The job of an editorial cartoonist is to find the funny in the serious, the piercing needle of irony in a haystack of profundity. Jim Lange had no trouble with the search. For a long time he turned out seven drawings a week. He cartooned for 58 years and never ran short of ideas. He never stopped laughing. He certainly never stopped making others laugh.
James J. Lange has died. John Q. Public lives on. The Everyman character Lange created for The Oklahoman represents the common citizen who in turn is amused with and perplexed by the news of the day. By 11 a.m. on a typical work day, Lange had three or four sketches — ideas for cartoons. The bespectacled, mustachioed, fedora-wearing John Q. was often part of one. An editor puzzled by a Lange idea would get a quick explanation punctuated by that famous Lange laugh. His personality was a mixture of artistic bravado and a newspaperman’s persistent skepticism. He was ever eager to spin a story of the kind John Q. might hear in a barber shop. James J. Lange retired in October. Technically, John Q. Public retired with him. But we like to think he’s still around, salting our views. Though his origins were "common” (as were Lange’s), his common sense was regal. When a noteworthy person dies, cartoonists often draw them at the Pearly Gates. If we could draw, we’d have John Q. Public, still in Oklahoma, with hat placed across his heart, like a son who just lost a father.