Time reveals their top 10 editorial cartoons

Time Magazine has posted their top 10 editorial cartoons for the year. Gary Varvel of the The Indianapolis Star took two of the slots. Heng Kim Song of Singapore and Matthew Diffee, a frequent New Yorker cartoonist, were two non-American-newspaper staff cartoonists to be so honored. Other cartoonists named in this years top 10 include: Bob Gorrell, Chip Bok, RJ Matson, Nate Beeler, Walt Handelsman and Rob Rogers.

UPDATE: Time Magazine’s picks now cite Chris Jurek, not Matthew Diffee as the cartoonist on #10.

53 thoughts on “Time reveals their top 10 editorial cartoons

  1. Nice of them to add those headlines to spoil the punchlines of each cartoon as you go through.

    Editors. They have this obsession about explaining things. What must they be like in bed???

  2. That has to be one of the WORST top ten lists in memory. The only two that would merit consideration would have been #3: Bok “Hillary=Stuart Smalley” and #5: Beeler “Tina Fey a good Palin”.
    The others were just not of a compelling enough issue, despite the artistry. Gorrell, Matson, Handelsman, and Rogers all had better cartoons over the year.
    Heng’s was good, if a bit of a chestnut.
    Varvel was typical right wing myth perpetuation, and the last one by Jurek was awful. A depiction of a list? Really lazy.

    In a year where a truly historic event transpired in the U.S. ; with ramifications for the world ( the election of a black man )…and with the capitalist economic system disintegrating, These were the best?

  3. I got my copy of Time today. If that’s the best 10 editorial cartoons of the year, then our venerable BECY collection (which also arrived today and always generates a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from AAEC members) looks positively fabulous by comparison. The folks at Pelican Publishing should be sending a thank-you gift to Time headquarters.

  4. … and might I add it features perhaps the most COMPLETE roundup of gee-ain’t-Sarah-Palin-da-bomb? cartoons I’ve found anywhere.


  5. Is that the same Bob Borgman who said he no longer was going to contribute to BECY collection because it was so bad? 🙂
    Were did time rank itself on the top ten list of worst top ten lists of the year?

  6. if you look at the tab at the top of the time web page you will see it says “best… and worst lists.” so, they’re covered.

    what sort of selection scenario could possibly be behind this result? given the selections here, is there any way someone, even an intern, sat down and chose these cartoons over any other cartoons?

  7. One day in the near future(hell, maybe it’s here already) people will absolutely not believe that there was a time when there were critical, skewering, and viciously perceptive cartoons that ran in newspapers. Sadly, that race now seems to have been run.

  8. Serious question for fellow AAECers:

    As AAEC prez I’d like to write a complaint letter to Time, but how do I take them to task for those shitty choices without specifically insulting the cartoonists whose work was included in the list?

  9. “…how do I take them to task for those [bad] choices without specifically insulting the cartoonists whose work was included in the list?”

    That would be a tightrope act of historic note, Ted. I honestly don’t know how it could be done, so you’ll just have look at the greater good and couch it as diplomatically as possible.

    Of course, when it comes to diplomacy, I’m the last guy you’d want to take advice from… correction… second to the last. I almost forgot about Mike Lester. 🙂

  10. >>>As AAEC prez Iâ??d like to write a complaint letter to Time, but how do I take them to task for those shitty choices without specifically insulting the cartoonists whose work was included in the list?

