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Jim Borgman issues stinging rebuke of “best of” book

Every year as the “Best of” editorial cartooning books roll out, there’s arguing over their selection. The cartoons in “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year” are selected by Daryl Cagle, while the Charles Brooks “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year” contain cartoons simply submitted. On the topic of latter, Jim Borgman delivers a stinging rebuke of its content.

I just received the annual Chuck Brooks book, still entitled (all evidence to the contrary) “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year.” Have you ever seen a more ghastly gathering of editorial cartoons? I’m reminded of the old Casey Stengel quote when he was managing the ’62 Mets — “Can’t anybody around here play this game?”

Each year Chuck’s call for submissions brings on a crisis of conscience. I declined to send cartoons several times but eventually caved to the logic that, “Of course it’s going to be weak if good cartoonists fail to submit work.”

But this is the end of the road for me. I can’t remember being so disheartened about my profession. Thank God for Peters, Luckovich, Ramirez, Keefe, Morin and one or two others in this volume, or innocent readers might actually believe this motley assortment is the best the artform has to offer.

Community Comments

#1 JBoy
December/12/2007
@ 8:12 am

“Have you ever seen a more ghastly gathering of editorial cartoons?”

Well, there was the 2006 edition of BECY. And the 2005 one, too. And leave us not forget nearly every edition going back a couple of decades.

Where you been, Jim?

#2 Wiley Miller
December/12/2007
@ 8:58 am

What Jim has said publicly is exactly what editorial cartoonists had been saying privately for decades, and is the reason many cartoonists (including me when I was still working in the field) stopped submitting their work. We all joked that the publisher could (and should) be sued for false advertisement.

The BECY has been a joke pretty much since its inception. A very bad joke. Such a book should be held to very high professional standards. Instead, it’s held to an all-inclusive standard, akin to a soccer team of 9-year-olds, where everyone gets a chance to play.

It’s well-meaning intention was to bring greater recognition to the art of editorial cartooning, but the result has been just opposite. It is, in fact, an embarrassment to the profession. I’m glad someone of Jim’s stature finally made that public.

#3 Mike Lester
December/12/2007
@ 9:11 am

I second Jim and Wiley’s comments and I haven’t seen the book. Don’t have to.

#4 Jeff Darcy
December/12/2007
@ 11:20 am

I’ve yet to see this years book. And in my twenty years I’ve been paid to scribble politicians I’ve been to disorganized to submit my work. I’m guessing it has a smattering of some of the amateurish poorly drawn work you can also see on the AAEC website everyday. But like the website the book usually has samples from some of the best in the business. Jim seems to prove taste in cartoons is subjective not just for readers but old masters like himself when he sites just Peters,Luckovich,Rameriz,Keefe,Morin and “one or two others” who don’t suck in his book. Who would be those one or two others, Bennett,Benson,Bok,Breen,Rogers,O’Conner, Payne,Ohman,Stantis,Sherffius,Thompson,Margulies,Pett,Sack,Kelley..or every other editorial cartoonist working for a major daily turning out solid work everyday whose work I’ve seen in that book in the past? I’m not sure how his boycotting the book will improve it’s quality.
Jeff Darcy

#5 Wiley Miller
December/12/2007
@ 11:34 am

“Iâ??m not sure how his boycotting the book will improve itâ??s quality.”

I think you missed the point, Jeff.

#6 Brian Fairrington
December/12/2007
@ 1:41 pm

The notion of a real “Best” book is an impossibility and a logistic nightmare. A better title would be “The only cartoons we could get the cartoonists to send us by the publishing deadline….”

The idea of having a group of cartoonists choose what cartoons would be in the book is also unrealistic. What is “best” to one person may not be the best to another and so on. The book would take ten years to ever hit the shelves because no one could agree.

These books are nothing more than a way to reflect on some of the cartoons produced on some of the major topics of the past year. The use of “best ” in any title is a marketing decision by the publisher. That being said, I cannot speak for the quality of all the cartoons in both books, but I hope they are at least of a professional standard in ours.

