Cagle: What editors want

Daryl Cagle, editorial cartoonist and founder of Cagle Cartoons, has posted his advise to any editorial cartoonist that wants to do better marketing him/herself.

Here is his first piece of advice:


There is a self-important attitude that editorial cartoonists develop, thinking of themselves as serious journalists who draw about serious issues; most editors don?t think of us that way; most readers are not interested in what serious cartoonists want to draw.

Editors like funny cartoons about topics that readers are most interested in ? rather than poignant cartoons about today?s most important issues. To see what readers are interested in, look at the Today Show web site, or the magazines at the supermarket checkout aisle. To make editors happy, and to get reprinted more, cartoonists should draw more celebrities than politicians; we should have opinions about diet and exercise as well as the Middle East.

He goes on to advocate NOT drawing local or being offensive, and DO embrace pay-per-use. Check out his blog post for all of his ideas.

127 thoughts on “Cagle: What editors want

  1. I Dunno, seems like there’s a whole section of the paper (although in most cases it IS shrinking) that already contains funny cartoons , the “Comics” section. Editorial cartoons SHOULD be though provoking & “poignant cartoons about today?s most important issues.” Otherwise, they cease to be editorial. This makes me glad I’ve quit drawing Political Comics.

    Anyway, I’m sure Ted Rall will have much more to say about this. By the way, Ted, did you & Matt happen to practice your Lindsey Lohan caricature while in Afghanistan?

  2. …I’m with Kelly,some what, my method and thinking has been, to entertain,educate and inspire, the three “E”s an a lot of enlightenment, some editors like this philosophy and many don’t,guess that’s why I haven’t made a living at Cartooning, but it is my life…I’ll stay true to myself, and to hell what some editors think, opps ,there goes six or seven assignments, I say ; it is time to make sense ,”Repeal the 19th ammendment”, it was a crazy idea and probably unconstitutional anyway….

  3. Take this to its logical conclusion, and someone will build an editorial cartoon app that ‘draws’ from a database of characters, things, and themes. Then the editors just type in something like “Gay Republican sex scandal at Christmas involving a motorcycle ” and the app will put all the pieces in place. They can type in their own punchline (since all editors are writers) or pick one already ‘written’ for them. Select ‘random’ might create something actually funny.

  4. To me, editorial cartoons should be poignant, edgy and challenge the reader through humor. Making cartoons safe and appealing to the audience that watches the Today Show and reads supermarket newspapers is so wrong. Catering to the Stepford Wives. Blech. Thomas Nast, Herblock and Paul Conrad would not approve and neither should any other cartoonist. Of course this is probably why I’m not being published…

  5. His advice was for cartoonists who desire to be PUBLISHED and therefore PAID. If you don’t want to be published and don’t care about getting paid, draw whatever you want for whatever reason you want, it’s all good…

  6. Well I know most of the serious toons I turn in get killed. The silly ones pretty much get printed.

    I think editors want to keep the critics quiet and sell advertising, not provoke ideas or God forbid thinking. I think Daryl is right.

  7. Daryl’s dancing around the correct term: Sell Out.

    But to be honest, if your goal is to better market yourself universally to sell more cartoons, then that is what you have to do. Dumb it Down. That’s another term Daryl dances around here.

  8. If all of these are true, then Daryl needs to add another item to the list: “How to hide your complete and utter for spineless lemmings who call themselves editor.”

  9. … clearly I am not an editor…

    If all of these are true, then Daryl needs to add another item to the list: ?How to hide your complete and utter CONTEMPT for spineless lemmings who call themselves editor.?

  10. Quoting Daryl: “There is a self-important attitude that editorial cartoonists develop, thinking of themselves as serious journalists who draw about serious issues…”

    Daryl has made a very accurate assessment – just read the comments here! LOL

  11. Somewhere along the line the art of caricature seemed to die in political cartooning and was replaced by wordy talking heads and simple pictographs. They just don’t dazzle the way they used to.

    Oliphant is one of the last of the great caricaturists. Every figure in his work- from everyman to the President- is drawn with thought and meant to depict a specific and laugh-out-loud FUNNY stereotype. His standards have never dropped.