    Um…I think you just did Ted….insult the cartoonists that is…

  11. it seems like you would, first, need to clearly define and be ready to state exactly what is the problem with these selections to lodge a complaint. is it simply that the list raised 10 or 12 negative comments on this board? are you upset with the whole list or one or two of the selections? are you going to reference other aaec membersâ?? opinions of the selections in your protest or is this going to be entirely your opinion?

    if you are worried about criticizing aaec membersâ?? work then the focus should be on getting some details about their selection process, because a legitimate process could not have produced this result.

    toward that end, i would:
    – ask how they define a â??top 10â? editorial cartoon
    – ask for insight into the process. who is involved? how are they pulling together candidate cartoons? how are they narrowing down to the final 10?
    – pull together one or two cartoons by each of the artists represented that are better than the cartoons presented as examples of why their selections may be lacking.
    – also pull together one or two cartoons by other artists on the topics represented. go ahead and select cartoons that you feel or that other aaec members feel are better than the cartoons selected. again, someone has to have an opinion of what is wrong with this group to complain about it. the clearest picture of a problem selection is to present a better alternative.
    – ask why, with over 100 working editorial cartoonists, they dipped into the gag cartooning ranks to fill out the list. how did they come to this cartoonists work? can they name other gag cartoonists work they reviewed to find work with editorial content?
    – ask if by including an international artist they are saying they have reviewed all the international cartoons dealing with american issues. if so, is this, in their opinion, the single best international cartoon on american issues created in 2008?
    – can they name for you some of the other international cartoonists work they reviewed?

    just a suggestion.

  12. I don’t know about insulting the cartoonists — these don’t seem to me to represent the best work of any of them. That’s the way awards generally work, isn’t it? They salute something that you thought was pretty run-of-the-mill and ignore the stuff you were particularly proud of.

    On the other hand, I don’t know that there’s much point in telling TIME Magazine that their taste stinks. Think they’re gonna say, “Oh, wow — he’s right, of course!”

    But if they do, write them another letter and straighten them out on rock music, cinema and some other stuff, okay? ‘Cause editorial cartoons isn’t the only area where TIME might be accused of having some Wonder Bread standards.

  13. (Speaking as an editor and aficianado, of course — not an AAEC member or even an EC. But, doggonit, I’ve been passed over for that “Sexiest Man In America” thing several times and I’m about to write People Magazine a letter myself … )

  14. Perhaps you could just suggest that, in the future, they might consider having one or two non-cartoonists (outside of Time magazine) who are expert in the field of editorial cartooning to make the selection. Mike Peterson, Lucy Caswell and Nick Meglin (retired MAD magazine editor) would be my pick off the top of my head.

  15. Given the piece of visual crap that Time has become, Ted, I think no response from you as AAEC prez. is needed.

    That magazine now looks like it is put together by a group of graphic designers on PCP.

  16. “how do I take them to task for those shitty choices without specifically insulting the cartoonists whose work was included in the list?”

    I’d say the simple point that those cartoonists themselves would probably say that those weren’t their best cartoons of the year…

    For example, perusing Nate Beeler’s recent archive, I’d say he’s done quite a few that are way better than the one Time picked.

  17. It is true that, by and large, the bad choices are more about bad cartoons than bad cartoonists. I am consistently amazed at how cartoonists whose bad work appeared in, say, Newsweek in a given week did two or three better ones the same week that they passed over.

  18. In the grand scheme of things, editorial cartoonists’ jobs being eliminated left and right, how does this even warrant a response?

    It’s their magazine, let them make their choices.

    It’s in line with the annual moaning and groaning about what cartoons should have appeared in Charles Brooks’ “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year” book. If the energy spent griping about that every year was directed towards a more constructive cause, at least one cartoonist’s job might have been saved.

    Do you even realize how many cartoonists’ names will be eliminated from Charles Brook’s annual?

    I’m not saying don’t address the “best of the year” issues, I’m saying when the Titanic is going down, it seems a bit unfocused to whine about what song the band is playing.

    My note to the cartoonists whose work was awarded by Time magazine is CONGRATULATIONS ON KEEPING YOUR JOB!

  19. I truly wonder just how much time and effort was actually put into making this selection of cartoons, and just who’s job it was. My guess is it was done during their lunch break.

  20. Number 1 and number 6 were good. It’s been my experience that no one likes the winners of any contest. Especially those that were in the running. Not that this was a contest per say.. but yeah.

  21. Don’t forget labels, Mike. Lots and lots of labels. You know, like having the subject’s name plastered across their chest… just like we all have in real life.

