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What ever happened to Cartoonists Day?

Daryl Cagle recites the history of Cartoonists Day over on his blog.

An excerpt:

Cartoonists usually work in isolation and the opportunities to work together were great fun at first – then the glow started to fade. Some cartoonists were enthusiastic about the idea of Cartoonists Day, and pushed the idea of every comic strip artist participating to display the Cartoonists Day logo in their strips, and write something about it in their strip to “raise awareness” of underappreciated cartoonists. The strip cartoonists were urged to do this every year on May 5. Then charities got the idea; they called the NCS saying, “Hey! You cartoonist guys all got together to raise money for the 9/11 victims, how about raising money for this terrible disease, or that one – you can’t believe that Cartoonists Day is more important than my horrible disease, do you? Where are your priorities?!” Of-course, they were right, but there were just too many terrible diseases and social ills waiting in line for space on the comics pages.

Then many of the star cartoonists became weary. They would say, “Why are we doing this Cartoonists Day thing in our strips again?” and “Isn’t it kind of egotistical and self-serving for us to use our strips to call attention to ourselves like this?” Of course, they were right.

It’s kind of sad to see it go.

Community Comments

#1 Rick Stromoski
@ 1:29 pm

I’ve been lobbying some of my fellow cartoonists to start a “Soup to Nutz” day but for some reason they all think it’s self serving of me.

#2 Danny Burleson
@ 4:31 pm

Well, crap, there goes my idea of getting all the cartoonists to incorporate a picture of ME into their strips on November 7th (my birthday) as a means to promote the wonderful life people have due to my very existence, even the people who don’t know me, and declare it “Danny Burleson Day”. Oh well, back to my ‘comic-within-a-comic’ idea…

#3 Cindermain
@ 11:44 am

Funny, I was under the impression that many were still celebrating National Cartoonist Day…like Pittsburgh & Sioux Falls, to name a couple.

Then again, we all know that the “Midwest Cartoonists” are SO out of the loop on cartoonist information…that is, since the dawn of the internet and this very site…[i][b]oh wait…[/b][/i]

*sigh* I guess I and the other professional cartoonists in my area should pull down the art we have on display and turn away the MANY people who have expressed interest in seeing it simply because [b]Daryl Cagle[/b] says it’s dead.

Then again, if Cagle’s SO sad to see it go, what is he doing to try and keep it ALIVE? Cagle and other editorial cartoonist [b][i]constantly[/i][/b] bemoan the state of the industry and the devaluing of their work. Why aren’t they doing something to keep alive this good idea that would help raise awareness? To do otherwise shows a willingness to let others devalue your work…

And why all the griping about the selfishness of National Cartoonist Day? Since when are cartoonists supposed to suddenly be so damn altruistic? Isn’t cartooning a business? Don’t busineses have to advertise if they want to survive? Of course they do!

The issue of “using cartoons to push fundraising and where to draw the line” is the very same issue EVERY business owner faces EVERY DAY. Just insert “coffee shop” or “clothing store” instead of “cartoons”. Some do, some don’t, it’s that simple; so please don’t use that as an excuse. And to simply avoid it is poor business. Make a policy and stick with it. Anyone who says “but MY charity’s more worthy…” is essentially devaluing your work. Think about it as a business owner.

The fact that National Cartoonist Day is dying boils down to one thing; personal selfishness on the part of the cartoonists. It isn’t as fun as it used to be, and there’s no immediate profit. So why do it?

Because if we allow National Cartoonist Day to die, we are showing others that cartooning lacks importance. It shows that we consider our work superfluous. If we, the cartoonists, devalue the importance of it we also devalue the importance of our work in front of millions of people.

And if you answered ANY of these points with “But they’re ONLY cartoons…”

…then you’re part of the problem.

#4 Rick Stromoski
@ 12:13 pm

No one is keeping you from celebrating Cartoonists Day if you so choose. The NCS no longer officially endorses it. There’s a problem when an organization officilally speaks for it’s members when the majority of the membership disagree with the endorsement. It’s not out of selfishness or greed (however that’s supposed to work) but from a lack of interest or outright hostility on the part of most syndicated cartoonists who the burden of promoting it fell upon since they are the ones with a daily public forum.

Many felt it was amateurishly self serving , self congratulatory and outright stupid with no point to it. There’s no “Ballerina Day” or “advertising Illustrators Day” or “Animators day”…

As for the cartooning community “allowing Cartoonists Day to die” well I’m not convinced it was ever really breathing…

I’d much rather see a collective effort for cartoonists adopting better business models and learn how to price their work and negotiate rights then waste time on a contrived meaningless holiday celebration. Get serious.