#7 Charlos
December/12/2007
@ 2:17 pm

Sounds like a hater to me.

#8 Dawn Douglass
December/12/2007
@ 2:31 pm

I like to read the year’s “best of” books simply to reminisce about what happened during the year and to see others’ take on those issues. I’ve never taken it as a serious collection of what was really the BEST cartoons, but more as a random sampling.

I suspect this is the way most people view it. They aren’t looking for a book full of ART, but a book full of MEMORIES.

#9 Jeff Darcy
December/12/2007
@ 3:52 pm

Think you’re on to something, Dawn. Like many papers do with a cartoonist, my paper runs a Best of the Year page of my stuff. It started out being suppousedly my best work regardless of topic. But it’s morphed into a review of the biggist stories of the year. Every year my editor and I disagree on some of the cartoons that do or don’t make it in. Last year cartoons that got rejected ended up winning me best in Ohio against those two big name guys in southern Ohio. Next year were having the readers vote for the Best.
I do share Borgmans concern about the impression someone picking up that book might get of the standards of our profession. I worry about the same thing when I click on the AAEC page and the first thing I see is a grade school level amateur cartoon. My Father was a Bricklayer in his 20’s and you had to do an apprenticship first. When I was a high school gag cartoonist he suggested I try Editorial cartoons. I told him I couldn’t draw like that…(He was holding up a MacNelly} Years later I taught myself how well enough to fool some editors and I’m still learning. So yes, there should be min. standards like there is in every profession. But for all the crap out there,there’s still more good stuff being drawn everyday beyond the seven or eight cartoonists who get a passing grade in ol’Jim Brogman’s art class.
Jeff Darcy

#10 Wiley Miller
December/12/2007
@ 4:37 pm

If the book had been simply, and correctly, called, “The Year in Review Through Cartoons”, or something like that, no one would have a problem with it. But calling it The Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year is not something you can just write off as just marketing. It’s fraud, and reflects very badly on the profession as a whole. But this has been Chuck Brooks’ project and no one can really do anything about it, other than the publisher, of course.

The point is, if you’re going to do something, do it right. If you want to have a book compiling the best editorial cartoons of the year, then you set it up as such by having a panel of people selecting the work and make it a prestigious book that cartoonists would aspire to having their work appear in. That elevates the entire profession. Sure, there’d be some hurt feelings by those who wouldn’t make the cut. So? Then work harder to improve your work. But that’s not what it is. However, with its title, that’s what it implies. And that’s what so many cartoonists hate about it.

#11 Jeff Darcy
December/12/2007
@ 4:58 pm

Good points,Wiley. It’d be nice if Brooks and Pelican were reading them. My guess is they’ve heard these rants before. I would like to think anyone who’se a student of the craft would page thru that book and wonder why a book that’s titled “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year” never has had Oliphant’s work in it? And then conclude it’s the Best like those Time cartoons are the 10 Best
Jeff Darcy

#12 Terrence Nowicki
December/12/2007
@ 5:30 pm

“I suspect this is the way most people view it. They arenâ??t looking for a book full of ART, but a book full of MEMORIES.”

Why can’t it be BOTH?

#13 Malc McGookin
December/12/2007
@ 11:20 pm

This is precisely the argument I put when the Australian Cartoonist Association’s Year Book was produced.

The book contained a selection of excellent work, from some of Australia’s finest editorial and strip cartoonists sitting cheek by jowl with almost equal amounts of ridiculously amateurish garbage (by ANYone’s standards).

The real kicker was that the Year Book (or Voting Book as it was more properly known) was supposed to be distributed to editors as a way of displaying the level of talent out there.

Only “Full” members (who had to demonstrate their professional status before being granted Full status) were supposed to be able to appear in the Book, but under a previous President that standard had been relaxed, and the lowered bar had allowed all sorts of sub-par work to appear.

My attempts and suggestions to re-establish the Book as a collection of genuine professional standard work were met with accusations of elitism (well, duh) and snobbery.

