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AAEC Convention Report: The Crowd Is Thinning

From the National Journal comes a report on the AAEC convention this year. The story centers on the dwindling number of staff positions (a reoccurring theme), perspectives on animated editorial cartoons, and the demographics of the association.

The AAEC will celebrate 50 years of existence at its annual meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington from July 4 to 7. Amid the shifting landscape, some leading cartoonists lament the graying of their ranks. Fewer young cartoonists show up at the convention now, said Newsday’s Walt Handelsman, who 20 years ago encouraged promising newcomers to redouble their efforts and aim for staff cartoonist positions on newspapers. “Now when I talk to kids, I’m much more negative,” Handelsman said. “I would highly recommend [they] try to do something on the Web.”

The Internet supplies a wide-open canvas, but it offers little in the way of remuneration for most independent sketchers. Veteran print cartoonists cling to their staff jobs for good reason. Most earn a reasonable middle-class living on salaries ranging from $50,000 to $75,000 per year. Many have syndication deals that may generate an additional $20,000 a year, but that money is famously unpredictable. “I try not to think of it as real income since tomorrow it could be gone,” said Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles.

Community Comments

#1 MJ
July/5/2007
@ 8:15 am

This is a sad trend. Especially when there is some great talent out in the arts world. It is also an odd trend considering when everyone I talk to that reads the printed pages continually gives me the same answer. That the first, or only thing they look for are the toons that appear in these publications. I read somewhere that the creators should band together and create their own type of insert for the printed pages. Sure it would be a huge task to undertake. But it could be done. By cutting out the middleman (syndicates) using the money they keep off the creators work for printing costs. Also revenue could be generated by selling ad space. Which I’m sure would be of interest to those that purchase advertised spaces in print, especially since the comics are the most read feature in publications. This idea could open up many new opportunities for the younger artists. Plus this would return the power of ownership rights back to the cartoon creators. I feel like I could say for certain that if all the cartoon creators did band together to do this, and stopped supplying the syndicates with their creative works there would be a significant drop in newsprint sales. Forcing them to either add the comic inserts to the publication, or simply just finally die off in a quicker fashion than the trend is leading to anyway. Which the latter would open up the inevitable of cartoon creators probably doing this type of project. Creating their own publication on an even larger scale than just an insert. Just a few ramblings that I’m sure will open up a can of worms here.

#2 MJ
July/5/2007
@ 8:37 am

One other item. I know this has been tried before, and usually failed. It is even still being tried to create a comics only newsprint. The main reason these projects fail is comic creators still supply the syndicates their material fearing missing a paycheck. I was out of work for over a year and a half with no paychecks rolling in. Guess what I still have my house, my vehicles, and all my other material possessions. I’m just saying there has to be a better way and I wish the new publication called â??News Free Comicsâ? all the luck. If marketed correctly could possibly nudge out all the other comics by proposing a cost effective model to publications as a comics only insert. That would pretty much leave all the syndicates clients (creators, and purchasers) out in the cold. But this â??News Free Comicsâ? would also create a middleman scenario. Come on fellow comic creators, stand up and be recognized for all the work put into our creations.

#3 Dave M.
July/5/2007
@ 11:04 am

ok… you’re talking about comics here, but the item is about editorial cartoons and cartoonists. Apples and oranges.

#4 MJ
July/5/2007
@ 2:18 pm

Most Editorial cartoonists still submit material to syndicates. Apples and oranges? Cartooning is cartooning be it in strip form or editorial one-shots. Even editorial cartoonists use a multi panel form sometimes. I’ve heard of someone wanting to start up a printed form of news using cartoons to tell the story, this would be an opportunity for an editorial cartoonist. Not sure if that would ever take off, but I would read that for news instead if it was available. So it gets back to the point that news publications really don’t care about an editorial cartoonists job when they can just get any material they would need through a syndicate. That’s more or less how it relates in my opinion.

#5 Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 6, 2007: King Goofball
July/6/2007
@ 7:20 am

[…] Yesterday, as part of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists’ convention in Washington DC, edittoonists gathered together to discuss how they can fight back against declining numbers and increasing irrelevance. Editor & Publisher’s Dave Astor reports from the floor. Also from Astor: Washington Post reporter Dana Priest thanks AAECers for cartoons highlighting the sub-par treatment of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, columnist Helen Thomas praises cartoonists for sharing her political viewpoint, and a general retrospective in honor of the event’s 50th anniversary. Elsewhere, Randy Barrett covers the convention for the National Journal. (Last link via Alan Gardner.) […]

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