Bly: Record Breaker and Adovate

Nellie was what was known as a “stunt reporter”. She’d put herself in dangerous and sometimes ridiculous situations. Her undercover stories were exciting and boardered on sensationalist. Joseph Pulitzer, owner of The New York World, capitalized on this style of reporting. He began hiring many more women to follow in Nellie’s footsteps and become her competitors. Soon, women almost outnumbered men in America’s biggest newrooms.

Record Breaker

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Motivated by her competitors, Bly wanted to pull something new out of her hat. She proposed a trip alone around the world, hypothesizing it was possible to make it back in less than 80 days. Her editors had already considered the idea but wanted to send a man. To get her editors to agree to her plan, she threated to make the trip for another paper AND beat any man The World sent. And so, on Nov. 14, 1889, Bly began her journey from Hoboken. Her itinerary was as follows:

Nov. 14: Left from Hoboken, NJ (USA)
” 22: London, England
” 23: Calais, France
” 25: Brindisi, Italy
” 27: Port Said, Egypt
” 28: Ismallia and Suez, Egypt
Dec. 03: Aden, Yemen
” 08: Colombo, Sri Lanka
” 16: Penang, Malaysia
” 18: Singapore
” 25: Hong Kong (territory of China)
” 28: Yokohama, Japan
Jan. 07: Left Yokohama
” 21: San Francisco, CA (USA)
” 23: Chicago, IL (USA)
” 25: New York City, NY (USA)

Around the World in 72 Days differs in style from most of Bly’s other work. It flows more like a novel than a news article. Bly was able to write more personally because she treated the trip more like a vacation. Her trip wasn’t to report on any one story –– she WAS the story. She included more dialogue show the vast cast of characters she met. She allows her humor and wit to come through as well.
Despite 72 Days being more personal, it remains straight forward and factual.
Early in her journey, Nellie stopped by Amines, France to visit Jules Verne.Version 3 He was excited to meet the woman proposing to beat his character’s record. On a map showing Phileas Fogg’s 80-day route, Verne marked where Bly’s journey differed. He wished her success saying, “If you do it in 79 days, I shall applaud with both hands,” and “Good Luck, Nellie Bly”.
However, Bly wasn’t the only woman undertaking this challenge. Elizabeth Bisland, a reporter for Cosmopolitan, raced (in the opposite direction) for the record without Nellie knowing until she was in Hong Kong.
In the end, Bly broke the fictional record, and beat Bisland as well as her own 75 day estimate.

Nellie’s Record: 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes

The Advocate

From the beginning of her career, Bly advocated for women’s rights. When the women’s suffrage movement gained traction, she was right in the thick of it and in 1896 she attended the Woman’s Suffrage Convention to report on it for The World. She was pleased to see a large age range of women there saying, “The oldest woman in the audience was probably seventy-five. The youngest was five,”. Though she found some presentations such as those on finaces boring, she wrote, “Nothing is unimportant at this woman’s Suffrage Convention”.
Articles during this period of her career were dialogue heavy. She told stories mostly through quotes which allowed her subjects to take center stage. However, the dialogue does not over power her writing. In an interview with suffragist leader Susan B. Anthony, she opens with enough description readers can get a vivid picture of the “little, silvery-haired warrior” (Anthony) and her surroundings. Then she lets Anthony speak so its as if she is talking directly to the reader. In the interview/article “Champion of Her Sex” (published a few days after the woman’s convention), Bly highlights everything from Miss Anthony’s appearence and personality to her thoughts on women’s rights and the “new” woman.
When she married, Cochrane hung up her reporter’s hat and traded it in for one of a business woman. She came out of her hiatus while in Austria, feeling compelled to keep Americans, who weren’t yet in the war, informed.

“The fine, honest blue eyes of the soldiers would gaze with fearless straightness into the eyes of their princely superior. The Prince would hand them medals, shake hands with them, and they would step back for an officer to pin the medals over their loyal hearts.” – From “Nellie Bly at the Front. 1914. The New York Evening Journal.

Age certainly didn’t stop her from being a daredevil. Ast the beginning of the war, Bly was about 50 years old! Here and until her death, her reports were much shorter and a bit more lyrical.

What I learned from Nellie Bly:

Risky Business Can Be Profitable –– Even with potential safety issues and possible sensationalism, stories don’t uncover themselves. Change does not exist in the comfort zone. Without some risk, Nellie’s of Blackwell’s Island would not have led to changes in asylum practices.