    Being creative takes waaaaaaaay too much time.

  22. I agree with Mike completely re. shopworn imagery and metaphors. I also admit to breaking that rule on occasion, but compensate with abundant self-loathing.

    I semi-mostly-sorta-agree with Wiley. Brevity is the soul of wit and labelling is its graphic enemy. I drew a stinker last week for which I should have been flogged. BUT: There are times when it’s necessary to slap a name on a school board director, city council member or other local/state/federal official who’s basically unknown to the reader.

  23. The best way to approach Time is to ask them a question. It can be phrased something like this “Why did you pick that Clay Jones cartoon over the 15 others with the duplicate idea?” (see how I picked on myself there so as not to offend anyone?).
    If we yell at them they’ll just go into denial or ignore mode…if we ask them a question, maybe they’ll think.

  24. I think it’s important. Many readers, including some editors, will look at a list like this and think that it represents the best of what editorial cartooning has to offer–and that if this is the best we have to offer, well, we suck and can easily be dispensed with.

  25. “There are times when itâ??s necessary to slap a name on a school board director, city council member or other local/state/federal official whoâ??s basically unknown to the reader.”

    And it is precisely those times that the cartoonist needs to find another, CREATIVE way to make that identity known WITHOUT slapping a label across their chest. Cartoonists who resort to using labels like that are simply being lazy and phoning the work in, which is why the art form is deserving of it’s death. Perhaps the perception Ted speaks of in his last post really is representative of the “best” the profession has to offer today.

    It’s like dealing with a drug addict. You can’t help them to help themselves until they’ve hit rock bottom, assuming they live long enough to hit rock bottom. The entire profession, including the AAEC, is still acting as an enabler right now rather than conducting an intervention.

  26. Like I said: I kinda-sorta-mostly agree with Wiley. Well, toss out the “mostly” part. The death of political cartooning will be more the result of mismanagement, over-mortgaged newspapers and impatient bankers than because readers are turned off by a drawing of some obscure (keyword there) official with a name slapped across his jacket or hiney.

    And an occasional drink now and then doesn’t warrant an intervention.

  27. “And an occasional drink now and then doesnâ??t warrant an intervention.”

    How many more long time cartoonists losing their jobs does it take to realize this is more than an occasional drink? Cartoonists and the laziness of the profession as a whole has made itself expendable leading to its own demise. Blaming editors and publishers is just more denial of the real problem.

  28. “Serious question for fellow AAECers:
    As AAEC prez Iâ??d like to write a complaint letter to Time, but how do I take them to task for those shitty choices without specifically insulting the cartoonists whose work was included in the list?” -TRALL

    I’d start w/ “Roger Clemens”. Not picking on Walt but he’d probably tell you he did more important work. So would others I would bet and that would be my argument: that a BEST OF list should represent the events that shaped the year and the most insightful, creative reactions they evoked from America’s working* editorial cartoonists. Simple as that.

    TIME’s list was compiled by two guys twittering each other.

    *kitchen table cartoonists prohibited. contracted and compensated only.

  29. Labels are not killing editorial cartooning. Labels are A-OK…..IF they are used with an imagery concept that CHALLENGES the readers general assumption on an issue.

    The Time selection is exhibit A that the art is dead in general newspapers, The Time selection is proof that newspaper editorial cartooning is dead. This canary has been dead for decades.

    The general newspaper market environment no longer supports challenging imagery. The market wants what Time is holding up as their best. The market wants graphic filler…even if it’s nothing more than a presidential list of things to do type of cartoon. The market demands super safe just-address-the-issue don’t challenge anybody illustrations. This is what Time magazine wants and this is what they got.

    Sadly, other editors will see this Time selection as confirmation that a cartoon should be non-challenging imagery.

    As my good friend Wiley, proved to me that EDITORIALIZING is no longer. Newspaper editors/publishers only want to be ENTERTAINED.

