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Posted at 7:30 AM ET, 08/10/2009

'Dick Cheney' Orders a Hit on Michael Vick: Why YOU Won't See It

By Michael Cavna

Today is the day that Dick Cheney advises the NFL to kill Michael Vick -- the start of a satiric fictional storyline that, like a blindside sack or shooting accident, you just won't see coming. At least not in The Washington Post.

That's because The Post, both in print and online, chose not to run this week's original "Tank McNamara" strips. Instead, Post readers will see syndicate-sanctioned "Tank" reruns.

Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti says the decision was a no-brainer: The original strips were deemed "inappropriate." The Post sacked the week's strips, in which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seeks advice on how to handle the reinstatement of former quarterback/convict Vick, who ran a pit-bull ring that resulted in canine deaths; the storyline attempts to satirize issues such as perceptions of racism by the NFL front office and owners.

Here's the "Tank McNamara strip" you won't see in The Post. Universal Press Syndicate approved "Tank" reruns that will run in The Post; on (which receives an automatic feed from the syndicate), "Tank's" Sunday's strip is scheduled to be "billboarded" all week).

And in print, here's what you're scheduled to see Monday in The Post:

'TANK MCNAMARA' (UPS)Enlarge Image

At press time, Comic Riffs had not heard back from the strip's creators, Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds, in efforts to seek comment. Last week, Comic Riffs noted that "Tank McNamara" was marking its 35th anniversary. No word yet on whether any other newspapers were pulling the original "Tank" strips.

Note: As one of the few sports editorial cartoonists to survive into the 21st century, Comic Riffs feels particularly qualified to weigh in. I had several satiric topical cartoons "killed" over the years -- on those occasions, it was because of the sensitivity of the editorial content; the clarity of the satiric point was not at issue. Which leads to this week's "Tank."

If today's strip proves controversial, I believe it's because the satiric point wasn't sharp enough; in which case, some readers are left wondering why "Dick Cheney" would order that "Mike Vick" be iced. Without a clearly, commonly accepted truth to rest the satire on -- no matter how exaggerated -- readers are left to scratch heads or drop jaws. And editors are more likely to be the ones to decide that someone needs to be "killed": "Tank."

(Later in the week, "Tank" has a satiric take -- as edgy as it may be -- that is more in its wheelhouse: That if the NFL punished a series of black ballplayers, the league risks being perceived as racist.)


'BALDO' (UPS)Enlarge Image

Comic Riffs cannot read today's "Baldo" without thinking of THE Big Papi -- Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. The same David Ortiz who, it recently came out, along with former teammate Manny Ramirez, made the Big Daddy of major-league lists: the banned substance "steroid" list. Whaddya say, "Tank," care to weigh in? (What Would Dick Say?)


Speaking of shutting things down: O, "Brewster Rockit," how did you know that we'd see a massive online meltdown in recent days -- particularly in regards to Facebook and Twitter? The oft-brilliant Tim Rickard blends two of the best ingredients when trafficking in satire: (1) clarity; and (2) luck. Neither can be overestimated. Just ask Tank.

By Michael Cavna  | August 10, 2009; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The Morning Line  
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I don't like the cowardly position of the Post editors, but I agree the strip just isn't funny. The storyline has promise but it's not clever enough to warrant picking up the pitchforks and torches.

When doing biting satire, there' such a fine line between delivering the line like Don Rickles vs Michael Richards.

Posted by: JkR- | August 10, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

JkR, nice support for censorship. I don't think the WaPo censored the strip because it "isn't funny".

Posted by: numediaman | August 10, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

No, they censored it because it was 'inappropriate' - how much more can we ask of them? Thank god the Post coddles its comics readers -- I'd hate to think they expected us to read the front page or anything like that.

Posted by: Mrhode | August 10, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

If WaPo censored comic strips for not being funny it would be easy to read the few remaining strips that would be expanded to fill the pages.
Next question: whose opinion would we be dependent on? The same comics editor that thinks the current crop of legacy strips is funny?

Posted by: jimbo1949 | August 10, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has it (the Goodell-Cheney strip) online...

Posted by: SportzNut21 | August 10, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

When WaPo refuses to print a comic strip, was that decision outsourced to a consulting firm that conducted telephone interviews of one thousand people who don't read the funnies? Or did someone at the Post actually have to **read** the comics, to pick which ones to suppress? It's hard to believe that anyone at the Post is aware of what the strips are even about (hence the decision to move first "Agnes" and now "Frazz" to Kids' Post), much less what offensive content might be in any particular strip on any given day.

Posted by: seismic-2 | August 10, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Raju Narisetti - you are a coward and are cowtowing to the conervative right. Would this have been censored if it was "Doonesbury" or "Dilbert"

Katherine Graham is again spinning in her grave.

Posted by: DhabaBase | August 10, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Good, Never read Tank anyway. Now they can use that slot to put Frazz back on the comics page where it belongs. It is not a children's strip and having to find it there, and not seeing it every day, makes me crazy.

Posted by: kcox3 | August 10, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

All cartoonists have the *right* to write whatever they want to, but newspaper editors do not have the *obligation* to print whatever those authors write. This is not censorship, it is a justified and considered decision made with respect to the majority of the readership. If editors make mistakes (either way), readers will let them know it in no uncertain terms.

Personally, I think today's "Tank" was a gratuitous cheap shot, and not particularly funny or satiric. If you want to push the boundaries, the material has to be higher quality than that.

P.S. Walt Kelly had a superb way to deal with nervous editors: if he expected a particular strip to be troublesome, he actually wrote and drew a second "replacement" Pogo strip for that date.

Posted by: kilby | August 10, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

It is really funny.

And I rarely read Tank.

Posted by: greasypores | August 10, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

According to an article in today's New York Times, there are 100 papers that run "Tank McNamara" on a regular basis.

Of these 100 papers, the Post was the ONLY one that declined to run the series of strips in question.

Why am I not surprised?

Posted by: andym108 | August 11, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: drewdane | August 11, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the Post is being nice to Vick in the hopes that he will move to DC and become a subscriber. The Post's pet on the DC Council, Mary Cheh has vigorously sought to protect those accused of animal abuse with proposed legislation to “prohibit targeted picketing of an individual’s home in a residential neighborhood.” Sounds like the elite want Vick to join them with the Post protecting his privacy and Cheh supplying the Welcome Mat.

Posted by: fwinstead | August 11, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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