This is a bit after the fact, but like effective legislation, good editorial cartoons take time to craft. I'm running out of ways to say continued mass shootings need to be addressed. Blame who you want. Blame what you want, but something needs to be done, and we've done very little since the last major shootings. Then, we recently got three mass shootings in about a week's time. It seems the problem is getting worse, not better. If nothing is done, the violence will inevitably affect someone close to each one of us, and we will be left wondering why we didn't take action sooner – if we did at all.
This cartoon is one of the more in depth ones I've penned in my time. Setting aside hardware problems at the office which readjusted my priorities for the week, this panel took around eight or nine hours over three days. A power failure across the entire block cost me my first version of the cartoon as well. But that couldn't stop things.
I used two reference images in the process – one of an antique grind stone and one of a human skull. I ended up adding the wooden side guards to the stone as it seemed more appropriate somehow, and I covered up the convoluted crossbars under the grindstone with the grim reaper's cloak, just to make it less complicated from a visual standpoint. In the end, that decision actually helped create a lot of depth in the space. Along those lines, the anatomy of the bones was fairly important in achieving a believable scene. I think that's particularly true of the arm holding the scythe's handle, but it's also true for the indications of the spine, collar bone and ribs just inside the reaper's cowl.
Originally, I had planned to have a list hanging on the wall behind the grim reaper with the recent shootings crossed out and the next name obscured behind him as a way to say anyone could be the next victim if nothing is done. That idea actually subtracted from the space I had created in the frame, so I opted for the scroll on the ground. After just sketching in the parchment, I could tell that was a more effective idea, as it kept the viewer's eye moving more readily. I then set about listing all the shootings in U.S. history I could remember, confirming their dates and researching others to fill the gaps.
I'm sorry to say there were more than I could fit in my cartoon.
In case anyone is wondering, the shootings listed are Dayton, El Paso, Gilroy, Parkland, Pittsburgh, Fort Lauderdale, Alexandria, Las Vegas, Southerland Springs, Orlando, San Bernadino, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, Edmund, San Ysidro and Austin – the latter three occurring in 1986, 1984 and 1966 respectively, hence why they are down the scroll. And, of course, the grim reaper's list begins with Cain and Abel, because murder isn't a new concept. Humans have had murderous intent since the beginning. So it's easy to say criminals will find a way to kill. And that's true. But I don't know that we should be basing laws on whether criminals will obey them or not. By that logic, we should never post speed limits, because people are always going to find a way to go just 5 mph over what the law says.
The final element is the speech bubble of course – or in this case a song bubble. Bob Dylan's classic "Blowing in the Wind" happened to be on the radio Tuesday morning. It seemed terribly appropriate, given the events of the previous weekend. Though the muses are different, the question is still the same as it was in Dylan's day. Surely, there must come a point when humanity, and the United States in particular, say that enough blood has needlessly shed. With rumblings of gun laws making their way through both houses of Congress, the wind may finally be bringing that answer home to us. I certainly hope it is.
Thanks for reading.