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The only editorial cartoon worth reading
June 18, 2007 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Kelly returns. Ward Sutton (aka "Kelly") and his wonderfully sublime editorial cartoons are back in the Onion. Sutton's website. Sutton is so dead-on that his Kelly cartoons leave many confused. Interview of Mark and Ward Sutton at Mother Jones.
posted by KokuRyu (52 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
OK, so the Poor Mojo thread is actually dry satire directed at the Onion readership, right?

Right?
posted by gurple at 2:23 PM on June 18, 2007


Can there be that many people who enjoy reading The Onion yet don't realize the Kelly cartoons are a joke?
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:26 PM on June 18, 2007


What do those Poormojo readers think of the word "viking"?
posted by jefbla at 2:28 PM on June 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


Doonesbury did it better.
posted by misha at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2007


I think Poor Mojo serves as a warning to us all.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2007


Did Kelly go away? I thought it was just harder to find with the new layout.
posted by bhnyc at 2:40 PM on June 18, 2007


Hasn't he been doing cartoons for the Onion somewhat regularly for a while? Did he go somewhere that I didn't know about?
posted by miss lynnster at 2:41 PM on June 18, 2007


They strike me as about as sublime as a shit on a white rug.
posted by lalochezia at 2:44 PM on June 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love this stuff. Most mainstream political cartoons are absolute crap whose creators spew the same shit out all the time -- like, when the space shuttle crashed a few years ago, remember all those cartoons that showed it entering the gates of heaven? And remember when Johnny Carson died and there were a whole bunch of political cartoons where God or Saint Peter or someone said "Heeeeeere's Johnny?"

Sutton's Kelly strips are dead-fucking-on, and the bottom-right-hand-corner comment is always the icing on the cake.
posted by hifiparasol at 2:48 PM on June 18, 2007


OK, so the Poor Mojo thread is actually dry satire directed at the Onion readership, right?

Right?


When I lived in the UK, my British friends would always poke fun at Americans and say, "Americans don't understand irony." I always tried to defend my fellow countrymen and women, but today I am starting to think my British friends are onto something.

I think the cartoon is pretty funny.
posted by sutel at 2:52 PM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


One can excuse people for not realizing the Kelly cartoons are parody. Personally, I don't think they're over-the-top enough to be easily identified as such.

In fact, they read exactly like the work of our local Indy Star hack, Gary Varvel. Except Varvel actually means it. I mean, this one would've been right at home on the Indy Star editorial page and no-one would've batted an eye. So, you can understand if people take the Kelly cartoons seriously.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 PM on June 18, 2007


that poormojo.com thread was hilarious.
posted by delmoi at 3:03 PM on June 18, 2007


I love these, too. I find them just joyfully absurd. It's not only a sharp parody of the lazy conventions of political cartooning and of the simplistic, Manichean, "conservative" worldview, it's also a great little character study of this deranged cartoonist. "Kelly" is as much of an Onion character as Jean Teasdale or Jim Anchower. I mean, the OJ one? What a weird thing to make a cartoon about. And he apparently hates Spider-man.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:04 PM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Man, how could anyone not get that was satire.
posted by delmoi at 3:07 PM on June 18, 2007


What's Chinese for DO NOT WANT?
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2007


They're not parody. They're just editorial cartoons about editorial cartoons. Set up a straw man and knock it down. Any editorial cartoon worth reading was rejected for being controversial well before it was published. If it's trite and safely ignored, it's publishable.

I HATE Ted Rall, but he's the only cartoonist in the past decade that I've found capable of being simultaneously funny, truthful and devastating. 99% of the time I don't even agree with his politics and I find him personally execrable, but he often nails it.
posted by erikharmon at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Agreed, delmoi. See also:"they hate homes".

Though I must say, not every one of these is that obvious. The first time I saw one of these, my initial thought was "how funny that the Onion is paying for a ridiculously right wing editorial cartoon series" rather than "how funny how this guy is making these dry, satirical pokes at the crap that passes for editorial cartoons in mainstream publications". He's so dead-on that occasionally he can fool anyone.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:12 PM on June 18, 2007


(oops. Snotty comment in wrong thread)
posted by Artw at 3:13 PM on June 18, 2007


I get the irony, but where's the invention? It's kind of the same joke over and over again ("Look at what stupid Americans think!"). Give me Tom Tomorrow or Doonesbury any day. Better yet, lets bring Walt Kelly back from the dead.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2007


From a comment in the Poor Mojo thread:

When you have to think this hard about a cartoon it's not funny.