#14 Jeremy
December/13/2007
@ 12:37 am

While I love Cagle’s annuals, and don’t object too much to the general quality of work bundled into his collections, as a non-American cartoonist, I notice – yet again – the usual “America is the only country on the planet” mentality. (See: World Series.)

Yes, international artists are included, but only mixed together under some kind of “international” category. If the collections are going to be largely American, then the titles should also reflect that.

#15 John Auchter
December/13/2007
@ 7:10 am

Well speaking as someone who isn’t a staff editorial cartoonist whose work has been printed in the Brooks book along side the tops in the profession, let me just say… ouch! Those stinging rebukes kind of sting. But now that I’ve got my air back, I have some comments, not so much in defense but to give you another perspective.

I’ve been to AAEC conventions and I’ve heard the laments before regarding the Brooks books. And while I certainly understand the desire to put out the best work possible in an annual some see as representing the profession, I also think a lot of cartoonists get their cheeks clenched a bit too tightly over this. They don’t give readers enough credit. The past year’s award winning comics are printed on the first few pages, and the top cartoonists are the ones who have four or five pieces of theirs included. Clearly, this is the best work. Turning to a random page and reading an unsatisfactory comic from an unknown artist isn’t going to sour anybody on the entire profession. It might, however, encourage somebody to think he/she could do better.

Still, Borgman is absolutely right — this year’s “Best” is a ghastly gathering. It always is. I’m flipping through a “Best” book from 1974 and there is brilliance right next to stinkeroo. But here’s something encouraging: in 1974 the style and tone tends to stay the same from comic to comic. In 2008, there’s an enormous variation. Not all of it is pleasing, but it’s a sign of evolution, of growth, right? In fact, in that regard, the only discouraging thing I see is that there are no “alternative” cartoonists included as they have been on the AAEC website.

Understand that I’m not fighting for a make-print program for non-staff cartoonists. If Brooks didn’t solicit for or include any of my work, I would fully understand. The majority of my work is very local and it’s always difficult for me to find five comics I can submit. I squeeze my cartooning work in and around my other (re: financially rewarding) commitments, so I recognize I’m not the best representative of somebody advancing the craft.

That said, I’m not sure at all what Borgman (and Wiley and Lester) would propose to do otherwise. I would say that Borgman’s decision to opt out in the future is unfortunate. I’m hoping it was just a rant because if he really means what he has said, he is in danger of sounding like just another cranky classic rock fan raging on about this inferior punk, alternative, hippity-hop music….

#16 Mike Lester
December/13/2007
@ 9:53 am

I don’t personally “propose” to do anything other than my job. Chas. Brooks is as entitled as anyone to decide what he labels and publishes as “Best Of”. Obviously, since we’re dealing w/ subjectives here, the only purpose of this conversation can best be described as an elevation of the artform. A noble effort on Jim’s part but nobody is suggesting we “draw the Lumberjack” to gain entry to the profession. But it would be nice if the Chas. Brooks of the world, the AAEC, etc. would separate the butter from the clabber a little. Bricklayers could do at least as proficient a job.

#17 Rich Diesslin
December/13/2007
@ 10:11 am

John, through all of the criticism the one thing that would seem to make everyone happy is simply to change the title to something like “The Year in Review in Editorial Cartoons” instead of the best of. Subtitled “showing intense favoritism to American cartoonist.” ;)

Otherwise, if the book keeps selling enough to do one every year, I imagine they will keep doing it. The market place is the final arbiter in whether people want it. The objection seems more to be more one of truth in advertising. If the big boys don’t want to play, sounds like they don’t have to and perhaps everyone would be happier if they didn’t. However, there’s still the issue of the title.

#18 J Read
December/13/2007
@ 12:26 pm

I donâ??t know if this adds to the discussion or not, but I was taught that ANY listing of â??the best ofâ? something was merely subjective. Iâ??ve always accepted that a ranking of books, movies, restaurants, places to live, or cartoons, was just the author(s) of that particular listâ??s OPINIONâ?¦and nothing more. And we all know what they say about opinions, right? The word â??best,â? used in that context, has become synonymous with â??favorite,â? and I donâ??t know about you, but I have never thought Charles Brooksâ?? picks of the â??bestâ? were really the best editorial cartoons drawn that year.

