Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Editorials: Smokey the (Dead) Bear + Big Wheel/DWI
One new panel and a resurrected one: last September I drew the above editorial in response to a heartbreaking news item here in Fairbanks, when a four-year old boy riding his Big Wheel two doors down from his home died after being hit by a young woman who was driving drunk. When I originally submitted it to the local paper, it was sat on for quite a while, as there was some valid concern over respecting the feelings of the family. This diplomatic sentiment was contrasted by my personal opinion that the cartoon should "strike while the iron is hot," maximizing the impact in the community. Then again, it also runs the risk of being criticized for capitalizing on someone else's tragedy. But still, once it's all out in public sphere I see it instead as an opportunity to educate readers in an extremely graphic and emotional way. Another comparatively minor factor was running the risk of having it come across as being overly melodramatic, or the opposite, being interpreted as the heartless bastard (in fact, the consensus from my editor and the newspaper's staff seemed to be that it was too effective); either way you can't win nomatter what, someone'll take it wrong, but like a lot of editorials, it's worth the flack.
Besides, in all my years of experience wielding a pen, I'd never ever actually cried while drawing something until sitting down to do this panel. Pretty raw; hits really close to home with losses I've had in my own life, of both family members and friends. Seen from that perspective this is a way to publicly address, visually provoke and facilitate discussion and debate, and maybe even atone for some uncomfortable issues in my own personal past. And given the astonishing frequency and number of DWI arrests in this town (Alaska has the highest per capita rate of alcohol consumption in the nation), it's a lesson that far too many people still need to learn.
This is all to say that jury selection in this particular case has officially begun, and after speaking with my editor about it this morning, it seems the time might be right and it might be appropriate to run it on the day of theoretical conviction, so it's now prepped and ready to go. And incidentally, this particular panel has direct bearing on a comment I made last night on a thread over at the Daily Cartoonist, which was a repost from an excellent piece written by Daryl Cagle at his blog that's well worth a look.
Second panel here addresses the recent passage of the "Coburn amendment" which just passed the Senate and will undoubtedly delight many folks in this neck of the woods. And in all likelihood this cartoon'll piss far more people off, given folk's sensitivities and priorities up here on the ol' frontier. You know, just once I'd love to see a fraction of the passion and political willpower unleashed in the name of gun right issues devoted instead to DWI, hey wait ... maybe there's a connection there... (files it away).
Anyways, this image immediately came to mind after reading the news, as bears are symbolic of Alaska's parks, and what better bear than Smokey to remind us all what the underlying motivation behind such legislation is really all about. I'll admit to a twinge of guilt at pulling a Bambi on a beloved, childhood icon, but it passed. Seriously though, my pitch to the editor pointed out the complete lack of any blood splatters, and I even offered to edit out the big hole in his head to make it more palatable.
Ahh yes, cartoon violence; I am a proud product of my generation and display all the societal values learned as a child.