By: Dave Astor
Just after Sept. 11, many editorial cartoonists were praised as understandably emotional or criticized as completely unoriginal for drawing the Statue of Liberty weeping.
After getting that image out of their systems, did creators subsequently rise to the occasion? The verdict, as it was almost five months ago, is mixed.
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) President Scott Stantis said “85%” of his peers have done “extraordinary” work since Sept. 11. “I couldn’t be prouder,” said The Birmingham (Ala.) News/Copley News Service creator.
Why? Stantis noted that most cartoonists sensibly backed the Afghanistan war because America was justified in responding to the Sept. 11 attacks and the war has been “incredibly successful.” He added that creators haven’t been “lackeys of the government” as they question military tribunals and threats to civil liberties. Stantis also praised cartoonists for creating memorable post-Sept. 11 images and not descending into “wrathful stereotyping” of Arabs and Muslims.
But 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes feels cartoonists aren’t doing much better or worse than before Sept. 11. She said the good ones are still good, and the not-so-good ones remain not so good.
Telnaes noted that a number of cartoonists continue to offer “silly gags” (such as jokes about smelly shoes at airport checkpoints) rather than strong, thought-out opinions.
The Tribune Media Services creator added that some cartoonists — whether due to their own inclinations or pressure from editors or readers — have done too much cheerleading for the Bush administration and America. “We shouldn’t be flag-wavers,” she said. “You can do that in your personal time — I flew a flag — but not in your cartoons. We’re supposed to be a voice of other possibilities.” The Washingtonian said more creators should raise questions such as why America is hated in some parts of the world.
A few artists, such as Steve Benson of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix and United Media, have swum against the hyperpatriotic tide — and gotten lots of flak. Jim Borgman of The Cincinnati Enquirer and King Features Syndicate did a cartoon showing one driver in a fuel-efficient car and another in a gas-guzzling SUV sporting American flags and bumper stickers. The title: “Choose the patriot.”
Telnaes said a number of cartoonists have done strong work decrying the stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims.
Editorial Cartoons As Barometer
V. Cullum Rogers of The Independent Weekly, Durham, N.C., said some cartoons have changed since Sept. 11. “Editorial cartoons are a barometer of what’s in the news,” noted AAEC’s secretary-treasurer and Notebook editor. “There’s a greater concentration on issues of substance and less on ephemera and trivia.”
Rogers is not seeing more “cleaving to the government” than before Sept. 11. “The hawks continue to be hawks, and the doves continue to be doves,” he said.
What do people who are not at the drawing board think?
Cartooning critic-historian R.C. Harvey said creators have eased up on President Bush since Sept. 11. “It seems to me that George II is less often the object of ridicule in editorial cartoons these days,” he said. “In fact, he has gone from being a regularly featured character to a seldom seen one” — left offstage perhaps because it’s hard to portray Bush as heroic.
But Harvey hasn’t noticed an overall improvement. “Since Sept. 11 changed our world, it ought also to have [made] editorial cartoons harder hitting and less frivolously comedic.” he said. “I’m afraid I don’t see that.” Like Telnaes, he feels good creators remain good — with “more targets worthy of their efforts” — and “mediocre ones remain mediocre.”
Ralph L. Lowenstein, dean emeritus of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, said: “Since I have a very low opinion of … editorial cartooning, I cannot say cartoonists have done better or worse since 9/11. Their profession is one that succeeds best by reducing the most serious issue of the day to a one-line, very funny joke. When they do not succeed, they reduce the most serious issue of the day to a one-line statement that is not very funny at all.”
Lowenstein does feel many cartoons have been “stereotyping and demonizing the ‘enemy’ by drawing them with big noses that would make [Nazi newspaperman] Julius Streicher dance with joy from the hellish pit in which he now resides.”
Some caricatures can indeed cross the line. But Telnaes said exaggerating people’s features is an integral part of editorial cartooning.
New Strip For ‘Tank’ Artist
‘Cleats’ Focuses On Youth Soccer
“Tank McNamara” artist Bill Hinds is now also doing his own comic strip for Universal Press Syndicate.
“Cleats” is about kids’ soccer — a sport coached by Hinds, who is the father of three. The comic already runs in about 65 newspapers.
Day’s Drawing Raises $250g
The 9/11 Cartoon Is Put On T-Shirt
A Bill Day editorial cartoon about Sept. 11 has raised more than $250,000 for the Twin Towers Fund (TTF) benefiting the families of New York’s uniformed services.
The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., put the cartoon, showing firefighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero, on $12 T-shirts (http://www.gomemphis.com; click on “Opinion”). All proceeds go to the TTF.
Day’s Commercial Appeal work is distributed by United Media.
NYTS Offers Two Columns
They Cover Economics and NYC
The New York Times Syndicate (NYTS) is offering two new columns.
One is by Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, author of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. His monthly feature, available in English and Spanish, focuses on economic and political issues.
The other column is a guide to and commentary about New York. It’s by Katia Zero, a Brazil native/New York resident who writes about New York for Brazilian newspapers and in books. Her every-other-week feature is the first NYTS has offered in three languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Et cetera …
The Washington Post said hundreds of readers contacting the newspaper made a “persuasive” case to restore two comics: “Tank McNamara” by Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds of Universal Press Syndicate and “Six Chix” by six cartoonists with King Features Syndicate. …
“Non Sequitur” by Wiley Miller of Universal will reach its 10th anniversary Feb. 16. …
The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library marks its 25th anniversary this year. …
Tribune Media Services’ On the Mark Media signed deals with Time For Kids magazine (to provide content to the “KidNews OnePages” and “Kids Element” package syndicated by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services) and with CNET Networks (to supply content to the “US Express” personal-technology page). …
The New York Times Syndicate (NYTS) is offering the Scientific American News Service, with features from the 157-year-old magazine. …
To help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil in the wake of Sept. 11, “Drive It Forever” columnist Bob Sikorsky added fuel-saving tips to his NYTS feature. …
NewsEdge is offering content from The New York Times.