#19 Malc McGookin
December/13/2007
@ 12:30 pm

“Turning to a random page and reading an unsatisfactory comic from an unknown artist isnâ??t going to sour anybody on the entire profession. It might, however, encourage somebody to think he/she could do better.”

John, I believe this is entirely wrong. Such books should not be used to “bring on” or encourage amateur cartoonists who aren’t any good. If a collection of cartoons, editorial or not, is designed as some kind of shop window, then the best and most enticing stuff should go in, simple as that.

#20 Dawn Douglass
December/13/2007
@ 2:15 pm

I still think you guys are putting too much emphasis here on “the best.” I worked in a winery for years. When I first started working there, I could barely tell a good wine from a bad wine. Not only that but (1) lots of people prefer “bad” wine a lot more! and (2) even wine makers themselves can never agree on the best wines.

These books are created for average people with average standards, not professional editorial cartoonists who know how to at them in ways most of the rest of us couldn’t care less about.

When people like Frasier are swirling and sniffing their glasses and dissecting a wine into it’s many different properties that the vast majority of people cannot even discern, almost all of you, I suspect, would call them wine snobs and belittle them.

If you don’t like it, then **teach us how to improve our standards**! Teach us what to look for, look out for, etc. I LOVED it when Arnold Wagner showed what cartoonists were doing wrong. It was very helpful to artists and readers alike.

Griping internally and implying that your fellow cartoonists’ work sucks isn’t constructive to anybody, except maybe somebody who’s sore because his work isn’t in one of these books and can now think, “Oh, I’m too GOOD to be in that lousy book, that’s it!!”

Come on.

If you want it to be different, then work to change it. If you don’t care enough to change it, then you should just be quiet, IMO, instead of having this conversation all over again year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year after year…

#21 Bill Jones
December/13/2007
@ 5:24 pm

labeling the brooks book as â??the bestâ? just brings down the average personâ??s perception of the profession at a time when itâ??s trying to combat a growing lack of respect. itâ??s even more infuriating when, not only is this not the best work, but it is, in some cases, the worst work.

dawn, i think the â??average personâ? that you mentioned is looking for guidance when buying something that they may be interested in but donâ??t have, as yet, much experience with. i donâ??t think the average person who is interested enough in editorial cartoons to spend the money on any cartoon collection is really hoping it will be filled with average work. i think they are thinking that someone who knows a little more about the subject has picked out some examples worth collecting into a book and worth reading.

i canâ??t sing and i canâ??t imagine anyone, including you, would want a collection of music that included my voice. if i was shopping i would hope someone would steer me clear of that cd. and if it had a â??best ofâ? label on it i would hope someone would find some way to stop the person who was responsible from including me in a collection the following year.

think about this in terms of the winery you worked at. was there at least some effort to produce a good product every year? were investments ever made to make the wine better? why, do these things? why cut into the profit margin? the owners of the winery probably felt the better they made the wine the more it would sell because people want a good product. that is, as long as there isn’t a better product available.

now, think about the worst piss-poor winery that you know of. the competitor who was going for the â??cheapest bottle you gotâ? customer. wouldnâ??t you agree those guys do deserve to be on a list of wine makers but donâ??t deserve to be on a list of the best wine makers?

they do not. and even if they are the cheapest wine in the store because they just arenâ??t very good at making wine, they still donâ??t deserve a single sympathy vote to be on the list of â??best wine makers.â?

letâ??s say next year, the publisher were to inexplicably split the brooks book into two volumes. one will be called the best, and one will be called the rest. the priced was raised to where you could only justify the purchase of one. which would you buy?

#22 Malc McGookin
December/13/2007
@ 7:43 pm

There’s nothing much to be gained by comparing wine with cartooning.

It is almost impossible to make good wine from bad grapes, but it is easy to make bad wine from good grapes.

Some cartoonists will never be good, and it’s got nothing to do with taste. Mike Lester’s politics are entirely on the opposite side to mine, but I can nevertheless appreciate he’s one of the best in the business.

