Steve Jobs was an original; many cartoonists are not

I’ve been watching the editorial cartoons dealing with the passing of Apple CEO and icon Steve Jobs. The subject is so rich with icons, imagery that I knew it was going to be heyday for cartoonists – and that several cartoonists would use the same imagery to create similar cartoons.

Steve Jobs was an original, but when you look at the cartoons collected by Michael Cavna and Daryl Cagle it’s clear not all cartoonists are.

One last observation made by Daryl. By most reports Jobs was a Buddhist, many cartoonists depicted him at the Pearly Gates – a Christian metaphor.

We often see editorial cartoonists imposing Christian imagery on non-Christians when they die. (After all, only one religion can be right, huh?) Comedian George Carlin, a famous atheist, found a Christian heaven in many editorial cartoons. When Beatle George Harrison, a Hindu, died, the editorial cartoonists drew dozens of cartoons with George showing up in Christian heaven.

22 thoughts on “Steve Jobs was an original; many cartoonists are not

  1. Considering Jobs lifted most of his ideas for personal computers from Xerox, I’d say he was about as original as these cartoonists.

  2. “Considering Jobs lifted most of his ideas for personal computers from Xerox, I?d say he was about as original as these cartoonists.”

    That’s a pretty sweeping generalization. Apple’s first GUI was inspired by Xerox’s PARC, but Jobs was instrumental in refining it and making it available to the masses. Otherwise, it would have remained in obscurity inside the Xerox labs.

    Apple is responsible for creating the market for “personal” computers before the Macintosh and pre-Xerox PARC interfaces were ever public.

    And for the privilege of seeing Xerox’s GUI, they were given the opportunity to buy pre-IPO stock in Apple. This has been reported in a number of places.

  3. The best cartoon I saw of the bunch was Jobs as Buzz Lightyear, with the “To Infinity and Beyond” catch phrase in the background. It was the only one that used a Pixar reference, anyway! Other than that, man, there were a lot of similarities in those ‘toons…

    As far as Jobs being an original, I’d say he passes muster (iPod, iMac, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, etc.), but he also said that Apple was shameless in swiping the best ideas they could find and made them part of their product line.

  4. Rick: yes, I thought that was what really made it work, too. I suppose a lot of general readers might not be aware of the Jobs/Pixar connection, though, but the heck with them!

  5. If Matt Davies isn’t going to post his FB comment, I will:

    “If Steve Jobs had been a cartoonist, he wouldn’t have drawn obit cartoons.”

    Well said.

  6. I’m amazed nobody used the ‘there’s one more thing’ catchphrase in any way.. and that only one or two actually used Pixar at all. Which features cartoons….

  7. Since most staff cartoonists do a combination of local and national cartoons, how about a new quality-control rule: Obit cartoons from now on don’t go to the syndicate. They will only be printed locally, as a substitute for the cartoon about the new dog poo law or the budget hearings at the school board.

    As for newspapers who don’t employ a staff cartoonist? No obit cartoon for you!

  8. Obit cartoons really are not editorial cartoons, as they don’t offer any real opinion. All they do is illustrate “______ is dead, he was famous for_____ and we are sad(or their logo is sad)”

    If anything it should be an obit illustration, drawn by one of the newspaper’s illustrators, not editorial cartoonists.

  9. I really can’t stand obit cartoons either. They’re not Political Cartoons.

    That said, I did do one once that I think was both political and obitical. When Charleton Heston died I did this

    Boy, did I get hate mail.

  10. I’d like to do an obit cartoon on the death of obit cartoon

    It’s like complaining that people send flowers to a wake

    They are an editorial cartoon. The “editorial” is that the persons
    life is worth paying tribute too and honoring

    I heard from a number of readers who loved my Jobs cartoon.
    If I hadn’t done one I would have heard from even more asking
    why not.

    My only regret is that I didn’t add Disney to a group that included
    Edison, Bell, Ford looking over Jobs shoulder in wonder as he demonstrated an ipad for them.

