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Phil Hands opines on donkeys and elephants

The debate comes up every now and then about the utility of editorial cartoonists continued use caricatures of elephants and donkeys to represent the two major political parties.

But I will continue to draw elephants and donkeys. I’m proud of them. They are symbols that were developed by editorial cartoonists, and then co-opted by the political parties. Both parties use elephants and donkeys on their party logos. It’s one of the lasting impressions that editorial cartoonists have left on our society, and I’m going to take pride in that heritage.

Community Comments

#1 Bearman Cartoons
June/28/2011
@ 11:19 am

Great article by Phil. I thought this part of the article hit home for me even more:

“Many of the altie cartoonist complain that a new generation of media consumers don’t like or even understand the kind of cartoons I draw. They argue that people my age and younger don’t understand what the elephant and the donkey represent and don’t like one panel cartoons. They argue that even with our diminished attention spans we would all prefer to read dozens of snide remarks over several panels.”

The implication seems that younger readers are so stupid we have to dumb everything down.

#2 Matt Bors
June/28/2011
@ 12:09 pm

Whatever your preferred conventions for cartooning, I don’t think that’s the implication at all, Bearman. There’s nothing in a Tom Tomorrow or Ruben Bolling cartoon that dumbs things down. If anything, the worst mainstream comics that everyone complains about–with fat ladies singing and sinking ships–are really dumbing down things.

Also, newspaper speak for “young readers” in people under 50. Sometimes when people start talking about papers trying to be “hip” and appeal to younger readers, they act as if they are trying to capture aloof 22 year old art school students when really all it means is “the general educated populace.”

I think one of the problems with bland cartoons in general is that editors set the bar at not offending your grandma and making sure she gets the joke so she doesn’t write a letter in. When you pander to the lowest common denominator with humor and commentary, your work will suffer for it, regardless of how you draw.

#3 Joel Bader
June/28/2011
@ 12:49 pm

The Iowa Republican party used to have as its logo what appeared to be a poorly-drawn “R”. Upon looking more closely, it seemed to be that party’s answer to the Rorschach inkblot tests: the “R” was actually the profile of the American eagle. I did a criticism of the Iowa Republican logo for a graphics design course many years ago in college and concluded “I think they’re better off with the elephant”.

#4 Phil Hands
June/28/2011
@ 4:56 pm

I must say, I’m a little surprised that my little blog post has been discussed on several forums including this one.
I’m asked to blog about my cartoons and in this instance instead of writing about our budget battle in Wisconsin, (which is what the cartoon is about) I thought I’d share the debate that has been going on in our little world of editorial cartooning with the dozen of people who read my blog.
I draw cartoons a certain way. I like simple images which get across a point quickly and easily. I’m also pretty fortunate that if I am passionate about an issue that I can’t capture simply in a cartoon, my editors will let me write a column on the subject.
I didn’t mean to fire another salvo in this pointless debate, I just wanted to share the issue with the general public, some of whom actually really care what’s going on the minds of us editorial cartoonists.

#5 Matt Bors
June/28/2011
@ 10:54 pm

Phil, once it’s on the internet, it’s for all to see and discuss. Ask Mr. Weiner.

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