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October 12, 2011


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Tjeerd Royaards has quite a mountain to climb on Monday to show the upside of obit cartoons. Great job Matt.Not just in talking about the easy and expected manner in which cartoonists mark the passing of "Great Men", but in reminding us why we were put on this earth in the first place, to hold a light up to the issues of the day...before we wither and die and go straight to Hell.

Kane Lynch

"Maybe he is an unassailable genius after all. Chinese factories owners certainly appreciated him."


Mike Peterson

There are moments that do call for commentary -- Bill Mauldin's classic cartoon on the death of JFK, for example, marked a moment in which the world changes. But that's really part of the problem -- when you draw weepers for every death of every celebrity, how DO you make any kind of meaningful statement at a historic moment like that?

Jen Sorensen

Very well-written piece, Matt. I have done exactly one obit cartoon, for Molly Ivins. It was one of the hardest cartoons I ever tried to write. Avoiding cliches and sappiness is a real challenge.

David Cohen

Very good, Matt. I, too, try to avoid obituary cartoons, mainly because I know that everyone else will be doing one, and that it will be almost impossible to say anything new. As well as the fact that, as you will never find a written obituary that is critical or points out the dead person's less than exemplary behavior,
a critical obituary cartoon is an oxymoron. The kids will just have to get to practice on their own!

Zach Mayer

Ted Rall's obit cartoon was pretty critical of Jobs:

Matt Bors

You're right Zach. In a weird twist, Rall drew it as a pre-obit a few weeks ago, then it eerily came true. Nonetheless, it's the only critical comic I've seen.

Susie Cagle

What if obit cartoons were more like actual obits? They're often the most interesting reads in the paper, certainly more like profiles or biographies than tributes. I guess that would require the space of a comic rather than a one panel cartoon, but I think it's an important distinction -- it's not that drawing about dead people is all bad.

Don McIntosh

I love my Mac as much as the next guy, but Jobs' workers rights legacy was left out in all the eulogies. Here's a good summary from several months ago. http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/11863/remembering_steve_jobs_record_on_workers_rights/
Having read it, I winced when I saw an inspirational Steve Jobs quote on the sign of an Occupy Portland marcher last week.

Matt Bors

An interesting point, Susie. I think an illustrated or comic obituary could be great if done right. I don't know if anyone has ever done something like that. But it's the editorial cartoon approach that is horrible 95% of the time.

true religion outlet

Brown said he and his coaches are game-planning as they normally would for their game against OU this weekend, but are paying special attention to Sooners LB Travis Lewis and the rest of the standout OU linebacking corps.


Matt, I don't really agree.

> Editorial cartoons must strive for much more than popularity--they must address the issues of the day, not just mark the passing the time with illustrations of news events.

I don't think that editorial cartoons must strive for anything other than what the cartoonist wants. Pearly Gates cartoons are less about a religious perspective of the afterlife and more about a cartoon device, of which there are many. For as long as I can remember, cartoons employ stereotypes.

And so what?

I don't buy the rather purist argument that it's not about popular appeal; of course it's about popular appeal.

Editorial cartoonists are commercial artists. If the cartoonist isn't interested in commercial appeal, then why does he draw for a commercial operation that is driven by commercial success? Why doesn't he simply draw for himself?

Another point is the newspaper's target audience. The cartoonist might be drawing for a less business-intellectualised readership and a more tabloid-esque readership; the kind who don't care about "being different" (which is a philosophical farce, anyway).

That said, there is nothing wrong in trying to be "different". But, simply navigate the internet and see what Steve Jobs cartoons are being shared and "liked" by millions around the world. They like Pearly Gates cartoons, whether we like them or not.

Of course, there isn't anything wrong in NOT drawing them, either (stereotypical devices or not). It's a personal choice.

Conversely, a (commercial) cartoonist COULD take himself too seriously. But where's the fun in that? (And the salary helps, too.)

Alexander Hoffman

I agree and disagree. I hate the pearly gates cartoons. I'm an apathetic agnostic, so I hate the imagery of heaven in cartoons. I'm not offended by it, but I think it's old hat and unoriginal. I also have zero connection to St. Peter as I'm a jew and a very unobservant one at that. Honestly 95% of what I know about it is from Weird Al's "Everything You Know Is Wrong."

I think an obituary cartoon can serve a purpose in that a cartoon can say quite a lot about a person without any words at all. That said, they shouldn't be expected for everyone and I agree with Matt that they tend to never convey a message.

In terms of being critical, I think this is why you should or shouldn't do an obituary cartoon. If it's someone you respect, you should want to draw one, simply because you're expressing how you feel about that figure. If you hate them so much, then draw a cartoon critical of them. Middle of the road stuff simply because it's in the news tends to be boring and obituary cartoons of this kind lower the value of an obituary cartoon in the first place.

Speaking of cliches, I also think it's better to not always go for the obvious gag or symbol when doing obituary cartoons. Leslie Nielsen's death in particular was met with 90% "And don't call me Shirley" gags. Sometimes it's better to think outside the box a little more. In the past I've done two obituary cartoons which actually had little focus on the person passing and more on someone else's response to it. When Coretta Scott King died, I did an obit cartoon with Jimmy Carter butting in attacking Bush, because during her funeral Carter used the event to attack George W. Bush's government wiretapping, which I found to be in bad taste.

I still think obituary cartoons have their place, but when they flood newspapers and the internet and all look the same, the meaning behind them diminishes.

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