September 23rd 1968  (Age 53)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Logos & Cartoon Clichés Revisited

Well, the above cartoon is not my finest work but I can keep my head up knowing I was able to draw something on the issue of smog and the coming Beijing Olympics without having to rely on using two very overused visuals, the gas mask, and the 2008 logo: (as has been the case with other cartoonists) here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. No offence to my cartoon friends, but the logo parody has been done to death, hopefully restraint can been exercised in the weeks to come so we don't have to see another. Further apologies to other cartoonists whose similar work I neglected to link to.

This isn't to say logo parody cartoons shouldn't be done, but I think they should be drawn sparingly, and only if there's a great idea. The concept of showing the stylized figure depicted on the Beijing Olympic logo as a truncheon bearing police officer is a great visual, but I'm not sure even a week to go before the games begin many people are familliar with the actual logo.

Among many editorial cartoonists I talk to logo cartoons are often viewed as being easy in and outs enabling the cartoonist to take the rest of the day off. It doesn't take much to punch in the words 'Beijing', 'Olympic', and 'logo', into Google images to find a wealth of visuals of varying resolution, before manipulating one and handing it off to the editor for approval.

Clichés, metaphors, and proverbs are very important instruments cartoonists use to draw their commentary. While I and others groan at the overuse of some of the gags and scenarios seen in editorial cartoons editors tend to gobble them up, certain that the readers are going to easily understand what point is being made. Sometimes they become so overused it makes it easier for the lazier cartoonists to blatantly plagarize others.

On this occasion let's review some of the common editorial cartoon clichés:

Please feel free suggest new ones through the comment box to add your own to the list.

THE OLD...Puzzle with a missing piece(s) editorial cartoon.
THE OLD...Painting oneself in a corner cartoon.
THE OLD...Walking the plank cartoon.
THE OLD...Large fish eating the medium-sized fish eating the small fish gag.
THE OLD...Things proceeding as slow as a snail/turtle gag cartoon.
THE OLD...Image of a beaver representing Canada.
THE OLD...Image of Uncle Sam representing America.
THE OLD...Donkey and Elephant representing the political parties in the U.S.
THE OLD...Corporate logo incorporated in a cartoon gag (i.e. Olympic rings for wheels on a tank. Bush choking on an Pretzel in the shape of the Enron logo.)
THE OLD...Manipulation of a flag, national symbol, coat of arms, etc
THE OLD...Sinking Ship cartoon.
THE OLD...Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil cartoon.
THE OLD...Combination of two unrelated current events.
THE OLD...Loon on a Canadian dollar drowning/choking/spashing during currency fluctuations cartoon.
THE OLD...Ostrich head buried in the sand gag.
THE OLD...Taxpayer being held upsidedown with money falling out
THE OLD...Blind justice statue editorial cartoon.
THE OLD...Incorporating popular cartoon characters iE: Homer Simpson, Mr. McGoo, Peanut's characters, etc. in an editorial cartoon.
THE OLD...Adding irony/humour to illustrations of famous photographs editorial cartoon (ie: the Hindenburg blowing up)
THE OLD...Dividing a continent/country up and pointing to different regions with satirical names gag.
THE OLD...naughty pupil writing lines on a chaulkboard cartoon.
THE OLD..."kick me" sign on the backside of a politician gag.
THE OLD...Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden image.
THE OLD...finger in the dike cartoon.
THE OLD...New arrivals to hell cartoon
THE OLD...labyrinthe image to convey, timelines, bureaucracy, etc.
THE plastered on a person image marking imminent firing, defeat, death, etc.
THE OLD...circling vultures image to convey the same thing as painted on targets
THE OLD PIG...representing gluttony
THE OLD...peace dove altered to convey no chance of peace
THE OLD arrow going through someones' head
THE OLD big politician holding another less big politician up as a puppet
THE OLD jumping out of a cake
THE OLD gas station imagery: pump hoses like snakes, guns...whatever
THE OLD alterations of gas/gallon signs

I've discovered something new pertaining to what's popular among the gag cartoonists when it comes to clichés, but it could very well include editorial cartoonists. A cartoon editor at Prospect, a monthly British general interest magazine, has ranked cartoon cliches in order of popularity based on what's subitted for publication. From First Draft, The Prospect Magazine blog, here are the top 20 clichés used by cartoonists:

20. Confessionals
19. Medieval sieges
18. "Back in 5 minutes" signs
17. Adam and Eve
16. Cavemen
15. Fairy Tales (ie: The 3 Bears, 3 Little Pigs, Rapunzel)
14. Business meetings
13. Ordering in a restaurant
12. Witch hunts
11. Hell
10. The Grim Reaper
9. Job interviews
8. Doctor appointments
7. Heaven
6. Goldfish bowls
5. In/Out trays
4. Gurus
3. Smoke signals
2. Psychiatrist couches
1. Desert Islands

Posted at 11:14 am by Graeme_MacKay


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