By Jocelyn Visnov, Web Editor & Asst. Production Editor
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, It’s Jasperman.
The Jasperman is a comic strip originated by Jerry Breen, who is a graduate of the Manhattan College class of 1971. The comic strip was published in the Jasper Journal from 1966 to 1971.
The Jasper Journal, a rival student-run newspaper to the Quadrangle, served the MC community from around 1964 – 1974. Nicknamed the “JJ,” this publication was formed when several staff members of the Quadrangle were unhappy with the lack of objectivity when it came to covering campus and worldly politics.
Amy Surak, a staff member in the office of MC archives, explained how the JJ came to be.
“Things were being misrepresented or not accurately told, I think also a group of students were really angry because there were some issues of censorship that had gone on.” Surak said. “And so students were kind of pissed and were like, we’re gonna do our own thing.”
So, several students branched off from the Quadrangle and created a separate newspaper of their own, and thus the Jasper Journal was born.
“They’re like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do this new thing’ and then it was really just like these printed out, almost like newsletters.” Surak said. “And then finally, I think they got a budget. You know, in the Student Activities Office, they finally got a budget and then it looked like a real newspaper.”
The JJ served alongside the Quadrangle in offering a resource for students and faculty alike to stay informed of what’s going on in their campus community. After receiving funding from the Office of Student Engagement, the JJ published the following statement in their first print issue:
“We want to be certain that all Administrators, faculty members and students at Manhattan College, both as individuals and as representatives for campus-related organizations, are fully cognizant of the reasons for the existence of the Jasper journal. We have every intention of offering editorial comment, as is proper to a newspaper. But our prime purpose, and the very reason the idea of a second publication arose, is to be the medium for all members of the Manhattan College community to present news and views to the community at large.”
Given the years in which it was published, the JJ addressed some major historical events which were happening at the time. In what we now refer to as a “Voices on the Quad” column, students were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on subjects such as the Vietnam War and the draft. These “Camera Queries” would also ask students about on-campus news.
For example, when women were first allowed to enroll in classes at MC in 1973, current students referred to them as “Mounties,” having originally gone to the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Current male students were asked their opinion on women coming to campus for the JJ, and had quite a bit to say about it in their “Camera Queries.”
“Co-educational? That’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard in years. Co-ed dorms; co-ed classes’ sounds like it might add a little pizzazz to our smiles. It worked at Olympia, Washington, at St Maxidus College – at least for the day students. I see no reason why, through an evolutionary process, it couldn’t work here.” – Doug Major, MC alum.
In later issues of the JJ, women in turn were given the opportunity to add their thoughts on “Manhattan Men” during the Camera Query column.
“I think Manhattan men are the most. They’ve got charm, good looks and personality that you can’t find anywhere else. Whenever I have the choice of a date with a Jasper and some other college student, I’ll go with the Manhattan man every time.” – Arlene Berlow, who was presumably taking classes at MC while enrolled at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Jerry Breen joined the staff at the Jasper Journal when he first enrolled at MC in the Fall of 1966. Breen not only illustrated the Jasperman comic strip by hand, but also went on to become the Editor-in-Chief of the Jasper Journal in the Fall of 1968.
“In the fall of ’66, when I entered Manhattan, the new Student Government approved a budget for both the new Jasper Journal and the established Quadrangle,” Breen wrote.
“They then published alternately as lithographed print newspapers for about 7 or 8 years. I started my ‘Jasperman’ comic strip, which ran until spring 1970, with about a dozen episodes a year, ranging in size from small 6-panel episodes to large 2-page centerfolds. I became the 4th Editor-in-Chief, reluctantly, in about the fall of ’68. I had redesigned the paper as the design director with wider columns with space in between instead of lines for a cleaner look, and an overall layout that was an adaptation of ‘Rolling Stone’s’ innovative tabloid design,” Breen continued.
Breen also gave Jasperman himself a backstory in an early issue of the JJ. Within the comic, Johnny Jasper comes to orientation as a college freshman and struggles to “find himself.” While on campus, Johnny Jasper comes across a magic elixir. Upon drinking it, he feels a voice deep within him crying out “BIC,” which stands for brawn, intellect, and courage. Upon saying it outloud, Johnny Jasper transforms into Jasperman, and finally has “found” himself.
The JJ published its last issue during the 1976 academic year. The Quadrangle again became the sole newspaper of the MC community, striving for further objectivity to prevent future conflict.
Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from Jasperman. If you ever feel lost, just seek “BIC”: Brawn, Intellect, and Courage.