Time Mag posts top 10 editorial cartoons of 2009

Time Magazine has posted their annual top 10 lists, including the top 10 editorial cartoons of 2009. The editorial cartoonists who made the Jimmy Margulies (The New Jersey Record), Walt Handelsman (Newsday), RJ Matson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch ), Clay Bennett (Chattanooga Times Free), Mike Luckovich (Atlanta Journal Constitution), Stuart Carlson (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Mike Smith (Las Vegas Sun), Bruce Plante (Tulsa World). Matson and Luckovich had two cartoons selected.

73 thoughts on “Time Mag posts top 10 editorial cartoons of 2009

  1. Wow. They couldn’t even manage one cartoon that didn’t have a labeled metaphor on it, could they?

    Keith Knight, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen. Perhaps you might want to Google them, Time. They are examples of this unique type of editorial cartoon referred to by some as “funny.”

  2. Hey, at least there were ONLY TWO from Luckovich this time. Last year Time gave him, what, seven out of the ten slots?

  3. Yeah, I couldn’t get them to load without a long wait each time. But they made sure that BOTH of the video ads for the same product loaded completely before trying to load the rest of the page. What a horrible design. More proof that old media just doesn’t get it?

  4. When I saw the headline, my reaction was “here we go again,” but these aren’t too bad. I saw two or three I thought were relatively poor, the others were not bad for mainstream commentary.

    No Jen Sorensen, no Keith Knight, no Matt Bors, and also no Ken Catalino, no Glenn McCoy, no Lisa Benson. A bite out of the middle — about what Time readers would want and expect.

    I’m sure Mother Jones and the Wall Street Journal could each come up with a Top Ten list that would have more bite, mind you. They serve their readerships, too.

  5. The chimp cartoon might be one of the more memorable, but mostly because it touched off a lot of unintended fury, which isn’t exactly the point of the exercise. It’s like Barbara Walters naming Kate of “Kate and Jon” one of her 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009.

    “Best of” and “Most Fascinating” aren’t the same thing, though I suppose “Top 10” could be either.

  6. To those of you who disagree with the list, can you please link to a cartoon that you think should have been included? Naming names is okay – but I’d much prefer to see the specific cartoon.

  7. Jason I would be I think self promoting myself with a link would be far too arrogant.

    Actually for the most part I thought this list had a much better crop of cartoons than last year. I am sure there might be better ones out there but then again isn’t this list limited to cartoons that actually ran in Time over the course of this year?

  8. @Jason:

    Any best-of list that omits Ruben Bolling, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, Tim Eagan, and Tom Tomorrow is automatically out to lunch. Others who ought to be considered, but clearly are not even looked at, include Signe Wilkinson, Ed Hall, Scott Stantis, and too many others to mention.

    I only mind one thing about these lists: their claim of being the “best.” When I began editing the Saturday editorial cartoon round-up for DailyBeast.com, I insisted that it not be called that. And so it isn’t–it’s The Week in Cartoons.

    All these lists are subjective, but the fact that TIME and BECY dare to call their bottom of the barrel dross the best is what I find grating. It’s objectively not true, and an insult to the artists I mentioned above who do create great work.

  9. @Ted – This is a list of top ten cartoons – not cartoonists. I’d really like to see the cartoons that belong on that list from the people you mentioned. You can’t refute a list with generalities. Give me specific cartoons.

  10. @Jason: I agree, it’s a list of cartoons, not cartoonists. Not to be weasely, but the worst Ruben Bolling cartoon or Matt Bors cartoon or Jen Sorensen cartoon, etc. of 2009 is better than those chosen by TIME. The difference in quality is THAT big.

    Why point to a specific one?

  11. Since everybody have complaints here is mine: They should call it “The top 10 US cartoons of the 2009” I mean, do you really think there are not non-american cartoonists doing stuff good enough to be in a “top ten” collection?… (well, maybe not me, but somebody else)… or not, maybe they should label it as “The Top-ten mainstream cartoons of 2009″… that way maybe some other publication could do ” The top ten alternative cartoons of 2009″ but then again, be warned somebody could come up and complain Matt (Bors) is taking too many slots…

    Seriously, in things like movies, music and art TOP ten lists are subjective, if they fit your taste they’re good, if not they don’t. Maybe an interesting way of do one of these things could be to run a contest (maybe in the AAEC site) were every cartoonist has the right to submit one cartoon or two cartoons and one vote, (each cartoonist can’t vote by himself) then, we’ll find out wich cartoons the pros REALLY think are the top ten of the year.

