Jack Ohman

April 10, 2013

Obituary Cartoons, or, Why I am Going to Hell...

Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

Three prominent figures died in the past few days: Margaret Thatcher, Annette Funicello, and Roger Ebert. 

I didn't do cartoons on any of them. Why?

Well, first of all, I try not to do obituary cartoons in general. I'm not saying I won't, or haven't, but I am quite certain I haven't done any for The Bee. To comment on someone's passing requires that person to have really moved me personally in some way. In short, I really have to feel a loss, and not just that this particularly person, a newsmaker, is gone and therefore subject to some wiseacre remark on what is a sad event for the person's family.

Having said that, I really liked and enjoyed Roger Ebert's persona, had no real opinion about Annette Funicello other than she was a brave woman to keep her persona intact (and fought multiple sclerosis), and was not a political fan of Margaret Thatcher's. Certainly Thatcher was an historic figure, and I am sorry she's gone, but I couldn't get myself to draw some neutral tribute.

Now, having said all this, I did get an Ebert cartoon idea and a Funicello cartoon idea:

A. Roger Ebert at the gates of heaven, and St. Peter says, "You wrote the screenplay of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, so you can just forget it."

B. Annette Funicello at the gates of heaven, being admitted, and St. Peter says, "Why? Because we like you."

OK. So. Why didn't I do them?

The gates of heaven/St.Peter/Talking Deity metaphor has got to be the most overworked, rehashed, plowed-over ground in the history of American editorial cartooning. That's number one. I am simply tired of drawing virtually the same scene over and over. Frankly, I could do one or two obituary cartoons per week, and I am not sure anyone would notice.

Except my peers. I have several who are absolutely obsessed with the subject of obit cartoons, and the dreck that is published under this stale rubric.

I would be the subject of my own obit cartoons if I drew one. These peers would fly to Sacramento and make sure I had a personal meeting with St. Peter, who I am sure is a nice guy - a saint, in fact - but I like my life.

The other metaphor that involves the Dearly Departed is the weeping object. Weeping Objects that represented some facet of the Dearly's career, such as Mickey Mouse ears or whatever pop cultural geegaws associated with DD's life, are far too frequently observed on editorial pages. Weeping Eagles are my personal favorite.

Whenever America experiences a massive tragedy of some kind, the usual cartooning suspects roll out the weeping eagles, and, by gum, people just love them. "Your weeping eagle touched a chord with All Americans on this Day of (National Bad Event). God Bless You for drawing a weeping eagle. May your personal eagle never weep, Mr. Ohman."

Hey, thanks for writing.

And I have never done a weeping eagle. I have known of quite a few cartoonists (very nice people) who have made the ol' Eagle Weeper, and had that cartoon shared with four million of their closest friends on the internet. Seriously. 

But it would be interesting to have a Weeping Eagle at the gates of heaven talking to St. Peter.

St. Peter could say, "We don't get a lot of Weeping Eagles around here. You must be satanic. Have a nice drop."

I suppose I'm going to hell for writing this.

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