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How Do I Love The Onion’s “Kelly” Cartoons?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2008 in Uncategorized
Damn those Belgians. Lady Liberty weeps.

Damn those Belgians. Lady Liberty weeps.

Let me count the ways:

1. They make for good parody precisely because many people do not recognize them as parodies. I did a double-take the first time I came across Ward Sutton‘s “Kelly” editorial cartoons in The Onion a couple years ago. At first blush they look like real Republican political cartoons. But it’s their over-the-top details that give them away as more than just Mallard Fillmore. They always contain layer upon layer of neatly woven satire that is fitting for The Onion, which has spent more than a decade lampooning the banalities of the American newspaper, and now skewers 24-hour television with its Onion News Network.

2. I’ve been fed up with editorial cartoonists for a while now. So much so that I gave up the profession myself some time ago. I realized that they are usually for grumpy older people because that is who reads the local newspaper. Of course a lot of editorial cartoons are good and funny (political cartooning is enjoying a Renaissance of sorts on the web), but the perspective of your average American newspaper ed. cartoonist (white, older, angry) isn’t changing nor will it as the media form of the local newspaper slowly dies out. Sutton’s “Kelly” character in the bottom right of each cartoon totally exemplifies the grumpy old Republican type who gets his morning rage on reading Anne Coulter, angry letters, or Ed Gamble on the editorial page.

3. Every time I see a fresh “Kelly” cartoon, I’m spurred on to start penning my own ed. toons again. What with the over the hill absolutely lousy Ed Gamble bungling all over the Florida Times Union (or has he resigned?) what’s to stop me? Oh yeah, all that other art I’m trying to get done. Maybe when I’m old and crabby even crabbier I can pick it back up as a post-retirement job. That is, if newspapers that are anything more than Kohl’s ads are still alive by then.

Check out The Onion‘s “Kelly” archive for more smart hacking of cartoon hackwork. And let JaxCAL know how you feel about the state of newspapers, editorial cartooning, web cartooning, and parodies of all of the above.

16 Comments

  1. valuistics
    July 22, 2008

    Anyone familiar with the Onion knows that matching its level of parody is a tall order in ed. cartoon form. It takes a pro like Sutton to pull it off. They’re somehow even better than real editorial cartoons. Sutton also does a searing weekly cartoon that is not a parody and reading it after looking at his “Kelly” work is like reading a real newspaper after reading the Onion. One needs a moment of decompression. Looking at hacks like Gamble afterward is the real joke, though.

    Reply
  2. valuistics
    July 22, 2008

    I shouldn’t call Gamble or any others hacks. It’s mean. I’m trying to be less mean. He’s had a few good ones. It’s a tough job sometimes, and we shouldn’t judge him by one asinine (Stop Snitchin’) cartoon. It’s probably when he’s moments away from deadline that regrettable work like that comes out.

    Reply
  3. contributor
    July 22, 2008

    That cartoon is super raw and wrong. I don’t think Ho should be used no matter what. I can see why folks got upset.

    I just recently got turned on to the Onion T.V. and I can’t believe how smart they have gotten. I remember reading the Onion during the dot com era and it’s just gotten so much better.

    I’m not sure if Gamble should be held responsible for the cartoon though. Ultimately it’s the editor who should be asked to step down I would think. Cartoonist and journalist are artists I believe who just need to be curated well in order to have a great show.

    I wonder what word would have worked better than Ho?

    Reply
  4. valuistics
    July 22, 2008

    I think he should have tossed that idea out and stuck to a subject about which he actually has a clue.

    It’s not just the “I dint see nuttin'”, “Dat’s a good little ho'” exchange that shows his internal biases and lack of understanding of the real issue. Take a look at that billboard in the background. Embarrassing. “Rap Your Life Away- BET Warner Music” WTF? It may as well say: “I am a grumpy old racist white man who possesses not the slightest clue as to the distinction between hip hop and hard core gangsta rap AND I actually believe that it is BET and Stop Snitchin’ T-shirts which are at the real root of the crime problem in Jacksonville, not every other systemic social and economic distortion caused by a social contract that only serves the rich. No no, it’s the T-Shirts, people! The T-SHIRTS and the RAP MUSIC which we should eliminate!” Gimme a f**kin’ break. This guy might as well be the “Kelly” character from Sutton’s Onion cartoon if he’s smoking his own hashish about the real cause of crime in JAX.

