It’s October, so that means every political cartoonist in the nation must draw at least one trick-or-treat cartoon. It’s the same cartoon every time: a suburban home, the door open, and someone dressed up as something scary, labelled “Recession” or “Mortgage Crisis” or some trite crap like that. Here’s a typical example:

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61091/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61091/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61183/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61183/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61077/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61077/

Below the cartoonist takes a few satirical swipes at candidates he opposes. All fine and dandy. I don’t know who these people are, because I don’t live wherever Varvel lives, and I don’t care. What I do care about is that there is nothing at all insightful, funny or clever about this whatsoever.

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61178/

There are variations on the theme.

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61173/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61173/

I kinda like this one (above), but not for reasons that the cartoonist intended. It’s the unsettling, rather uncanny sight of John McCain wearing an Obama mask. In rendering the mask, the artist uses the same caricature style for Obama’s face that he uses for McCain’s without adding any texture or other technique to suggest “mask.” As a result, it reads more as “skin pulled off the skull of the living Obama.” Which makes McCain a creepy serial killer — and that makes me laugh.

Meanwhile … what?!

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61099/

http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/display.cfm/61099/

What is Plante trying to say? Anything? What does Plante think about the bailout? About the mortgage-backed securities crisis? About Paulson’s plan or Bush’s performance or a home owner’s plight or – well, anything? What does he think?!?! We have an allusion to Hurricane Katrina and FEMA’s botch-up under Michael Brown’s leadership (or lack of.) But what about it?

And that’s the problem with relying on cliches for inspiration. Nothing is really said, no opinion is made, no risks are taken, so nothing really funny happens; the brain doesn’t light up with connections nor does the heart ignite with fury or indignation. It’s just a chuckle, if that, a harmless non-thought sandwiched between editorials, letters to the editor and syndicated columns that, for all of their faults (and there are many), at least show engagement with the world around them and strive to advance a position, however futile. Is it any wonder more professional political cartoonists are losing their jobs?

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