seen anyone talk out of their arse before!”


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