Let Your Subjects Speak For Themselves –– All writer’s are told to follow the “show don’t tell” rule. Quotes allow the interviewee to bring color and personality to the story.

Persistance Is a Must –– Nellie did not let her editor’s turn her down. When she wanted to take a trip around the world, she convinced her editors to agree. She was able to write the stories she chose because continually insisted upon it. Persistance may aid career advancement, but it is also extreamly beneficial when dealing with sources.

Check back soon for all things Margaret Mitchell!


Nellie Bly: Daredevil in a Madhouse

img_0028-1Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, known to the world as “Nellie Bly” was an American female reporter who pioneered the field of investigative journalism. Throughout her career she frequently went undercover to expose the ills of society, traveled around the world, advocated for women’s suffrage and reported from the front lines as one of the first female war correspondents.

Before getting into her work, here is a Bit of History: 
Elizabeth Cochrane was born in Pennsylvania in 1864. She attended Indiana Normal School aiming to become a teacher but was only able to complete one semester as tuition was too expensive.
It was in 1885 Cochrane’s began her journalism career. Moved by anger, she replied to an editorial entitled “What Girls Are Good For”, which suggested women had no place outside of the home and completing and education or striving toward a career was outside female capabilities. The managing editor of The Pittsburg Dispatch was impressed enough to invite Cochrane to the newspaper and offered her a job. Her first article “The Girl Puzzle” was published as a rebuttal to “What Girls Are Good For”. From this point forward, Cochrane began writing under the pen name “Nellie Bly” taken from the title of a popular song.
Bly moved to New York City in 1887 after a brief stint at the Dispatch and a six-month trip to Mexico. Determined to land a job at a big newspaper, she talked her way into the office of John Cockerill (the managing editor of The New York World owned by Joseph Pulitzer). Her first assignment with The World was to go undercover and expose the mistreatment of patients at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum. Bly unsanitary conditions, rotten food, and both physical and mental abuse for 10 days. Her account of asylum life convinced city officials to investigate deeper, increase funding, and provide better care for the patients.
Following the success of her madhouse articles, she continued undercover work, helping pioneer the field of investigative journalism.
In November of 1889 Bly set of on her famous trip around the world, inspired by Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days. She returned to the United States  72 days later, breaking the fictional record and becoming a household name. She covered big stories such as the Pullman Strike, the women’s suffrage movement, and even interviewed Susan B. Anthony.
Though Cochrane didn’t plan to wed, She married Robert Seaman, a wealthy owner of a manufacturing company. Cochrane took over the business nine years later upon her husband’s death. The business went bankrupt in 1914 and Cochrane left for Austria to visit a friend.
While overseas, World War I began, compelling Cochrane to assume the role of Nellie Bly once more and race to the front lines. Risking her life, Bly reported back to Americans through The New York Evening Journal giving the country  a first hand account of the action.
Returning to New York when the fighting was over, Bly obtained her own column in the Evening Journal. She kept up with her column until her death in 1922. The Evening Journal paid tribute to Bly calling her “The Best Reporter in America”.

10 Days in a Madhouse Kickstarts Nellie’s Career
Nellie Bly made her mark by daring to write about sensitive topics most people didn’t want to talk or read about. Her success came from gumption, passion and pluck. However, she would never have made it into the madhouse, around the world, or to the front lines had she ignored the “What Girls are Good For” editorial.
In her first article, “The Girl Puzzle” she addresses all men as well as wealthy, more educated women advocating for women’s (especially the poor) right to work and fair wages.

“In being a merchant traveler or filling similar positions a true woman will protect herselft anywhere –– as easily on the road as behind the counter, as easily as a Pullman conductor as in an office or factory.”

While this first article earned her attention, her work at The Pittsburg Dispatch proved unsatisfying and she eventually left the paper for bigger and better opportunities in New York.
Once on the madhouse assignment, Bly wasted no time procuring a room at a boarding house for working women, using the name “Nellie Brown”. She admitted to being nervous and uncomfortable at the idea of living among mad women, but was determined to see it through.  Her strategy was to talk nonsense and stare blankly with wide eyes to convince the other women she was crazy. It works alarmingly well. The next morning, she is taken by the police before a judge and doctor who declare her insane. The poor treatment of suspected insane people is already apparent. Only a few people have treated her with kindness and sympathy. Sent to a hospital, Nellie is again questioned and examined by an “insane expert” who asks her ridiculous questions, concluding she is crazy.scan0037-2
Upon the expert’s suggestion, Nellie is sent to Blackwell’s Island. Bly informs readers she decided to drop the act, proving doctors can’t tell or don’t care whether someone is insane or not. Up until this point, Bly’s writing style is mostly to-the-point and factual with doses of her own feelings and opinions. When she arrives on the island, her style becomes more impassioned yet remains as objective as possible. Though her writing is plain, it has an easy, comfortable cadence. Her use of imagery bring the characters and events to life. Her first impression of the asylum gives readers a grim outlook on what can be found inside.