Bad cartooning can, on occasion, be performed by good cartoonists, but bad cartoonists will always produce bad work.
Such people should never appear in a “Best Of” compilation.

#23 Dawn Douglass
December/13/2007
@ 7:57 pm

Sorry, but I’m not buying it. If the book were full of really bad cartoons, then it wouldn’t still be published after all these years, because people would have caught on long ago and quit buying it.

What benefit is it to the publishers to select terrible cartoons? Can somebody please just answer that for me.

It just isn’t logically possible that the cartoons are being perceived as terrible by the average reader. Okay, so you can think the average reader is a fool or he wouldn’t buy this book full of terrible cartoons, and maybe you’re right. Then educate him!

It’s the standard bearers of any industry who have the responsibility of educating the consumer. If people are consuming bad cartoons, it’s the fault of good cartoonists who haven’t taught the marketplace. Look, only YOU can impart that knowledge. Bad cartoonists obviously can’t. So why are you whining? Do your job to educate the marketplace or be quiet about it. That’s all I’m saying.

#24 Malc McGookin
December/13/2007
@ 8:17 pm

“Okay, so you can think the average reader is a fool or he wouldnâ??t buy this book full of terrible cartoons, and maybe youâ??re right. Then educate him!”

Dawn, the point is (apparently) that the book ISN’T full of terrible cartoons, it’s the good cartoonists who are carrying it, possibly at the expense of their reputations.
They’re not happy at doing so, so they’re baling. That’s their prerogative.

As for educating, let me pass on what an old fella once told me.
He said “if I get a crap meal in a restaurant, do I go through the back and educate the chef in what I want?. No. I don’t want a bad cook to be rewarded. I just don’t go back to that restaurant. Neither does anyone else whose meal is substandard. We vote with our feet. Eventually the restaurant owner will wise up, the chef will be sacked or the restaurant will close.”

Why should it be a top cartoonist’s duty to “educate” the public, or the producer of a book by continuing to appear in a book which contains the word “Best” in the title and which they feel contains substandard work? They would better “educate” the public by pulling their work en masse, in fact THAT is their duty.

#25 Dawn Douglass
December/13/2007
@ 10:07 pm

Okay, I must not be explaining myself very well. I’ll give it one last shot.

If it’s so clear that “good” cartoonists are carrying “bad” cartoonists, then why are the bad cartoonists in there at all? If they are truly and obviously bad, I can’t believe the publisher would include them. If it’s true that he is knowingly publishing bad cartoonists that most people recognize as bad, then again, please explain to me WHY he would do this.

I think the problem is one of perception. If a book says “best” but many of the cartoons are bad, but people are still buying it anyway, then they don’t know any better.

There is a business out here called Leather Furniture Company. Their advertisements ask people to come in and get a lesson on why their furniture is good and other leather furniture is bad. They have furniture sawn in half and show you how their stitching is better, theirs has a bigger and better frame, and the padding is better quality, etc. etc. They educate their customers. Their slogan is “If everybody took seven minutes to learn what makes quality leather furniture, we couldn’t handle the business.”

Seamstresses had to educate their customers about why their handsewn dresses were worth more money than new fangled machine sewn dresses. It was their responsibility to educate the marketplace or perish under the weight of the ignorant masses.

The same is true for editorial cartooning. If the editorial cartoonists don’t instruct audiences about WHY this cartoon is better than that cartoon, then who will?

The simple fact is that the ONLY ones who CAN instruct about quality are the ones who can DO quality. If somebody is getting away with selling dreck, then it’s your responsibility to educate people that it’s dreck. Nobody else will. Nobody else CAN.

If you editorial cartoonist want high standards, then YOU are the ones who are going to have to be the standard bearers, and that requires educating others, not sitting around griping.

Why would you expect anybody else to uphold standards if those of you who have them and CAN upload them, won’t? That just doesn’t make any logical sense at all.

No, it’s not an eater’s responsibility to educate the cook. But it IS the cook’s responsibility to educate the eater about why his meatloaf is worth more than the next guy’s if he wants to keep making and selling meatloaf.

