When I talk about shitty editorial cartooning, there is no better time to point to examples of the crap that ruin this profession then the maudlin pabulum that follows tragic mass deaths. The bombing in Boston earlier this week was a boon to America’s imagination-challenged political cartoonists. Those of us to actually care about this field sent a bunch of these around by email to make fun of them, but I thought it would be interesting to share them with you to see your reactions. I’m always amazed to read the comments section under these things when they appear online. So many people like them! Is something wrong with them, or is there something wrong with me? You be the judge.
A number of terrible editorial cartoons have drawn parallels between the Boston bombings and 9/11. This was our 9/11, Bostonians said. Well, sorry, what happened earlier this week really really sucked and was really really wrong, but you guys didn’t lose an entire ZIP Code and 3000 people. Not to mention, the political implications probably won’t be nearly as profound either. I don’t think were about to invade a couple of countries because of what happened in Boston.
What the hell does this even mean? That there are memorials? That people are running past the memorials? It certainly doesn’t make any kind of political statement. It’s not a political cartoon. It’s just a pastiche of an illustration, and not a very good one.
There were tons of these abandoned sneaker cartoons. I just picked this one out at random. Aside from the fact that it’s really stupid and doesn’t say anything, it makes no sense whatsoever. Nobody lost their sneakers running away. Sneakers are tightly laced on. Even if your leg got blown off, it was still attached to your sneaker. So aside from this being schmaltzy, it’s totally stupid.
Again, I just have no idea what these things are supposed to mean. Is Boston metaphorically limping across the finish line? What is the finish line? The successful apprehension and execution of whoever is responsible? I feel like a lot of editorial cartoonists simply slap together a bunch of random images. It’s almost like random free association.
Admitted plagiarist Bill Day – scratch that, now he has de-admitted it – weighs in with a cartoon that will no doubt be repurposed thousands of times for other unrelated issues. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but how exactly does this say anything other than terrorism is bad? I think we knew that. Bear in mind, this guy has worked at numerous newspapers. I’ve never gotten a single one to offer me a job.
You would think that the parody cartoons in the Onion would have caused cartoonists to stop using cheesy weeping Statue of Liberty cartoons after tragedies, but cartooning’s master plagiarist continues. Well, it’s all good times when you’re counting the $42,000 you extracted from suckers on Indiegogo.
One wag commented that a giant blue Anaconda appears to be loose on the streets of Boston. I would also add that a little bit of Ralph Steadman appears to be loose in the lower left-hand corner. Justice, apparently, is blind but really really hot and buff. Anyway, what does this mean? That justice is moving swiftly? Bear in mind, the artist is a lot more successful than I am. He managed to get himself fired on staff at the Columbus Dispatch and was considered on the shortlist for the Pulitzer Prize in a piece by the Washington Post this year.
Another piece by someone who has had more success than me. He’s on staff at a big daily newspaper. Full medical benefits. Retirement plan. He doesn’t have to worry about how to pay his rent every month. He won the very prestigious Herblock award, which if I’m not mistaken, was worth a cool $10,000 at the time. Might be $15,000. Not sure. Anyway, yeah, this is just an illustration of a story that anybody who has been watching the news has been following. The first responders ran toward the blast while the runners were running away. Very hot runners. But when I want to know is, is not the way it’s supposed to be? Most of the time, cops and firefighters don’t have anything to do. They’re paid a good deal of money to spring into action and risk their lives every now and then. That’s the job. They agreed to do it. How exactly does that make them heroes? And anyway, the idea that first responders are heroes is hardly something that needs to be said in an editorial cartoon. This is just pandering.
Another one by the same guy. By the way I always kind of liked his loose drawing style, though it doesn’t really work very well here. Anyway, I really hate these kind of metaphors. You know because there were a lot of flags at the marathon, or at least in the photographs of the marathon that went out over the Associated Press wire service. And because a lot of conspiracy theorists say that this is a false flag operation… Well, you know. Again, it’s not very risky to say that conspiracy theorists are dumb. More pandering.
More bullshit patriotism. One of the things I hate more than anything is when terrorists are called cowards. As Bill Maher pointed out, the guys who flew those planes into those buildings were a lot of things but they were not pussies. And again with the heroes! Enough. Shut up. Oh, I should point out that this guy works at one of the few new gigs in the business, at the Hill newspaper. I sent them a bunch of my stuff when they launched. They weren’t interested. This is the kind of stuff that they would rather have.
So apparently the metaphorical embodiment of the Boston Marathon is homely but with huge breasts. But you would really think that it would be hard to run 26 miles without a jogging bra. Also, I want to know how Uncle Sam is exactly comforting the Boston Marathon. Or is he just hitting on her?
So wait, why is humanity crossing the evil finish line? Is evil the goal that we all run 26 miles to try to achieve?
Um… What? What do the Boston Red Sox have to do with this? And anyway, just another illustration. Makes no point. Tragedy is sad. Blood is bad.
