Rob Rogers, cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has followed the Steelers to Tampa for Sunday's Superbowl and is filing terrific sketches and dispatches on his blog amidst the media maelstrom, like this drawing of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Rob ran into Don Hasselbeck, father of the Seattle Seahawk's Matt Hasselbeck and Reeboks's director of NFL Sports marketing, who had this tidbit about the Pats' loss last year:
"He recalled how during the last Super Bowl his team was waiting in the wings with huge bins of Patriots Super Bowl champs T-shirts and they had to switch them out at the last minute when the Giants won. I asked what happens to all the shirts they print for the losing team. “They go to World Vision and they distribute them to poor countries who need clothing.” He smiled and said, “there’s a poor child in Nicaragua wearing a triple XL T-shirt that says Patriots: 19-0.”
Michael Cavna at the Washington Post's Comic Riffs detects racial stereotyping in cartoonists' depictions of Obama's mug. He posts a couple of examples where he thinks the Presidential lips are overexaggerated, including the caricature at left. It was drawn by Patrick Corrigan for the Toronto Star and killed by his editors for being too much of a "racial stereotype" (more details at Daryl Cagle's site).
I've spoken out in the past about the use of racial stereotypes in cartooning and their ugly history in the profession, but I don't see what Cavna sees. There may be crude drawings of Obama floating around, but the cartoons that I see in print and in the Globe's Ink Tank strike me as the same facial rearrangement any new chief executive gets, independent of race.
I received a few similar complaints when I started drawing Deval Patrick, and it's actually a subject I discussed with Patrick many years before he ran for office. When he was Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton Justice Department, I invited him to the annual meeting of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists to speak on the subject of -- racial stereotyping in cartoons. As I remember his remarks, he was troubled by the use of grotesque depictions of racial groups - big-nosed Jews and Arabs, ape-like blacks etc. - but was not too concerned that harsh caricatures of individual public figures betrayed some latent racial animosity. I'm curious what readers think.
For John Updike (captured here in a 1978 drawing by David Levine), writing was a fallback career. His first love was cartooning. Writer Jeet Heer has done a good job of pulling together the threads of Updike's cartoon fantasies, from his boyhood correspondence with Harold Gray, creator of Little Orphan Annie, to his use of cartoons and comics in his novels. Heer's accounts have appeared in the Guardian, on his blog Sans Everything and in the Boston Globe. Here are some representative quotes that Heer collected from the comics aspirant and appreciator:
“I can't remember the moment when I fell in love with cartoons, I was so young. I still have a Donald Duck book, on oilclothy paper in big print format, and remember a smaller, cardboard-covered book based on the animated cartoon Three Little Pigs. It was the intense stylization of those images, with their finely brushed outlines and their rounded and buttony furniture and their faces so curiously amalgamated of human and animal elements, that drew me in, into a world where I, child though I was, loomed as a king, and where my parents and other grownups were strangers.” From an essay in Hogan’s Alley, reprinted in More Matter (1999).
“Or was it simply that I was walking back to enjoy the [Boston] Globe’s sports headlines, Arts Section, and Spider Man (the only one of the “funnies” I still follow, as he juggles his tingling “spider-sense,” his improbable double career as a student and professional photographer, and now his marriage to the voluptuous Mary Jane), while I consumed my invariable breakfast of Erewhon New England Style Honey Almond Granola and orange juice?” From the memoir Self-Consciousness (1989).
On David Levine’s caricatures for the New York Review of Books. “Levine, instead, flung himself in a fury of crosshatching upon his subject. His style looked past Beerbohm to the three-dimensional grotesques of Daumier and Tenniel. No weary pucker or complacent bulge of physiognomy could slip through the supple net of his penstrokes, and every corner of the face – that vulnerable patch between the eyebrows, the unseemly area behind the chin, the mute folds of the ears – was brought into a focus were keenness transcended the mild demands of ‘humor’. On the gray expanses of the NYRB pages his etched homunculi seemed astoundingly there; one wanted to pick them up and put them on the shelf. Now, in the form of this book, one can.’” From the introduction to David Levine’s Pens and Needles: a collection of literary caricatures (1969), reprinted in Picked-Up Pieces (1975).