“…how much easier it would be to walk to the gallows than to this tomb of living horrors.”

Bly discovers all food served to patients is rotten and stale. Baths are cold and patients are forcibly bathed by a fellow patient. Nurses are never gentle, force patients to do their work, and find pleasure in the women’s pain.scan0038-2

“Well, you don’t need to expect any kindness here, for you won’t get it here.” – Miss Grupe to Nellie

Doctors ignore patients pleas of sanity and refuse to treat real illnesses like colds or fevers. Bly thinks the mistreatment (and occasional forcing of drugs) is enough to make and sane woman insane and the mad madder.scan0038-3 It pains her to watch insanity slowly creep into the minds and souls of women she has bonded with. 10 days in a madhouse seemed like a painful eternity but even release is bittersweet. Bly writes that she felt guilty for being the one to escape while others are left behind.
Back in comfortable society, Bly appeared in court to relay her findings to a judge and jury. The jurors ask her to take them BACK to the island to see the asylum for themselves making both Bly and readers uneasy. Nellie finds the madhouse much changed and hears the attendants were alerted before their arrival. Everything had been made presentable, casting doubt on her story. They look around for some of the women Bly encountered but none can be found. Still, the jury believes Bly’s account to be accurate.
The startling stories of asylum life, paired with Bly’s objectivity, led to nation-wide outrage and convinced city officials to make changes.
This is only the beginning of Nellie Bly’s career and personal story. As her career progressed, her style changed in little ways, allowing the voices of her subjects come through. However, her objective remained the same: write so the voices of the unheard could be heard and promote change through facts.

Intrepid Female Journalists and the Search for Truth

The job of a journalist is to seek the truth and report it as objectively as possible. This should be a job for anyone — man or woman. However, though most of journalism’s history, men have dominated the field. Nevertheless, there have been many women who have defied the odds, forged ahead, and pioneered the way for other women. These women faced a lot of adversity and risks in order to have similar opportunities as their male counterparts and to achieve the recognition they deserved.

To honor their bravery, perseverance, and genius, I’ll be spending the coming weeks reading pieces by a few intrepid and inspirational women. While I’d like to look at a larger selection of women, my focus will be on Nellie Bly, Margaret Mitchell, Nancy Hicks Maynard, and Nora Ephron. I’ll share my thoughts on each author and their body of work. I may even sprinkle in a few comics!

Check back in the next couple of days for posts on Nellie Bly!

How Do I Draw Faces?

Today I thought I’d quickly post some pictures of how I draw faces and how I set up my comics. Throughout this semester, the way I’ve gone about drawing people and how I’ve set up my comics has changed. I think this is from the natural evolution of my style and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I will also say that I’m still growing and trying to find my own style. I don’t think I’ve quite found it, but I have definitely come closer finding it.

First, here is how I draw faces. I learned this technique last spring from an interdisciplinary class I took called “Communication and the Face”. IMG_E1409

Next, here is how I currently create my comics. I’ve learned having a fully planned out comic– from the dialogue and basic poses to the layout of the panels– is extremely helpful. It may take a little more time, but the end result is much cleaner and well thought out.






I hope this has provided a little more insight on how I create my comics!



Thank You, Mr. Watterson

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I absolutely love Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I was raised on the comics, learned how to read with them, gained a broader imagination through them, and I still read them to this day. I want to use this post to explain just how much I love this strip and how it has impacted my life. However, I don’t know if the words I have are adequate or even enough to really show my apprieciation for Mr. Watterson. 


All strips featured in this post are from The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes (1992). [View Larger]

For quick reference, Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip about a mischevious, intelligent 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger. Written by Bill Watterson, the strip ran from 1985-1995 and ran in 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

When I was little (probably about 5-7 years old), my dad would pull out a book of Calvin and Hobbes and read me to sleep. Dad’s only mistake was thinking that it would put me to sleep. Calvin’s adventures and vast imagination filled my head with stories and my own possible adventures that kept me awake. Now, about 17 years later, I’ve begun making my own comic strips and incorporating many things I’ve learned from Mr. Watterson and Calvin.


