Sunday, January 24, 2016

Slip the Surly Bonds of Earth

For our trip in the wayback machine last weekend, I discussed some of the highs and lows of memorial cartoons. Since the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster is coming up this week, I thought I'd share the two cartoons I drew for that occasion.

I didn't see the explosion live; I had a second shift job in 1986, and I overslept the launch time. (Some of you may recall that the launch had been postponed from an earlier date, which factored into the ill-considered decision to launch on January 28 in spite of the freezing temperatures overnight.) I had my TV programmed to turn on at a certain time every weekday, forcing me to get out of bed and go into the next room to watch it or turn it off. All channels were on news coverage when the TV came on, as the news anchors were still trying to come to grips with what schoolchildren around the country had just witnessed.

This first was my immediate reaction to the disaster.
This cartoon was drawn entirely in charcoal, except for the material in the text box (which I had to redo because I inadvertently omitted the name of one of the astronauts; thankfully, an editor caught my mistake before it went to press).

A week later, the student newspaper I drew for at the time wanted a drawing for its front page, and I came up with an illustration whose wishful thinking was misinterpreted by some as a sort of denial that the disaster had really happened -- like those people who have insisted all these years that we never landed on the moon.
That misinterpretation was partly because when the cartoon appeared in print, you could see the outline of the space shuttle contrary to my intention. I drew the shuttle only using white-out, but some shadow of the white-out showed up anyway.

The point of the cartoon was to push back against the response from some that the space program should be shut down. Given the chance, I'd have liked to have changed the caption to advocate letting "their dreams live on" or "soar" or something other than "not ... die."

17 years later, February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart on reentry. I did not draw a memorial cartoon on that occasion, although I did end up having a few seconds on local TV. It was a Saturday morning, and I'd gone to the church where I work to fetch something I'd forgotten there on Friday afternoon. I decided to put an appropriate prayer on the outdoor sign as long as I was there, and was almost finished when a reporter from Milwaukee's channel 6, in Racine because astronaut Laurel Blair Clark had attended the high school two blocks away, stopped to get a comment from me. The reporter mistook me for the church's pastor, but I quickly corrected him; and since he didn't happen upon any other Racine clergy walking the main streets on his way back to Milwaukee, he used the footage of our interview.

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