Updike's loyalty to his comics favorites was unwavering. In 1994, he wrote a letter of complaint to the Globe about its decisions on the comics page:
Thursday, October 27, 1994
CUT THE UNFUNNY COMICS, NOT 'SPIDERMAN'
I can't believe that you're cutting "Spiderman" -- the only comic strip in the Globe, except for "Doonesbury" half the time, worth reading. Do think again in making way for what sounds like one more jejune set of unfunny panels pitched at the nonexistent (or at least nonreading) X-generation.
And what ever happened to "Mac Divot" -- the most helpful set of golf tips I ever read?
Cartoonist and illustrator Roy Doty has been designing, penning and sending original holiday cards every year since 1946. Cagle cartoons has a gallery of Roy's cards and an interview with the artist about his annual project. He's used a wide range of approaches, including the 1979 offering above and a 2007 card in the form of a mobius strip.
For a defense of the engangered holiday card, read this Globe editorial from two days ago.
"Seven Days", the Burlington, Vermont, weekly collaborates with the Center for Cartoon Studies, to feature local cartoon talent in a section of the paper called "Drawn and Paneled". This week, the paper displays the many talents of Joseph Lambert, graduate of the school, and his evocation of fall's passage into winter. Just the thing for the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. Here's a snippet:
The Hippo, Manchester's news and culture weekly, has tracked down and profiled some of the Granite State's cartoonists. They are an eclectic bunch that includes magazine panel cartoonist Mike Lynch and comic strip cartoonists Stephanie Piro (Six Chix), Scott Wegener (Atomic Robo), Mike Marland (R.F.D.) and Allison Barrows (Preteena).
Marland is the only New Hampshire native in the group and based his strip, R.F.D., on his experiences growing up in Lyman in the northern part of the state. He went to art college in Manchester but dropped out. “I’m pretty much Joe the Cartoonist,” he says.
Mike Lynch, who did the drawing for the Hippo feature, draws panels for The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Reader's Digest and other magazines. “There’s probably less than a thousand people in this country who are making their living by cartooning,” Lynch estimates. “Everyone gets along and everyone tends to be interested in what the other person is doing." He keeps track of the profession on a lively blog, Mike Lynch Cartoons. (Thanks to Daily Cartoonist for the link.)
If you want a viscerally gripping and hilarious summary of the eight years of W, there is probably no better place to look than Pat Oliphant's cartoon collection, "Leadership". Designed as the catalog for a traveling exhibition of Oliphant's drawings, it came out some months ago, but I only recently sat down with a copy. It's terrific and reminded me why Oliphant has been the premier political cartoonist in the US for over 40 years.
The satire is biting, and the drawing is distinctive, forceful and innovative. Among the nicest features of the collection is the inclusion of preliminary sketches for certain cartoons, so the reader can appreciate the development of Oliphant's thinking and drawing. The book also has photos of some of the cartoonist's Daumier-like sculptures of political figures. I've seen them in person, and the photos don't do them justice. Andrews McMeel is the publisher; P.J. O'Rourke wrote the funny intro. (And to see the passions that Oliphant can stir, check out this earlier post where Pat draws Palin.)
Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strip for Nov. 5, the morning after the election, celebrates an Obama victory.
The prediction in cartoon form is making some newspaper editors nervous because they will have to put the comics to bed before the final voting outcome is known. Trudeau's syndicate, Universal Press, is providing papers with a substitute rerun strip if they choose to forego the Obama victory version.
Trudeau acknowledges that he's taking a risk, but he thinks it's a relatively small one, given the latest polling numbers. "The way I see it, if Obama wins, I'm in the flow and commenting on an extraordinary phenomenon," Trudeau said in an e-mail to the AP. "If he loses, there'll be such a national uproar that a blown call in a comic strip won't be much noticed. Besides, I'll be the one with the egg on my face -- not the editors."