#26 John Auchter
December/14/2007
@ 3:28 am

Frankly, if I were Charles Brooks and had to deal with this year after year, I would change the name of my “best of” collection to “Oliphant 2008.” He’s clearly the best, so there would be no arguments. Of course the book would be blank because he wouldn’t contribute….

#27 Malc McGookin
December/14/2007
@ 5:40 am

Dawn, this will be my last post on this subject, as I suspect I’m banging my head against a brick wall.
I’ll do you the courtesy of addressing your furniture comparison:

Two sofas can look the same.

Yes, quality manufacturers might demonstrate why theirs IS worth more.

Given a choice, broke people may still buy a cheaper sofa.

On occasion, a cheaper sofa MIGHT end up being better quality .

None of this has anything to do with selling a Best Of… book on cartooning.

A book full of crap editorial cartoons, will NEVER sell. The general public is dull but not stupid and will not part with good money for garbage cartoons. Only by leavening bad cartoons with good cartoons will it move off the shelves.

The end.

#28 Rick Stromoski
December/14/2007
@ 5:41 am

In regards to wine….the price of the wine does not indicate it’s quality but is an indicator of it’s rarity. I’ve had some pretty crappy $40 wines and enjoyed an excellent $3.99 vintage. Don’t let price sway you. Go by the growing region and year.

If you find any Napa grown wines from 2001 under $30 a bottle buy it by the caseload. 2001 was banner year for most california reds.

#29 John Cole
December/14/2007
@ 5:43 am

“Thereâ??s nothing much to be gained by comparing wine with cartooning.”

But WHINING with cartooning is another matter.

Editorial cartoonists can’t share a 3.2 beer without kvetching about who-got-that-job or who-won-this-Pulitzer or who-joined-that-syndicate. I dare say agreeing on what constitutes the best in any given year would require a Herculean stifling of egos. As we shrink in ranks each year, our little family seems to grow only more dysfunctional.

Also, Borgman’s “if good cartoonists don’t contribute” logic is rock-solid. This year’s edition is particularly notable for the absence of the craft’s “major lights.” Where are Toles, Davies, Sargent, Wilkinson, Wasserman, Horsey, Ohman, Babin, Payne, Holbert, Stahler, Matson, Pett …

Whew.

With more wheat, there’ll be less chaff (including, probably, yours truly).

#30 John Auchter
December/14/2007
@ 6:14 am

Ooo! I’ve got an idea! We set up a fool-proof system to decide the best. We can have cartoonists rank the year’s best comics, and the editors, and people who write about comics, too. Then we take all those rankings and feed them into some really sophisticated computer formula and add some other confusing variables. We’ll call it the “Best Cartoon System” or BCS. And …wait a minute….

#31 Dawn Douglass
December/14/2007
@ 7:45 am

Okay, then supposed “good” cartoonists can follow his strategy and not submit work and the book will still be published and it will still sell, at least for a few years until even more people get the idea that editorial cartooning isn’t worth paying for.

Sounds like biting off your nose to spite your face to me, but hey, it’s your profession, not mine.

#32 Wiley Miller
December/14/2007
@ 10:39 am

Dawn-
Perhaps you don’t know how this book is put together.

Imagine that you’re a professional athlete in any of the major sports, all of which have an All-Star game. Now imagine that you just got a notice that you’ve been selected to the All-Star team in your rookie year. You’d be pretty excited, wouldn’t you? Now imagine that when you showed up at the All-Star game, EVERY player in the league was there, “selected” just as you were. That would pretty much take the thrill out of it, don’t you think?

Well, that’s how the work is “selected” for this so-called “Best of..” book. Everyone who submits their work (5 cartoons) gets at least one printed in the book. And that’s why so many of us have problem with the title.

Again, if were simply called a “year in review…” book, then there’s no problem. But if it’s going to pass itself off as a “Best of” book, then there should be some pretty high standards that should be met… just as it does to make it on to an All-Star team.