    Only cartoonists can do that but these days it seems most can’t or won’t.

    Cartoons never fell out of favor with the readers but they did with the powers that be at the newspapers. I’m not defending the editors and publishers but the blame can’t all be placed on their “fear” of editorial cartoons.

    I think the issues are deeper than that.

  12. Then again. Daryl Cagle ceased to be a serious editorial cartoonist some time ago. By this logic all journalists should quit writing about serious subjects and just start celebrity gossip blogs because, you know…hey. That’s what people want, right? And who cares about serious journalism anyways. Clearly not Mr. Cagle, who has shown a clear disinterest in the longevity of the craft of editorial cartooning in favor of the cannibalization of it’s practitioners in the interest of his personal bottom line.

  13. @Steve, he did just he opposite with the bullet-ridden Mexican flag, so I think you may be a bit harsh on the guy. The key qualifier is what editors want. He didn’t say that’s what he did, wanted to do or agreed with.

    I can’t speak for editors but I like Woodrow’s 3 E’s #2, and find that I generally appreciate humor in editorial cartoons even when I don’t like the point being made. It can soften the blow and keep people more open to considering other views. Those trying to be deadly serious all the time, I’d have to go with Daryl’s assessment of self-importance. The blogs where cartoonists attempt to explain their cartoons I find generally detract rather than help. If you didn’t get it with the cartoon, the explanation doesn’t help … and if you did, it doesn’t help either. 😉

  14. I made a comment underneath Daryl’s link to this column on Facebook.

    McDonalds can tell you how to sell a billion cheeseburgers but they can’t tell you how to make a good cheeseburger.

    Daryl replied that no one has asked him how to draw a good cartoon.

    Everything Daryl wrote about SELLING is absolutely right. I agree with just about all of it.

    You can draw the best cartoons in the world and never win a Pulitzer. You can draw the funniest, simplest, most artistic cartoons in the world and never make Newsweek. You can do opposite of all that and win Pulitzers and make Newsweek. The only thing you can really control is what you put on paper.

    My advice (literally worth about two cents): Figure out what kind of cartoonist you want to be. You can’t change how other people cartoon. Be true to yourself. I think (for example) Steve Kelley and Pat Oliphant are both doing that.

  15. Pat – if the powers that be don’t like the cartoons/comics/cartoonists and comics are one of the most important.popular features with readers, then why do you think the powers that be don’t hype up the comics to their upmost? It doesn’t make sense…..they would increase their readership tenfold it seems….they should see the power webcomics are taking away from their domain and try to incorporate these ideas into their business practices……just a thought…..

  16. Hard data seems to contradict Daryl’s assertion.

    Whether it’s online round-ups of editorial cartoons or syndicate websites where they are aggregated, the most popular cartoons with readers are the hardest-hitting, edgiest, and often wordiest. The fluffy stuff doesn’t sell well to readers.

    It may be true that editors prefer the crappy hack work Daryl says we should be doing to sell more. If so, it merely provides another explanation for why newspapers were losing circulation long before the Internet came along: editors refuse to give readers the edgy content that they want.

  17. I don’t think I was clear in the last post.

    By “the most popular cartoons with readers,” I mean online. The Internet provides the first chance to track which cartoonists do better with readers.

  18. For instance, when a syndicate website has several editorial cartoonists, it knows how many people click each cartoon. Same thing with round-ups. Over time, it becomes obvious that edgier work is much more popular with readers.

  19. So, Ted, you disagree – are you are saying MOST readers ARE interested in what serious cartoonists want to draw?

    Because that is the main premise of Daryl’s article. That MOST readers are NOT interested in serious stuff by serious cartoonists…

    Seems like an obvious point, hardly contentious to say that people would rather laugh out loud while they are looking at a political cartoon.

  20. Dave, I don’t think Ted’s against humor. His own work is funny.
    What I think he’s saying, and I agree with, serious subjects and issues are better than just a gag cartoon. A point within the cartoon, a statement, is what readers want more than someone making a Lindsay Lohan joke.

    Daryl is stating otherwise…that gags sell better because that’s what editors want. Daryl is right. Editors want soft. Look at any round up. You’ll see a cartoon with a point here and there but nothing very edgy.