I'm just catching up with The New Yorker's annual cartoon issue (Nov. 3). Not surprisingly, it's got a heavy political bent (with a not-surprising elitist, East coast bias). Among a rich array of graphic offerings is a multi-drawing explanation by Atlanta Constitution cartoonist Mike Luckovich of why editorial cartoonists will miss George W. Bush.
Also worth checking out is R. Crumb's cartoon chronicle of his Minnesota family reunion, drawn in collaboration with his wife, Aline, and daughter, Sophie. It's about cultural, not electoral, politics.
Editorial cartoonists Mike Peters of The Dayton Daily News and Mike Luckovich of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were on NPR this morning talking about drawing the election campaign.
The voluble duo yucked it up with reporter Renee Montagne and shared their fears that an Obama victory will be bad for the business of cartooning. A similar theme runs through a poorly argued Gawker article that contends that Obama's race will be a stumbling block for caricaturists. (Thanks to Daily Cartoonist for the latter link.) The author, Alex Carnevale, accuses cartoonists of "overreaching" in their attempt to draw Obama, citing Barry Blitt's New Yorker cover and this cartoon by Glenn McCoy.
I find nothing objectionable about this drawing. I disagree with its political point of view, but it's a funny piece of satirical nastiness. Further, I think the "end of cartooning" fears are overblown. Expectations for Obama are so high and the state of the country so dismal that a widespread letdown is inevitable. Assuming he wins, the competing constituencies of the Democratic Party will be tugging at his sleeve, his new administration will suffer the same kind of growing pains as those that preceded him, and the right will be hysterical no matter what he does. I'm not worried that his election would put more cartoonists on the unemployment line and predict an ample supply of grist for the satire mill.
Declaring him the "world's worst editorial cartoonist," Gawker eviscerates syndicated cartoonist Gordon Campbell for his drawing of Colin Powell as a blackfaced Benedict Arnold following Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama.
"Hey, were you wondering who the worst political cartoonist in the United States is?" begins the post. " We have an answer! It's California-based syndicated cartoonist Gordon Campbell, who took a break from his recent joke-free cartoons about how we are now a nation of communists because of the bailout bill to draw a very special cartoon in which he just colored noted traitor Benedict Arnold black and called him Colin Powell."
Gawker includes quotes from Campbell attempting to explain his thinking: "The only reasonable explanation for such a public political "about-face" in the midst of this important election is that Colin Powell, perhaps understandably, wishes to see someone who looks like himself in the White House. It's my opinion that General Powell has based his endorsement of Barack Obama on the color of his skin, not his qualifications, his experience or the content of his character."
Concludes Gawker: "See? Now you understand the reasonable and intriguing point this cartoonist made, when he drew Benedict Arnold in blackface and called him Colin Powell, because Powell endorsed a Democrat, who is black. The end."
Fantagraphics has just published "Explainers," a collection of Jules Feiffer's first decade (1956-1966) of cartoons for the Village Voice. The New York Times Book review devotes its cover review to the anthology, and the Times has put up a slideshow of representative drawings from the book.
Feiffer's work for the Voice was genre-changing. He brought adult sensibilities into the comics, mixed elements of theater and dance with cartoons, interwove the personal and the political, and freed cartoon drawing from both the literal and the cute.
A whole generation of cartoonists was awakened by Feiffer's use of comic pacing and language, most notably Garry Trudeau but also editorial cartoonists like Tom Toles, Tony Auth, Joel Pett and yours truly. Feiffer was one of the hidden pleasures of my adolescence. I pored over my parents' copy of "Sick,Sick, Sick", one of Feiffer's early collections. I discovered that adults were just as neurotic as kids and that neurosis could be funny. I identified completely within Feiffer's anti-hero, Bernard Mergendeiler. And I secretly harbored fantasies of one day growing up to be a... cartoonist. Without Jules and MAD magazine, my teenage years would have been a much lonelier place.
