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Cagle Decries Cartoon Awards

MSNBC editorial cartoonist Daryl Cagle has posted a brief criticism of cartoon awards and those who chase them.

We’re a competitive bunch, and our profession has fallen on hard times, so I suppose it is natural for cartoonists to want to seek consolation in awards; that’s fine with me – but I think editorial cartoonists put much too much stock in awards and spend too much time chasing and worrying about awards.

Often the awards encourage cartoonists to do drawings that they wouldn’t otherwise draw, or push their careers in wrongheaded directions where cartoonists otherwise wouldn’t go – all for the glory of awards. Last year’s Pulitzer Prize is a good example; all of the nominees did web animations and it was clear that the Pulitzer jury was making a statement that editorial cartoonists who want to win awards should be doing web animations. It now looks like editorial cartoonists are following that empty headed dictum from the Pulitzer jury, with more and more cartoonists jumping into Flash animated cartoons when there is no market for animated web cartoons – just the perception that there might be a prize in it for them, somewhere, spurs cartoonists into making a poor business choice.

I don’t mind cartoon awards if they’re sponsored by journalism institutions, but awards offered by advocacy groups (Lamda Legal, telemarketers, concerned scientists, etc.) always rubbed me the wrong way. I see these advocacy groups using the cartoonists and their work solely as a pawn to bring attention to their cause with very little regard for the actual cartoonist or the work.

Community Comments

#1 Matt Bors
@ 11:03 am


I think you make a mistake by conflating cartooning awards with the
contests put on by Lamda Legal, The Union of Concerned Scientists, and
The Telemarketing Industry (I missed that last one, but placed in the
first two).

They don’t offer awards–they offer prizes for winning the contest. In
both of those contests, Judges pick finalists and Internet Voting was
used to determine the winner. That’s a far cry from having juries give
prestigious awards to cartoonists. I don’t anticipate the phrase
“Lamda Legal contest winning cartoonist” appearing in any one’s bio.

You are right that they merely want to draw attention to their
organization and cause–that’s the whole point of the Internet voting.
I think that’s a bad way to find a winner, but they are there to serve
their own interests, not just promote cartooning itself as an art

In regards to what Daryl Cagle is talking about, I haven’t entered any
major award contests yet, but plan to this year. I certainly won’t be
doing any animation work which I worry will preclude me from even
being considered (not that I have a chance anyway).

Cagle is dead on that it is a bad business decision to start doing
this, but even if it was a good decision I don’t see myself doing it.
It’s something that is completely different from comics–animation vs.
static drawings. Scott McCloud must be disappointed. There’s some good
work being done (Fiore) but it shouldn’t be judged along side comics.
What criteria would you even use to compare the two. That logic would
lead to graphic novels being judged along side animated films.

#2 Alan Gardner
@ 12:01 pm

Matt, as one who as placed in a couple of these contests, what has it done for you? Got more gigs? More prestige?

#3 Matt Bors
@ 12:05 pm

Well, one got me a $50 gift certificate at a comic store!

They haven’t got me any gigs, but I didn’t really put an amazing amount of time into them. I submitted work that I sent out as my regular cartoon.

My only goal was to gain more readers and possibly win some stuff.

#4 Rich
@ 12:54 pm

Daryl’s excerpts make a lot of sense to me (as do Matt’s comments). I appreciate Daryl using his forum to speak out on the topic.

#5 Neal Obermeyer
@ 12:20 pm

I agreed with most of Cagle’s blog, but I’d sure like to win a $50 gift certificate to a comic store!

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