  12. I agree, Pedro, that the US-centric attitude is irritating too.

    The AAEC has recently considered your idea of posting a contest to editorialcartoonists.com, but it just hasn’t come together yet. Really, at this point, it would be nice if TIME and other mainstream media outlets were willing to move boldly into the 1990s and embrace the alt comics revolution that took hold then, even influencing many mainstream daily cartoonists.

  13. I would add your name to your list of must-read editorial cartoonists, Ted. Really.

    Putting aside that top ten lists are stupid, Time’s choices are sort of one big editorial collage in and of itself. It shows you what you’re getting when you read the magazine.

  14. @Ted Rall: I spent some time at editorialcartoonists.com

    I think you could build a much bigger audience there with a forum, using a forum program like vBulletin. Of all the places online that should have a robust forum, that should be it.

    You’ve seen how the lively topics here get the most traffic. Imagine if just about every other cartoon sparked a big argument. You would then encourage those cartoonists who would draw to provoke people, just to get an even bigger argument going. It would be a wonderful madhouse.

    You would get lots of traffic, but more importantly, you would build an *audience*.

    Not to diss Alan’s work here, but a site full of editorial cartoons, and arguments about them, is something different.

  15. Tom — Check out the comments at Universal’s eddy cartoons. Bunch of one-note trolls who barely glance at the cartoon before going off on their hobby horses. Not that most sites aren’t more interested in numbers than quality, mind you.

    As for Pedro’s mention of international cartoons, I would agree and I think it’s sad that Time doesn’t acknowledge the cartoons coming out of the international market. But, as I noted above, this is Time magazine working its own audience. In the Sixties, we used to roll on the floor over what they thought we swingin’ young people were up to. They remain defiantly cloth-eared today, but if they can find an audience, god bless’em.

  16. @Mike – I think that’s mostly because of the discussion format, it doesn’t really encourage a conversation like a threaded forum does.

    The audience at the xkcd website sticks around *because* of the forum. The people who fly by the comic and leave are just traffic.

  17. Thanks, Stephen.

    @Tom: Agree, a forum could be great. I’ll bring it up, though the AAEC has been rather strapped financially lately.

    I must say, however, that my own experience with the Rallforum on my site has been a total disaster. It quickly became inundated with Russian-originated spam to the point that it became utterly useless. Clearing out the Cialis posts is a full-time job; I’m seconds away from calling the whole thing a waste.

    Are there any forum programs that keep spambots out automatically?

  18. @Ted: I did a lot of research into all of the forum programs that are out there. Based on my looking into them, there aren’t any that automatically filter for spam. But of all the programs available, the best at it are the two commercial (cost $) ones – vBulletin and IP Board. I think vBulletin is still considered the best all around, and it’s just about to go to issue with version 4, which is supposed to have a lot of new management tools. It also has an active developer community who can write plugins that make it even more difficult to spam.

    But the most important tool of all is to require registration with a valid email, plus a Recaptcha quiz and maybe a required info question. Force the spammers to use a real human to interact rather than let the robots do it.

    I don’t know how long you’ve been using phpBB, but I know it recently went through a time when a lot of their boards were being spammed. I think they’ve also added some new tools to fight it, but I got the impression they were always playing catch up.

  19. Thanks for the kind words, Ted.

    Regarding TIME’s list, the #1 cartoon actually uses a sinking ship metaphor to describe the economy (well, Wall Street — not quite the same thing!). While I agree with the message of the cartoon, if that ain’t cliched, I don’t know what is.

  20. Just when one thinks political cartoon collections can’t get any more lame or predictable, the new BECY arrives.

    Actually, I take back the “predictable” part. Even I wouldn’t have predicted *this* level of lameness.

  21. I don’t know, John,,,I think this BECY is about par. Why certain still FT political cartoonists don’t submit is a mystery to me ( except for Oliphant ). Are they THAT jaded? Absent minded?
    I know its a non-paying gig, but come on. This is one inexpensive way to support the field and improve the profession.

