Twenty-three years. That’s how long I have been drawing Broadside cartoons. Navy Times and Marine Corps Times have given me a lot of rope all along, and the military has taken my body shots without a whimper. In all that time, no one has ever told me what to draw.
He was a SEAL, and we were stationed together. He caught me in the passageway one day and pulled me into his stateroom.
Now I may be paranoid, but it seems to me it is never good to be pulled into any confined space by a member of the special forces. To make matters worse, he was mad. I had never been to BUDS, so I wasn’t sure how they train these guys to vent. This added to my discomfort.
Over his shoulder I saw a picture of a severed head on a stake.
He looked me in the eyes – the same look that many soon-to-be dead people have seen just before having their vocal chords removed by hand – and told me, “You have to draw a cartoon.”
Quite frankly, this threw me off.
I had to switch from full flight mode into cartoonist mode, which isn’t an easy transition. Going from “trying to stay alive” to “trying to be funny” takes a few gear shifts, as you might imagine.
Generally, SEALs like to be in the field doing something operational. Staff work tends to frustrate them, like a harness frustrates a wild stallion. In the field, they can ease their disgruntlement by – how shall I say – putting their training to practical use. On a staff the bad guys often wear the same uniform and consequently it is more difficult to take them out. Thus, annoyance eventually turns into anger.
This gentleman had run into an O-6 who refused to make a decision. He told me, “You have to draw a cartoon saying that when a guy makes Captain he has his guts removed.” He then described the cartoon: A Lieutenant Commander gets a lobotomy. A Commander has his spine removed. And the O-6 has his guts removed.
This presented me with a dilemma, because for one thing, the joke wouldn’t work. Spine and gut removal are pretty similar metaphors, so the humor would be lost. Plus, since he had been pretty vocal about the gutless O-6, everyone would know who the cartoon was about, which meant the Captain would come after me.
So if I did the cartoon, the senior officer would have a vendetta against me. Then again, I was in a confined space with an angry special forces operative, with a severed head staring at me over his shoulder. And the Captain wasn’t there.
So I compromised. I ripped out the Captain’s heart.
And lived to tell the tale.