#5 Cindermain
@ 1:53 pm

Hey Rick.

You requested at the end of your response that I â??get seriousâ?â?¦then letâ??s get serious.

No one is keeping you from celebrating Cartoonists Day if you so choose.�

So proclaiming it â??deadâ? isnâ??t an act against it? It certainly isnâ??t supporting it.

The NCS no longer officially endorses it. Thereâ??s a problem when an organization officially speaks for itâ??s members when the majority of the membership disagree with the endorsement.

Who says that they have to endorse it for it to be a viable event? Why do you assume it is a waste of time just because an organization doesnâ??t want to back it due to the indecisiveness of its constituency?

And for the record, I was invited to display my work by Ken Alvine, another member of the NCS. Just because MOST of the organization doesnâ??t support it, doesnâ??t mean that ALL of them feel the same.

Itâ??s not out of selfishness or greed (however thatâ??s supposed to work) but from a lack of interest or outright hostility on the part of most syndicated cartoonists who the burden of promoting it fell upon since they are the ones with a daily public forum.

So they were hostile that someone asked them to support an event that celebrated the joy of cartooning and helped raise awareness of the art form because they werenâ??t interested and they didnâ??t want to promote it? How is that not a self-serving act, however small? Justify it how you like, it is personal selfishness.

Many felt it was amateurishly self serving , self congratulatory and outright stupid with no point to it. Thereâ??s no â??Ballerina Dayâ? or â??advertising Illustrators Dayâ? or â??Animators dayâ?â?¦

â?¦but there are â??Free Comic Book Dayâ? (May 5th), â??Super Bowl Sundayâ? (first Sunday in Feb.), â??National Talk Like a Pirate Dayâ? (Sept. 19th) and â??National Chocolate Chip Cookie Dayâ? (August 4th) â?¦

The importance and validity of the day depends on how important it is to the people who support it and to the people theyâ??re trying to reach. Even if it is â??sillyâ? and ends up as a bit of coffee talk at the office water cooler, people STILL REMEMBER IT.

Also, if itâ??s the â??self-servingâ? aspect that bothers you, then why advertise at all? Itâ??s self-serving and does nothing but make people aware of your productâ?¦

As for the cartooning community â??allowing Cartoonists Day to dieâ? well Iâ??m not convinced it was ever really breathingâ?¦

Say that to Dave Berry and â??National Talk Like a Pirate Dayâ?â?¦ a day doesnâ??t have to breathe much to get legs of its own and run.

Iâ??d much rather see a collective effort for cartoonists adopting better business models and learn how to price their work and negotiate rights then waste time on a contrived meaningless holiday celebration.

Truly a goal worth attaining, but ultimately self-serving and dull.

Cartoonists Day could be a really fun event that would show people just how cool cartooning is and its value as not only entertainment but an honest refection of society. And more importantly, it would serve to keep cartooning in the public eye, something that has been eluding editorial cartoonists for some time now.

Get serious.

Got serious. Good?

#6 Rick Stromoski
@ 2:17 pm

Like I said, anyone is free to celebrate Cartoonists Day or any other holiday they’d like. But if you’re going to post hostile threads against the NCS and Daryl Cagle for no longer supporting it well, expect some people to take umbrage with that. You can’t force people to particpate in your Holiday and you certainly shouldn’t get hostile with them when they choose not to do so. I’m sure there are some NCS members that continue to celebrate Cartoonistrs Day and have Cartoonists Day events and that’s fine. The NCS just no longer endorses it. The problem with the Holiday from the very beginning was that the bulk of the pressure to promote it was laid at the syndicated communities feet. Greeting card artists weren’t asked to put Cartoonist day logos on their card designs, humorous illustrators weren’t expected to incorporate the CD logo into their work, I saw no CD mentioned in any Nickelodeon cartoon, nor did any editorial page ever contain one that I know of. As Daryl stated, it didn’t sit well with the creators as a whole nor with the syndicates. The logistics of how this was going to help “raise the consciousness” for cartooning was never fully explained nor well thought out. Most disagreed with it’s potential effectiveness.

There is a vast difference in the definition of “self serving” when it applies to adopting effective business models versus putting effort into a nebulous feel good non-holiday.