    I’m not sure what readers want but I do know editors want softer cartoons. I hope readers want edgy but I’m not as prepared as Ted to say they do.

  21. I’d love to see those hard numbers. Anecdotally – what gets passed around via email (viral spread) tends to be funny, non-serious cartoons. That might just be a reflection on my friends and family, but wordy, edgy stuff isn’t what I notice that resonates with “the people.”


  22. I am not legally able to share the details of what I know. But the numbers are definitely there. The same rule applies to comics: edgy sells.

    I think Daryl is conflating what editors want with what readers want. Since editors decide whether you get paid or picked up, he’s right that stupid silly dross is more likely to pay off for you.

    But smart editors don’t roll that way. They know their readers prefer the edgy stuff.

    @Alan: You could easily conduct the experiment yourself. Start running a selection of 10 comic strips and 10 editorial cartoons from a variety of viewpoints and styles. Before long you’ll see that the traffic gravitates towards the tougher stuff.

  23. Editorial page editors are sensitive about the tone of his/her pages.

    What a cartoonist believes to be “hard hitting, fearless etc” can come across as trolling. There’s one on every bulletin board. Most of us have been guilty of this.

    All that aside- I’ll never understand why newspapers are strangling the very thing they brought into the world.

    100 years ago when New York had a dozen dailies, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World used cartooning and infographics as an edge against the competition. The comics page was a premium.

    Today the papers seem determined to kill off the comics. Sad. They somehow manage to overlook the fact that cartooning is more popular than ever- ask Hollywood.

    The syndicates are no better.

    You’re no less a cartoonist if your work only appears on the internet. Print simply doesn’t have the clout or prestige it once had. The good stuff will always find a following.

  24. Nah – those are just bullets in your hair, Matt…

    My point is, “edgy” is a meaningless phrase – these days, every dang show on TV is “edgy”…. Riiiiiiight. Especially the HITS, those are the “edgiest” of all, hmm?

  25. Neal, Daryl’s advice for NOT doing local cartoons is for reprints. Of course you don’t send out local cartoons for reprints. Of course if you offer exclusive work, whether you freelance or have a staff position, doing local cartoons is a MUST and a reason for them to use you.

    Daryl’s advice for being reprinted a LOT is accurate. I disagree with being that sort of cartoonist but I know it’s how you get reprinted consistently.

    Want a stat? Daryl’s service sells to more newspapers than any other. You can argue that’s because of pricing but a lot of it comes from light hearted, fluffy, meaningless, chuckles inspiring, “editorial” cartoons with topics like Dancing With The Stars and Lindsay Lohan. How many Back To School cartoons did you see? Enough to make me gag.

    Daryl definitely knows what editors want because they pay him for it. We can argue about what readers want but frankly, I don’t think readers know what they want except they know they want it for free.

    These editors responsible for the crappy content in newspapers are the same editors buying from Cagle. It’s another part of their stupid decisions that’s quickly killing this industry.

    I don’t see Daryl’s view in black and white. He’s right and I hate it. I’m glad he wrote his column because this is a good discussion that maybe, slight maybe, might lead to a change somewhere, someplace. I doubt it.

  26. If People follow Daryl’s advice then HE will be the one making more money ,more so than the cartoonists as he is the syndicate.

  27. It’s the Walmart Principle. The real secret, and Daryl’s figured this out, is that editors want CHEAP cartoons.

    Matters of artistic merit, political insight, edge all take a distant backseat to cheap and easy.

  28. Hear, hear, Matt W.

    I would be very interested to see how well Daryl’s cartoon service would do if it faced competition from a service with higher-quality cartoons, but at similar low rates.

    1. @Ted – higher-quality cartoons? So… Pat Bagley, Mike Lester, Nate Beeler, Adam Zyglis, RJ Matson, Mike Keefe, Taylor Jones, Bob Englehart, John Darkow, Larry Wright, Jeff Parker, Gary McCoy, Eric Allie, Monte Wolverton, Brian Fairrington, John Cole, David Fitzsimmons, Bill Schorr, and Randall Enos should be considered lower-quality?

