The Small Society | Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and MuseumBilly Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

Ohio State nav bar

Skip to main content

The Small Society

Hoo-Boy! Morrie Brickman’s The Small Society
November 2, 2003 – February 27, 2004
The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library
27 West 17th Avenue Mall, Columbus, Ohio

In 1966 Morrie Brickman created something different. The writer of a news story about the debut of the feature was undecided about whether it should be described as an “editorial comic strip” or a “political satire.” It was “both and neither,” according to cartoon historian Richard Samuel West, who continues by stating, “Even to this day, The Small Society defies neat categorization… Unlike all comic strips that preceded it, The Small Society was driven primarily by its topic for the day, not by its characters (who were generally Everyman and Everywoman), nor by a race to the punchline. Unlike the political cartoons of the period, The Small Society eschewed politicians and headlines in the particular to find the universal in public debate.”

The comic strip’s title provides a window into the cartoonist’s intent: “The Great Society,” Lyndon Johnson’s high-flown vision for the future of the United States, was making headlines. By titling his new comic strip The Small Society, Brickman made his perspective clear. His worldview is the everyday, and quirks of his characters belong to all of us. This is the comic strip’s greatest strength. Between1966 and 1985, from Viet Nam to Reaganomics, current events and American life are satirized in The Small Society. Grocery prices, inflation, taxes, family-the stuff of life for everyone-are covered in Brickman’s comic strip, often accompanied by a resounding “hoo-boy” that reflected his amazement at the world around him.

This exhibition and related events are cosponsored by The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library, its Milton Caniff Endowment, the Victor Herbert Foundation and Herbert P. Jacoby in memory of Marge Devine, the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Endowment, the Department of Theatre, and the Melton Center for Jewish Studies.