BEST EDITORIAL CARTOONS OF THE YEAR, 2008, edited by Charles Brooks, Pelican, 206 pages, $14.95, softcover, large format.

No editorial cartoonist may achieve the fame of Herblock, but many of the cartoonists' work featured in this 39th edition of the "Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year" are worth some laughs — or in some cases, just a grimace.

Certain editorial cartoonists are gifted with the ability to satirize effectively a serious political or social problem or person in a single newspaper panel.

Just a few of the problems considered in these pages are the early stages of the 2008 presidential campaign, Middle Eastern oil prices, the falling of the U.S. dollar, controversial sports figures, immigration, wildfires, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, global warming, Al Gore's celebrity status, and of course, the Iraq War.

When President Bush announced a "surge" as a new way to proceed in Iraq, he praised Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander, saying he waited for his analysis. Cartoonists around the country seized on this process of "Waiting for Petraeus," as exemplified by Ted Rall's cartoon in which a grocery bagger asks a customer if he preferred "paper or plastic," and he said, "I'll ask General Petraeus."

Tom Beck imagined a spelling bee with Uncle Sam saying "Spell Immigration Reform" and a guy with a poster around his neck saying "Congress" replied, "A-M-N-E-S-T-Y."

In a cartoon by Charlie Hall, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has set up his office in an airline terminal, and his secretary tells a visitor, "I'm sorry, Sen. Craig is indisposed right now. Why don't you have a seat in the middle stall and wait for him to tap your shoe."

S.W. Parra shows an otherwise normal man sitting on a medical table with a disconnected gas pump and hose gouging through his stomach and coming out his back. The doctor asks, "Gas pains?"

In a single caricature of Vladimir Putin, Charles Daniel draws him holding a sign saying "Fight Global Arming — Bring Back the Cold War."

Joe Heller shows a man and a woman sitting on a hillside looking at the stars in the sky, saying, "Starlight, Star Bright, What Bigoted Comments Will I Hear Tonight?"

The stars include Rosie O'Donnell, Tim Hardaway, Don Imus, Mel Gibson, Kramer from "Seinfeld" and Ann Coulter, GOP pundit.

Gene Hernden portrays people watching a TV set that is blaring, "Another international crisis is looming ... but FIRST, What's happening with BRITNEY SPEARS?"

Steve Kellen shows an airline clerk announcing to some travelers waiting to board, "Please be at the gate an hour before your flight delay begins ... You're scheduled to arrive Tuesday-ish."


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