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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 09/ 2/2008

The Riff: When a Hurricane Hits the Comics

By Michael Cavna

Many days ago, a hurricane began to hurtle toward "Pooch Cafe." (UPS) Enlarge Comic

Forget the hurricane zone. We've just entered "The Twilight Zone."

Weeks and weeks ago, before Hurricane Gustav was upon us, the cartoonist Paul Gilligan wrote the current story-line for "Pooch Cafe," in which a hurricane is bearing down on Chazz, Carmen, Poncho and the gang. Last week, the whole brood made storm preparations; this week, the silliness continues. Which brings up a question:

What is a cartoonist, a syndicate or an editor to do when real life and cartoon fiction converge with a Category-5 eeriness?

The password may be incorrect, but is it correct to run hurricane strips during Gustav? (UPS) Enlarge Comic

Topical strips more often present this sort of issue -- especially when real people are name-checked. What seemed hilarious on the drawing board can seem in wildly bad taste should something tragic befall any of those real people before paper hits doorstep. (And having created a topical strip, I speak from hang-wringing experience: Reality, on occasion, can eerily mirror your fiction.)

So with Gustav hitting the Gulf, what would you do? It's time to play: "You Be the Editor."

As a syndicate editor, would you have asked the creator to draw "option" strips for newspapers?
And as an a newspaper editor, would you have pulled "Pooch" now because it invoked a hurricane?

What say you?

It's said the funniest material often comes from real life. Sometimes, though, a comic too close to real life leaves no one laughing.

By Michael Cavna  | September 2, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Riffs  
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Jeez, I can't imagine anyone thinking these strips might not be a good idea. I splorted coffee this morning upon reading and seeing the cat fort.

Posted by: JkR | September 2, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Gilligan had to have known there was a chance of something like this happening. He did write a hurricane strip to run in the middle of hurricane season.

I'd probably let this one go. The humor is so gentle that the subject matter seems peripheral.

Posted by: Julia | September 2, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I prefer comics with an "edge" and find this one rather mild, given the timing. Of course I would go with it. Stuff happens, and sometimes it happens when we might prefer otherwise. Such is life.

Posted by: Hankster | September 2, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

If Mort Walker had written about hurricanes I'd be offended. But I'm offended by his writing regardless of the topic.

Pooch makes me LOL more than any strip in the paper, to take it out on any day is to make the Post a worse product. Be warned.

Posted by: Orin H. | September 2, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

What if a lot of people had died in Gustav, if say it had been a direct hit on New Orleans?

And, if that would make you think that the strips should, in that case, be pulled, then what about the people Gustav DID kill, in Haiti and other places in the Caribbean?

Posted by: marshlc | September 2, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Candorville ran a lot of strips about the loss of life in New Orleans as a result of Katrina, didn't it? Or am I confusing that strip with something else?

It is ironic that so soon after the death of George Carlin we are arguing about what topics should be taboo for humor. It's the treatment, not the subject matter, that is significant. In particular, satire is **supposed** to be biting, or else it has failed to achieve its purpose.

Posted by: Seismic-2 | September 2, 2008 10:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm more concerned about the notion that the BASEMENT is a good place to be during a hurricane. Leave the cats downstairs, they'll be the first to go when the flooding starts?

Posted by: LarryMac | September 3, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

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