MATT BORS does not suffer foolish trend stories gladly.
The syndicated political cartoonist especially has no patience for inauthentic, uninformed attempts to paint his generation — the Millennials — with a grossly sweeping brush, just to shapeshift reality into a tidy journalistic narrative.
In July, Bors — a Herblock Prize winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist — had his comic titled “Stop Trashing Millennials” go viral. The comic, created for CNN, played off of Millennials vs. Boomers generational warfare.
Now, as editor of Medium’s cartoon-focused section The Nib, Bors has published a sharp Millennials comic by Rich Stevens.
Stevens, the first-wave webcartoonist and creator of “Diesel Sweeties,” is on the Gen-X/Y cusp himself, but he feels sorry for younger Millennials who have entered the work force since 2008. The creative result is today’s “Six Totally Easy Tips for Millennials to Get Ahead in Today’s Economy.”
“Rich was able to dispel the myths of a thousand Millennial-bashing articles in a single panel,” Bors tells Comic Riffs. “He added five more just to be sure they were dead.”
Comic Riffs caught up with Stevens to talk webcomics, the economy and the potentially life-changing promise of Go-Gurt:
MICHAEL CAVNA: What was your inspiration behind this comic? Were you especially mulling the economic plight of Millennials?
RICH STEVENS: A friend of mine on Twitter (@brittneysabo) was mulling about what she would do if she went back to school. I think she’s mid-20s-something. It just stuck in my head and got me thinking about how ease of success is linked to age and time and larger forces.
MC: Since you yourself were born in 1977, can you speak to how you feel about Millennials who more recently entered the workforce — compared to your early years after graduation?
RS: I think they’re kind of boned if they stick to traditional work structures. Gen X is still not quite at the top because the Baby Boomers haven’t let go of power. Boomers aren’t going to let go of power until they are struck down by lightning at an Eagles concert. I don’t think traditional jobs and organizations want to help younger people get in. That’s just the nature of a stagnant economy.
I am just young enough to have missed the dot-com bubble. I wound up in a pretty boring phone company job, but it was stable. There was room for a younger person because “HELP! COMPUTERS.” I used the 90 percent of my brain that job didn’t require and started a comic strip.
MC: Has Bors, as a Medium editor, ever come to you and said: “Quick, I need a Millennials cartoon — stat!”?
RS: Hah, nope. If anything, he looks at my insane lists of unrelated ideas, develops a migraine and lets me do what I want. I pretty much agree with him on this topic, though I am more inclined to promote open class warfare.
MC: Who among us hasn’t imagined what it would be like to travel to a different era with the knowledge you already have today — such foreknowledge would be like a superpower. If you could travel back to any of the previous six decades, which decade would it be, and what would you change economically? [And] would Go-Gurts be involved?
RS: I would absolutely travel back to the early ‘90s — 1993? — with three to four modern Mac Minis secured inside some large computer cases. I’d bring a big sack of USB-to-old keyboard adapters and a bunch of VGA dongles. I’d probably grab some old PowerBooks just for appearances, too.
I would then proceed to quietly and quickly design websites for every overpaid start-up full of Aeron chairs until about 1996. I’d cash out everything and buy Apple stock at a stupid low price and get physical certificates, which I would then leave with a lawyer who would be instructed to deliver them to me in 2012, so I’d still be married to my current-universe wife.
I spend a lot of time thinking about this. Time Police, if you’re out there, you want me on your side.
MC: Speaking of timing: As a webcartoonist, you were right there on the forefront with “Diesel Sweeties.” Do you feel fortunate to have come along as a cartoonist when you did — or do you think you readily would have adapted your skills to most any decade since newspaper comics began?
RS: I came along at a pretty magical moment. I was trained in design and web stuff at a time when people were starting to read things online in larger numbers. Most of the competition at the time was crappy video game comics where two guys would make PlayStation jokes and pick on Mac users who will never forgive them.
I did a comic strip just for my own enjoyment and got very lucky.
MC: Do you have a single bit of real-world advice for those Millennials trying to make it in today’s economy?
RS: You’re being stifled out of the ability to flourish early in a structured work hierarchy. That’s just the truth. A weak position early on will hurt your ability to earn a living for decades.
You need to step outside the system. Consider starting a business. It’s better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven. You will always be at the top of your own org chart. You are as fluid of a person as you will ever be. Find a place in the world which suits your talents and makes you happy. Fill that crack and outperform less intelligent groups.
MC: What haven’t I asked that I oh-so-totally should have?
RS: The other reason I’d enjoy going back in time is that things were simpler when we only had one flavor of Mountain Dew.