Spaceman Spiff is one of Calvins’s many alteregos. Thanks to Spaceman Spiff, I wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut-Princess who piloted her own spaceship and faught menacing aliens. [View Larger]

From his comics, I’m learning how to organize my comics in an asthetically pleasing, yet readable way, how to write the dialogue of comics, and how to turn everyday experiences into fantastical adventures.

I could say here how clever, creative, enduring, intelligent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and hilarious Calvin and Hobbes is, but anyone who’s read the comics already understands. And if you haven’t read them, stop what you are doing and go read them. I suppose I don’t have much more to say, other than Thank You, Mr. Watterson.


My take on Bill Watterson’s style. I created this comic in response to hearing a lot of Christmas talk before Thanksgiving. (It’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves.)

The Politics of Cartoons

Note: with cartoons, political = editorial (for the most part) 

In America’s current political climate, many artists have published cartoons that criticize the (political, societal, etc) system. This is not a new phenomenon. The idea of “political” or “editorial” cartoons has been around since Leonardo da Vinci. da Vinci did a series of caricatures


Five Caricature Heads by Leonardo da Vinci.

focusing on deformities and the grotesque, in which he would dramatize and parody a person or person’s features. Much later, caricatures would become the basis for political cartoons, using allusions (creating context) to satirize and critique the establishment in a single panel.

Many art historians cite William Hogarth and James Gillroy (both living in the 18th century) as the fathers of the political cartoon. While there were many other influenctial artists along the way, Ben Franklin‘s “Join or Die” cartoon is one of the most important (and popular) American political cartoons as it was the first printed in the United States. Franklin’s cartoon symbolized colonial unity during the French and Indian War and was used again during the Revolutionary War to rally the colonies against Britain. This cartoon is of particular interest because it didn’t critique the enemy but turned the finger towards the self as if to say “Why aren’t we standing together and fighting back?” benjamin-franklin

When the 20th century came around, editorial cartoons grew in popularity thanks to the industrial revolution, expansion of newspaper printing, and World War I. With world wide turmoil, there was much to critique including the League of Nations which many people thought was useless.

FUN FACT: Dr. Seuss made several cartoons speaking out about issues such as “America First”, racism and political corruption. lead_960

Today, political cartoons remain popular due to the current American government and the way social media allows artists to share their work with the world. Magazines like The New Yorker and many newspapers still publish editorial cartoons everyday


Drew Sheneman  Copyright 2017 Tribune Content Agency

which have made waves on social media as well. The artistic style of political cartoons have changed a lot throughout the past few centuries, but satire and change has always been at the center of the art.

This week’s comic is my commentary on the net neutrality discussions. IMG_1393

A Reflection on Inktober

If my memory proves correct, I’ve attempted the month-long social media event, known as Inktober, only once before.

What is Inktober?
During the month of October, artists (of all skill levels) are challenged to create something new every day according to a theme. The rules aren’t very strict, allowing people to come up with their own themed lists or post as much or as little as they deem possible. Artists are not required to draw/post every day if they can’t find the time. The goal of Inktober is to give people a reason or the time to really work on their skills. A drawing a day for a month may not result in much visible progress, but it could help an artist to develop a habit.prompt

This year, I thought I’d join in so I could develop my skills for this comics blog. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I thought the attempt was worth it. I wasn’t able to complete the full 31-day challenge but I did as many as I could. I ended up with 20 drawings, some of which were comics while others were doodles. In the end, it was a fantastic challenge. It forced me to be creative every day instead of once a week. Knowing my comics and doodles would be going on social media, I put more effort into the ideas and the products. By attempting to stick with it and come up with decent drawings, I do think I improved. Plus, I gained some Instagram followers!

Comics Spotlight: Speed Bump and The Argyle Sweater

One panel comics are short and to the point often absurd and pun-derful. With one panel comics, there is no waiting for the punchline and it often lacks a drawn-out narrative. One way to think about one-panels and strips is comparing it to literature formats: Strips are like novels whereas one-panels operate like short stories. While there are several comics like these floating around in the papers and online, two that stand out to me are Speed Bump by Dave Coverly and The Argyle Sweater by Scott HilburnBoth of these comics have an absurd nature to them and take normal concepts and turn them upside down. IMG_E1379For example, Speed Bump might take two concepts, a work vacation, and a sheep herding dog, and mash them together. The Argyle Sweater typically takes concepts, like online dating, and uses characters that seem out of place to act them out. IMG_E1381I especially enjoy these two comics because they make you take a minute to figure it out. While they sometimes rely on dumb punchlines, they often make readers see the mundane in a slightly different light.