    Sure, there are some horrid renditions, and some pages of yahtzee’s; but there are a number of ones done by artists that I don’t see elsewhere. At least this year, website addresses were included in the margins…so any of us can check out the larger body of work from contributors.

    Having several hundred cartoons to critique is also somewhat more challenging than ten cartoons by eight artists.

  22. Best of the year? I’d be curious to know if the cartoonists themselves consider these their best work of 2009. I’d bet not.

  23. Actually, Jen, it’s not only a cliche but a misuse of the metaphor. “Rats leaving a sinking ship” is not about nasty cowards deserting in a time of peril. Once the ship is actually going down, the concept no longer applies. It’s based on a myth that rats would desert a ship in the harbor before it left on a voyage from which they somehow knew it was not destined to return.

    So the proper use in an editorial cartoon might be, for instance, Ben Bernanke gets confirmed to another term at the helm of the USS Economy and, as he is being congratulated at the top of the gangway, you see the rats packing their bags and getting off.

  24. About BECY: complaints are not new, and of course there is a lot of gag oriented cartoons, and very amateurish stuff in there sometimes, but… are not the cartoonists by themselves who choose wich cartoons they send?… in my case, most of the stuff I do is local, so my international or US cartoons are many times, maybe very general, I must say, but why cartoonists who think have better and edgier stuff to show don’t send cartoons to the publication?… now, please forgive me if I’m wrong but… is not that some of the profits of this collection go to the AAEC?… why AAEC can’t help in the selection of the material, or encourage cartoonists to send more deeper and edgier stuff?… please don’t take my words as I have something against AAEC, its just that I like it, and think they can help in things like this…

  25. I guess I don’t know how this works. Do the cartoonists themselves submit a sampling of their year’s work to TIME or do TIME’s editors sift through the year’s various published toons?

  26. For some perspective on this year’s BECY, pick up a copy from, say, the 1970s. I think you’ll find that the ratio of bad-to-good is pretty much the same. I’ll grant you that, on the whole, the artwork from 30 years ago is better, but then there’s also much less variety in the styles. The one thing that has remained relatively consistent is how the books are edited (and cartoonists know this eyes wide open when submitting): Generally cartoons with the fewest words and fewest panels are picked — and the ones that best match the limited number of section topics.

    So, yeah, okay, this may not necessarily bring out the best. If I were in charge, I’d beg Oliphant to reprint his year’s work, sprinkle in my favorite alty stuff, and call it good. Which is among the many reasons why I should not be in charge.

  27. The way in which the book is compiled is sort of beside the point. True, they can’t print work from cartoonists who don’t submit; still, any cartoon collection that doesn’t include samples from Wilkinson, Horsey, Rogers, Davies, Higgins, Morin, Benson or any of the nationally syndicated altie artists should not call itself the “best” of anything. Factor in the number of amateur cartoonists who have four of five cartoons featured while acknowledged major leaguers like Bagley and Bennett have only one each, and the selection process grows even more curious.

  28. Apologies for honoring the internet comment board tradition of not actually reading the subject at hand before opining. Bagley and Bennett have only one each? That’s messed up.

  29. I always get a chuckle when the “Best OF’ argument comes up every year. People who fret about these things are putting way too much worry and thought into it.

    The term “Best Of” is merely a marketing tool and means nothing. ANY best of list is totally subjective. A real best of list will never truly exist.

    Regarding the Time Magazine list, I can tell you exactly how it was derived at:

    An editor gets reminded by his boss that it’s time to put the annual “Best Of list together.

    He moans.

    He searches through his file cabinet or desktop folder to quickly browse through the cartoons he received from the syndicates they subscribe to.

    He picks a few he likes.

    He runs them by the guy in the next cubicle who says “Yeah, those are fine.”

    He sends them to layout.

    He goes home for the weekend.

  30. Maybe if people keep complaining about the “best of” tag, moronic editors will stop using it. Might take 30 or 40 more years, though, and by then we’ll all be drowned by rising oceans anyway.