#7 Cindermain
@ 3:00 pm

Hey Rick.
Yes, my posts were rather hostile. But am I a hostile person by nature? No. Starting flame wars is just not something I like to do.

So please understand that I was anything but hostile until I came upon this, an article by an established site owner and cartoonist dismissing a project I am involved in, and two other cartoonists calling it self-serving and a waste of time. Then when I defend myself I am told to “get serious”.

Now please tell me;

How was I supposed to react to that? And now you say;

â??Like I said, anyone is free to celebrate Cartoonists Day or any other holiday theyâ??d like.â?

But only after youâ??ve already lambasted it and me prior? Isnâ??t it a bit late to claim the high road?

I am willing to calm down and discuss this rationally. Expect a more even response in a bit (after I take a breather), but please keep in mind that I am fairly passionate about this subject.


#8 Rick Stromoski
@ 3:13 pm

â?¥â?¥â?¥But only after youâ??ve already lambasted it and me prior? Isnâ??t it a bit late to claim the high road?

If you go back and re-read the sequential order of this thread I believe you’ll see that the conversation took a snarky turn in your first post. My descriptions were an attempt to illustrate how Cartoonists Day was percieved by the majority of the NCS then and now. I’m sorry if that offends you but I’m just reporting the what and why as accurately as I can.

And just for the sake of accuracy, when it was first proposed, the NCS fully supported it, many cartoonists participated, the day came and went and everyone went on with their business. In successive years less wished to participate and by the 3rd year the vibe varied from disinterested apathy to outright hostility to the idea. So you can hardly blame the organization for not wishing to annually shove this down their collective throats.

#9 Cindermain
@ 3:42 pm

“Rick Stromoski May 3rd, 2007
Iâ??ve been lobbying some of my fellow cartoonists to start a â??Soup to Nutzâ? day but for some reason they all think itâ??s self serving of me. ”

This isn’t snarky?

Perhaps you need the definition according to Wikipedia;


-a snide remark
-(mathematics) a graph in which every node has three branches, and the edges cannot be coloured in fewer than four colours without two edges of the same colour meeting at a point

*takes a deep breath*

I’ll be back with a calmer response soon.

#10 Cindermain
@ 6:42 pm

Hey Rick. Calmer now. :)

Hostility aside, my intent was (and is) certainly not to force this day down other peopleâ??s throats, but rather to strongly disagree with Daryl Cagleâ??s take on its reported â??demiseâ??.

It was also not my intention to make a hostile statement against the NCS (whom I bear no grudge against), but definitely to question their decision on this matter and to question the views of cartoonists in general.

In that vein, I agree that is unfair to expect syndicated cartoonists to carry the weight of advertising in their strips. But there are other means of promotion besides the obvious, especially with the numerous opportunities the internet now offers. Why havenâ??t we tried to advertise that way? There are many events that were born due to an online groundswell…this could be too.

The National Cartoonists Day event we’re holding in Sioux Falls will feature not only comic and editorial cartoonists, but local animators and designers as well. And not one of them has had to compromise their professional work, just insert something in their websites or hang posters in area businesses.

National events can start locally.

I firmly believe National Cartoonists Day to still be a viable idea, and one we should support. Itâ??s far from dead, and could even flourish with the proper amount of attention.

Is it self-serving? Yes. But then, Christmas can be self-serving too, as can be Thanksgiving or even Halloween…it all depends on how one celebrates it. This could be such a good thing if handled properly.

#11 Dave M.
@ 6:27 am

On your birthday, do you go around saying, “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!” in an effort to get attention, as though it’s something special? That would be pretty obnoxious and sure fire way of making sure no one will want to have anything to do with you, much less give you a present.

The same principle applies here. Expecting cartoonists to post a National Cartoonists Day logo on their cartoons just comes off as being pathetic. To have such a special day recognized would need to come from another source, and that is the dilemma.

#12 Cindermain
@ 12:29 pm

Hey Dave.

So what you’re saying is that if you’re the CEO of Wal-Mart you shouldn’t hand out circulars, or if your a preacher you shouldn’t encourage people to come to your church because it’s vain?

Do you look at a Wal-Mart flyer or a preacher on a podium and say; “My gosh, what a pathetic plea for attention.”?

Of course not. But that’s how your example would work if applied to National Cartoonist Day.

No offense meant, but you have the wrong idea. You’re approaching this as a personal matter, only seeing how it would reflect on you, the individual. This isn’t about just you, but all cartoonists in general. Not a single person, but an industry.

