Flogging a Dead Chimp

As soon as I heard that a NY Post editorial cartoonist was in hot water, I knew it was Sean Delonas. Sure, he’s the only editorial cartoonist they have, but he’s also the worst cartoonist on the planet.

I honestly don’t think Delonas intended to be racist, or even crypto-racist, when he portrayed the author of the stimulus package (who he insists is not meant to be Obama, although who else could it be?) as The Infamous Mad Chimp that terrorized Stamford, CT. I just think he’s stupid enough to not know the racist undertones of what he drew, or too ignorant to realize that there’s a long history of racist imagery involving monkeys.

The cartoon isn’t really a racist joke because it’s not a joke at all. He just shoe-horned a political news story (stimulus package) with a crazy non-political news story (mad chimp). It’s the hallmark of someone who’s dumb and unfunny, but thinks he’s really smart and hilarious. It’s says to the reader, See, I read the news! These two things happened in the news! Get it? It’s funny cuz they happened!

Delonas went to the Jack T. Chick School for Portraying Bitterness and Revenge in Art. I can totally see him drawing sinners roasting in hell, and laughing with each stroke. That would be a lot of laughs, because the guy loves to cross-hatch. His cartoons are so dark (literally and figuratively), I wonder how the Post can afford all the ink needed to print them.

Or how any light can escape them. The universe of his cartoons is one of dirt and despair and hopelessness and All-Encompassing Wrong. Every character in his cartoons looks like a police sketch of a dead hobo.

I see his cartoons all the time on the subway, as my fellow passengers flip through copies of the Post. I can spot them out of the corner of my eye from 15 feet away, and immediately I feel a little ill. I know that on that page, some political leader Delonas doesn’t like is being lowered into a vat of acid, or shot out of a cannon, or dropped from the top of the Empire State Building. The man is not subtle. Or sane.

About 20 years ago, a trend popped up in cartoons: The Landscape Far Side Imitators. Newspapers wanted one-panel cartoons with a Far Side sensibility, but they also wanted them to use the same dimensions as the other comic strips on the page. Because newspaper editors are lazy and unimaginative (gee, I wonder why papers are in such trouble these days?).

So they came up with all of these one-panel cartoons that had the same dimensions as Peanuts and Hagar the Horrible. Unfortunately–aside from being powerfully unfunny–these cartoons had way too much real estate to fill, and were drawn/written by people who had zero idea how to fill it.

So in these cartoons, all of the real action takes place in one corner, while the rest of the strip is devoted to unnecessary renderings of a sidewalk, or a kitchen countertop. Visually confusing, distracting, and completely devoid of humor–and the comics pages are full of this garbage these days. Again, any wonder why newspapers are dying?

Delonas belongs to this school of cartoonsmanship, times a thousand. Because he actually has far more space to fill than the average Far Side imitator. But rather than expand his ideas, he draws small, grimy figures and surrounds them with small, grimy details. Like decrepit buildings, crumbling asphalt, dying trees…

And rats. Guy loves to draw rats I would bet he has several copies of Willard on DVD in his house (both original and Crispin Glover editions).

Delonas was born way too late. He would have made a great contemporary of Hieronymous Bosch. Or he could have illustrated “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But no, he gets to plague our age with his insane visions. Thanks, history!