With the truly horrific bomb attack at the Boston Marathon came heartfelt responses from America's editorial cartoonists. I can tell you, if poorly handled, your work becomes self-parodying and trite. Done well, strong cartoons can help create a small moment of catharsis for readers.
Boston, more than any other city, is the cradle of America, and an attack there during its hour of celebration made the impact even more profound. When I first heard the news, my mind raced back to visiting the John F. Kennedy Library, going to Boston on my first book tour and seeing the stunning Colonial houses, and hanging out at the original Cheers bar. Personally, a branch of my family, the Danas, were Bostonians, and, many generations back in the 1700s, one of my forebears, Francis Dana, was chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
My first news of the attack came from my youngest son, who told me that his best friend from Oregon was a block away from the blast, but that he was safe. Like 9/11, the Boston tragedy has tendrils stretching into every corner of our country.
Drawing about a story of this magnitude is extremely difficult, and four of the cartoons jumped out at me, of the 30 or so I saw:
Matt Davies, who has a very idiosyncratic style, managed to do the best of the "marathon runner of terror" metaphors (I think there at least 10 or so). His bold style made it work.
Jeff Stahler had a very different take on the "What do we tell our kids?" theme, which was a well-worked scenario as well. I liked how he equated the other national tragedies of the past year, and including 9/11.
Clay Bennett did the only commemorative ribbon cartoon, amazingly. After national horrors, there is often a full skein of ribbon cartoons, but his brilliance at Photoshop and simplicity made this idea work well.
Finally, Matt Bors did what I called a Day Two cartoon on Day One, skipping the strictly mournful approach entirely and heading right for the predictable outcome of what we may see from our hyper-reactive lawmakers.
WANT MORE JACK?
To read Jack Ohman's blog and see his cartoons, go to www.sacbee.com/ohman
For more editorial cartoons about the Boston bombing, go to www.sacbee.com/polcartoons