With the death of Hugo Chavez, one of the most enduring tropes of my profession will be yet again revived, so to speak.
I'm talking about the obit cartoon.
Obit cartoons are very tricky, and they tend to stick to a familiar format: (Late public figure) at gates of Heaven, with St. Peter, while saying (insert relevant punchline) or (performing task public figure is well-known for). God, never pictured, may add his own from behind-a-cloud comment with the attendant streaming golden light.
I try not to do these, but I certainly have, depending on how interested I am in the character. My favorite one of my own was George Steinbrenner at the gate, greeted by Red Sox uniform-wearing angels, frowning.
Honestly, since a famous person dies virtually every day, one could do a fairly steady stream of these things, which are highly controversial in the profession.
The caveat is, the person who has departed has to be elderly in order for this metaphor to work without issues of taste. If the celebrity is young or went tragically, cartoonists will tend to shift to a more tasteful portrayal or tribute.
In Chavez' case, I doubt I will have a specific comment about him, mostly because I fear the very real social approbation of my peers. Many major cartoonists just groan when they even hear the phrase "obit cartoon," knowing it is a formula for the hackneyed.
I think most readers kind of like the obit cartoon, and they don't seem to care that they've seen the same metaphor over and over, drifting toward them in a blinding white light, surrounded by other loved-one metaphors, like the couple sitting watching television and the Iwo Jima flag-raising.
Today, I'm looking at the sequester.
If I don't get an idea, I may see a blinding white light myself.
Read more articles by Jack Ohman
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at email@example.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.