‘Attack’ Book Spotlights Political Cartoonists

By: Dave Astor

The public knows quite a bit about political candidates such as George W. Bush and John Kerry, but very little about the political cartoonists who skewer them. A new book aims to rectify that.

“Attack of the Political Cartoonists: Insights and Assaults from Today’s Editorial Pages” has just been released to bookstores everywhere. The J.P. Trostle-edited volume not only features an extensive sampling of cartoons by 150 artists, but also bios of these creators and contact info to reach them.

“It’s a nice way to meet the cartoonists,” said Matt Davies, incoming president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), the organization that came up with the idea for “Attack.” Trostle added that the book — which has an initial print run of 14,000 copies — is the first editorial cartoon/creator bio compilation in 42 years.

Some of the cartoonists featured are Pulitzer Prize winners — including Davies (this year’s recipient) as well as Tony Auth, Clay Bennett, Steve Benson, Steve Breen, Walt Handelsman, David Horsey, Dick Locher, Mike Luckovich, Joel Pett, Ben Sargent, Ann Telnaes, Tom Toles, and Signe Wilkinson. But “Attack” also spotlights dozens of lesser-known artists. “There are a lot of very smart people doing a lot of good work who only appear in one newspaper or regionally,” said Trostle, who’s also editor of the AAEC’s “Notebook” publication.

“Attack” is arranged alphabetically rather than in a “hierarchy” of famous cartoonists first, added Davies, of The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., and Tribune Media Services.

While the 160-page book is aimed at the general public, it’s also hoped that newspapers might hire some of the lesser-known freelancers profiled in it. “They’re not demanding diva salaries,” noted Davies. Trostle said the work displayed in “Attack” shows editorial cartooning “is not a dying art” even though jobs are scarce.

The timing of publication is certainly right. “This is the most contentious presidential election in decades. I can’t think of a better time to sell a book on political cartoons,” said Trostle, a page designer and illustrator for The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C., and cartoonist for that paper’s Chapel Hill Herald edition.

The idea for “Attack” dates back to 2000, when members of the AAEC (http://www.editorialcartoonists.com) expressed dissatisfaction with various book collections, newspaper roundups, and magazine roundups of editorial cartoons.

“Attack” is published by Dork Storm Press, the Madison, Wis.-based company founded by cartoonist John Kovalic. It includes a foreword by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and an introduction by Lucy Shelton Caswell, curator of the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library.

Will there be future editions of the book? “Maybe every two or four years,” said Trostle, “if it does well.”

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