cartoon violence

The Devil Is In the Cartoon Details

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By the Comics Curmudgeon
Your cartoon correspondent has been looking at cartoons for Wonkette since roughly the Revolutionary War, during which time political cartoons haven’t changed much. You’d think that a man would burn out seeing endless weeping Statues of Liberty and fat generic Congressmen and “funny” Bush/Obama drawings with big ears. And you’d be right! But every once in a while there is a little grace note in a cartoon that needs to be shared with the world, and that serves as a reminder of the rewards of this comics-mocking gig (other than the chicks, and the money, and the political influence).

Oh, look, it’s John Boehner’s big, haunted eyes and sagging leathery face! You may dispute that this is an example of an artistic “grace note,” but this is about as good as it gets in the political cartooning biz. Boehner actually has a pretty interesting (and by “interesting” we mean “weird”) look, even going beyond his orangey drunkard’s tan, with his sad blue eyes being particularly striking; they’re captured nicely here, along with his jowls. It’s about time that political cartoonists got down to the business of learning how to really caricature him, as he will soon be Speaker of the House, after the Democrats lose every single House seat in the fall, and then his face will be on TV all the time, glowing like a thousand sunsets.

But it isn’t all about funny drawings of famous people! Check out this baby. He’s being held by some smug parents who are saying smugly mean things about the economy, as is required by the law of their universe (a Michael Ramirez cartoon). But man, that baby! Isn’t it just the smuggest baby you’ve ever seen, radiating a self-satisfaction that goes far beyond either nature or nurture? What’s its secret, I wonder? Is it the bonnet? Is it possible for a baby to wear a 19th-century bonnet with out falling prey to terminal smugness?

Sometimes these details actually end up undermining the ostensible point the cartoonist is trying to make. For instance, in this cartoon, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is being mocked for spending his time on big-issue grandstanding that will advance his political career rather than on doing his real job: fighting for the rights of Virginians, in a legal-type sense. But look more closely! You can see that in this courtroom, Cuccinelli is actually trying to win justice for a constituent. That poor woman on the stand is the victim of one of the most horribly botched boob jobs in medical history, and Cuccinelli is determined that the plastic surgeon who did that to her will pay! The judge and the man standing next to the AG may object, but Cuccinelli has removed their mouths, for justice.

Sometimes the detail is not visual, but a concept hidden like an Easter Egg in the overall comic milieu. For instance, at first glance you’d see this cartoon and think, “Oh, yeah, sure, Nancy Pelosi is the commander of a flying saucer, and she’s sending her robot jack o’lanterns to attack simple, decent Americans who don’t believe in freedom in religion! Makes perfect sense!” But you have to think about it for a minute to get the hidden joke: See, Pelosi is calling for “probes,” and it’s a well-known fact that space monsters routinely “probe” the anuses of the innocent humans they capture, just like Pelosi and her communist Congress have been “probing” us for the past four years, by reforming health care and such! Get it? It’s about buttholes!

In unrelated news, Abe Lincoln was a Jew, it seems? EVERYONE DOUSE THEIR $5 BILLS WITH HOLY WATER, JUST TO BE SURE.

About the author

Josh was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, leaving him with a love of chicken wings and a tendency to say “pop”. He taught ancient Greek and Roman history to undergraduates before fleeing from academia in terror; worked for a failed San Francisco dot-com that neglected to supply him with stock options or an Aeron chair; lived in Berlin, where he mostly ate Indian and Ethiopian food; finished in third place on his sole Jeopardy! appearance (the correct answer was “Golda Meir”); and was named 2007 Blogger of the Year by The Week, for obvious reasons. Josh is the creator/editor of COMICS CURMUDGEON (which you should read) and does geeky editing and writing about geeky things such as "the Java programming industry for JavaWorld." He lives in Baltimore with his wife Amber and his cat Hoagie.

View all articles by Josh Fruhlinger


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  • ttommyunger

    I get all my political information from Tom Tomorrow. Mostly because his name, Tom, is the same as mine… See ya at the Beck Clown-a-Thon tomorrow.
    Tom. (How weird is that?)

  • edgydrifter

    [snark off]
    Josh: Thank you for the Beaton link. She’s damned talented and doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
    [snark on]

  • gurukalehuru

    That last one was straight out of the mouth of Edith Bunker. Good one, though.

  • JMP

    Is it just me, or in the last cartoon is the Lincoln statue getting ready to kick in an ignorant racists’ head?

  • justthisonce

    I knew this post was going somewhere…

  • SayItWithWookies

    How awful (racist?) that someone would tarnish the name of one of our greatest presidents, Ibrahim Hussein Lincoln, to make a cheap political point.
    In a related point, the earliest evidence for the Old Testament having even a shred of accuracy as to the kings of Judeah is an Assyrian monument referring to the House of Daoud. I’ve adopted the practice of referring to that patriarch and his son as Daoud and Suleiman — purely in the interest of using the terms they most likely referred to themselves as, of course.

  • SayItWithWookies

    Josh, I think there’s more to that Ramirez cartoon than meets the eye. That’s not just a smug baby, that’s the first child of Providence mayoral candidate Chris Young and his apparently brain-dead wife; they’re walking out of church (where they spend 90% of their time anyway) and a reporter has asked the Youngs how they felt after just having christened their baby. They’re reading their utterly unconnected answer off the sheaf of talking points that Mrs. ShootMeNow-Young is required to keep handy by her servant-leader, lest she fall prey to the temptation to actually answer the question that’s asked of her.

  • PineyWoodster

    Lincoln was one of your guys, Josh? Who knew?

  • imissopus

    That baby still looks less smug than Brian Williams.

  • GeneralLerong

    [re=647465]SayItWithWookies[/re]: Oh yeah, Suleiman, peace be upon him. My fave scene is where he asks Queen Bilkis to show her legs and they’re revealed to be as hairy as an ass’s.

  • GeneralLerong

    Grammar wardens, help! Ass’s? Iss corrrect?

  • LittlePig

    Michael Ramirez. Because assholes need their own funnies, too.

  • Barrelhse

    The Boehner looks like a Dr. Seuss Zombie.

  • gjdodger

    “Forget about four score and seven! I can get it for you wholesale!”

  • Lascauxcaveman

    For the the conservative cartoonists, it’s always about the buttholes. Pretty much.

  • Mad Brahms

    Wait, what’s this probe thing? Did Pelosi actually say *anything* about looking into the Mosque-protests, or is this just wingnut fume-sniffing?

  • Enslave the Whales

    [re=647839]Mad Brahms[/re]: Indeed, she did ask the (pretty reasonable) question: Who the heck is paying for all this anti-community-center agitation?

    Which, incidentally, raised my already high opinion of her.

    Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House does not, in reality, control flying Jack O’ Lantern interrogators that might be able to answer the question.

    So, some truth, some bullshit. Pretty much the same as ever.

  • ToadsAndOranges

    Love Josh’s stuff on here and the Comics Curmudgeon, and am super stoked to see a link to Beaton’s stuff too.