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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 02/23/2009

Lessons of a Fiery--and Fired--Cartoonist

By Michael Cavna

As some call for the head of New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas, insisting that he never work in that town again -- much less anywhere, amid the paper's "partial apology"--
it's intriguing to step back to think of hard-hitting artists who have not only drawn fire, but also have been fired for the clarity of their convictions.

Pink-slipped New Zealand cartoonist Malcolm Evans, Qantas Media's 2003 Cartoonist of the Year, gives his side of the story -- and discusses life as a truly POLITICAL cartoonist -- in this video. The one thing that particularly strikes me about his cartoons is that the sharp-edged point of his work is almost always bluntly, boldly clear. There's little guessing or hedging as to what his visual metaphors mean, in a retro-style evocative of Paul Conrad, among others.

Sure, an over-reliance on labeling your images is way passé, but if Delonas is being intellectually honest with us, then I would have preferred that he label his chimp straight-up. As Sean Penn said last night after his win-- in a statement that holds truth above and beyond one's politics-- (and I paraphrase part of his larger point): If you have convictions, then strive for clarity in communicating them.

And that, if nothing else, should be Job One of any truly professional political cartoonist. Comic Riffs does not post this in order to endorse any views represented by these cartoons; we post this simply because Sean Delonas -- if he wants to be honestly controversial for self-respecting reasons, AND if we take him at his word what he meant -- should strive for even half this degree of clarity.


While Garry Trudeau is on vacation, he's re-running his poigant, provocative "Doonesbury" series from last year, in which Rick Redfern is laid off by HIS Washington Post.

Seeing the strips anew reminds just how right Trudeau got it -- even if journalists must re-live the pain this week. Yes, the pen is mightier than our double-edged sword.

By Michael Cavna  | February 23, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  The Political Cartoon  
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Next: An Open Letter to NY Post Cartoonist: Time to Do the Right Thing


Give me Malcolm Evans any day over Sean Delonas. At least Mr. Evans is sophisticated, educated and honest.

Posted by: katscan1 | February 23, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I generally check the Post cartoon online every day. While I do sometimes cringe when Sean Delonas goes TOO far over the bad-taste line, it's his consistent over-the-top drawings that makes him the funniest political cartoonist in New York. This is not intellectual commentary folks, nor should it be in a tabloid.

There’s no doubt he did NOT intend this particular cartoon to be about Obama. It looks nothing like Obama and I don't believe he'd shy away from drawing it that way if that was what he meant. No, the chimp is just the chimp. Did you want him to label it "Chimp"?

The gag is that the stimulus package is so bad and fiscally insane, the wild chimp shot by police the day before must be the author.

I know he offends a lot of people, but it's not like he's nice to anybody. If you think his cartoons of George W. Bush and Rush Limbaugh were flattering, you better get your eyes checked.

It would be a damned shame to lose this gem of a curmudgeon over political correctness. Besides, it’s not his job to think about how people will react. His job is to come up with idea after idea after idea. The editor makes the selection and edits for publication. He could have said "put 'chimp' on the chimp."

In any case, the Post has apologized for the lack of clarity. Time to get over it.

Posted by: JerseyCommuter | February 24, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

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