John Callahan (cartoonist)
|Born||John Michael Callahan
February 5, 1951
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
|Died||July 24, 2010(aged 59)|
|Known for||Creator of Pelswick|
Accident and career
Callahan became a quadriplegic in an auto accident at 21. The accident happened in Callahan's car after a day of drinking alcoholic beverages. His car was being driven by a man with whom he was bar hopping.
Following his accident, he became a cartoonist, drawing by clutching a pen between both hands. His visual artistic style was simplistic and often rough, although still legible. It has been likened to that of William Steig, James Thurber, Richard Condie, and Ben Wicks.
Callahan's cartoons dealt with subjects often considered taboo. His black humor may be exemplified by the title of his "quasi-memoir", Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?. The subject matter and treatment of his cartoons shares something with the work of Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson, and especially Charles Rodrigues, although it is much more aggressive than even the Playboy cartoons by these cartoonists.
For 27 years until his death, Callahan's work appeared in Willamette Week, whose cartoons occasionally led to boycotts and protests against the newspaper.
Callahan scoffed at the reactions of critics who labeled his work politically incorrect, while he delighted in the positive reactions he received from fans with disabilities. “My only compass for whether I’ve gone too far is the reaction I get from people in wheelchairs, or with hooks for hands,” Callahan said. “Like me, they are fed up with people who presume to speak for the disabled. All the pity and the patronizing. That’s what is truly detestable.”
Two animated cartoon series have been based on Callahan's cartoons: Pelswick, a children's show on Nickelodeon; and Quads, a Canadian-Australian co-production, which retains the violence, joie de vivre, and political incorrectness of his cartoons. The main character, who "walked out of a bar and into a car," as the theme song relates, is a quadriplegic who won a large settlement from the rich driver who ran over him, and lives in a mansion with his buxom girlfriend, gay Australian physical therapist, and a cast of fellow handicapees. Their outrageous adventures infuriate the neighbours, which include an angry nun, the milquetoast millionaire who originally ran over the main character, and his domineering, Joan Riversesque wife.
Friends said Callahan realized that his cartooning was a form of counseling, which led to him pursuing a master's degree in counseling at Portland State University. However, his deteriorating health prevented him from finishing his first term.
In 2005 Dutch film maker Simone de Vries made a documentary on Callahan, 'Raak me waar ik voelen kan' ('Touch me someplace I can feel').
John Callahan worked on nudes and a portrait project, shown in several galleries throughout its progression.
Callahan was also a songwriter. He released his first CD in 2006. The Independent of London calls his songs "Beautiful, but dark". He wrote all the music and lyrics himself and was backed up by many notable musicians. A Dutch film crew recorded the studio sessions in which Callahan played a simplified piano version of "Roll Away The Day". The album is produced by blues musician Terry Robb, with a special cameo appearance by Tom Waits.
John Callahan was adopted as an infant, and had five siblings. At age 8, he was molested by a female teacher. He began drinking at the age of fourteen. “I used the alcohol to hide the pain of the abuse,” Callahan has said. After the car accident that caused his spinal cord injury, he went through extensive rehabilitation. At the age of 27, he gave up drinking alcohol. He made his home in Portland, Oregon.
John Callahan's books include:
- The Best of Callahan
- Digesting the Child Within and Other Cartoons to Live By
- Do Not Disturb Any Further
- Do What He Says! He's Crazy!!!
- Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot: The Autobiography of a Dangerous Man
- Freaks of Nature
- Get Down!! : Dog Cartoons
- I Think I was an Alcoholic
- The King of Things and the Cranberry Clown (a children's book quite unlike the adult-oriented cartoons in his cartoon collections)
- Levels of Insanity : Cartoons by Callahan
- The Night, They Say, Was Made for Love : Plus, My Sexual Scrapbook
- What Kind of God Would Allow a Thing Like This to Happen?!!
- Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up? Lurid Revelations, Shocking Rejections, Irate Letters, With an Introduction by Robin Williams
- Chris Lydgate (March 9, 2005). "Hell on Wheels". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
- Bruce Weber (July 28, 2010). "John Callahan, Cartoonist, Dies at 59". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
- Timothy Egan (June 7, 1992). "Defiantly Incorrect". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
- Dungca, Nicole; and Molly Hottle, "Cartoonist kept humor to the end", The Oregonian, 26 July 2010, p. B6.
- Dennis McLellan (July 29, 2010). "John Callahan dies at 59; politically incorrect cartoonist was a quadriplegic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
- Lori A. Wood (November 24, 2004). "John Callahan: Back to the Drawing Board!". Action online. United Spinal Association. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- Beth Slovic (December 27, 2006). "Tales From The Crip". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- Tom D'Antoni (July 24, 2010). "John Callahan, cartoonist, songwriter, Portland icon dead at 59". Oregon Music News. Retrieved 2010-07-24.
- Mark Zusman (July 28, 2010). "John Callahan: 1951-2010 – A cartoonist who loved to rankle". Willamette Week. Retrieved July 24, 2011.