When JFK died, cartoonist Bill Mauldin drew a famous cartoon of Abraham Lincoln on the Lincoln Memorial weeping. Unfortunately for the rest of us, we have to live with the zillions of cartoonists who want to redraw that same exact cartoon every time something like this happens. This one is a huuuuge stretch, though.
Apparently what it really takes to bring us all together is schmaltz. Notice, by the way, that the Democrat is a black guy. Also, is it me, or is this a little bit gay marriage-y?
Ted Rall's April 21 post on Rallblog:
I don’t know if I will keep doing this, but the reaction to Friday’s cartoon critique was so interesting and mostly positive but I thought I would keep it up with this latest batch. If you’re just joining the program, you probably already know my own work. But what you don’t know is what I’m reacting against: the so-called mainstream editorial cartoons that run in most major newspapers and on most major media websites, almost always to the exclusion of the good alternative stuff. Most artists get into an artform in order to build upon what came before. That’s also true of alternative artists, since our influences come from other places, but in the marketplace as it exists today, we are mostly defining ourselves by not being like this crap.
This is what I call the phony “I don’t care about politics” genre. After all, it’s by a political cartoonist. Someone who lives and breathes politics. Someone who is paid by a large daily newspaper, one that won’t even pick up my stuff for $20 a week via syndication even though I’m from the state that it’s in, and pretends that all he wants do is wallow in escapist television garbage. Sorry, I’m not buying it.
This cartoon illustrates the problems with the metaphor-based form of editorial cartooning. It’s almost like you need that fancy Enigma code breaking machine from World War II to decipher the thing. And then, assuming that you’re smart enough and caffeinated enough to figure it out, you have to conclude that all that work probably wasn’t worth it.
I admit it, this one kind of freaked me out. It’s another metaphor. At first, I thought to myself that since Uncle Sam was involved, he was going to have to climb Capitol Hill and this had something to do with the failed vote on the gun background check bill. Then I realized what it really was, that terrorism would be a hard hill to climb. Again, you can really see how these metaphor cartoons are hard to pull off. I mean, if you follow the analogy, this means that Uncle Sam wants to become more of a terrorist? Or that terrorism is something that were just going to have to get over? I don’t know. Makes my head hurt. And I really don’t understand the whole enormous buried skull.
I am guessing that this was probably an attempt to be emotional, but all it looks like to me is like a 1%er banker is running to the rescue. Did this happen? How did I miss this story? Very strange. Congratulations, by the way, to the cartoonist for winning the 2013 National Headliner Award. He already previously won two Pulitzer Prizes.
No alternative cartoonist – Tom Tomorrow, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, Stephanie McMillan, or myself – has ever won the National Headliner Award.
Another two-time Pulitzer winner weighs in with… What? I have no idea. Yeah, I recognize the national anthem. What exactly this has to do with the Boston bombing… What? Editors will no doubt love this.
Bear in mind, I intentionally chose cartoons by people who make a lot more money than I do and have won a lot more awards than I have and are much more successful than the best cartoonists in the business. According to the prize committees and the HR departments of America’s newspapers, this is what I should be doing instead of what I am doing. This is what gets rewarded.
Here are some responses by "exkiodexian" to Ted Rall's posts:
April 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM
Holy shit. Two things:
1. Ted, your bitterness has now reached a stage that is really uncomfortable to read and witness. You spit acid so caustic my face has pit marks. In fact, there’s an idea for a cartoon.
2. The fourth to last cartoon is clearly saying “humanity” ran the race, only to find “evil” waiting for them at the finish line. It doesn’t make it any less cheesy, but it’s clear what was being said. I find it hard to believe you didn’t get that, but you probably couldn’t pass on throwing it in there with the others to shit on.
Seriously though. The bitterness is now in the uncomfortable stage. It’s not just your fans reading this stuff. It’s your peers, potential employers, potential new fans. It doesn’t reflect well, it just makes you seem insanely bitter and that’s not a quality people move toward. In other words, it repels. Repels. Get it?
Ted — by the way: I notice you didn’t include this one by noted “alternative” and “edgy” cartoonist Brian McFadden, he of Big Fat Whale fame.
Let me do the honor:
I’m not sure I get this one. What the fuck is it saying? That Bostonians like to do things like go to baseball games and take nice walks? That they like to enjoy a beer? And what — run the marathon again next year? Or — does it mean that things should be normal instead of fearful? What the fuck, my head hurts just thinking about it! But this is the trash that passes for “alternative” in today’s world. These are the assholes that claim artistic integrity. What a sellout.
April 21, 2013 at 2:42 PM
Wait a minute — I get the Brian Big Fat Whale one now: It means ….. wait for it …..
THE TERRORISTS WILL NOT WIN!!!
That’s so fuckin’ edgy and alternative!!!
(Yeah, he’s from Boston. That’s no excuse.)
And finally, to be fair to my colleagues published on this page, here is the cartoon I drew for the occasion:
What is happening here? Is he running away to avoid asking the hard questions? Making a point?