    Exhibit B that editorial cartooning is dead is Ed Hall’s suspension for producing a challenging cartoon instead of simply addressing via a safe Time magazine illustration.

  30. Well Ted simply by your comments here you’ve already insulted the cartoonists in question. Even the concept of writing a letter to Time to complain is insulting to them. Some of them have proudly already found out.

    It is a matter of whether or not you are willing to harm a potentially few delicate egos or not. Personally I think most of the list stinks and none of it merits a “best of label”. However I really don’t think Time gives a flip about who you are or the fact you’re the current president of the AAEC. It means they might print your letter, but I doubt they would give your points serious consideration.

  31. “Labels are not killing editorial cartooning.”

    Of course not. It’s just one of the symptoms of lazy, uncreative work that has led to the insignificance of the profession.

  32. Also there’s really no way out of the current loop. The current generation of editors wants cartoons that are harmlessly entertaining because that’s what they believe the public wants. There’s a market for it so there are some individuals that will always cater to that market. If the current group entertainers “entertain-all cartoonists?” were to disappear a new group would pop up to replace them right away.

    Cartoonist that wish to editorialize will be a fringe group until a new generation of editors wishes for something more biting. Who knows when that will happen or what the market for the profession will look like by then.

  33. “Real” editorial cartoons will make a comeback only when a new generation of people understand what they are, and what they are for. I’ve touched on this before in other forums, but I believe that this is a societal issue. Quite frankly, we’ve raised a generation of wussies. Plain and simple. Until people grow some thicker skin it’ll be this way. I saw it when I was teaching art classes. I had students coming in that had never been told “no,” or where their work was lacking. They thought everything was “perfect” (insert fragrant flowers and star dust here).

  34. i really have to second ed’s commentary. most definitely. my experience from walking the halls and interacting with the average high school student leaves me with a perpetual cold chill up and down my spine.

    honesty, it seems, has no place in a modern, secondary education setting.

    when i was coming up, it was to expected that you’d be bullied a little. it was something you put up with and inevitably it would make you stronger.

    this generation, by and large, will sooner get a gun than clench their fist and fight back.

    the scary thing is: the students have all the power now. you literally can’t even LOOK at a student in a condescending way without getting a call from a parent.

    makes me glad i changed my major to art from education. i weep for the future.


    Available in sizes petite through XXXL. Makes the perfect stocking stuffer.

  36. Here’s what bothers me about this whole “DEATH OF EDITORIAL CARTOONING” thing: has anyone stopped doing them (unless they’re retiring or taking on a major change in career path)? We really need to distinguish between what’s going on in the newspaper/print industry with what’s going on with the art form. People are still drawing cartoons, and they’re still talking about political/editorial issues in those cartoons. And they’re still going to try to get paid for doing those cartoons. That’s not going to change.

    Newspapers are dying. Magazines are dying. Editorial cartooning is fine.

    Discussions about style and quality are good — it keeps the art form fresh and relevant.

    It’s either this or we all go to business school … (~shiver~)…

  37. “Newspapers are dying. Magazines are dying. Editorial cartooning is fine.”

    This doesn’t work, because the online paradigm and the support of advertisers has not been worked out yet. The problem there is, the internet started out as an “everything is free” ideology. And while it looks certain that everything is in fact moving online, until the advertising dollars are there, it just won’t work.

    Unless you want to work for free – which I, for one, am not prepared to do.

    If you work for a newspaper, freelance or full-time staff, don’t kid yourself into believing that advertising dollars are not what pays you.

  38. I’m doing animated editorial cartoons, so it might be different, but I think there’s nothing wrong at all with being entertaining. Sullivan’s Travels.

    I think whatever message there is should be slyly carried under the entertainment. Engage, entertain, THEN spread the meme.

    Similarly, many of the movies made under the Hays Code had to hide the sex talk in clever dialogue, and were better for it. The racehorse discussion in Double Endemnity being a classic example.

    This also reminds me of an interview with the lyricist for AC/DC wherein he claimed that their lyrics were more clever at hiding the sex talk than other less talented bands. Sink the Pink?

