THE MORNING LINE:
Our five favorite cartoons this moment, culled from across the mighty mighty Web...
5. TV AS Rx: CNN! CBS! Oxygen? To peddle his health-care reform plan, President Obama is visiting more networks than Emmys host Neil Patrick Harris can sing about in 60 seconds. Fortunately, there's a doctor-of-satire in the house. Steve Breen prescribes this cartoon about Obama's full-channel TV blitz.
(To which we advise: Forget the daytime soaps. We'd most like to see Obama make a cameo on "House," as he tries to persuade Hugh Laurie's cantankerous, Vicodin-popping doc. Because really, what could re-create the reality of seething town-hall citizens more aptly than that?)
4. NO OKEFENOKEE, THIS: Some days, the gravitational pull to like "MARK TRAIL" for ironic reasons is too strong for mere mortals to resist. And what really lures me in this wretched gator. Just look at 'im -- he's smiling a knowing crooked smile, as though he's fully aware of what role he's playing in this muddy melodrama. He knows there will be Snackus Interruptus. He knows he'll be lucky if he even gets to taste Mark's trail boot. And given the strip's penchant for fisticuffs, he just knows he might even get boxed in the snout. Still, it's a helluva thing, a self-aware gator grin.
3. ROAD GUNNER: A nod to Clay Bennett for this missile-defense cartoon. Yes, the gag is good, but 'Riffs has also got its shallower reasons: I'm a patsy for any political cartoon that smartly invokes Wile E. Coyote.
2. REAL KITTY WHISKERS: Sure, President Garfield has been invoked in "Garfield" parodies for years. But today, the culinary references render it a dead-heat tie between two Tuesday webcomics: "GARFIELD AS GARFIELD" and "NEW ADVENTURES OF QUEEN VICTORIA." (And yes, that second-panel quote is indeed attributed to Garfield. James G., that is.)
1. ON A MORE SOMBER NOTE: Nearly two weeks ago, internationally known Japanese cartoonist Yoshito Usui went missing after going hiking alone on a mountain north of Toyko. Over the weekend, the 51-year-old artist's death was confirmed. In the days since, the tributes from manga fans around the world have poured in.
Usui, as many of you know, drew the popular "Crayon Shin-chan," about the wise-cracking 5-year-old scamp that is Shinnosuke. The magazine series begat the books, which begat the animated version. The cartoon books have sold 50 million copies in Japan alone, and his animation aired in some 30 countries.
(Note: An official with his publishing house, Futabasha, said the last picture on Usui's broken digital camera found near his body was of the vantage point of peering down a steep cliff. Citing Usui's artistic "curiosity," the official said: "We think he fell off at the moment he took the picture,")
In tribute to Usui, Comic Riffs remembers him through his creations -- particularly this opening theme to his animation. In this, we celebrate his life, as well as his life's work:
In addition, here's one of the better fan tributes now out there: