In 2000, I got a great contract to draw five cartoons a week for Gannett’s Honolulu Advertiser in Hawaii, the big daily paper in town. The biggest local story at that time was the sinking of a Japanese high school fishing boat. The boat, the Ehime Maru, was struck by a US submarine, the Greeneville who’s captain was Commander Scott Waddle. The submarine was on a mission to entertain celebrities, a common practice for the Navy, where celebrities get to play at steering the sub for PR purposes. On these joyrides, the subs would often do exciting “emergency ballast blows” which made the sub shoot to the surface and leap out of the water – it was on one of these dramatic, celebrity steered, leaping maneuvers that the Greeneville crashed into the Ehime Maru, sinking it immediately.
Even worse, as many of the Japanese high school kids were drowning, screaming for help in the water, the Greeneville and its crew did nothing to help them. It was later explained that this was because the sub had no procedure for saving drowning kids. This was a horror story that seemed to have no end as the Navy was very slow in releasing the embarrassing and damning details, stretching snippets of information out painfully over the course of weeks.
I was new as a daily cartoonist for the Advertiser and the sub disaster made me angry. I drew this cartoon.
The Advertiser killed the cartoon, refusing to run it because, as my editor told me, “Honolulu is a Navy town, Daryl. We’re very careful about criticizing the Navy.” That made me mad – this was the kind of local story that a local cartoonist exists for. I had just started my little syndicate, and I recall that this cartoon was widely reprinted on the mainland, something that Advertiser wasn’t used to seeing with a cartoon they killed, and I think that annoyed them.
So I drew this next cartoon, about no one on the sub attempting to save the drowning students.
The Advertiser killed this cartoon too. Again, it was too critical of the Navy.
So I drew this cartoon about “emergency ballast blows.”
This one was killed too. Anything that mentioned a submarine was going to be killed. This “Navy town” was feeling like a Soviet town. I tried a soft approach with this next cartoon …
Killed, still too critical of the Navy. It was clear that all of my submarine cartoons would be killed. I drew this one about reprimanding Commander Waddle …
No good. I felt like a cartoonist in China. The story was in the headlines for weeks and months, with little more than flowers and teardrops from another cartoonist in the paper, and my cartoons were running only on the mainland.
I was annoyed, so I started drawing submarines in local cartoons, on subjects that had nothing to do with the submarine incident. These cartoons got killed too, just because they included submarines. This cartoon was about a spending disagreement in the legislature about a court decision on Special Education funding, known locally as the Felix Consent Decree.
No, they wouldn’t even print a local submarine cartoon about Special Education funding. At this point, I think my editors were just as annoyed with me as I was with them. I was their new cartoonist who only drew a small percentage of “cartoons we can use.”
Then The Advertiser surprised me by printing one of the cartoons that I kept drawing about the submarine incident – maybe they printed it by accident, who knows, but this calendar cartoon suddenly showed up on the editorial page one day …
My first submarine cartoon was printed, a month after the tragedy!
Then I got a call from my sheepish editor, who clearly was making a call he didn’t want to make. He said, “Daryl, I just got a call from the Admiral in charge of the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He would like to have the original of your cartoon to hang in his office.”
I said, “Which cartoon? You killed all of the submarine cartoons except for that calendar cartoon you printed yesterday.”
“Yes, that’s the one he saw. That’s the one he wants. Can you send us the original of that one?”
I said, “There isn’t really any original of the calendar cartoon. I went to the store and bought a calendar, then I wrote on it in a ball point pen and scanned it, and I added the type, signature and cross-hatching on the computer. It doesn’t exist as a single drawing, like my other cartoons.”
The Ehime Maru.
That was clearly a disturbing response for the editor to hear. I think I ended up sending the editor a signed print or something, and I think I recall the editor proudly saying that the admiral had the print of this calendar page hanging in his office. I mentioned that the admiral might have also liked one of my killed cartoons, but that, again, wasn’t what the editor wanted to hear.
I understand the laments of other cartoonists, like Rob Rogers, who have a large percentage of their cartoons killed after a change in editors. Editors can be control freaks, and cartoonists get under the skin of control freaks. It was all the more frustrating for my editor in Hawaii because he must have known that these were the cartoons that the Advertiser really should have been printing at the time. Needless to say, I didn’t last long at The Honolulu Advertiser, which let me go in less than a year for “cost cutting purposes.” That was an excuse I didn’t believe at the time, because of all the killed cartoons; now I think it is likely true that I was canned for cost-cutting because the whole newspaper went out of business not long after that. Now the combined “Honolulu Star-Advertiser” runs my syndicated cartoons.