In other words, apparently you must be THIS SMART in order to ride this comic.
posted by gurple at 3:17 PM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


i like tom tomorrow, but he's just not funny. he's about as funny as al franken.
posted by andywolf at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2007


Though I must say, not every one of these is that obvious.

this is dead on, I think. the one that poormojo was concerned about was the first time I encountered one of these comics in the onion. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but even I was thinking "so the joke is that the onion is printing this conservative cartoonist, right?" instead of "the joke is that this liberal cartoonist is parodying conservative editorial cartoons." the only thing that gives away that particular cartoon (if you're not familiar with sutton, and don't know that this is him.) is that it's so obviously racist and it's in the onion, but if you don't know anything about the cartoonist then you could believe he is that racist and we can all think of reasons that undeserving people get jobs at decent publications.
posted by shmegegge at 3:25 PM on June 18, 2007


the "they hate homes" one is brilliant, though.
posted by shmegegge at 3:25 PM on June 18, 2007


Tom Tomorrow is sarcastic. I don't think he knows the difference between sarcastic and funny. I've seen one funny Tom Tomorrow in my LIFE. Admittedly I stopped even looking at his strip years ago, so maybe he's changed.
posted by erikharmon at 3:26 PM on June 18, 2007


I thought Kelly had disappeared from the Onion back in late April, so I was happy to see the Sopranos one today...
posted by KokuRyu at 3:28 PM on June 18, 2007


I think Ruben Bolling is very good when he gets political. His strip on the VaTech shootings was exceptional. Not really "funny", though.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:28 PM on June 18, 2007


Political cartoons apparently have to be funny now to qualify as cartoons.

Interesting concept. Wonder what Herblock would have had to say about that.
posted by blucevalo at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2007


so the joke is that the onion is printing this conservative cartoonist, right?

Well, if you read Our Dumb Century, you get the sense that The Onion has positioned itself over the ages as the official voice of white, straight, wealthy America. I'm not sure how that comes off on the website these days, since it seems like the tone of the site has changed somewhat -- there seem to be more "Local Man Does Something Pedestrian" or "Local Pathetic Person Does Something Really Pathetic" kinds of stuff.
posted by hifiparasol at 3:32 PM on June 18, 2007


I overreached, but if a political cartoon tries to be funny, it should succeed or I'll consider it a failure.
posted by erikharmon at 3:38 PM on June 18, 2007


I know this sounds stupid but I too had trouble figuring out if he was serious or not. I knew it was in The Onion but to me, I felt it was too serious in tone to come off as ironic. I mean, the sad thing is that I've seen conservative cartoons like that (that were serious) and I could show that to some people I know and they would agree 100% with the message, even without realizing the source.

So I will be open and admit - no, I am not that smart to ride the comic.
posted by champthom at 3:53 PM on June 18, 2007


I caught on eventually, but when I first encountered them, I admit that I was confused. Unlike the Onion's articles, the cartoons are generally a LOT closer to what one might actually encounter in a real paper -- so until you see one that's a little more obviously over-the-top (like the one delmoi linked to), some confusion is understandable.
posted by treepour at 4:07 PM on June 18, 2007


I stopped reading the Onion a long time ago, so I hadn't seen these. I just now looked at them all at once.

The first I was was the Father's Day one, which, although forewarned, I still puzzled over. I took it seriously. But whatever the next one was, I realized that this was satirizing, first and foremost, hack editorial cartoonists, and particularly conservative hack editorial cartoonists. They all made sense from that point on and they were all pretty funny to me, in various ways. (Which includes all sorts of feelings that weren't laughter-like at all.)

I really think you have to look at these collectively. What mr_roboto says is right on the money: "Kelly" is an Onion character. What really made it work for me is the inconsistency. Sometimes his stance is pretty much exactly what you'd see from some right-wing nutjob newspaper editorial cartoonist. Other times his cartoons go beyond the the familiar right into extreme right. Still others might resonate with centrists and liberals, too, like the "Girls Gone Wild" one which confused some Poor Mojo commenters. But see, that particular cartoon is a great example because even if people other than conservatives might find themselves sympathetic to it, the truth is that it has that typical fear-mongering, what about the children, fear of sexuality and hyperbolic sensibility that is so very typical of both conservatives and our political culture which sensationalizes our fears.

And then there's the occasional cartoon which is just about some random thing that Kelly is worked-up about that everyone goes "huh?". Like the Hawaii one.

Kelly is a character that exemplifies the worst in editorial cartoonists, particularly if you think that the worst lies on the right side of the aisle. Which it does not just because the views themselves are offensive, but also because the right-wing has a stronger association to hackish, overly-sentimentalized and manichean sensibility that is common to all editorial cartoons (excepting a very few) across the political spectrum.

Also, via a Poor Mojo commenter, everyone should read (though it's unpleasant) the Colorado Springs Gazette's Chuck Asay's cartoons, especially if they feel that Kelly is so consistently over-the-top that no one could take him for a serious conservative cartoonist. Sadly, given Asay's cartoons, that's not true. Asay's cartoons are not ironic.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:24 PM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Holy shit, Bligh. You weren't kidding about Chuck Asay. Most of those cartoons are barely coherent.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:52 PM on June 18, 2007


One can excuse people for not realizing the Kelly cartoons are parody. Personally, I don't think they're over-the-top enough to be easily identified as such.

Agreed. I see the same kinds of egregious conservative rhetoric from columnists and bloggers all the time, and they aren't trying to be satirical.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:52 PM on June 18, 2007


The editorial cartoons are the only part of The Onion I've looked forward to for quite awhile.
posted by mrnutty at 4:58 PM on June 18, 2007


Kelly's cartoons are pretty fantastic.