  11. I really enjoyed Scott Kurtz’s send up of Mr. Jobs, but I think that is because it came from his character Brett’s perspective and not a generic “bye Steve”.

  12. Jeff, the only way I hear from a number of readers regarding an obit cartoon is if it’s local or it pisses them off. And the fact that a bunch of people loved something they’ve seen a thousand times before doesn’t prove the cartoon was of any quality. People love Lady Gaga in large droves too.
    And no, obit cartoons are rarely editorial cartoons. Matt’s example is. If you don’t make a statement other than “you’re dead”, then it’s not editorializing.
    Sometimes I have to draw them. There’s no choice on my part. Sometimes I try to make a statement and make it an actual editorial cartoon. Other times, especially if it’s local, I just do the wishy washy thing and chalk it up to not being my best that day.

    The editor of my newspaper once told me the BEST cartoon he ever saw was an obit cartoon for Katherine Hepburn. That made me shudder. That’s a good example of editors not knowing what makes a good cartoon.

    And the Buzz Lightyear cartoon, that was just stupid. Sorry.

  13. Again, if you do an obit cartoon, you are making a statement.
    The statement your making is that the person’s passing is worth
    noting. That what they accomplished is worth paying tribute to
    or not.
    When I did an obit cartoon on Jesse Helms I was making a
    statement showing a casket covered with a confederate
    flag and segregated neelers for white and colored.

    When I did my obit cartoon on Jobs showing him standing
    with the likes of Edison and Ford I was making a statement
    and editorializing. And I heard from readers who felt for
    different reasons that he didn’t rank with them or that Ford
    didn’t rank with Jobs

    Editorial cartoonists love to get all self-important and talk about
    doing cartoons that impact people, cause them to think,push buttons and touch people. Well many readers find obit cartoons
    touching- what’s wrong with that? What’s the big #@*%$ deal?
    We still have the rest of the days of the week to do our umpteenth cartoon bashing Palin,Pelosi, Obama,Congress …..

  14. “A person’s passing is worth noting”

    That is what a newspaper article is supposed to do.

    “Steve Jobs was a great inventor among the likes of Edison, Ford, and Franklin” could have been in the article about Steve Jobs’ passing.

    Why is it necessary to have a cartoon obit on top of that?

  15. >>”?If Steve Jobs had been a cartoonist, he wouldn?t have drawn obit cartoons.?

    Are you kidding me?
    Steve Jobs would have innovated obit cartoons.
    And then charged you 99¢ (or $1.29) to look at them.

    I agree with Jeff Darcy. Obit cartoons are editorial cartoons.
    They’re editorial cartoons, but not political cartoons.
    There are very few ‘political cartoonists’ left.

  16. “readers find obit cartoons touching”

    Then offer the service to readers.

    Newspapers offer text obituaries and text with photo obituaries for a fee.

    Create a new revenue source and offer a custom cartoon obituary option by an obit cartoonist.

  17. “Why is it necessary to have a cartoon obit on top of that?”

    Just to tick off guys like you.

    My problem with obitoons is that they rely too heavily on truly threadbare imagery and metaphors (we have enough of those already). Unfortunately, these almost always are the ‘toons editors prefer.

    If a cartoon actually conveys something material and specific — pro or con — about the deceased and the cartoonist doesn’t seem to crank one out per month (let’s face it — there aren’t that many noteworthy deaths), I have no problem. The average cartoonist produces roughly 250 to 300 cartoons annually; one or two memorial pieces represents less than one percent of the total output.

  18. The thing that bugs me with many obit cartoons is that they tend to have Christian imagery even when the deceased (like Jobs) was not a Christian. I recall a bunch with George Carlin (an atheist) and I think I remember George Harrison (a krishna) as well.

    I often wonder if the families of the deceased take offense.

  19. I, for one, will not be so politically correct as to segregate one afterlife from another. These cartoons are meant as fond farewells, take them as such regardless of the setting.

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