  29. I stopped by to see my first newspaper editor last year before he retired. He told me he had dropped all the other syndicates in favor of Cagle Cartoons, solely for the price. He said there was no way the others could compete with the cheapness.

    Quality and content never even entered the equation.

  30. For the sake of a few dollars I can’t believe ( but sadly I do) that editors will gladly choose the cheapest cartoons they can find. I mean , don’t believe what you hear, newspapers are LOADED with cash. They could easily afford the best cartoons going but like elsewhere on this thread they want to make the worst cartoons popular to thus help bring about the demise of an industry.My conclusion is that Newspaper editors are secretly Webcartoonists. they complain of space restrictions too and then go and print a half page photo of any current celeb.

  31. As newspapers hemorrhage more and more talent, I don’t find it unusual for them to cut, cut, cut the comics and political cartoon sections that they can then KEEP from laying off yet another employee with a family to feed…

    Saving $$ = saving jobs – can we really blame them?

    Oh, wait a minute – we can. 😉

  32. I previously posted this message directly on Cagle’s site. It was removed for a time, but apparently it’s now back up. Some cartoonists suggested that I post it again in this forum. So here it is…


    Cagle has drawn out a roadmap to obscurity and irrelevance for
    editorial cartoonists. Unfortunately many cartoonists will drink this
    purple kool-aid ? a world-view served up by editors (who don?t give a
    shit about editorial cartooning or cartoonists) and their enablers,

    – Draw cartoons weeks ahead of the actual event?
    – Don?t draw local cartoons?
    – Don?t be offensive?
    – Don?t think for yourself, but rather adhere to rigid red/blue fault lines?
    – Cater to editors who think cartoonists should simply illustrate
    their narrow-minded positions?

    Has the American cartooning profession, pioneered by great cartoonists
    like Pat Oliphant, Jeff MacNelly and Paul Conrad really fallen this
    low? What an embarrassment. Even more alarming is that no cartoonist
    (besides Steve Greenberg) even disputes this drivel. Is this the sort
    of world view that the members of the AAEC support?

    No wonder American editors don?t see political cartoonists as serious
    journalists. What serious journalist would subscribe the rules
    mentioned above? American editorial cartoonists are well on their way
    to becoming the court jesters of their time. This race to the bottom
    is accelerated by syndicates like who distribute artwork for
    mere pennies and then write ?helpful tips? that are designed to stock
    their archives with even more pointless cartoons.

    Want a helpful tip? Here?s one for aspiring cartoonists?
    Look outside America for inspiration. American political cartooning
    has sadly lost its way.

    Malcolm Mayes
    Cartoonist / Edmonton Journal (Canada)


  33. @Dave: I’ve been offered the opportunity to appear on Cagle. The money was too low.

    Daryl’s site has a lot of cartoonists. A few are good, some are OK. Most are really, really bad. Like, godawful terrible. @Alan, I seriously question your taste if you dispute that the overall quality level of the cartoons there is trash.

    I don’t know whether Daryl has good taste or not. Regardless, he appears to have a strategy of getting as many cartoonists as possible, for as little pay per cartoonist as possible. This has worked for him so far, but I’m not sure it will in the long run. I think the online future belongs to boutiques, carefully curated areas with high-quality content for readers willing to pay for content they don’t have to sift through, not the box-store experience Matt Wuerker referenced in his comment.

    What is unquestionable is that the Cagle business model is encouraging wider distribution of objectively bad cartoons.

  34. @Ted, my tastes aside, I was just taken aback to the blanket statement that all of Cagle’s cartoonists are low quality. It’s kinda like saying all the comics you recruited, developed and launched have gone on to suck. It’s a partial truth that unfairly labels your successes with your failures.

    Feel free to question my taste in comics. I’ve been questioning yours for years. 🙂

  35. 8 Pulitzer Prize winners are on

    So it appears that Ted has a point in that I would guess that the majority of Pulitzer Prize winners are NOT on, however, how many of THOSE cartoonists are still gainfully employed?

  36. @Dave: If you think the best cartoonists win Pulitzers, or that Pulitzer winner=good cartoonist, you haven’t ever paid attention. When good cartoonists win Pulitzers, it’s more of a coincidence than anything else.