My last submarine cartoon was this one, of Commander Waddle. After all of the proceedings about Waddle, he turned out to be a tragic character, genuinely haunted by his responsibility for the horrible event. Waddle was given an honorable discharge and he went on an apology tour in Japan. I feel sorry for the guy. Here he is, like a cowboy at the end of a movie, waddling off into the sunset.
Ever since I was dropped by The Honolulu Advertiser, and after I left The Midweek, I haven’t had a problem with killed cartoons. MSNBC.com and Slate.com never killed a cartoon, even when The Washington Post owned Slate (and I worked for them for a year) the Post didn’t kill any of my cartoons.
Killed cartoons happen when a cartoonist and editor are stuck with each other, they don’t see eye to eye, and both think they are doing the jobs they should do. That may not happen much longer as all of the editorial cartoonists lose their jobs and become freelancers, working through syndication. When editors pick from many syndicated cartoons, some cartoons still don’t get printed, but no cartoons were killed by the editors.
Syndicates still kill cartoons, though. Maybe I’ll write about that later.
My interest in cartooning started when I was a wee small child and on Sunday mornings, my dad and I would lay out the big newspaper comics on the rug in our parlor and go over them carefully with him pointing out some of the finer details of the artwork along with both of us laughing at the antics of the poor Dagwood and Major Hoople and the Toonerville folks. My father and I also greatly enjoyed the political cartoons of Shoemaker and Herblock.
I started looking at, what we in the business call “gag cartoons”, in The Saturday Evening Post which came to my house every week. I was a big fan of Virgil Partch (who I got to meet later in life).
When I worked at The Famous Artists Schools in the 50’s and 60’s, I got to work with a fellow instructor named Frank Ridgeway who was a gag cartoonist for Saturday Evening Post and other magazines and wrote gags for The New Yorker. At lunchtime, Frank would sometimes make roughs for his cartoons. One time I said, “Hasn’t that idea been done before?” He replied, “Of course it has but has it been done this week?”
He showed me some of his tricks in coming up with ideas. One was “gag switching” where you would take a cartoon you found in a magazine and, in essence, take the general idea of the joke and just re-do it using different characters, locale etc.. No honor among thieves.
One day, he showed me another technique. He said for me to get a magazine and he’d show me how he can quickly put an idea together. I got a magazine and was instructed to flip through and at random just pick out three images. I found a picture of a cowboy in a cigarette ad, a picture of a little boy and finally a picture of a store or market. In a few minutes, he had the gag. A kid dressed in a cowboy outfit is talking to a butcher in a market. The kid says, “WHAT… no buffalo meat, and you call yourself a meat market!” This was before we actually had buffalo meat in the markets. Not a great idea, by his own admission, but it quickly demonstrated a method that could be used. I’ve used it a few times myself. Frank sold a comic strip “Mr. Abernathy” while he was working there at the school and he was off to fame and fortune.
When I would go into New York to deliver my illustrations or pick up work, I often rode the train with several New Yorker guys who were going in to their weekly meeting to sell their cartoons. They would NEVER talk about cartoons on the train. Their heads were buried in the New York Times except for Bob Weber who would be doing his roughs because he always waited until the last minute.
In this column, I’ve included some of my favorite cartoons from recent times. My favorite of this bunch is the “tango” cartoon by P.S. Mueller. I find Hillary Price‘s cartoons always funny and likewise with Dan Piraro who seems to never draw an un-funny cartoon (how does he do that?). Both of these guys, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
I’ve done very few single panel “gag cartoons” in my career but I’ve included a few of them here also. I’ve sold some of them abroad but never in the U.S..
The very very VERY funniest cartoon I’ve ever seen was a long long time ago and I don’t remember who drew it and I don’t remember where I saw it but I often think of it to this day.
Here’s what it was. Two hippos are in the Nile. Only the tip of their snouts and a little bit of their eyes are showing above the water in this very plain, gray, steamy atmosphere. There is nothing around… just grayness… quietness… boredom. One hippo says to the other, “Y’know, I keep thinking today is Thursday!” I crack up every time I think of it… like just now!
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Bell’s cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was killed, prompting Bell’s mass email. The cartoon depicts British Labour Party deputy secretary, Tom Watson as an “antisemite finder general” calling Netanyahu an “antisemitic trope.”
“It not the first time Mr. Bell has emailed all Guardian journalists to complain about allegations of antisemitism.”
“Last June, he emailed all journalists to say he felt “unfairly traduced and censored” after the paper would not run his cartoon of Theresa May meeting Benjamin Netanyahu while Palestinian Razan al-Najjar, who had been shot and killed by an Israeli soldier, burned in the fireplace behind.”
‘He accused Guardian editor Kath Viner of not speaking to him because she “did not really have an argument” for spiking the cartoon.”
“I suspect the real cause is it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of antisemitic tropes.”
“In some ways this is even more worrying than the specious charges of antisemitism. Does the Guardian no longer tolerate content that runs counter to its editorial line?”
Here is the complete text of the letter that Bell wrote to The Guardian’s “Head of Features” Kira Cochrane, and forwarded as a mass email to all of The Guardian staff:
After our bizarre telephone conversation yesterday, I feared you might not publish today’s strip, but still cannot understand why the attached should be more liable to legal challenge from Tom Watson than either of the previous two strips that you have already published. You said the ‘lawyers were concerned’, but what about? It’s not antisemitic, nor is it libellous, even though it includes a caricature of Binyamin Netanyahu. If Watson chose to object he would make himself look far sillier than he does in the cartoon.
I suspect that the real problem is that it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of ‘antisemitic tropes’. In some ways this is even more worrying for me than specious charges of antisemitism. Does the Guardian no longer tolerate content that counters its editorial line?
Why in today’s paper has the Guardian published a highly partisan and personally insulting (to the leader of the Labour Party) advert on page 20 that uses the Labour Party logo, but is clearly not a Labour Party approved advert? I would have thought that there would be far more reason to expect a legal challenge on that than on my my cartoon. Or is it that you don’t want to offend poor Tom but are quite happy to offend poor Jeremy?
Why on earth did the Guardian publish, then unpublish, a letter in support of Chris Williamson signed by 100 persons identifying themselves as Jewish, including Noam Chomsky? Were they the wrong kind of Jews. The paper’s contortions on this subject do not do it any credit. If there is a reasoned position on this highly contentious issue, then I would dearly love to see it laid out clearly so we all know where we stand. Or are there some subjects that we just can’t touch?
Sept. 19, 1975, I was hunched over my drawing board in my office at the Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio, trying to come up with an idea for a political cartoon on a slow news day when Managing Editor Bill Worth charged into my office and said, “Glatt’s been shot. They’re going to arraign him in a few minutes at the Federal Building. Get over there and draw the shooter when they bring him into the courtroom.” Who? Oh, right, Dr. Charles A. Glatt Dayton’s federally appointed desegregation manager.
I was at the paper less than a month, my first full-time job as a political cartoonist. I barely knew where the bathroom was. Everything was new to me, the paper, the newsroom, the city and busing. Dayton was under a court order to desegregate its schools and busing was the federal plan. My family was in the process of moving from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, to Centerville, a suburb south of Dayton. Neither the city of Ft. Wayne, nor Centerville was busing school children. This was all new to America and almost every white person I knew hated it.
“Right,” I said. “Where’s the Federal Building?”
“Next door,” said Worth.
I grabbed my sketchpad and a black Prismacolor pencil and followed the reporters. It took only minutes to get there.
The courtroom was dimly lit and empty except for the press and the judge. The shooting had just happened down the hall in Glatt’s office. The door opened and the murderer entered, flanked by several marshals and a lawyer. My heart was racing. I’ve never seen a murderer in the flesh before. I had only seconds to get his likeness. I’ve never even been in a courtroom before and now – it was “look, see, draw.” I had maybe four seconds from when I saw the defendant in profile to when he turned his back to me to face the judge. His image is stamped on my brain. I captured his likeness in an instant and the next morning, my drawing was on the front page.
The guy turned out to be serial killer, Neal Bradley Long, a filling station attendant. He shot Glatt four times with a handgun and later was found guilty of killing Glatt and four black people in the area over the past few years. The hubbub surrounding busing in Dayton quieted down after that. A new desegregation manager was appointed, busing continued, magnet schools were organized and the community schools were integrated. Long was tried, convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms while white people fled to the suburbs. Dayton ended the busing program 25 years later.
