Each week, The Comics Curmudgeon helps explain Today's Cartoons. Most political discourse is a bunch of blah blah blah talky talky jaw jaw crappy crap. Political cartoons have the unique ability to short-circuit all that, with their purely visual representation of important world and national events (assuming they don't get out of control with labeling everything). But what if political cartoonists used the power of visual images ... for evil?

What if they just used their syndicated platform to scare and terrify us? What if that, huh?

Terrifying terror: Oh my God! It's the ghost of Benazir Bhutto!

Why so scary: Well, it's not every day you see the dead walking around and voting. Well, in this case I guess they're floating around and voting, since the unquiet dead apparently only maintain their earthly form from the waist up -- everything below that is just flappy, blobby fabric. It's also terrifying to know that our physical imperfections -- like, in Bhutto's case, poor eyesight -- will still afflict us after our soul has cast aside its corporal form. In unrelated news, I wonder if it's easier to implement voter fraud in a country where everyone casts enormous novelty ballots.

Terrifying terror: Gyyah! It's some kind of horrifying ape-bear!

Why so scary: Technically, it's chained up, so you could probably outrun it -- indeed, even without the shackles, it's an open question as to how fast this stump-legged abomination could move. But there's something definitely unsettling about this loathsome half-thing. Why does it seem so cheery? Who has chained it up, and who has given it the string of sausages it's cramming so happily into its snout? Perhaps most importantly, how has it come to either represent or ironically comment on "stability in Russia"?

Terrifying terror: Yikes! The Dem Donkey has been cruelly sliced in half, yet both parts of the creature still live, like some horrifying earthworm!

Why so scary: Truly, the question is not how the beast survives having been sundered, but rather how it survived so long as a single entity. For if you look closely, you'll see that it was once half black and half white! Half man and half woman! The only question, really, is how the parts would be divvied up in the biological divorce. Barry-donkey looks kind of unsettled to just be hovering aimlessly a few feet above the ground, but he isn't half as unsettling as Hillary's autonomous bottom half, with its lovingly drawn camel toe standing in for a face.

Terrifying terror: NOOOO! Some general dude is dissolving into dozens of tiny masked terrorists!

Why so scary: The recent current-events context would suggest that the green-uniformed individual who appears to be melting into the guerrilla homunculi is probably supposed be Pervez Musharraf. But really, this cartoon could be relevant to any strongman whose rule collapses and unleashes anarchic forces beyond any government's ability to manage, so get ready to see it fairly often over the next few years. If the nightmare image of thousands of tiny humans bursting out of a uniform neck and scampering all over the table isn't scary enough for you, keep in mind that these microterrorists are uncannily similar to the CIA's counterterrorism mascot.

Terrifying terror:Holy crap! Frontier Hillary is being menaced by an army of shadowy Barack Obamas!

Why so scary: Let's be clear: the real Barack Obama is beautiful and good. He pisses out hope and shits rainbows. But you can't just reproduce that in some sort of Xerox machine. Yet if this cartoon is any indication, some misguided scientist or necromancer has tried to do just that. How exactly were these multiple Barrys created? Cloning? Robotics? Dark magic?

Whatever the case, you can be sure that they are neither articulate nor clean, but rather shambling, grunting parodies of the real thing. That's why adorable li'l Hillary Crockett is so wide-eyed with horror: she'd give anything to be back on stage sparring awkwardly with her rival instead of staring into the twisted faces of these Bizarro Baracks.


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