  31. I made it in BECY for the first time this year, and found it ironic that it was one of the few single-panel single-gag cartoons I did for the entire year. In fact, thumbing through the 200-odd-page book, I found maybe 3 or 4 cartoons that actually had more than one panel. And, of course, nothing by Jen, Matt, Keith, or Tom Tomorrow. Ted and Stephanie McMillan both got cartoons in, meaning THREE (!!!) alternative cartoonists made it into the book. Frankly, I’m amazed.

    I’m happy to get noticed, but yeah, I agree with Brian F. “Best of” is such an arbitrary term especially in cartooning.

  32. I counted 42 multi-panel cartoons, including the ones without borders. Still in the minority, but a fair sampling.

    The “Best Of” of anything is inherently subjective. I think of the game show “Family Feud”, where the answers are the 100 most popular. One might poll a thousand different people and get 1,000 different responses for the “best” cartoon.

    I often appropriate Conrad’s reply when asked to name my favorite cartoon of my making:
    “My last one”.

  33. August,

    The BECY book edited by Charles Brooks is pretty easy to get into. Really, just submit at least 5 cartoons and the odds are at least one will make it in.

    How do I know this? Because one of my cartoons ended up in this year’s book. And wouldn’t you know it, the one cartoon they picked is my weakest (I only did 5 editorial cartoons this year; I decided to not pursue this field and gave up).

  34. I don’t know whether it was a sign of being easy to get into or not, but I had three cartoons chosen for the BECY Brooks collection, and I didn’t even submit. I just received notice and would I please answer some questions and would I participate in promotional activities if necessary?
    I echo August’s sentiment that it is good to be noticed, and not for something negative! Whether my (or anyone else’s) work in these collections are our best, someone liked them enough to include them. Something to be said for that.

  35. “The BECY book edited by Charles Brooks is pretty easy to get into. Really, just submit at least 5 cartoons and the odds are at least one will make it in.”

    My submissions did not make it in.

  36. About this year’s Cagle’s book… is the index complete in Amazon preview?… I think is great to see a lot of interesting people in there, including international colleagues… but I’m missing several big names too…

  37. Unfortunately, the Cagle version isn’t better than BECY.

    We’d be better off with a collection of AAEC cartoons wherein each member simply submitted 3-5 toons and they all ran.

  38. Has anyone seen the “Prizewinning Political Cartoons” series? At least I think it’s a series…I saw the 2008 Edition and I’ve heard there is one coming out next year, a 2010 Edition.

    It contains the winning cartoons from all the big competitions in the year. I’d say that’s really a “Best of” book of interest.

  39. @Peter:
    Never heard of it. But very few editorial cartoonists would agree that the contests are won by the best work in any given year.

  40. I have had toons in BECY for the last 4 years. Usually, they pick the ones I think were edgy. This time, of the 5 I submitted, 4 were edgy….one wasn’t. Guess which one was picked? Go ahead…guess. Yep, the ‘diet-version’. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m happy for the extra bit of free publicity! Can you imagine how many other inkslingers CANNOT brag to their editors, friends,family and perspective clients that they have had a toon published in a nationally printed Best-Of compilation? Merry Christmas to ME!….and to each of YOU as well!

  41. one other thought…..someone asked for alternative toons that might’ve been better. Click on my name ….scroll down to the (8-3-09 and 7-27-09) toons. One is labeled ‘kegger’ the other ‘healthcare’. I would’ve bet the farm that both of them would’ve made it in. Not so. Go figure. Like I said though….who can complain with free publicity?

  42. @Rich, I don’t think so. We looked into the possibility of publishing our own toon anthology a few years ago and ran into a couple of structural problems.

    First, the market is already glutted with the the BECY and Cagle collections.

    Second, we can’t justify risking members’ money on a venture that might fail.

    What we need is a an angel in the form of one of our wealthier members to step up to the plate. The fact that we have many members who earn well over $200,000 a year–some over $500,000–yet don’t make charitable contributions to the AAEC is unconscionable. Editorial cartoonists criticize rich people for being cheap, then act the same way when they make it. It’s ridiculous. Why don’t we hold ourselves to account?

  43. I can understand not wanting to risk AAEC dues money on that kind of venture, but maybe a sub-group of members would be interested in funding something like that. It seems odd to call for an angel at the same time as stirring up class-envy. Maybe staying positive and approaching a few folks privately would work. Maybe you already tried this … just a thought.