Most of my forty years in the newspaper business were filled with habitual rituals, creative challenges, daily deadlines and plenty of laughs. They tend to run together in a very long timeline, but some days stand out, like Sept. 19, 1975, the first of many more to come.
This column is by the brilliant cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald, Jeff Koterba –Daryl
As a kid growing up in the 1960s I loved drawing and the idea of space travel. My earliest memory—at age two or three—is of me holding a blue, Bic pen and scribbling away on sheets of paper. I also recall pretending that my drawing instruments were rockets, my hand guiding them through our house, orbiting the furniture
All throughout grade school, I had two goals: I wanted to become an artist and an astronaut. But was I that unusual? Don’t most kids love to draw until they’re told that doing something creative is no way to make a living? Likewise, in the years leading up to the first Moon landing, weren’t lots of kids excited by the space program? After all, coverage of the space program was everywhere.
In those days, the three networks would break into programming to show live coverage of the various rocket launches. My dad would stay home from work and call me in sick to school so we could watch together.
Watching those massive Saturn V rockets roar from the Earth with such grace was, in itself, a work of art, their contrails on the sky like drawings.
At school I was shy, lacking confidence. I loved to draw, and occasionally my sketches of rockets landed on the bulletin board of my grade school classrooms. But mostly, I kept my art to myself, drawings hidden away on sheets of paper tucked into textbooks and under my bed.
I also grew up with stories of my Uncle Ed. A syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard and later, the Washington Post, my uncle covered the early days of the space program and the Kennedy administration.
Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash shortly after I was born so I never got to meet him. Mourned by Kennedy during a televised press conference, my dad kept the memory of his brother’s journalism alive with stories of his globetrotting adventures and his love of space. Including how my uncle once interviewed Wernher von Braun, father of the Saturn V rocket.
I can only imagine what Uncle Ed might have written that fateful day when Neil Armstrong first dipped his boot into the lunar dust.
Throughout childhood and beyond, I kept sketching rockets and astronauts. I wouldn’t realize it until many years later, but my pens and pencils carried a heavy payload. Those early drawings were an outpouring of my deep desire to follow my heart—whether artist or astronaut—and also in some way, to keep my uncle’s memory alive.
Anything worth doing, anything new and different and daring, begins with a dream, a spark of inspiration. President Kennedy’ famous “We choose to go to the Moon” speech was just the spark needed to send humans to the lunar surface.
At the time, the concept of sending humans to the Moon was beyond the scope of anything anyone had ever done. It seemed to be the biggest challenge ever suggested in the history of the world. The concept was utterly breathtaking.
If not for that speech, it’s difficult to imagine that the U.S. would have landed Apollo 11 on the lunar surface 50 years ago this month.
I’m also convinced that Kennedy’s speech, and NASA’s space program, ignited within me the confidence to purse my dreams. If an idea so daring, so impossible, as landing humans on the Moon could become reality, was it so far-fetched that I, too, could pursue my love of cartoons?
Over time, I would realize that becoming an astronaut wasn’t for me. Becoming a cartoonist, however, was truly what I was meant to do on this earth.
Just as I did that summer fifty years ago, I now continue to gaze into the night sky, the Moon and stars reminding me that I was called to explore blank sheets of paper, the contrails of my pencils and pens making images that I hope engage readers. Maybe even sparking a new way of seeing the world.
Over the years, I have taught at many art schools including Parsons, Syracuse, Hartford, School of Visual Arts, Fashion Institute in New York, Rhode Island School of Design, Philadelphia School of the Arts and others. My longest sustained teaching was at Parsons in New York for 8 years.
The one common thread I noticed among students was that they didn’t know much of anything about our profession which they were supposedly interested in pursuing. They hadn’t looked at much illustration or cartooning and they didn’t know the names of the star practitioners of those fields. I always have found that to be peculiar. I’m sure that students of say, ballet, know the superstars of ballet; or students of music probably know the major musicians in the part of the field they are studying. I’m sure that students of painting or sculpture have their favorite painters or sculptors. But, not students of illustration. Once you get past Norman Rockwell, they don’t know any of the stars unless they have just had a visiting lecture from one of them. When you teach illustration or cartooning, you start at ground zero; there are no reference points, just a blank slate. I once opened a class at Syracuse with, “Good morning, I’m Milton Glaser.” I didn’t raise an eyebrow.