  37. A Pulitzer means nothing?
    Pu-Leeeze! It means EXACTLY what it means, which is that those eight cartoonists won a MAJOR PRIZE. I think they also win $20,000, but I’m not sure about that.

    Any political cartoonist who wins this major award simply has the “best” cartoon submitted to the Pulitzer Committee in any given year based on the criteria of the committee.

    There are MANY measures of excellence and winning the Pulitzer is merely one of them – some would argue that this award is the highest award possible for a political cartoonist. Clearly, you are not one of them.

    Winning a Pulitzer means you’ve won a major prize. You might think there are greater prizes – if so, NAME THEM.

  38. If you think the best cartoonists win Pulitzers, or that Pulitzer winner=good cartoonist

    Cagle cartoonists = low quality cartoonists
    Pulitzer winner = not good cartoonists

    Okay, who else can Ted insult today?

  39. The highest award a political cartoonist can win is when a reader says they changed their mind because of his or her cartoon.

    Very few editorial cartoonists think the Pulitzer means jack. That’s because the choices often seem arbitrary and because so many excellent cartoonists get passed over.

    In fact, very few Pulitzer winners think it means much. It helps protect you from getting laid off, it might help sell you into papers, and your mom is real happy?but it doesn’t mean you’re a great cartoonist.

    The same is true of all awards and prizes?including the ones I’ve won. They’re all BS.

  40. No less BS than your method of determining quality. Which you haven’t stated, yet.

    Seriously, can you tell me an alternate method of determining quality other than “Ted Knows Better?”

    The method I chose involved Pulitzers. Which you dismissed. After which you dismissed ALL prizes of any sort. Ok. What’s left? “Ted Knows Better” won’t fly…

  41. Since no other working cartoonist will do it, I will. I agree with Ted about awards.
    Sometimes a worthy cartoonist wins one, more often a lousy choice is made. Awards don’t determine quality any more than being reprinted in USA Today determines quality.

    I also think the overall quality level of editorial cartoons on Cagle’s site is very poor…but I think the overall quality level of editorial cartoons on any site is very poor….along with most editorial cartoons drawn in this country today. However, I think the few cartoonists who are really good are some of the best there’s ever been.

  42. So Clay – are ALL measurements of excellence bogus?
    Is it excellent if you say it is? If Ted says it is?

    Ted gave the 100% ultra-weasel non-answer of “when a reader says he changed his mind…” Sheesh! Is that when a cartoonist get his wings? LOL

  43. Yes, all awards have a high level of bogosity, though it varies. If you spent the next month watching only movies that won major Oscars, you’d have a pretty good month of movie-watching. But come on — Braveheart? The English Patient? Really?

    If you spent the next month listening only to music that won major Grammys, we’d have to scrape you off the walls at the end. Or, if you were still smiling, reward you with the full DVD sets of “American Idol” and “Lawrence Welk” to enhance your experience.

    And I can think of a couple of recent Nobels that I don’t think all the people reflexively trying to hide Ted’s comments would do much to defend.

    Journalism awards tend to echo the current fads in coverage rather than anything breakthrough, with Pulitzers better than most and others too often along the lines of Miss Congeniality.

    Plaques are for haques. As Ted says, they may give you some leverage with your employer. That’s about all they’re good for, unless you’ve got a small hole on your wall to cover.

  44. … and, yes, Dave, I get much more satisfaction from hearing that something I wrote changed somebody’s thinking or provided them with inspiration to do something worthwhile than I ever did from the various plaques that accumulated like souvenir coffee mugs.

  45. I can personally vouch for the editors buying cheaper over better. I had one editor lined up to use my toons after his contract expired with his syndicate. He informed the syndicate of his intentions to only keep a couple of the columns he was buying. They immediately dropped the price for the columns ands tossed in his entire set list of toons (comics and editorial) for FREE! I can’t compete with free. I won’t compete with free. If, as some suggest, Cagle only hires hacks and low-quality inkslingers, then I consider myself complimented as I was turned down by Cagle and company. I do not draw my toons for the glory (obviously) nor the money (what money?). I draw them because I enjoy what I do. I draw them because in this day and age of political correctness…..I don’t have to be. I can give voice to the people around me and say what they are thinking…and maybe…just maybe….influence somebody reading my toons to take another look at an issue and where they stand on it. As another famous artist on here has suggested…..if I can do THAT….then I win!

