The Green Death

The EHEC epidemic that has befallen Germany about a week ago has spurned a surprisingly large number of cartoons. Admittedly, the infection has had some grave consequences. As of Thursday 4:30 PM, 17 people have died, about 2000 cases have been reported in Germany. While this is certainly  a topic worth commenting on (we had similar cartoon peaks with both swine & bird flu), I think there’s another reason for the great amount of cartoons. Looking at last week’s colibacteriatoons, you will notice that majority of them concentrates on the (false) allegations that Spanish cucumbers caused the deadly epidemic.

Cucumbers, it turns out, are an intrinsically funny type of vegetable. One could try to explain this with their utterly harmless watery blandness or their closeness in shape to bananas – yet another intrinsically funny fruit. But I think we should face the truth: Cucumbers are funny because they are shaped like male genitalia. They subconsciously (or very consciously at times) speak to the adolescent in us, the part of us that likes to giggle, point and whisper: “Look, it has the exact shape of a ..”. There are whole websites dedicated to this tendency. Now don’t ask me why we think that penii are hillarious. It’s probably some act of carnivalesque defiance to phallocentric culture or an affirmation thereof.  I am sure there is more than one book on this topic. Bottom line is: Cucumbers are funny. Too bad, that they are off the hook now. Let’s wait and see what vegetable options the next days will bring.

Here are five cartoons about EHEC, that I thought were interesting:

Harm Bengen, Ulm

This was one of the first EHEC cartoons on We didn’t know about Spanish cucumbers back then. The vegetables in question look like carrots and broccoli and those are definitely not as funny as cucumbers

Since we are pretty much back were we started in terms of information about the causes of the epidemic – apart from it being some creepy mutated version of Escherichia coli – newspapers could start using this cartoon again.

Tobias Wieland, Hamburg

Tobias Wieland has a lot of experience in creating anthropomorphic versions of .. well .. things (e.g. here). So, naturally, he succeeds with his grim cucumbereaper.

It has the green fires flaring deep inside his eyes, the inexplicable scythe (how is he going to swing it?), it is of undetermined height – both original and man-size would be ridiculous – and, most of all it has the exact shape of a..

Munguia (Costa Rica)

Francisco Munguia is not the only one who came up with the idea of weaponized cucumbers (here & here) but I like his green terrorist for the maniacal laughter and the alarming red background.

The one good thing about food scandals is that they don’t create the permanent background fear actual terrorism does. They also  tend to be suppressed pretty quickly. Or do you know anyone still seriously scared of BSE?

Hayati Boyacioglu, Berlin

Hayati came up with a character named “Mr. Cucumber”, a major suspect in the EHEC case. This one works great with the following cartoon by Matiello.

There is something decidedly sketchy about this Mr. C. People in yellow jackets just aren’t to be trusted. He is probably a used car salesman or a 1990s TV presenter who lives somewhere near Bielefeld.

Ernst Mattiello (Switzerland)

Mattiello combines Tuesday’s acquittal of Swiss TV presenter Jörg Kachelmann with the Spanish cucumber’s acquittal on the same day.

I guess that the judges in the cucumber case didn’t have as many doubts as with Kachelmann. The search for the real culprit will continue. Still I am sure that eventually justice will be done.

Paul Hellmich

Click here to see all current EHECartoons on

title illustration by Tchavdar


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