Cartoonists Agree: John McCain Old; Wife Fond of Pills; Constitution Very Flammable

vf072408 Cartoonists Agree: John McCain Old; Wife Fond of Pills; Constitution Very FlammableOn Tuesday, Vanity Fair‘s Power & Politics blog posted a satire of The New Yorker‘s now legendary Barry Blitt cover of Barack and Michelle Obama as flag-burning, Osama bin Laden-honoring terrorists. In VF‘s version, drawn by illustrator Tim Bower, John and Cindy McCain are portrayed as their own worst caricatures: The presumptive Republican nominee for president is seen hunched over a walker, while his wife is juggling various prescription pills. On the wall is a painting of George W. Bush; in the fireplace, the Constitution.

But to several commenters—you know, those scourges of civilization—on VF.com, the cartoon was a little too similar to one by The Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s David Horsey that ran a week earlier. In it, the McCain’s appear on the cover of The National Review, he’s drooling in a wheelchair (mumbling to himself, "Bomb, bomb, bomb—bomb, bomb Iran"), she’s pouring prescription pills into her hand. On the wall is a painting of Dick Cheney; in the fireplace, the Constitution.

As predictable accusations of plagiarism were hurled around the comment area, Media Mob contacted both artists. Mr. Bower said he hadn’t seen Mr. Horsey’s cartoon when he did his for Vanity Fair. He agreed with the assessment that both were the product of parallel-drawing.

Mr. Horsey responded to Media Mob at greater length:

The Vanity Fair image bears a great deal of resemblance to my parody of the New Yorker cover. However, I know very well that, on any given day, about two dozen editorial cartoonists come up with similar ideas independently, so I’m assuming there is no plagiarism at work. Jeff Danziger of the New York Times Syndicate also did a very similar cartoon the day after mine appeared. Apparently, the idea of doing a McCain version of the Obama cover was a fairly obvious idea. It is a little surprising, though, that Danziger, Vanity Fair and I got so many of the details the same. Personally, I thought my concept of putting the image on the cover of [the] National Review was the best parallel. Interestingly, just as folks failed to see the irony of the New Yorker cover, very few caught my ironic intent. In my case, however, liberals were cheering while conservatives were telling me to ‘rot in hell.’ We live in a nation of literalists.