Ask a Cartoonist: Whoopsie!

By Tea Fougner

Occasionally, cartoonists make little mistakes or commit faux pas in their cartoons! This week, I asked our cartoonists to share some of their favorite “Whoops!” moments!

Bill Griffith, Zippy The Pinhead:

I think both of these strips had the word ‘suck” censored. The second one was actually done with Mike Judge, who’s a friend of mine.

Jeff Parker, Dustin:

During the 21 years I spent as an editorial cartoonist, there were countless incidents where readers would misinterpret the caption or the message of a cartoon — comes with the territory — and usually resulted in a handful of nasty calls, letters, or emails. I’m sure many of these occurrences were because I didn’t do a good enough job making my views or the drawing clear enough. I also made my share of outright errors too.

But the most controversial cartoon in my career at FLORIDA TODAY set off a reader hate mail bomb, for something I had nothing to do with.

Back in 2004, after hurricane Charley flattened Florida’s SW coast, killing a lot of unprepared people, I used the Florida state seal in my cartoon the next day to illustrate our collective shock and grief by depicting the Seminole Indian woman featured in the seal weeping over the devastation in the background caused by the storm.

One little never-considered problem? Our state motto, “In God We Trust,” is boldly emblazoned along the bottom of the seal. And as the motto is so prominently displayed, a few hundred readers thought the cartoon and I were making the statement, “We trusted in God, and look what he did!”

Calls and e-mails demanding my head and apologies began to pour in. One church pastor spearheaded an email and phone campaign with his congregation.

It never occurred to me that anyone might read something like that into the cartoon, as I’ve never connected random natural disasters with the wrath of the Almighty.

One noteworthy hate e-mail was sent by the mother of a high school classmate of mine who hoped that somehow, God would forgive me. I sent her a jpg of the state seal with an explanation, and then asked her to say “hi” to her daughter for me.

Strangely, I had once created a similar cartoon using the state seal a few years earlier, this time after the sudden death of Governor Lawton Chiles while in office. Same seal, same weeping Seminole woman, same motto. Not one complaint.

Could it be, those who so lustily condemned the hurricane cartoon were pleased by the Chiles cartoon and thought, “We trusted in God, and look, he smote the Governor”?

The Florida State Seal…

The controversial Charley cartoon…


Bill Holbrook, Kevin & Kell, On the Fastrack, and Safe Havens:

It happened just now, in today’s “Kevin & Kell” strip! In the first panel I accidentally drew the dialog balloon pointing to the wrong character. (Obviously it should be directed to the tiger girl.)

Terry Beatty, The Phantom and Rex Morgan:

In the REX MORGAN strip, once in a while I forget which direction little Sarah’s bangs are combed. They are supposed to go the the left — but sometimes I draw them flowing to the right. Nobody ever seems to notice the mistake!