Other popular one-panels include The Family Circus, Bizarro, Rhymes with Orange, Cornered, and The Far Side.

With the internet and mobile phones gradually replacing newspapers, many comics have moved online. Some cartoonists have exclusively put their content online and have developed a large following. One of those artists is Doug Savage, creator of Savage Chickens. He uses chickenschickengps2 to talk about very human concepts and it certainly makes for an absurdly funny comic.

Not all one-panel comics need to be funny to be successful. Political/editorial cartoons are often limited to a single panel and use a splash of humor to comment on serious topics. Political cartoons are also usually a bit absurd.

From creating my own one-panel, I discovered that it’s not as simple as it looks. The concept needs to be simple and understandable to a large audience, and you need to deliver the punchline immediately. I first struggled to come up with a good subject, and then I struggled to find the right phrasing to fit it all in. I have a new found respect for all the one-panel artists out there. IMG_1321

Comics Spotlight: Blondie

On September 8, 1930, Chic Young’s now insanely popular comic strip, Blondie, appeared in newspapers across America. It began with a pretty flapper girl, Blondie Boopadoop, and a bumbling, awkward, billionaire’s son, Dagwood Bumstead. At the beginning, Dagwood was just one of Blondie’s many boyfriends, but eventually, the two fell in love. They tied the knot in 1933, in a highly anticipated and memorable comic strip. As a result of their marriage, Dagwood was almost immediately disinherited and written out of his father’s will and “Dagwood and Blondie had to go out into the world and hack it like the rest of us” (Dean Young).


Before I drew a comic inspired by Blondie‘s style, I figured I’d practice by drawing the two main characters and the logo.

Today the strip is written and illustrated by Chic’s son, Dean as well as head artist, John Marshall. Dagwood and Blondie’s day-to-day escapades revolve around their work and home lives. The Bumsteads have two teenage children, Alexander and Cookie, and a dog, Daisy, all of whom make frequent appearances in the strip. The strip also features the Bumstead’s neighbors and coworkers.

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 5.39.04 PM

A Blondie strip from Oct. 25, 2015, which includes characters from other newspaper strips such as Dustin, Zits, and Baby Blues. 

In its early years, the strip’s success led to the creation of several “Blondie” movies spanning from 1938-1950, and a 26-episode TV series in 1957. Blondie was portrayed by Penny Singleton in the movies and Pamela Britton on TV while Dagwood was played by Arthur Lake in both.

I think the strip’s enduring popularity comes from its ability to represent and show the absurd and hilarious in the mundane. While this is the aim of most comics, Blondie does it particularly well as it comes off extremely relatable and makes me laugh almost every time. Another reason I find Blondie so funny is that I see a bit of my dad’s personality (and maybe a bit of my own) in Dagwood. I think the most incredible thing is that the strip has been in print for almost 90 years. I can’t think of any other comic that has endured so long. The creators must be doing something right!


My comic inspired by the Blondie comics. I wanted to find a way to include Dagwood’s famous sandwiches and it just so happens that I really DO get excited about sandwiches.

The Art of Making Comics

Throughout these last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the history of comics and creating my own, sometimes emulating or at least referencing comics I’ve talked about. I think it is necessary for me to create a comic each week and include it. Not only do I enjoy making these comics, the obligation (I’ve set for myself) helps develop my creativity and helps improve my skills. Today, I wanted to share with you how I go about making my own comics.

1) Most of the time, I think about the topic of that week’s blog. From there, an intense brainstorming session takes place. Sometimes no ideas come to me, sometimes they are all horrible ideas, and sometimes, the figurative light bulb goes off. No matter what, I always make a comic.

The important thing is to CREATE—even if it isn’t my best work, it’s worth it just to put something together.

1a) Even if I’m not making a comic for the blog, I’ll start off with a simple idea. I still might brainstorm, but most of the time it just occurs to me that something might make for a funny comic.
2) I make a simple sketch of the potential comic.
3) The sketchbook comes out and pencil goes to paper. I use pencil first because I make LOTS of mistakes.
4) Inking! (Hopefully, I don’t mess up in this stage)
5) Coloring! (If I feel like it…or if I think it’ll enhance the comic)

My process is pretty straightforward and simple, but there it is. If you do something different or have any suggestions, let me know! I would love to hear from you!