In my 8 years at Parsons, I generally taught two classes a week. It took Murray Tinkelman, the head of illustration at that time, five years to talk me into teaching. I kept saying,” I’ve only been in the business 10 years, how can I know enough to be able to be a teacher?” But, he wore me down and he had created a special course at that time called “Sequential Illustration” which I was to teach along with a “Conceptual Illustration” course. The conceptual course dealt with the “concepts” or ideas part of the process rather than drawing or perspective or design. At that point in time, illustration was a conceptual business rather than in previous times when it was a narrative, story telling process. We were in the era of illustrating abstract ideas for the business magazines like Business Week, Time, Fortune etc., rather than illustrating Indians attacking a wagon train for The Saturday Evening Post. We were illustrating articles on the falling stock market or the rise in childhood diseases or the latest fad in cooking.
The “Sequential Illustration” course was to be taught by three teachers, each teaching for a third of the semester. The course focused on illustration that was realized in multiple images such as in children’s books, animation, comic strips etc. I dealt with book illustration and multiple- picture magazine or newspaper illustrations in my third of the semester. Dick Giordano (Batman etc.) handled the comics part of the program and noted animator, Howard Beckerman handled the animation part. A little later on they created a third course that I was a part of which was just an animation course wherein Howard and I split the year in half. I did the first part dealing with designing and storyboarding and Howard did the last part and took the students through actually animating and filming animation sequences.
Clip from Randy’s illustration for Emergency Medicine magazine.
Sometimes I would bring into my classes, actual assignments that I had worked on myself so that students had the real thing to deal with concept-wise. One time, I received an assignment from Emergency Medicine magazine just before going to class so I gave them the same assignment with the same time frame I had to do it in. I told them that I would bring in my finished illustration a week later and they were to bring in theirs. One student said, “What if our illustration is better than yours will you take ours to the client instead of yours?” I, of course replied, “Your illustration isn’t going to be better than mine!” So… even though this particular illustration wasn’t paying very much, I spent all week doing an elaborate, detailed picture just to show the students what they should aim for. Another thing that I did was to bring in some of my art directors from time to time. I tried to give the students a real taste of the business.
Randy’s illustration for Emergency Medicine magazine.
This sounds like an exaggeration, but it actually happened. I told the students one day that most of the realist illustrators traced photographs. I made the mistake of mentioning Norman Rockwell in that group. One of my students was so horrified that his idol traced photographs that he went over to the window, climbed out on the ledge and threatened to jump. I calmed him down by explaining that Rockwell was a splendid draftsman who had worked from live models for years before resorting to working from photographs due to the pressures of deadlines. I told him that those pictures could never come out as well if he didn’t know how to draw like a master.
Many of my students went on to stellar careers in illustration such as Victor Juhasz (caricaturist, war correspondent, Rolling Stone illustrator etc.) and Peter de Seve (New Yorker covers, children’s books, character designer for Bug’s Life, Robots, 4 Ice Age films and many others).
I remember one assignment I gave my animation class and that was to design and storyboard an opening for a TV special. I wanted to pick a subject that would be fairly easy for them to research. I picked the Beatles. I figured they’d have no problem finding info, photos and ideas for a project like this. One boy in class said, “You know we don’t know very much about the Beatles, it’s kind of before our time!” Another kid said, “Oh, I know the Beatles, I heard of them; they had a few good tunes!” at which point, I screamed “A FEW GOOD TUNES? A FEW GOOD TUNES?”
A few weeks ago, my son told me that his friend, a guitar teacher, had a student who was shocked to find out that Paul McCartney was in a band BEFORE Wings.
When I would finish my class at Parsons, I often would go across the street and have dinner with a fellow teacher, Burne Hogarth of Tarzan fame. One time, I reminded him of an incident told to me by a friend who had been one of his students way back at the School of Visual Arts before it was called the School of Visual Arts and was called “The Cartoonists and Illustrators School”. One of his students asked him one day why Tarzan was always pointing his finger. Hogarth had this characteristic pose that he would often use of Tarzan with his right arm extended out and his finger pointing. Hogarth answered, “He’s pointing at my critics and saying, can you draw as well?”
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By now, even many who don’t normally pay attention to inside-journalism stories, have taken notice of the recent decision by The New York Times to cut all editorial cartoons from their international edition. In recent weeks, friends and strangers have messaged, and have even stopped me at coffee shops in Omaha, the city where I draw cartoons for The Omaha World-Herald, to express their frustration at the news.
