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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 06/30/2009

Bernie Madoff: Can Cartoons Do Him Justice?

By Michael Cavna

The a.m. roundup of today's 'toons, from the scams to the shams...

Bernie Madoff, the man whose very surname is such a dead-giveaway of a pun, even "Frank & Ernest" would be hard-pressed to deliver more obvious wordplay.

Thankfully for cartoonists everywhere, Mr. Made-off-With-My-Life-Savings is back in the news, having now been sentenced to "life" himself. Cartoonists are grateful because really, how many Dead Celebrities at the Pearly Gates in a single week can an artist draw without wanting to commit a little seppuku-by-Speedball himself? (Speaking of: If ANYone can find a Fred Travalena in-memoriam cartoon out there, I'd love to see it -- the poor impersonator/comic seems to have got shut out even by Billy Mays.)

So I'll be eager to see exactly how the nation's editorial cartoonists sink their steely Rapidographs (and Wacom tablets) into Madoff. Here's one of the first I've seen since the sentencing, and what make really "makes" this Jimmy Margulies cartoon for me -- besides the very funny gag -- is the utterly placid look on Madoff's face. Even in hell, Madoff's apparently got icewater in those bilking-billions veins. Superb touch.

'JIMMY MARGULIES' (courtesy of

In related gaggery, can't help looking at today's "Speed Bump" and thinking: That older cellmate -- the one whom the sixty-to-lifer's bunking with -- could absolutely pass for a Madoff stunt-double. Did Dave Coverly have Madoff in mind? If so, that is one prescient Magic 8-Ball he must possess.



'SPIDER MAN' (SOURCE)Enlarge Image

So "Spider-Man" is now making theatrical recommendations, eh? This seems awwwwfully coincidental, given that Spider-Man the Musical, "Turn Off the Dark," is scheduled to debut on Broadway in 2010. By this time next year, will Spidey be reviewing his own work, pumping up the hype for folks like Evan Rachel Wood (who's set to play Mary Jane)?

Which reminds us -- here's a clip of Bono and The Edge discussing taking on the Spider-Man project, for which Bono will re-team with Julie Taymor ("Across the Universe"). They muse on the challenges of delving into the comic-book world:

And speaking of comics merging with other forms of popular entertainment: Somehow, the fact "Sally Forth" builds a joke around "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" is too, too perfect. Debbie Gibson! Lorenzo Lamas! This tragically bad flick is all that Ted Forth embodies: Warmed-over talent who still pines mightily for the '80s.


"Mega Shark," I should note, gets a "3.6" rating on By point of comparison, '80-style, "Ishtar" gets a 3.6. "Ishtar"! Even "Porky's II: The Next Day" rates a 4.2. In other words: "Mega Shark" may be worth mocking even more heartily than Teddy-Boy Forth himself.


'BEETLE BAILEY' (KFS)Enlarge Image

Tracking (or half-tracking) back for a moment: This "Beetle Bailey" from Saturday caused me to do a serious double-take. "Open Committee for Free Speech"? Was their a deeper political point behind this day's strip?

I decided to pester Brian Walker, who was utterly cordial and patient with my little whim of curiosity. Responded Walker: "I asked my father for an explanation, since it was his gag.

"He said that General Halftrack creates an atmosphere that discourages free speech, so this is what the soldiers in Camp Swampy have to do to express their opinions. Mort [Walker] emphasized that he doesn't mean that the Army discourages free speech, only General Halftrack."

Walker also cleared up, in case it gave anyone pause: "There is no real 'Open Committee for Free Speech.' "

In other words, "Beetle Bailey's" botton-line message to Comic Riffs: "Stand down, private. As you were."

By Michael Cavna  | June 30, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Next: The Comics Minus 'Garfield'? Time to Defend That 'Toon


I haven't seen today's WaPo and spidey online is two months old, but if he's talking theatre today he'll probably be seeing a show just about the time the Spiderman Musical is opening.

That's assuming "2010" means "late autumn 2010".

Hey.... Put Spidey on the kidspost page. It's not only an action/adventure so watered down that it would have to toughen up to get to a G rating, but reading it five days a week is four more than necessary to keep up with the plot.

We want Frazz.... We want Frazz.... We want Frazz.... We want Frazz.... We want Frazz.... We want

Posted by: filfeit | June 30, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Beetle Bailey actually relevant to today's Army? Never...

Posted by: oceanchild | June 30, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

The only positive thing that can be said about Spiderman is that it is less tedious than other soap opera comics that are still wasting newsprint space.

Beetle Bailey is another example of a comic that has long outlived its usefulness. When cartoonists retire, they should have the decency to retire their cartoons at the same time, instead of willing them as legacies to their children.

Charles Schulz was exemplary in this regard. It is unfortunate that the Peanuts syndicate negated Schulz's decision, preferring to reap profits from reruns. They should have given the space to new artists, which might have enlivened the increasingly stale comic pages with some fresh viewpoints.

Posted by: kilby | July 1, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

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