Drawing praise for enviable record

November 17, 1999|By Kevin Kallaugher

I NOW sit in the office that Tom Flannery once enjoyed. I did not have the privilege of working along side him nor the opportunity to enjoy his friendship. But as a colleague in the unique profession that we shared, I have a lasting admiration and respect for the kindly fellow whose place I inherited.

Editorial cartoonists are forever employing visual metaphors as tools to express their opinions. When I think of Mr. Flannery's career, I suppose it is appropriate that I see a visual metaphor: the runner.

For those who knew him, this may seem odd. He didn't possess the powerful frame of an Olympic sprinter nor the long, angular body of a long-distance man.

But Mr. Flannery was a runner. A marathon man.

There are many challenges in the unique profession of editorial cartooning. Keeping up with the news, forging opinions, employing satire, mastering the art of drawing on a tight deadline. But the quality I most admire in a colleague is endurance. In his career at The Sun, Mr. Flannery pounded out more than 7,000 cartoons. He had endurance.

With gritty determination, Mr. Flannery kept a steady pace. He doggedly pounded away at his pet peeves: the National Rifle Association, poverty, the Republicans and others -- for 31 years.

Trying to maintain the creative edge that is required in this profession for just a week at a time is a big enough challenge for me. Mr. Flannery did it with consistent quality in thousands of cartoons for more than three decades. That is tough, very tough.

Endurance runners don't often get the same recognition that the glorious sprinters receive. The distance guys, such as Mr. Flannery, toil away quietly with dignity and much less fanfare.

Mr. Flannery leaves an enormous body of work. Local, national and international cartoons imbued with his determined sense of passion. It is an admirable legacy worthy of attention.

I have many thousands of cartoons to create before I can reach his formidable level of achievement. I can only hope to follow in his footsteps -- the pounding footsteps of a marathon man.

Kevin Kallaugher is a Sun editorial cartoonist.

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