Very interesting article in today’s The Guardian by Suze Clemitson about how Charlie Hebdo taught her more about the reality of doping in cycling than she would ever have read in the pages of Pro Cycling or Cycling Snooze.
“I learned more about the murky world of cycling from the cartoonist’s pen than from the editorial team of L’Equipe and their ilk'” she writes. “The cartoons – those precise, puerile, perfect slashes of black pen on white paper – gave the game away by daring to show openly what others could or would only to hint at.”
Clemitson tells of how, after moving to France, it was through Charlie Hebdo and its ‘wiser’ older brother Le Canard Enchaine that she learnt the language and the culture, seeing cartoons such as this, published just after everyone’s favorite GoldenBoy had declared his comeback but before most magazines dared vice their concerns, in 2009.
“With the great champions, it’s their mental attitude that makes the difference” reads the caption, as our Maillot Jaune jumps from one bend to another to get ahead of the pack.
Another reads ‘Legalise doping, for a French win.’
Both, you will note, are by Cabu, one of the cartoonists killed recently in Paris.
I came across a few other cartoons on my search that also show the power of the form.
And my two personal favorites, the first of which could be LA, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Hamilton, O’Grady, etc:
And one that isn’t quite a ‘toon, but does show the man not as a chicken but as a cock, which he undoubtedly is:
“The cartoonists who have stabbed their pencils at the dirty heart of professional cycling have left an indelible visual vocabulary,” writes Clemitson. “It’s cheap humour, but it makes its point with elegant economy. It says the unsayable in a way that, once seen, can never be unseen. Armstrong is right when he says that the history books may no longer record his victories but that nothing can unstop us seeing him in Yellow in Paris year after year. That is the power of the visual image, the power that Cabu and Charb, Tignous and Wolinski exploited with such deadly effect.
“Armstrong reacted to the Charlie Hebdo atrocity by tweeting “PariSTRONG’, a pun as painfully self-referential and egotistical as he could possibly have made under the circumstances. But he is forever a cartoon character with a syringe sticking out of his arse, skewered on his own perfidiousness. And that is why Je Suis Charlie.”