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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Monday, July 31, 2006
Common Cliches, Metaphors, and other Groans

Oh look, you may be saying to yourself, MacKay's using THE OLD cardboard cut-out cliche to illustrate when a person in real life hasn't been seen or heard from very much. I can hear the groans in my head.

I've compiled a list of familliar and overused metaphors, cliches, images and repetitive editorial cartoons gags. Cartoonists ought to strive to avoid borrowing from the list, but sometimes its lure is irresistable. I'm guilty as much as the next cartoonist of utilizing ideas from the list. A great cartoon is only great if it's imaginative and fresh. The first idea is probably the most overused concept, commonly played out by cartoonists after famous people die. It is: THE OLD...Arriving at the Pearly Gates Editorial Cartoon. (This came up at a recent cartoonists convention and someone suggested that during a lifetime, cartoonists should carry a punch card enabling them to draw only 7 "Arriving at the Pearly Gates" cartoons throughout their career.)

Here are some more. 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

*** Update (Aug. 8, 2006) *** Well, it seems somebody didn't care that it took an old cliche to get the point across...

*** Update (Nov. 3, 2006) Jeff Parker, editorial cartoonist at Florida Today comments on common cartoon cliches in his blog.

Posted at 11:41 am by Graeme_MacKay

July 31, 2006   05:17 PM PDT
How about these...

the old arrow going through someones' head, one big politician holding another less big politician up as a puppet, someone jumping out of a cake, gas station imagery: pump hoses like snakes -- alterations of gas/gallon signs, big giant SUV's -- well that's not a cliche but there's lots of big SUV cartoons out there, har har har.
Commuting Hamiltonian
August 3, 2006   02:00 AM PDT
Those are some good ones. A variation on the puppets would be one (bigger) politician as the "daddy" (or other authority figure) and another (lesser) politician as the "son" (or some other childlike role).

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