The most difficult event to render in cartoons, I have found, is the Unspeakable Tragedy — the act so profoundly dark, your breath briefly leaves your body and the horror chills your soul.
Long-form writing, by contrast, permits a paceful, studied observation of the event — like an investigator sifting carefully through a crime scene’s clues. Case in point: Some of the brilliant first-person essays and reporting in recent days over at Grantland.com — most notably by Michael Weinreb and former Post reporter Jane Leavy — on the Penn State sex-abuse scandal.
In cartoons, though, the artist’s standard tools come booby-trapped with potential pitfalls. Draw in an overly cartoon-y style, or invoke a wrong-footed symbol, or employ a mere pun, and the creator risks trivializing the tragedy. On the other hand, the cartoonist mustn’t shy away from the horror at hand and tread too lightly, either.
With that in mind, here are some Penn State cartoons that have forcefully commented on at least one facet of the case — from the accused Jerry Sandusky’s denial of wrongdoing to Coach JoePa’s ouster to the gaping moral void that apparently rippled through Penn State’s leadership.
Did these cartoonists handle the scandal deftly? We now let you be the judge: