Thursday, February 23, 2006

Jeff Stahler and the "Power of Cartoons"

"I'VE GOT A CARTOON & I'M NOT AFRAID TO USE IT!" ironically proclaims Jeff Stahler's cartoon of February 10th in The Columbus Dispatch. Okay, perhaps when I say "ironically" I mean "falsely", but either way the point is that Stahler often does seem afraid, or at least very, very reluctant to truly wield the power he possesses as a nationally syndicated staff editorial cartoonist for big city newspaper.
Now, I like Stahler's art and find of his jokes quite amusing, which is fine for the comics page, where Stahler does a daily panel called Moderately Confused, but I expect a bit more from a cartoon appearing on the editorial page. To me, the important part of the phrase "editorial cartoon" is the word "editorial". The cartoon's purpose is to express an opinion or point of view, to make the reader think, and everything else, the art and the joke, if one is appropriate, is secondary to that purpose.
Stahler's cartoons are rarely thought provoking and hardly ever does he express a point of view or appear to have any opinion of the news event that is his subject that day other than that he can get a few chuckles out of it. He is really little more than a glorified gag cartoonist, sort of the print equivalent of David Letterman or Jay Leno, making jokes about current events and people in the news, all the while carefully avoiding taking a stance on the issues, and being to try not to offend readers, editors, his subjects, or, most importantly, advertisers. As I said, I get enough of that crap from today's mostly bland crop of comic strips and expect a little editorializing on the editorial page.

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