Incidentally, I'm reminded of how there's one blogger at Reason who always points out one particular editorial cartoon cliché: when a famous person dies, they meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. It only gets funnier and funnier the more you notice it.

And then Kelly did his hilarious rip.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:17 PM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


No kidding, EB. I thought Kelly was pretty ridiculous until I read Chuck Asay's... He doesn't hold a candle to the the real thing. I mean, what the hell is this?
posted by clockwork at 5:20 PM on June 18, 2007


No, this one is even better.
posted by mrnutty at 5:25 PM on June 18, 2007


This Kelly is exactly as smart as Johnny Ryan (google him yourself if you like this shit). As in, potentially smart, but by spouting racist or otherwise abusive crap to parody racism or other abuse, just ending up looking like part of the problem.

I don't care whether there's six levels of sophomore irony behind a "dirty Mexican" joke. Or an incest strip. (seriously, don't bother with Johnny Ryan- grim stuff) I certainly don't want to read it.
posted by imperium at 5:29 PM on June 18, 2007


amusing, but not as amusing as "Cathy" in Spanish.
posted by dvdgee at 5:30 PM on June 18, 2007


Wow. What the fuck?
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on June 18, 2007


This Kelly is exactly as smart as Johnny Ryan (google him yourself if you like this shit).

Wow. That really did suck.

I maintain that Kelly is far superior, but hey, no accounting for taste. Having the cartoon look almost exactly like a real idiotic editorial cartoon, plus the character of Kelly himself, helps solidify the gag.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:39 PM on June 18, 2007


I don't think his editorial cartoons are wonderfully sublime at all. What if someone takes it seriously and decides that it's ok to treat their father like that on father's day? I don't see anything funny in making light of your father's drinking problem if, G-d forbid, he has one. Besides that editorial cartoonists work hard at what they do and this could have a chilling effect on free speech. No one will want to express an opinion if they're going to get mocked like that. Who's to say they're not parodying themselves? Get it straight people.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:03 PM on June 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


I can't believe I never before recognized Sutton's drawing style in these cartoons. It's so obvious now.

I think what makes them special is how they're so perfectly un-PC. It's like Sutton channels exactly what would piss him off if he was the reader and not the writer.
posted by fungible at 6:37 PM on June 18, 2007


Kelly isn't fit to sniff Asay's shorts.
posted by swell at 7:25 PM on June 18, 2007


Political cartoons apparently have to be funny now to qualify as cartoons.

no, but when they clearly try to be funny and fail then they're open to derision.
posted by andywolf at 10:42 PM on June 18, 2007


I'm really digging on this "Smedleyman" character. Beside that great comment, there's also this recent one:

“Y’know, having lived in a very ethnically homogenous region (perhaps the most) for a bit, that gets pretty damned tiresome, pretty damned fast. A dazzling urbanite such as myself is used to the beautiful smorgasboard of colors and features we have in some areas in the U.S. After a bit I started losing interest in the (otherwise very striking and beautiful) local women and I had to hold my tongue from saying ‘you all look the same.’ Certainly there are differences within groups, certainly all Chinese folks (f’rinstance) don’t look the same, but when you’re in, say, China - nearly everyone IS Chinese man.”

You really have to read a lot of his comments before you get the true flavor and see how clever of a parody of a mefite commenter "Smedlyman" really is. Some of the MetaTalk comments are my favorites. I wouldn't say the satire is usually funny, per se, but it's often very funny in the "I am weeping in pique and despair" sense.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:54 PM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


With all of the people, including me, who had a bit of trouble deciding whether he was serious or not, I wonder how many people can watch Stephen Colbert and not get that he's making fun of conservatives. Could they really be out there?
posted by stavrogin at 12:10 AM on June 19, 2007


Satire so finely honed that most people miss the point.
posted by Floydd at 8:34 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Kelly cartoons I've slowly warmed to over time. The fact that it's in the Onion DOES directly imply that it's a joke, and that's okay. You could figure it out for yourself over time. There's too many calculatedly sloppy things he does, like drag in conservative non-sequiturs whenver they're an ambiguous issue, or put the Statue of Liberty in like half the strips. (Also a reference, perhaps, to the statue-raping cartoons in Our Dumb Century?) I think why so many people are not sure about whether Kelly is satire that the right is so cartoonish these days.

stavrogin: Remember when Tom Delay's website posted that clip from Colbert's show "defending" him? And that the White House asked him to last year's Press Association Dinner, which eventually produced that clip that everyone on the Internet has seen by now.
posted by JHarris at 1:22 PM on June 19, 2007


I wanted to link to this Ass-ay cartoon myself, so I just did. Notice I called him Ass-ay. That's an ironically juvenile comment, by the way, I'm just parodying the middle school mentality of the modern right.

Ethereal Bligh: I know a Chinese woman who told me that she can't tell white men apart.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on June 19, 2007


And that the White House asked him to last year's Press Association Dinner, which eventually produced that clip that everyone on the Internet has seen by now.

The white house doesn't decide who hosts the WHCD. They're stupid but they're not that stupid.
posted by delmoi at 3:01 PM on June 19, 2007


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