Gardner tallies a net loss of 29 artists working in the field. Some of this is due to habitat loss (decline in the number of papers) and some to environmental reasons (financial pressures convince papers to cut payroll by axing staff cartoonists). Publishers' decisions to remove one of their paper's most lively and well-read features may prove to be short-sighted. That's been the claim of cartoonists, their fans and increasingly, journalistic webmasters who see the traffic that strong visuals draw to their sites.
Paul Bradshaw at Poynter Online makes the pro-cartoon argument in E-Media Tidbits. To test his theory, Bradshaw collaborated with artist Alex Hughes on a cartoon called The Five Stages of A Blogger's Life, posted it and then sat back and watched it get 40,000 hits in one week, a record for his site. Even discounting for the self-referential obsessions of the blogging world, I think he's on to something.
It's not just visual flash that's at issue. Cartoons serve as early BS detectors in a way no other features in a paper can. They stimulate debate and reader involvement whether it's angry disagreement or thankful praise. And the more varied cartoon voices the better. That's one of the motivations behind the Globe's Ink Tank, a daily roundup of editorial cartoons. When I started cartooning in 1980, there were nearly 200 full-time daily editorial cartoonists in the US. That number is about to hit 50. Not good for papers or readers or public debate.
The New York Times ran a piece two days ago that offers a quick gloss on political caricature, from Tina Fey's Sarah Palin back to Thomas Nast's Boss Tweed. But the must-read piece of the month is a profile of master caricaturist David Levine by David Margolick in the latest Vanity Fair. Levine is losing his sight and therefore his space in the pages of The New York Review of Books which he has enlightened and informed for four decades.
Levine (his Nixon as Don Corleone from the Godfather shown to the right) has had many imitators over the years, but none who could match the acuity of his psychological insight or the acidity of his penmanship. His drawing of Lyndon Johnson showing his gallbladder scar in the shape of Vietnam is one of the enduring images in the history of caricature.
I had the pleasure of meeting him once when the two of us were thrown together on a television panel discussion in Montreal. After the show, we wandered over to the city's new Museum of Fine Arts where Levine graciously gave me an in-depth, two-hour tour and seminar on nineteenth-century American painting.
In person, Levine was warm, funny and unassuming. His knowledge of painting is not merely academic. He is a skilled watercolorist and has a special affinity for the seashore and, as the son of a clothier, the draped figure.
Of both his caricatures and his paintings, Levine told Margolick, “I love my species. I love looking at their faces.”
Joe Sacco, author of "Palestine," has taken his sketchbook and sympathy to Chechnya to record the plight of war refugees there. With an ear for people's testimony and an eye for the details of their daily existence, he draws a harrowing picture of their situation.
His work will be included as part of a new book by actress Mia Kirshner entitled "I Live Here," due out later this month, about the world's dispossessed. New York magazine has a slideshow of Sacco excerpts.
Thanks to Journalista! for the tip.
Brain Cronin of Comic Book Resources is taking a daily look back at some cartooning giants, including Daumier, Nast, Mauldin and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Some of the material he's posted is from the Library of Congress, and the reproductions are particularly interesting because they show the erasures and notations of the originals. Yesterday, he focused on Herblock of The Washington Post.
Among the cartoons Cronin chose were several of Sen. Joe McCarthy and his 1950s anti-communist witchhunt. As a contemporary Republican senator resorts to a smear campaign to rescue his foundering campaign, it seems like an appropriate time to get some historical perspective. Check out the Herblock samples here.
Got the jitters before the Joe and Sarah big event tonight? Cartoonist Matt Wuerker has just the thing to calm the nerves: two animated veep arcade games that he's posted at politico.com.
Score points by helping the candidates shoot down enemies while they try avoid committing gaffes or shooting friendlies. Let the partisan potshots begin!