And it is perhaps one of the coolest industries on the planet. Shouldn’t we take time to celebrate it? That’s what this day is about, to show others just how cool and vital cartooning is.

P.S. – I personally don’t shout out “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!” on my birthday until I’ve had about 7-8 drinks at least…and even then, I mercifully don’t remember it. ;)

#13 Dave M.
@ 3:39 pm

Sorry, but Walmart handing out circulars as a means to drum up business is hardly analgous here. And I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a National Cartoonist Day. I’m just saying you shouldn’t expect professionals to boast about their profession in such a manner. I think it just needs to be a little more removed from the individual cartoonists. If I had a comic strip, I would feel really stupid putting a logo on my work, as the sole purpose of it is to say, “hey, look at me and honor me!”

#14 American
@ 6:24 pm

The idea of some group having a “day” means others want to celebrate them.

The idea of creating a “day” to celebrate oneself is stupid.

#15 Cindermain
@ 8:45 am

Hey Dave & American.

I’m not saying this has to be promoted in comic strips. In fact, I even said that it was unfair to expect cartoonists to promote alone as there are now other ways of promoting since the advent of the internet. Also, I hate it when a storyline or gag has to be built around omething like this…it interferes with the flow of the strip and whatever storyline is present.

And Dave, the Wal-Mart analogy does work for this.

Many businesses start and support National Holidays for the dual purpose of celebration and promotion. Here are some examples;

National Beef Day is held by Beef Producers around the world.

The NEA host National Teachers Day.

National Spinal Health Day is endorsed by the Congress of Chiropractic Organizations.

National Corndog Day is organized by Foster Farms a poultry producer who provides the corn dogs every year.

And the list goes on…

I wouldn’t call them ‘stupid’…I’d call them ‘fun’.

BTW – Our National Cartoonist Day celebration was a BLAST! It was great to share our works with others, meet other professionals in the field, and to just celebrate doing what we do!

Plus, I was made aware that Daryl Cagle was against National Cartoonist Day since its inception…so obviously there’s no long-standing bias there… ;)

#16 Daryl Cagle
@ 11:57 am

I was on the NCS board when Cartoonists Day first came up, and I supported it then. After the promotions in the comic strips I was swayed by the arguments of the syndicates and many comic strip cartoonists who wanted the NCS to stop its involvement in Cartoonists Day. There was a lot of debate on this issue at that time.

#17 Cindermain
@ 1:06 pm

Hey Daryl.

That’s not what I heard…but as I cannot reveal my sources in this matter, I’m going have to take your word for it. My apologies.

Can I ask, what were the syndicate’s objections? I’ve heard what the individual cartoonists thought. What was the syndicate’s stance on it?

And do you still support the idea of National Cartoonist Day if promotion could be handled less intrusively?

For example, we had a very successful National Cartoonist Day celebration, and I understand the one in Pittsburgh was an even greater success.
They were not promoted at all in the strips, yet still drew crowds.

#18 Daryl Cagle
@ 1:46 pm

There’s a new NCS board next month; you can pitch the idea to new people. I haven’t been on the board for a few years, but I think Cartoonists Day has been debated so much in the NCS that it is unlikely to get support again.

I think the syndicates’ biggest objection years ago was that they didn’t like being pushed to participate, but they voiced general complaints at the time and forwarded complaints from their cartoonists. One very big syndicate complained to me that Cartoonists Day was “amateurish and stupid.”

I’m fine with Cartoonists Day personally and it’s great that your event went well – but I would be surprised to see Cartoonists Day fit into the NCS again.

#19 Cindermain
@ 10:59 pm

Thanks for responding Daryl!

I am investigating the possibility of coming up with a viable pitch in support of the Day, and appreciate your input on this matter.

#20 Dave M.
@ 11:56 am

>>One very big syndicate complained to me that Cartoonists Day was â??amateurish and stupid.â?

#21 Cindermain
@ 1:37 pm

Hey Dave…uhm, yeah, he said that. Was there a point to your post, or were you simply reiterating?

If you were reiterating, then allow me to also;

“I firmly believe National Cartoonists Day to still be a viable idea, and one we should support. Itâ??s far from dead, and could even flourish with the proper amount of attention.”

Thank you. :)

#22 Dave M.
@ 4:16 pm

I don’t know what happened here, but the rest of my post is missing. So I’ll try again.

What I wrote after that quote from a syndicate Daryl passed along is that it pretty much sums things up.