    I like the idea of a publication where the cartoonist decides which 4 or 5 of their own they like best. Seems like it has potential.

  44. I used to buy the Best Of books. Looking back, I enjoyed the art but felt like it was sort of “Lawrence Welk” tame material. So I got bored, never reread them and stopped buying.

    And maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but inbetween projects or during lunch I used to read all of the cartoons on cagle.com. Some were gems, do doubt, but for whatever reason I would start falling asleep. Every time.

    It was like reading that many editorial cartoons in a row, many repeating the exact same joke, had some sort of sedative effect on my brain, akin to counting sheep.

    So I just can’t read all that while I’m working. I need an edgy compilation to perk me up. It probably means I need more sleep.

  45. That’s amazing timing, Ted. I just received an Amazon gift certificate this afternoon. It’s on my order! (I’m starting with the 2002 Volume and will work my way up).

  46. Why would a cartoon collection fall into the category of civic responsibility? Well, rhetorical questions aside, I think it would neat if it were to happen. Maybe an agenda item for AAEC.

    Could do one as an e-book, but I don’t think an e-book would have the impact or reach as many. I think the collection could very well end up in major bookstores given the folks and association that could be behind it.

    Worst case, you might have enough for a cartoon-a-day calendar.

    Then again, if some publisher picked it up (vs. self-publishing it) and you had to split proceeds umpty-squat ways, might not pan out. How about proceeds going to AAEC first year just to test the water? Perhaps the real barrier is getting someone to organize it as well as sponsor it.

    Alas, another seemingly good idea trampled to death before it even got started. ;(

  47. Wanna do something right? Do it yourself. And that’s what I’m going to do. I have a hunch readers will welcome an annual comp of edgy political cartoons.

  48. An ebook might have limited distribution today, but the time is coming when a few Kindles, Nooks, or iSlates are what are scattered about the coffee table. Or the coffee table top itself is interactive. An eCalendar cartoon a day could work then too.

  49. At the risk of raising the hated E-word, collections are one time when exposure has value. You’re putting your work in front of readers who have shown a willingness to spend money, but perhaps on a genre (editorial cartoons) or because they recognize and like certain artists (but haven’t seen you.).

    In order for this to work, of course, you have to have your own product waiting in the wings and you have to make sure that reader who was charmed by your work knows about it.

    So if there were an annual collection, priced low enough to encourage casual readers but with some cost to show commitment by those readers, and if it were well-promoted so that readers didn’t have to be fanatics to find it, and if it displayed web addresses for each cartoonist, and if each of those cartoonists then updated their web sites with fresh material and the chance to buy their wonderful individual collections, it would be worth doing.

    Alternatively, you could sit around and wait for all that to happen on its own.

  50. So, when you say “edgy,” Ted, will it include both edges? Glenn McCoy as well as Ted Rall, Chuck Asay as well as Matt Bors, Ken Catalino as well as Jen Sorensen?

    Serious question. I probably wouldn’t buy one that only represented one “edge” and I’m pretty sure you’d get more MSM boost from one that showed both.

  51. An excellent question, Mike, and the answer is yes.

    Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t discriminate based on political orientation. One of my disappointments in the ATTITUDE series was that (a) there are next to no decent right-wing altie cartoonists and (b) the few there were don’t seem to answer email.

    Some of my favorite cartoonists are right-wingers: Chuck Asay, Scott Stantis, Mike Lester, etc. I’ll definitely want their work in there.

    Overall, I’m going to invite ALL editorial cartoonists to send in their hardest-hitting work. Even cartoonists who do a lot of mainstream work do stuff that’s edgy (and doesn’t make Time or USA Today). I want that stuff in there.

    I remember when I first looked at BECY back in the ’70s and ’80s, I wasn’t aware of the fact that it so poorly represented the work being done in newspapers. All I knew was, if this was what editorial cartooning was, it wasn’t very good. If there had been another book that contained great cartoons by people like Jules Feiffer, I would have bought that in a heartbeat.

    People into political cartoons prefer the ass-kicking ones, not the milquetoast pap that runs in these anthologies.

    Thanks, Stephen Beals! This is going to be awesome.

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