Killer Opinions

| 11 Nov 2014 | 01:42

    “He who dares not offend cannot be honest,” states Thomas Paine at the start of editor David Wallis’ new collection, Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression. Exhilarating and eye-opening, Killed Cartoons is an invaluable compilation of original “editorial art that had been rejected by newspapers and magazines.” Some of the mind-reeling drawings found homes online or in syndication, while others are just now seeing print for the first time. 

    With five chapters that address the major themes of sex, death, religion, politics, race and big business as factors in censoring editorial art, Killed Cartoons provides a cross-section of nearly every genre of taboo our society has to offer. Through interviews with Wallis and friends, the cartoonists whose works are featured here provide historical background and context to each piece. These include Pulitzer Prize winners/finalists such as Garry Trudeau, Doug Marlette, Paul Conrad, Herblock and Mike Luckovich, as well as David Kuper, Ted Rall, Mike Keefe, Norman Rockwell, Edward Sorel and Anita Kunz.

    For many editors and publishers, rejecting a piece is sometimes necessary in order to muzzle potentially offensive or controversial material; it’s best for a cartoonist if they keep under the radar. However, according to Wallis, who is an outspoken 47-year-old West Village journalist and founder of, the power of cartoonists and journalists is significant. They inspire discomfort or spark often-overzealous protestations by readers, politicians and governments, who often seek to utilize its influence for their own gain. The violent protests that ensued after the September 2005 publication of 12 cartoons (not included here as they have already been published) featuring a likeness of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, lends itself to support for both of these arguments. However, in such a climate, where stating an opinion can be deadly for your career—or literally deadly, Wallis believes it is imperative that controversial opinions have a public venue.

    Wallis’ first book, Killed: Great Journalism Too Hot To Print, is a similar compilation of slashed journalism. A self-proclaimed advocate for writers, Wallis has an approachable persona and has lectured on media business at Columbia University, NYU and the New School. He’s also contributed to the New Yorker, Wired, the Washington Post and the New York Times Magazine, as well as the London’s Observer and the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot. Through a combination of his own personal and professional experience—and the stories of his colleagues and predecessors—Wallis manages to remind us that we risk stifling our own voices if we, as cartoonist Mike Keefe says, “never cross the line.”