Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

Body of work: How cartoons portray the deceased...

03/20/2013 12:00 AM

03/25/2013 11:02 PM

Today, we're not going to be amusing at all. Sometimes, cartoonists are called upon not to be funny, but to be poignant or brutal.

I had to do brutal today. 

I drew Senator Harry Reid stepping over gunshot victims to tell Sen. Dianne Feinstein that he "didn't have enough bodies to pass the assault weapon ban."

I can hardly wait to read my e-mail tomorrow.

Anyway, in so doing, I had to draw dead bodies. Drawing dead bodies is a normal part of the editorial cartooning genre, but it has to be done in a certain, rather sanitized manner. Not enough blood, and you can't really convey horror, and too much blood means you're kind of sick. 

I've been portraying these scenes for a long time. One of unwritten rules is that a cartoonist shouldn't really show faces in any recognizable manner. You can show them turned away, but expressions are out. 

I use extended hands to convey death scenes, because if you don't have faces, there aren't a lot of reference points for readers other than feet. For the Reid cartoon, I used bare feet, which is actually the first time I have drawn them in a death scene. I also made a point to draw women. I indicated children by small shoes and backpacks. 

I keep coming back to this assault weapon issue over and over, as does everyone else. Senator Feinstein's barely contained emotional exasperation in a New York Times interview today was quite moving, and it conveyed just how frozen the process is in Congress, particularly in the House.

I got another idea about assault weapons while drawing this one, which happens pretty frequently. I may be able to use it later. 

After I read Sen. Feinstein's interview and finished drawing the cartoon, I saw that a would-be mass shooter at the University of Central Florida had killed himself before he could execute his plan. He had ordered the usual murder toys ($700 worth) through the mail (and picked up his on-line purchased assault rifle at a federally-regulated gun shop, all completely legal) and was going to kill students massed in hallways after a fire alarm.

I wonder what Sen. Reid's reaction to the Feinstein bill would have been if, say, this lunatic had killed 50 people today? Probably the same, with more chicken poo caveats and asterisks. Reid can do what he wants.

Hey, it's free country. Right?

It is if you have an assault weapon. You run the table.

And the House and Senate.

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.


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