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Kirk Anderson on the future of editorial cartoons

A thoughtful introspection column by Kirk Anderson on the future of editorial cartooning. He starts out the commentary piece by stating the profession is simply in a “circle of life — the phase where the corpse is eaten by maggots and turned into dirt.”

Editorial cartoons are dying because newspapers are dying, or perhaps “adapting.” Or “entering a new phase in the circle of life.” Some of the damage is self-inflicted. Some newspapers want safe cartoons that won’t bring phone calls from advertisers, and safe cartoons are as fascinating as safe NASCAR.

To the extent we cartoonists oblige, self-censor and draw nonthreatening gag cartoons about swilling beers at the White House, we’re part of the problem and deserve our enforced dirt nap.

Life will go on without editorial cartoons, just as it will without bank regulation. The death of newspapers is not so different from the death of any other commodity: eight-track tapes, perhaps.

That is, if eight-track tapes were fundamental to a functioning democracy.

On a somewhat related note, here is a video of Canadian editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon singing a song entitled “Better days” at this year’s AAEC convention in Seattle.

Hat tip to Rob Tornoe.

Community Comments

#1 Dave Stephens
August/18/2009
@ 2:15 pm

So the “third house” is a zombie fest? How the worms turn, hm? Political cartooning was a childhood dream that I traded 15 years ago for my current career as a cartoonist/caricaturist. Did I dodge a bullet? Looks like it…

#2 Mike Smith
August/18/2009
@ 7:38 pm

What’s unsafe about NASCAR?

#3 Phil Tograph
August/18/2009
@ 8:58 pm

editorial cartoonists are as edgy as the editors who back them up and print the toons. Look how the LA Times cried foul about the Obama/joker computer art but ran without a single outrage from the editorial staff a similar toon of former Pres. Bush decked out as the joker. I am getting off track. Ed Cartoonists need to make a living and if they can only do so by what the editors and/or publishers are willing to purchase. Edgyness is a double edged sword.

#4 Shane Davis
August/18/2009
@ 10:03 pm

“Whatâ??s unsafe about NASCAR?”

Nothing. Not a thing.
But neither is there anything interesting.

Now, back when you could actually buy a car the race version was actually based on and drivers could actually slam, bang and blow up, it was cool.

Why does it seem that EVERYTHING these days has been sanitized, cleansed and de-risk-ified so us poor old stupid folks don’t get offended, shocked, outraged or inconvienced? This has got to be the most insipid, boring phase of American history ever.

#5 Mike Lester
August/19/2009
@ 7:05 am

Nice piece by Kirk. Well reasoned, presented and inoffensive or should I say, “safe”.

#6 Dan Collins
August/19/2009
@ 7:47 am

That’s some mighty fine pickin’! Jenny looks like she’s having fun too.

#7 Pat Crowley
August/19/2009
@ 8:27 pm

Can any of you honestly say that editorial cartoonists have responded to the crisis?

Editorial cartoons are just as poorly drawn, badly painted, unfunny and predictable as they were ten years ago. Stop blaming editors. No editor ever said “I’m sorry- that cartoon’s just too damned good to publish!”

Comic art has NEVER BEEN MORE POPULAR than it is now. Granted – newspapers are strangling the very artform they created but that doesn’t stop ANYONE from moving the ball down the field.What your paper won’t print the web will. Stop being so damned dramatic. Get a blog and do some real work. And FFS drop it with the editors. The buck stops at your drawing boards.

#8 mike witmer
August/20/2009
@ 6:04 am

Pat: I’d have to disagree with you. I’m not an editorial cartoonist but I think that form of media is a little different than, say, a syndicated strip. Matter of fact, I think they have it tougher. Maybe I’m wrong in saying so, but editorial cartoonists don’t even have the “same time, same channel” luxury that a daily humor cartoonist would. They have to write what sells. In the end, they’re producing a product that is going to sell in the newspapers, a market that has grown sterile and unwilling to take chances even in the wake of it’s own death rattle.

#9 mike witmer
August/20/2009
@ 6:06 am

…plus, the key is to get paid, right? The web is an even tougher customer when it comes to the green stuff.

#10 Milt Priggee
August/20/2009
@ 9:26 am

Pat my friend ,
“No editor ever said â??Iâ??m sorry- that cartoonâ??s just too damned good to publish!â?…….?????

You gotta be kidding….may I respectfully suggest a little refresher course by clicking the link below…..and I will remind you that this is just a sampling of just too damned good to publish……

http://www.miltpriggee.com/index.php?pid=1&sid=7

#11 Pat Crowley
August/20/2009
@ 9:39 am

Hi Milt,

I’m on my way out the door for another non-profitable day.

I took a quick look at your site- will get back to it.

We’re all frustrated. It just gets tiresome hearing all the whining over the years when I’ve seen virtually NO improvement in the artform.

The profession as a whole- especially those lucky remaining few who are still drawing a salary- has failed miserably to rise to the challenge.

Remember the “old greasepencilers” when we got in the business? Deja vu all over again.

Except you, Milt :)

#12 Henry Clausner
August/20/2009
@ 9:46 am

“the circle of life”……indeed.

#13 Pat Bagley
August/20/2009
@ 10:59 am

Milt,

Your editor is awfully thin skinned. Must be aggravating to knock out a good solid cartoon and have it killed by someone who thinks Mary Worth is edgy.

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