Compare, contrast, facepalm

Martin Rowson, The Grauniad, March 14th

Tom Scott, The Dominion Post, March 19th

Another confluence of ideas arising from the situation in Japan. It’s interesting to compare how two very different cartoonists have started with the same idea, and how they’ve developed it. Editorial cartoons only work if the reader recognises the imagery, whether it’s the face of a politician, a location, or (as below) a reference to a famous picture. The recognisable imagery here is the charred shell of the Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima. Both cartoons compare the carnage of the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 with the devastation caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

With ‘Ghosts’, Rowson has the advantage of working in colour, and (using watercolours and gouache) gives the dome the impressionistic quality of a Turner painting. The rubble in the foreground is clearly modern, a soup of junked cars and boats. Scott’s drawing is far blunter, the two halves divided by a thick line. To ensure that no reader is left behind, the halves are labelled with their respective years, because heaven forbid that there be any ambiguity in a Dom Post cartoon. Scott remains a fine draughtsman, but I’m afraid the difference between these two works, produced under similar conditions* and time constraints, speaks volumes about how the respective publications estimate the capability of their readers.

Tom Scott, The Dominion Post, March 24th

Scott was presumably pleased with the effect of his Japan-then-and-now cartoon, because he repeats it today. The only problem is, well… isn’t it slightly, I don’t know, crass to compare the actions of fanatical wartime suicide attackers, whose mission was to cause as much death and destruction as possible, with the voluntary sacrifice of the doomed “faceless fifty” at Fukushima – who are trying to save lives?

*Both artists would have just a few hours to fill a specific space, and comment on a topical situation. That space has to be filled even if you don’t have any good ideas, hence the crapulent torrent of editorial cartoons showing the hand of God smiting Christchurch and hope arising from the rubble. That space has to be filled, even if it’s with sincere but utterly unimaginative rubbish.

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