The fact that readers, even in the Midwest, are vexed about what’s going into the pages of an international newspaper is somehow heartening. But angst, alone, won’t bring back cartoons to countless readers abroad.
Not all that long before this latest unfortunate news, the U.S. edition of the Times would run a weekly roundup of editorial cartoons in their Sunday Review section. In the years before my work was picked up for syndication, I would submit to The Times my latest work. Much of my excitement came in anticipation of going to a local convenient mart to pick up the Sunday Times. But, of course, nothing compared to the exhilaration I felt on those rare occasions when I would open the paper and discover that the editors had chosen one of my drawings. I felt validated, but more so, I felt connected to something bigger…to the “Great Conversation,” as a friend of mine likes to say about weighing in on current events.
The weekly roundup would eventually go away, replaced by a long-form editorial comic. It broke my heart to know that I would never again see my work reprinted in the Times. But I moved on and eventually moved—to Austria. It was during a nearly two year stay in Innsbruck, while drawing remotely for my newspaper in Omaha—that I fell deeply, madly, in love with The International New York Times. Founded in the late 1880’s as The Paris Herald, the newspaper changed owners and names several times before settling on its current moniker in October of 2013. A few months later I found myself drawing from the Alps, a guy from Omaha who had never lived elsewhere and knew almost no German.
The International New York Times allowed me to once again feel connected to something greater than myself. As I took trains throughout Europe, I always—ALWAYS—made sure I had that wonderful friend along for the ride, with its broadsheets like a large bird’s wings, it’s news from around the world, and yes, with its own editorial cartoons.
What a joy to visit an old-fashioned newsstand in Paris and find that beautiful, familiar, New York Times logo peeking out beyond all the French-language publications! Or to linger over her pages at a café in Rome, sipping espresso. And again, to read those cartoons.
Those cartoons were my dessert. And I savored every inked line.
Back stateside this past spring, I was on an early flight from Tucson to Phoenix. Before taking off I’d already spread open that day’s New York Times. Next to me, a young lady began laughing and pointing at my newspaper. I studied the page facing her trying to figure out which article she found to be so funny. Perplexed, I finally asked.
“That,” she said, motioning to indicate the entire newspaper. “You’re reading one of those.”
The young lady in question was smart and well-spoken. When I asked if she reads newspapers, she again laughed and said, “Never.”
“Have you ever even held a newspaper?” I asked.
“Would you like to try?”
I handed her a section of the newspaper, and after she fumbled around, trying to figure out exactly how to fold the pages to make it more convenient to read, she fell silent. For a moment I thought perhaps she’d fallen asleep. Instead, she was deeply immersed in…reading. I almost told her that I was a cartoonist, but didn’t. I did, however, imagine her one day traveling abroad, perhaps stopping by a newsstand at a train station in Berlin, and noticing The International New York Times. Maybe she would pick up a copy, and just maybe she would read an editorial cartoon and feel connected to something greater.
As I was wrapping up my career as a toy inventor, I drew a newspaper comic called “TRUE!” and I got a call from the editor of a newspaper in Hawaii who was a fan of my TRUE! cartoons that he ran in his newspaper, The MIDWEEK. The editor asked me if I would like to be a local, editorial cartoonist in Hawaii. I said, “Of-course!”
This was my first experience as an editorial cartoonist. The newspaper was unusual, it was a free weekly paper, and it was very popular. The paper had wrested the grocery store and automotive ads from the two dailies; these ads used to run on Wednesdays, so the Midweek came out on Wednesdays, stuffed full of grocery store advertising and coupons. It was delivered free to every address in Hawaii, so everyone read the paper, and I was the local cartoonist on page two for about five years from 1995 through 1999.
I was still living in California, and I worked remotely, pretending to be local. My wife went to high school and college in Hawaii and she helped me with the details. She translated many of my cartoons into Pidgin, and made lots of changes to the clothes the characters wore. We didn’t want the cartoons to look like they came from some crass, mainland Haole. It was great fun drawing local cartoons, and we traveled to Hawaii frequently to visit the in-laws. I love Hawaii – still, I was a mainland Haole. I was a “local” cartoonist with a secret.
Hawaii was the first state to have a vote to legalize gay marriage; it was a hard fought battle and I drew a bunch of cartoons on the subject. One cartoon caused a big fuss; it involved Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street moving to Hawaii to get married. I had worked with the Muppets for nearly twenty years and I knew Bert and Ernie well. Here’s the cartoon …
There was a group of loud, angry Baptists in Hawaii that was spearheading the fight against the gay marriage vote and my cartoon threw them into a frenzy. They were outraged that I would draw a cartoon that innocent children would see, featuring beloved children’s characters, promoting the terrible sin of homosexuality. (There are a lot of Baptists in Hawaii, and lots of Mormons too.)
