Editorial page cartoons have a history of ridiculing politicians and other public figures. They also express opinions on current events and controversial issues. As a result, they often upset some readers, particularly the figures depicted. According to David Wallis in Killed Cartoons, newspaper editors review the cartoons before they are published and have always stopped some of them. He admits that there may be good reasons to stop one or two, but since September 11, 2001, some editors have been downright cowardly. Some editors have told their cartoonists "just be funny." Others have eliminated cartoons from their editorial page.
In Killed Cartoons, Wallis publishes works that were rejected by the cartoonists' employing newspapers or magazines. Though some were syndicated, many have not been seen before this book. There is something to offend almost everyone, especially in the early sections, which deal with sexual and religious issues. Most, however, were killed because the editors did not want to offend politicians, advertisers, or a group, like sports fans or gun owners.
With each cartoon, Wallis provides history and commentary.
Here are some of my favorites:
A lighthearted look at the funeral of Orville Redenbacher that the popcorn king himself might have found funny by Bob Englehart, killed by the Hartford Courant in 1995, on page 71.
Jesus Christ carrying an electric chair by Doug Marlette, killed by the Charlotte Observer, date unknown, page 81.
Hitler and Nixon with some generals, discussing aerial bombing, by Paul Szep, killed by the Boston Globe in 1972, on page 113. (Put Hitler in a cartoon with current political figures and they always object.)
"U.S-Supported Dictators Hall of Fame" by Patrick O'Connor, killed by the Los Angeles Daily News in 2003, on page 183.
A marriage between the Halliburton no-bid contracts controversy and the story of baseball players using steroids by J. D. Crowe, killed by the Mobile Register in 2003, on page 186.
There are many other great cartoons.
Public libraries are committed to the collection of library materials offering a variety of viewpoints. With commercial print media failing in its charge to protect free expression, it is especially important that public libraries keep their commitment. Buying Killed Cartoons is one step in meeting the library mission.
Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression. Norton, 2007. ISBN 9780393329247.