#33 Dawn Douglass
December/14/2007
@ 11:09 am

Yeah! Thanks for answering my question, Wiley. Now I get it.

Okay, if there isn’t any selection or screening process, and if anybody can get their work published in it, then I agree, it shouldn’t be called “best” and boycotting it is legitimate.

Still, I do think it would serve editorial cartooning better if you guys put together a blog that explains the factors that make up a good editorial cartoon. That would be both interesting and helpful to the profession.

#34 Wiley Miller
December/14/2007
@ 11:20 am

“Still, I do think it would serve editorial cartooning better if you guys put together a blog that explains the factors that make up a good editorial cartoon. ”

Isn’t pretty much like trying to define art? There are just too many variables to make a finite explanation. But like any profession, you know what it takes when you see it.

#35 Dawn Douglass
December/14/2007
@ 11:35 am

Wiley, I love you, but I think that answer is unacceptable.

Wine makers don’t just say “you know it when you taste it.” They examine the appearance, the nose (frangrance), the mouth (sensations in the mouth), the finish (aftertaste)… And each of these are broken down into vanilla tastes vs. berry flavors, etc. etc.

How can you expect readers to discern good quality vs. bad quality, if you don’t even have a vocabulary to do it yourselves?

Come on, there has to be definite factors, like how it’s inked, lettering quality, format balance, level of the “surprise” that constitutes the humor…. SOMEthing.

Just like seamstresses had to take the time and hard work to sit and figure out all the many variables that go into making a fine dress vs. a crappy dress, editorial cartoonists need to figure out the same thing in these increasingly desperate times.

Okay, I’ll shut up now.

#36 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
December/14/2007
@ 12:00 pm

I appreciate John Coles comments. ( I also really like your work, too, John.) While I have never attended a convention, I had suspected that the banter would be how you describe it. I have known a few colleagues and would say that their attitudes are as diverse as any group, but the local curmudgeons and grumps are known.

As for the book, I will only cite that some of my work being included in various editions has helped to secure some regular publication and patchecks for me. While my contributions I would not compare with the masters in the profession, I figure that the more opportunities there are in this shrinking field are better for all of us.
I, too, am disappointed when some of the best boycott, for whatever reasons. It is like the actors that stay away from the Oscars. To me, it is not very nobling.
I would like to see more attitudes like Dick Locher, who has helped to promote the profession with his yearly award.

I think I will do a cartoon of Rodney King saying to a group of cartoonists the line he is famous for.

#37 Dawn Douglass
December/14/2007
@ 1:05 pm

Okay, I shut up here, but I did write about this on my blog. It’s critically important to the salvation of editorial cartooning, IMO.

#38 Wiley Miller
December/14/2007
@ 1:22 pm

Should there be a web site that explains what makes a good painting?
How about a web site that explains what constitutes good music?

Come on, Dawn…

#39 Andrew Wahl
December/14/2007
@ 1:24 pm

My two cents on the annual BECY debate: I like the BECY series. I always have. Yes, thereâ??s always some marginal stuff in there, with some of the big names missing. But I like getting a chance to see work from cartoonists Iâ??m not familiar with, and who arenâ??t on the short list that regularly make the national publications.

Growing up, I checked the newest BECY out of the local library as soon as it was published; the BECY series (along with Syd Hoffâ??s â??Editorial and Political Cartooningâ?) played a huge role in my deciding to become an editorial cartoonist. To this day, I have 30 some volumes of BECY on the shelf in my library. And, of course, the first time one of my cartoons was included was a huge thrill; to that little kid who checked BECY out of the library, it meant that Iâ??d arrived.

I havenâ??t seen this yearâ??s edition yet. But Iâ??m assuming Iâ??ll like it as much as past editions, and Iâ??ll be proud if my cartoons are again in the mix.