The Baptists took their protest to The Midweek’s office building in Kaneohe. They surrounded the newspaper’s building with a loud and angry picket line.
My editor at The Midweek was Don Chapman; he was a great guy. Don called me when the protest was happening. He opened his window and held his phone outside so I could hear the protesters chanting, “SEND OUT THE CARTOONIST! SEND OUT THE CARTOONIST!” If I had been in the building, they might have sent me out, but I was secretly safe at my house in Los Angeles. I had been successful in fooling the angry Baptists into thinking I was local.
The Baptists were pretty nasty. I remember the leader of their group made some misogynistic statements about women, and how wives should be subservient to their husbands, so I drew the cartoon below about the local Baptists, which also made them furious.
The sad end to the story is that the Baptists won, and the first gay marriage vote went down to defeat. Fortunately, it was a the first of many such votes and the tide turned, slowly, until the Supreme Court codified gay marriage.
Every so often I would flirt with someone finding out that I wasn’t really local. Hawaii’s now-Senator Mazie Hirono was the Lieutenant Governor when I was drawing for The Midweek. Her thing at that time was that she was going to cut Hawaii’s infamous “red tape” with an initiative she called “SWAT,” “Slicing Waste And Tape.” Hawaii is over-regulated and getting anything done involves a maze of entrenched bureaucracy. Mazie didn’t make much progress moving this bureaucratic mountain, but she thought she did, so I drew this cartoon …
Mazie was plenty mad at me! She called The Midweek to get my phone number, then she called me up. She was ranting, in a heavy local accent, about how I had gotten everything wrong and how she was making great progress in cutting red-tape. Then she paused. I was in California with area code (818). Hawaii has area code (808). In the middle of her rant, Mazie says, “What’s wrong with your phone number?!” I could hear the wheels were turning in her mind. “Should be 808! Not 818!” she blurted. The call didn’t last much longer.
Mazie never called me again. I think she was the only one who figured out my secret.
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In the book, they re-printed a five page feature of mine called “The Giant”. It is so politically incorrect and raw that I cannot show it to you in this venue but I include here, the first page to show the crazy, messy “cardboard-cut” style I was using sometimes in those early days before I got into the full time linocutting.
At the same time Bantam published this anthology, they were putting together a book of King Kong. In 1964, to celebrate the launch of the book, they decided to have a party at the Empire State Building. For some reason they included all of us Monocle people in the invite. We were all going to see a screening of the original 1933 King Kong movie at the Empire State Building. And, to top it all off, we were also going to see a few minutes of Andy Warhol’s movie “Empire” along with it. Warhol had evidently just finished this famous movie.
“Empire” is a silent, black and white, slow motion movie which consisted of a camera being trained on the building and never moving for 8 hours and 5 minutes. At the grand opening of the movie, audience members reputedly assaulted the filmmakers demanding their money back.
My wife and I had a lovely time at the party full of celebrities and artists and then the moment came to view the original King Kong. Folding chairs had been set up in a long room in one of the top floors of the building. Of course, we all noticed the white-haired Andy Warhol with a coterie of strange-looking girls from his gang standing in the back with his own projector prepared to show his film afterwards.
So, at the end of King Kong, after those famous last words were intoned, “It was beauty killed the beast,” we all had a little rest and a few drinks while Warhol and crew set up their projector.
Then … we watched about 8 minutes of his 8 hour movie. It was certainly good fun to watch both King Kong and Empire at the famous building that starred in both features. The camera stayed riveted on the building. Warhol, or rather his cinematographer Jonas Mekas, had shot it from the 41st floor of the Time-Life Building. I sensed that the audience at the Bantam party started getting restless through those silent monotonous eight long minutes of grayish inactivity. It was certainly a sudden contrast to the action we had just been witness to of Kong’s battle with the airplanes. THEN, miraculously, a pigeon flew across the screen. The audience erupted in applause.
Well, my very, very favorite moment of the entire evening was when, after a monotonous 5 minutes or so had passed in the Warhol movie, a gentleman seated up front said, loudly, “I liked it better with the monkey hangin’ offa it!”