What I would like to know from the Cartoonists Day supporters is what, exactly, is the point of it? Again, this is where the analogy with WalMart handing out fliers doesn’t fit. It’s perfectly understandable what WalMart is trying to accomplish with that, to increase sales at their stores. That’s the whole purpose of advertising. But what I truly don’t understand is what Cartoonists Day is supposed to accomplish.

I think if anyone is going to try to convince cartoonists, syndicates and the NCS that it’s a good idea, the first step should be to explain just what the tangible goal is.

So it’s really a simple question… what’s the point?

#23 Cindermain
@ 8:22 pm

Hey Dave. I still disagree with you on the Wal-Mart analogy…but will shelve that to explain the point of National Cartoonist Day.

I’ve explained the point many times before in this discussion…then again, it does bear repeating. :)

This is a celebration for all cartoonists in general. Not a single person, but the industry as a whole. Cartooning is perhaps one of the coolest industries on the planet. Shouldnâ??t we take time to celebrate it?

Thatâ??s what National Cartoonist Day is all about, a celebration to show others just how cool, vital, and fun cartooning is, and how proud we are to be a part of it.

Millions celebrate Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, and other national holidays without EVER thinking “What’s the tangible goal here?” or “What’s the point?” for one simple reason that you just aren’t seeing;

It’s a fun thing to do.

Sometimes that’s all the reason you need.

#24 Cindermain
@ 8:25 pm

Also, the only tangible things to come from thousands of years of celebrating Halloween is free candy and the “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” tv special.

I’d say it was worth every second.

#25 Dave M.
@ 10:55 am

Well, you’ve heard from a past and present president of the National Cartoonists Society telling you how those who actually make their living in cartooning, as well as the syndicates who make a great deal of their income from comics saying it’s a stupid idea.
Think maybe it’s you, Cindermain, who’s “not getting it”?

Have you ever heard of any other profession that has tried to promote a special day for themselves? I can’t think of one off hand. So perhaps that’s the problem. Instead of calling National Cartoonists Day, the push should be for something like Comic Art Day. That might have a stand a better chance.

#26 Guy Gilchrist
@ 9:16 am

I supported Cartoonist’s Day when asked to put a logo in my strips. It was my understanding that the day was to appreciate cartoons, comics, and the place the artform has in our society. FREE COMIC BOOK DAY was promoted as part of May 5th, “Cartoonist’s Day” and because there was a shot at creating revenue, the comic companies and stores jumped on it, and it gets bigger each year, though still a small celebration in terms of nationally celebrations.I have been asked to another “Comic Book Day” event each year for a few years now. I take the opportunity to do a short drawing lesson, as well as the signing of my books, etc. It’s a nice promotion, and the kids of all ages get a lot from it, I think. So….”Cartoonist’s Day”, or part of it, is still ongoing. I love telling people WHY we celebrate on Cinco De Mayo. They all love to learn about the history of comics.

#27 Rich
@ 9:30 pm

I see it as a way for the make-a-living-from-it cartoonists to promote the art form for the benefit of themselves and us kinda-ares and wanna-bes … raising awareness of why we all love cartoons and why the newspapers should look to cartoons to save their papers by doubling or tripling the cartoon content (like talk radio did for AM radio).

Comic book day is more ingenius than a NCD because the retailer benefits and the end customer is energized. NCD still hasn’t tapped the ability to sell more newspapers or give their “base” a way to show if they are energized. If NCD could figure out a way to do that (and I’m guessing it’s possible) then it’s a win-win-win-win (cartoonists-syndicate-paper-consumer). As a stand-alone “yeah us” I can understand the lack of enthusiasm.

Perhaps if we brainstorm a bit we can come up with some ways that would make a NCD something a bit more energized.

Some ideas??? To start if off here are some (remember brainstorming is to generate ideas with positive statements, we can toss out the dumb ideas later … cause sometimes they lead to the good ideas) —

Free autographed cartoons, media push for TV/magazine spots for famous cartoonist talking up the day … make it “buy a paper day” … maybe get newspapers to add an extra page or two of cartoons (free to them) for the day or even week.

Other thoughts on getting a demand-pull going through the newspapers … get them to sell more because of / attributed to cartoons???

#28 Bob Buethe
@ 8:25 am

And a Happy Cartoonists Day 2010 to one and all.

(Or, as I like to call it, Inko de Mayo.)

This year, I’m celebrating by making a donation to the Comic Book Project:

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