The latest New Yorker, the Oct. 6 issue with the Sarah Palin cover, devotes all of its cartoons to the meltdown of the world financial system. You can see a slideshow of the drawings at the magazine's website.
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists has redoubled its efforts to prevent passage of a revision to existing US copyright law (The Orphan Works Act). AAEC president, Ted Rall, has issued an appeal to Congress to reconsider the bill, judged by cartoonists, photographers, illustrators and other visual artists to threaten their rights to the reproduction of their work. Artists worry that the bill may get passed and signed while public and legislative attention is diverted by the mortgage meltdown. More info on the debate over the bill can be found on the Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works blog.
UPDATE: The Orphan Works Act looks to be dead for the time being. Details here.
Fans of cartoonist Lynda Barry will be thrilled to know she is speaking at Brookline Booksmith this Thursday, Oct. 2 at 7pm. For those unfamiliar with her work, this is a great opportunity to meet a terrific, iconoclastic graphic storyteller and teacher. She's a superb chronicler of childhood -- its magic and wonder as well as its itchy sweaters, fighting parents, and nighttime terrors.
Barry's latest book is "What It Is," a combination collage, scrapbook, memoir and guide to creative self-ignition. Through her own drawings, musings and specific writing exercises, she guides readers into a state of artistic focus and freedom. It's based on a teaching method she has developed in her seminars around the country called, "Writing the Unthinkable." I'm reading/studying the book, and it's terrific. I love that she explores the moment around sixth grade when someone in the class gets anointed "the artist" and everyone else stops drawing.The book is reviewed here in Salon, where her comic strip, Ernie Pook's Comeek, appeared for several years.
You can take in her talk Thursday at 7 and still be home for the Joe and Sarah show at 9.
The Sept. 26 New York Times carried a brief profile and interview of The New Yorker's cartoon editor, Robert Mankoff. In addition to editing others' submissions, Mankoff draws some of the magazine's most distinctive cartoons, including this classic:
In the interview, he discusses the highly popular cartoon caption contest that runs at the back of the magazine and muses on the unpredictability of humor.
The Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has posted a column on the reaction to a Pat Oliphant cartoon that ran on the Post's website Sept. 9. More than 750 people, Pentecostals and others, contacted the paper to say they were offended by what they saw as an attack on the religion. Here's the cartoon:
Howell interviewed several editorial cartoonists, including the Post's Tom Toles, about their work and their ideas of fairness. She says she wouldn't have run the drawing in the paper's print edition but seems fine with giving cartoonists greater leeway on the web.
My own take is that cartoonists shouldn't be slamming religions as religions. However, people who loudly carry their beliefs into the public arena or present their religious credentials as qualifications for elected office shouldn't cry "foul" if their claims of piety and divine guidance come in for some satiric scrutiny. This is particularly true if they are candidates, like Palin, who claim that the Iraq war is a "task from God" or who ask their fellow believers to pray for gas pipeline projects.
New Yorker cartoonist Barry Blitt triggered a political/satiric upheaval in July with a magazine cover depicting the Obamas as seen through the lens of right-wing paranoia. Now, Entertainment Weekly is running a cover parody of the cover parody.
The photo features Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert imitating Blitt's drawing to call attention to the mag's election interview with the two Comedy Central mainstays.
You can read my take on the original cover controversy here.
No word yet whether tonight's scheduled debate is on or off. But that's no reason not to get prepared. Caricaturist and illustrator Bob Staake has designed a set of Lingo cards, ready for download, to make your civic participation much more entertaining. The game is just like Bingo, but with political buzzwords. Staake has designed a set of eight cards.
While you're visiting Staake's website, check out his terrific caricatures.
Thanks to the folks at Drawn! for the link.
Gerald Scarfe, the British master caricaturist for the London Sunday Times and contributor to The New Yorker is publishing a new collection of his drawings, "Monsters." Here's his take on Tony Blair:
In conjunction with the book's release, he has collaborated with the BBC on a narrated slide show of some of his political cartoons. It's a good chance to hear his voice and get a glimpse into his thinking. Thanks to Drawn! for the tip.