    I don’t know what’s more embarrassing- seeing Ed Gamble use street slang or seeing him try to make fun of it in this crass a manner in a city with a huge urban African American population.

    I don’t know him, but I’m next to positive he isn’t LIVING this shit on a daily basis (and seeing what actually happens to snitches in the hood), he more likely gets his daily cartoon banged out before 10am and is off to the golf course. That this is how he sees the crime problem in Jacksonville is an emblem of what’s wrong with the predominant culture here.

    But oh well. We’re having a rantfest from 2007 here. So please pardon my frothing commentary. I pay attention to cartoons, but they’re nothing (see last post) to get too worked up about. They convey a lot with a little and are therefore a strong medium. Ed Gamble (with that impasse) didn’t know his own strength I guess.

    Reply
  5. contributor
    July 22, 2008

    I wonder. I bet we could get an interview with him if we tried.

    I wonder if we can get his contact info in order to get his back story.

    Reply
  6. valuistics
    July 22, 2008

    I emailed him. Let’s see.

    Reply
  7. valuistics
    July 23, 2008

    Well he respectfully declined an interview but he sounds like a decent guy. I asked him if we could run his response and he has yet to get back to me. The snitchin’ cartoon for him is ancient history and he says it was intended to do good by stirring people up and shedding light on a problem that Jacksonville has since taken steps to combat. I still think the cartoon itself is fundamentally flawed, and while I understand its a cartoonists job sometimes stir things up for the sake of opening a conversation up, I think he could have done it with more savvy or let’s say poetry.

    Reply
  8. contributor
    July 23, 2008

    how about that. people aren’t usually that bad once you find out their stories. that’s great you contacted him and he got back to you. really awesome.

    i wonder how it could have been done better? how could the editor have helped with the process? what words would have been more appropriate?

    i’m sure taking Ho out would have been a smart move but I wonder if we’d be having this conversation if it was?

    Reply
  9. contributor
    July 23, 2008

    Well. I know we wouldn’t be having this conversation actually.

    So no one got fired over it correct? Seems an apology can only do so much sometimes though.

    Reply
  10. valuistics
    July 23, 2008

    No, no one was fired despite calls for it by local NAACP leaders. Both Ed Gamble and the editor issued printed apologies in the op-ed section shortly after the fact.

    Reply
  11. valuistics
    July 23, 2008

    Just got permission from Ed to run his response to our interview request. Here it is:

    “As much as I love and respect your organization, I have to decline your invitation. The “snitching” cartoon is history and although the Lord held my hand during the turmoil after the cartoon came out,I don’t think I want to rehash it.Looking back… well it served a purpose and that was to get the leaders (Black and White) off their butts and do something about the community falling apart. So we have had the “Journey” developed, we have had leaders and people of the community talk seriously about the problems and hopefully progress will be made in the future. But don’t want to go through the thrashing from all sides again, so I will bypass on any discussion of the cartoon. It was meant to help. Many took it as racist, many didn’t understand it. Until we get jobs, better education, a cultural change, etc., we are going to have many more years of violence in Jacksonville and the country, especially while we sink further in this recession. Appreciate your invitation. My best to you.”

    ed gamble

    Reply
  12. contributor
    July 23, 2008

    seems a bit scripted but that’s great he got back to you.

    Also, it seems he’s through through a lot since the cartoon was published.

    nice follow up James.

    Reply
  13. valuistics
    July 23, 2008

    Say are we two the only ones on JaxCAL or what?

    Reply
  14. contributor
    July 23, 2008

    looks like it. there are actually only you and me on mother earth now :)

    everything that we think is a reality is just you and me in the blogosphere. everything else is fake.

    just playing.

    yeah I guess it’s just the ebb and flow of the old internet.

    Reply
  15. morrison
    July 24, 2008

    ping pong with words, what about all this satirein modern cartoons and other media it is over done, the easy way out, no real thought patterns, i look at it as escape art a good poison for the well

    Reply
  16. James O James
    January 2, 2014

    “Kelly” cartoons are not funny. The Onion can do much better.

    Reply

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