  39. Right… I agree, Ed… when I say “editorial cartooning is fine,” I don’t mean monetarily. Clearly we’re facing serious challenges, along with every other group of content-providers. What I mean is, we shouldn’t be saying stuff like labels (or laziness) are “killing the art form” or mean that “it deserves to die.” People are doing good work — the art form is strong. The mere fact that people care enough to criticize lazy work is proof of that.

  40. As others have stated financially the profession is nearly dead. Creatively it might be at its strongest but what’s the use if these artist can’t find an audience or make a living doing it.

    From my personal experience Mr. Wood is correct. I do live caricature for a living. Caricature is supposed to be an art form where you collect anatomical and personal details and create a drawing that summarizes these details. Instead nearly everyone thinks caricatures are supposed to be cute cartoony drawings with big toothy grins. You pick your battles and figure out how far you can take things. If you have any desire to preserve your artistic integrity you learn to be subversive. You learn to do drawings that look cute but still slip in some actual caricature. If you fail to give people the cute crap they want you’ll be financially hurting. Especially now.

    Similarly editors want cute entertaining crap. Give them the crap they demand and slip things in. Subversion is fun and challenging. Once you get good at it you’ll be surprised how much you can slip in.

    The reason I dislike a lot of these entertainment oriented cartoonists is because they don’t change. Sloppy artwork and similar jokes.

    Mr. Rall I respect you, and over the past few months I’ve come to respect a lot of the cartoonists here. I’m politely posing this question to everyone, but specifically to Mr. Rall because of how he announced he should write Time magazine. Honest to god aside from other cartoonists who cares what any of us think? If enough people actually cared you wouldn’t be in this situation creatively or financially in the first place.

  41. “Subversion is fun and challenging. Once you get good at it youâ??ll be surprised how much you can slip in.”

    Clay Bennett’s cartoons are among the wickedest in the art form because he doesn’t go at his targets with an ax and he doesn’t mistake rudeness or crudeness for “honesty.”

    Part of it is style — like Ann Telnaes, Bennett has a deceptively smooth style that doesn’t shriek “attitude,” though of course her approach is far more direct and confrontational. But in both cases, you tend to approach those simple, smooth lines as if you were walking into a kid’s cartoon.

    (Incidentally, I was once at a national conference where a fellow selling educational material about political cartoons told me that Ann and Clay were married. This did not induce me to buy his product, but it certainly set me to dreaming about what their children would end up drawing.)

  42. â??Subversion is fun and challenging. Once you get good at it youâ??ll be surprised how much you can slip in.â?

    Exactly the point I was trying to get across. This is the essence of creativity, as opposed to perceived security homogenized work that permeates the profession. It’s this crutch of sameness that has helped lead to our own demise. Sorry if that upsets some folks here, but unless you face a problem, there’s no hope of resolving it. And this problem has the entire art form on it’s death bed, as far as traditional editorial cartooning goes.

    But political satire will, and is, finding alternative outlets. The trick is to be able to make a living at it in the same vein as we had in the past with newspapers.

  43. I just watched ‘Christmas in Connecticut’ for the first time. Barbara Stanwyck. There’s a well done scene where she’s talking to the Bellamy character and a friend is serving her some food. Bellamy says something and the friend offers ‘baloney’. He’s says something else, and the friend offers ‘nuts’. The whole movie is filled with that sort of dialogue. The scene in ‘Casablanca’ where she is considering buying a scarf from a street vendor is filled with sexual innuendo of the worst sort, but it slips right by. Yeah, subversion.

  44. I’d like to thank Mike Peterson for the comments about my work. I really appreciate the generous critique.

    I would correct Mike (or, more accurately, the salesman Mike quoted) on my marital status. I am not married to Ann Telnaes (a fact for which Ann is quite grateful, I’m sure). I am, instead, the lucky husband of the beautiful and talented Cindy Procious- a former editorial cartoonist, now oil painter extraordinaire.


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