Monday, July 26, 2010

John Callahan Dead at 59

John Callahan died due to complications with his paralysis on July 24, 2010 at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, OR. He was 59. Mr. Callahan had been in declining health for some time, according to Tom D'Antoni's article in the Oregon Music News.

John Callahan had been paralyzed since the age of 21 due to a car accident. He turned to alcohol, and then, cartooning. His cartoons were called "sick" and "offensive." It didn't bother him at all. To quote his description from his very own Web site:
"There's absolutely nothing funny about a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Unless, of course, that person is John Callahan. For nearly a decade, this irreverent cartoonist has been shocking America with his own special brand of wicked humor. In the world of Callahan, nothing is sacred, nothing is taboo and nothing is funnier!"

This came as an awful shock to me. It's a terrible loss of a singular, fearless voice.

"Watching John develop a single cartoon, nearly all produced under looming Willamette Week deadlines [en route to international syndication], is a short course in the creative process. John banters around ideas, plumbs anyone nearby or near a phone for suggestions, and then plays with 2 or 3 possibilities, flipping them around — mentally and verbally — until a punch line emerges. He then clutches a sharpie pen in both hands and begins drawing an image to fit the phrase. Sometimes he hits it on the first round, but more often image and phrase duel a while, with both subject to mutation in the process. Then boom, they fit together like a glove, and he’s off the hook for another week." from Jim Redden's Portland Tribune portrait.
The Williamette Week has a brief John Callahan primer and a short obit (with many comments from those who knew him) here.

Associated Press obit at the Seattle PI site here.

There is a remembrance page at John's site.

My friend Rod Mckie has a remembrance and some links, including some video from a Dutch documentary on Mr. Callahan.


Jeff P said...

Wow, Harvey Pekar and now this. Two extremely distinctive comics voices gone.

Dan Reynolds said...

I have all of John's books. I didn't know John personally, but I felt like I did after reading his autobiography. My understanding is Robin Williams bought his life's story. He was 59, but he squeezed 90 years worth of living into those 59 years.

John dealt with his disability in a brave and profound manner by using humor. As someone who went through a deadly disease myself, I can empathize even more strongly how effectively he made the best out of a bad situation. He was an inspiration to many as well as a very insightful and funny guy.

I was wondering what was going on with him since I haven't heard anything about him in recent times.
I'm sure the angels in heaven are all going to be smiling for a long time.

Boomer Bill said...

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Boomer Bill said...

Great post. An amazing man...

Unknown said...

It’s a terrible tragedy that John Callahan has passed away. You can help remember him by contributing to his memorial website at