PhablesToday's Phable is a funny story about a woman delivering her first child. She has a unique reaction when a nun offers a solution to her intense labor pains.
So, let me pull back the curtain for you and talk a little bit about how this one got into the paper.
This will make more sense if you read Phables first. Go ahead. I'll wait.
I brought that comic to my editor, as is my standard procedure, the week pefore it was scheduled to run.
Seeing the religious content, she showed it to a broad spectrum of people around the newsroom. She told me the reaction ran the gamut from "Fantastic!" to "Complete waste of a page."
The negative response seemed to hover around two things. In the original version, the book was clearly labeled "The Holy Bible" and the act of throwing the Bible at the nun was visually depicted -- with a resounding thump.
It was a real dilema for me. If I ran it the way it was -- the way I thought it had the most impact as a humorous piece -- I would risk alienating some of my readers. But would changing it be tantamount to buckling to a dogmatic sense of religion?
I gave this a tremendous amount of thought, and I finally decided to change the way the story was presented. Taking a page from Alfred Hitchcock, I let the action appear off panel, letting the reader's imagination fill in the rest. I also made the reference to the Bible itself more ambiguous.
And here's why: I want people to enjoy Phables for what it is -- great storytelling about Philadelphia. If the presentation of that story antagonized a portion of my readership to the point that they wouldn't be able to enjoy the story, then perhaps that presentation had to be re-thought.
I didn't change any of the facts of the story, mind you. Rather, I chose to present it in such a way that a greater number of readers could enjoy it.
I'm sure some readers still found it offensive. Let's face it, you don't present a humorous piece to 150,000 people and avoid offending someone. (And that doesn't even include the online readership.) But I think the new version was more appealing to a wider range of people.
With that in mind, here's the original version. Please don't click on the link if you're easily offended over religious issues.