I just caught up with a Steven Heller piece in the New York Times from last week on the challenges of caricaturing Biden and Palin.
He talked to a few illustrators and cartoonists about their approaches and has some samples of their work, including these drawings by Drew Friedman and a knockout Rick Meyerowitz mash-up of Palin and Amy Winehouse.
White River Junction, Vermont, is home to a fountain of cartoon creativity and education, The Center for Cartoon Studies. With a dedicated faculty and rotating visting lecturers from all genres of the cartooning profession, the school exudes electricity and eccentricity. A small snippet from the admissions brochure:
Filmmaker Tara Wray has set out to document the weird, wonderful characters, both artists and their creations, who frequent the school. A trailer for her upcoming film has just been released and can be viewed here.
On Sept. 5, The Concord Monitor ran a full page comic strip account of staffer Clay McCuistion's civil union ceremony with his partner of seven years, and many New Hampshire readers took exception.
Penned by McCuistion, who has contributed other strips to the paper in the past, the comic is a warm-hearted, personal look at the tension between private ceremony and "historic" event. Monitor editor Felice Belman stood firmly behind the decision to run the strip and explained her thinking in a report to readers two days ago. The report contains a link to a PDF file of the full comic. (Thanks to the Daily Cartoonist for the heads-up.)
I noted last week that Jim Borgman was stopping his daily editorial cartoon for the Cincinnati Enquirer after 30 years at the paper. He gave a thoughtful interview to Michael Cavna at the Washington Post's Comic Riffs about his decision and his hugely productive career.
On the future of editorial cartooning, Jim had these disquieting thoughts:
"It feels like the editorial cartoonists' Rapture. I see all of our soft bodies being assumed into the heavens these days. Who could have imagined that our profession would evaporate like this? A cartoonist friend said that newspapers are burning their heirloom furniture to heat the house when they let go of their cartoonists and columnists. We are the brand, we are what make newspapers more than the Information centers they foolishly aspire to morph into. If I just want cold headlines I can find them plenty of other places."
Cincinnnati Inquirer editorial cartoonist Jim Borgman has announced that he is taking a buyout offer from his paper, where he has drawn for the last 32 years. The Daily Cartoonist has the details. Borgman is one of the profession's most consistent and compassionate craftsmen. He will continue to draw his highly popular comic strip, Zits, which runs daily in the Globe. His recent editorial cartoons can be found on his blog.
Sarah Palin is not the only native of Wasilla, Alaska, to be propelled into national prominence this year. Fellow Wasillan, Chad Carpenter, was awarded the coveted Reuben award by the National Cartoonist Society in May of 2008 for his self-syndicated comic strip, Tundra. This national honor was followed up by his designation last week as Alaska's cartoon laureate.
The strip doesn't go near state politics, but it's a funny glimpse into the cultural neighborhood of the guv and would-be veep. It owes a debt to Gary Larson's Far Side and Mike Peters' Mother Goose and Grimm, but its humor is Alaskan home-grown. Lots of polar bear, hunting, fishing and snowman jokes.
I'm cartooning the Democratic convention from Boston. It's not that I wouldn't love to visit Denver with tens of thousands of other hacks. But the fact is that newspapers are somewhat less lavish in their travel budgets than in years past, and 24/7 cable and web coverage significantly reduces the need to be at these affairs in person.
Certain things are undoubtedly missed. I remember in 1988, walking out of the Superdome in New Orleans during the Republican convention and witnessing Richard Lugar emerging from a car. He had just been informed moments earlier that his fellow Indiana senator, Dan Quayle, had been tapped as George Bush's veep nominee. He was ashen and panting in short, panicky breaths.
There are cartoonists on the scene, however. Ward Sutton is doing a daily piece for the Globe's oped page. And the Daily Cartoonist has a roundup of other inkslingers on site. Rob Rogers' account of trying to find the "Recreate '68" protestors is worth a read.