I wear three hats, as a cartoonist and as the leader of a “syndicate” that resells a package of editorial cartoons and columns to over 800 newspapers in the USA –my third hat is running our big Cagle.com Web site. I love editorial cartoons. I do what I love. But, love can be painful …
Our troubled editorial cartooning profession has been losing employee positions in roughly the same proportion as all newsroom jobs lost over the past couple of decades. Journalism has become a freelance profession, and so has editorial cartooning. Three of our CagleCartoonists recently lost their jobs, Patrick Chappatte with The International New York Times, Nate Beeler with The Columbus Dispatch and Rick McKee with The Augusta Chronicle. Bad news for editorial cartoonists seems to be coming in at a faster clip.
Conservative editors don’t like the liberal cartoons; angry readers demand retribution from newspapers and cartoonists who offend them; timid newspapers fear losing readers who are easily offended; all are just spice in our complex stew, which started brewing when newspapers lost their the bulk of their advertising revenue to the internet, and began a slow decline in circulation.
Online clients haven’t replaced print clients for us. As print declines, online publications don’t hire cartoonists and have not developed a culture of paying for content, and few of them purchase syndicated cartoons. We have some great online clients, like FoxNews.com and CNN.com, but they are the exceptions.
There are now between 1,300 and 1,400 daily, paid circulation newspapers in the USA. Thirty years ago there were over 1,800 dailies and over 130 employee editorial cartoonists –only a very small percentage of newspapers ever hired staff cartoonists. The vast majority of American newspaper readers have seen editorial cartoons through syndication. The number of syndicated editorial cartoonists hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years.
In recent years as newspapers continue to struggle, rates for syndicated cartoons have declined, but cut-rate deals for packages of syndicated cartoons have driven rates close to zero. Larger syndicates “bundle” editorial cartoons with their comics, essentially including the editorial cartoons for free. Editorial cartoons are thrown into packages with puzzles and advice columns, in cheap weekly, college and specialty offerings. Editorial cartoons are sometimes sold in group deals for “pennies per paper.”
In general, 20% of the cartoonists get 80% of the reprints, so the majority of editorial cartoonists have always struggled in a difficult profession and have never earned a lot. The same percentage still applies to slices of today’s smaller pie.
American editorial cartoonists are mostly liberal, and most American newspapers are rural and suburban papers serving conservative readers, so there is a supply and demand disparity. Liberal cartoons don’t get reprinted as much, because there is an over-supply of liberal cartoons. That said, conservative cartoons expressing strong opinions also don’t get reprinted much. The cartoons that are increasingly the most reprinted are the funny cartoons that express little or no opinion at all.
One of our clients, The China Daily, is owned by the Communist government in China; they asked me, “Daryl, how many of your cartoons express no opinion? Those are the cartoons we want.” The Chinese aren’t much different from American editors in this regard –except that they are more blunt.
When Trump was elected we were flooded with calls from unhappy editors complaining that, “all the cartoons I like have stopped!” The problem was that cartoonists stopped drawing the Hillary and Obama bashing cartoons that conservative editors preferred. We put up a selection of “Trump Friendly Cartoons” near the top of our CagleCartoons.com site that helps conservative editors find the cartoons they like in a sea of liberal cartoons they dislike; this helped to stop the hemorrhaging of conservative subscribers.
Cartoonists don’t draw for their clients, we draw whatever we want. We’re macho like that. Clients be damned. Sometimes that attitude comes back to bite us. Everything seems to be biting us these days.
We’ve also seen a continuing trickle of newspapers drop their entire editorial pages, including the editorial cartoon. I’m told that editorial pages make readers angry and don’t bring in income. And, of-course, newspapers are going out of business.
Cartoon by Robert Rousso!
I’m often asked about whether Trump and our polarized political environment are behind the decline of editorial cartoons. There is plenty that is wrong in our troubled profession, but it isn’t as simple as editors rejecting the Trump-bashing cartoons. This stew was brewing long before Trump.
Editorial cartoons are an important part of journalism. Don’t let editorial cartoons disappear!
Here at CagleCartoons we syndicate a package of great cartoonists to more than half of America’s daily, paid-circulation newspapers; we’re an important source of income to our struggling cartoonists. Our Cagle.com Web site is free and runs no advertising –the site is entirely supported by contributions from our readers. We need your support. Cagle.com is an important resource for editorial cartoonists around the world and is used in Social Studies classrooms throughout America. Help us survive!
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