Anyone who has seen a cartoon by John Callahan will know that he loved to call ‘em as he saw ‘em. The quadriplegic whose art spawned two television series [the family show, Pelswick, about a wheelchair-bound boy who wanted nothing more than to live a normal life; John Callahan’s Quads, an adults-only series about a group of foul-mouthed characters with an assortment of disabilities and bad attitudes] died Saturday of complications related to quadriplegia and respiratory problems.
An alcoholic from the time he was a teenager, Callahan lost the use of his limbs when a car driven by another drunk youth hit a utility pole at 90 mpg, severing his spine. He continued to drink for several years afterward, stopping only when a failed attempt to open a bottle of booze with his teeth failed – and as the bottle rolled away, he saw how totally screwed up he’d become.
Perhaps it was an awareness of his own failings that allowed him to see the ridiculous, absurd and outrageous in all of us with an unusual depth of perception. Each of his cartoons was painstakingly drawn by holding a pen in his right hand and guiding it with his left – resulting in a slightly wobbly line that gave each of his already sharp efforts an authenticity that created work that left viewers either appalled or rolling in the aisles.
One of his most famous/infamous cartoons [pictured above] was used as the cover for his 1990 autobiography, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”
Callahan was one of a kind. The world is somehow a lesser, meaner place now that he’s gone.