#40 Eric Burke
December/14/2007
@ 1:41 pm

Ooo! Iâ??ve got an idea! We set up a fool-proof system to decide the best. We can have cartoonists rank the yearâ??s best comics, and the editors, and people who write about comics, too. Then we take all those rankings and feed them into some really sophisticated computer formula and add some other confusing variables. Weâ??ll call it the â??Best Cartoon Systemâ? or BCS. And â?¦wait a minuteâ?¦.
It would be a shame to let such a funny post go unsung. I don’t know how many football fans post here, let alone college football, but the sarcastic analogy was a goodun…

And I also have to give props to John Cole’s cartoons. Nice stuff on his site…the FACT toon is great!

#41 Dawn Douglass
December/14/2007
@ 2:10 pm

There aren’t only websites, Wiley, there are countless books and college classes that teach what makes a good painting and good music.

They’re called art and music appreciation classes and they succeed in getting more people interested in good paintings and good music instead of simply finding any piece acceptable or, else, not caring at all.

Scott McCloud has been very successful in writing what are essentially comic book appreciation books. Editorial cartoonists could do the same.

#42 Harold Clayton
December/14/2007
@ 3:42 pm

The cartoons in that particular collection have always run the gamut from very good to very bad. It’s certainly not the ‘Best Editorial Cartoons’ as the book’s title might lead you to believe, but the collection is also not an indication of a profession in decline. There are a lot of great editorial cartoonists working today. In fact, I would say there are better editorial cartoons being produced today than ever before. The ‘golden age of cartooning’ was golden because of the period’s abundance of jobs and opportunities for those in the craft during the time, not because of the abundance of talent.

Is it a worse indictment of the craft when its lesser names lack skill, or when its biggest names lack integrity? I would argue the latter is more damaging. I’ve seen examples of some of the best in the field succumbing to the plagiarism of cartoon ideas, and the blatant theft of another cartoonist’s drawings.

So, be careful when you’re throwing stones… especially from a glass house (or glass-topped light table in this case).

#43 Daryl Cagle
December/14/2007
@ 5:13 pm

BECY (and our book) is not a book that is made for cartoonists, it is a gift book that is typically purchased by women for the political wonks they love. Most people who purchase BECY and our book probably donâ??t look at the cartoons.

The biggest practical problem that BECY had was that they came out too late for Christmas sales. Their sales (and ours) decline through the year. (BECY had traditionally come out in the spring with a sales peak at Fathers Day.) They dealt with that problem this year, getting onto store shelves three or four months earlier than they have done before â?? that was no small feat with an October submissions deadline and the minimum of five weeks it takes everyone to get their books through the printer to the store shelves at the beginning of December. I notice that this year they have also changed the lettering on their cover to demand more attention. I expect their efforts will result in better sales this year.

#44 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
December/14/2007
@ 6:41 pm

Hi Daryl. Yes, that was one of the anomaly’s of BECY, where the title was for the current year, when the cartoons were obviously from the previous year. Funny and confusing. It seemed deliberate.

I may have been the culprit, in that I suggested at one point to have the submissions early enough for holiday publication. Chuck Brooks is quite the avuncular Southern gentleman. Mrs. Brooks is just as pleasant as peach cobbler, too.

I had some extensive previous comments, concerning the peculiar history of political cartooning. Then the computer went crazy. Maybe my stentorian comments dissappeared into the memory hole.
Oh well, not the first time!

KRANKY

#45 Jeff Darcy
December/17/2007
@ 11:36 am

Wiley makes a good point about changing the name of the book. But I can understand why it’s called BEST. The publisher, afterall, has asked
cartoonists to submit their best five cartoons. From the publishers point of view cartoonists are sending them the Best cartoons produced that year. Jim Borgman is a big name cartoonist and they’ve used his work on the cover in the past to sell the book. Since he feels more editing is warranted perhaps he should’ve written the publisher and used his influence to push for a change. Perhaps he’s allready done so.
Jeff Darcy

#46 Bearman
February/15/2009
@ 8:01 pm

I remember Jim Borgman discussing the topic of the “everyman” on his blog. Unfortunately his old Enquirer blog is no longer available so the best I could find is this entry from this site.

http://dailycartoonist.com/index.php/2007/01/17/jim-borgman-talks-about-how-he-tackles-minorities-as-generic-characters/

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