  46. If I had to pick one award that bestows clearly a recognition of excellence it would have to be the Caldecott . Given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published that year.

    Win a Caldecott and your book will be read by generations of children. Standards like “Make Way for Ducklings” “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Jumanji”, “Owl Moon” and “Polar express” are on every kids bookshelves.

    I also feel that the Caldecott and the Newberry awards reflect accurately the best in children’s books each year.

  47. @Dave: “So Clay ? are ALL measurements of excellence bogus?
    Is it excellent if you say it is? If Ted says it is?”

    Cartoons are like porn, Dave?you know quality when you see it. The simple truth is that there is no standard on which everyone agrees. Most editorial cartoonists think the Pulitzers are a joke (and not a funny one). Most editors think editorial cartoonists don’t know what makes a good cartoon. Within the profession, there are splits: Jen Sorensen, for instance, has the respect of basically all alties but only some mainstream guys know who she is.

    Mike’s statement about prizes for other fields seems right-on to me: The Oscars rarely go to completely incompetent films (although a better list of movies to watch might be Oscar nominees that didn’t win). The Grammys, on the other hand, rarely go to artists who shouldn’t be banned on taste grounds alone.

    In editorial cartooning, no award consistently goes to cartoonists who made some of the year’s best cartoons. To read a list of Pulitzer-winning cartoonists year after year is to elicit a lot of “huhs?” and “WTFs.” With a few exceptions now and then.

    @Dave, I have a question for you. Do you read a lot of editorial cartoons every day? It doesn’t sound like you pay much attention to the field…and if that’s the case, why do you question the opinions of the less-ignorant?

    If I’m wrong, a list of your favorite 20 editorial cartoonists would probably prove helpful to understand where you’re coming from.

  48. @ Rick,
    I had forgotten about the Caldecott, and you hit it on the head. Not a huge kids book fan, but my wife has 10 grandkids. I’ve seen more than my share of kids books, and a lot of them are pretty insipid, but when the have that Caldecott winner sticker on them, they are most often a much higher quality work.
    My “recent” favorite was a Chinese version of Red Riding Hood by Ed Young, called “Lon Po Po”, just great, great stuff!

  49. @Alan: You’re wrong. Everyone I know who has won major awards?including me?thinks awards are stupid. In fact, I have never met a working editorial cartoonist who takes prizes like the Pulitzer seriously.

  50. I’ve witnessed about 16 Reuben awards in my life and I can say that every Reuben winner was deeply moved and honored by it. Watching Sergio Aragones and Jack Davis in particular was amazing as was when Garry Trudeau finally took it home after 15 nominations. The room erupted , no exploded with applause and affection for these great cartoonists.

  51. The Reubens are not an editorial cartooning award, though. Yes, there’s an editoon category. But it’s basically for comic strips, and the main award rarely goes to an editorial cartoonist.

  52. Everyone I know who has won major awards?including me?thinks awards are stupid. In fact, I have never met a working editorial cartoonist who takes prizes like the Pulitzer seriously.

    In addition to your tastes, now I have to question how many people you know. 🙂

    Are there people who don’t emphasize awards? Sure. To say EVERYONE – which would include the vast majority of the AAEC agrees with you is an overstatement by evidence of the fact that many enter the awards. Repeatedly. Never in the history of the Pulitzer has any cartoonist return the award conferred upon them (or any national award for that matter).

    I have no problem with your feelings on awards, but I object to you speaking for everyone.

  53. In my experience, the awards I win reflect the carefully considered wisdom of industry titans and the hard-won respect of my peers, while those I lose are tainted by cronyism, have no credibility, and are probably fixed.

  54. I don’t understand your logic, Alan. Of course we all enter contests. They help our careers.

    That doesn’t mean we take them seriously as objective measures of quality.

    Dave: still waiting for your list of favorite editorial cartoonists. Since you always have so much to say about the profession and all.

  55. “My 2cents on awards are that individuals (regardless of industry) who discount awards are usually those that can?t win them.”

    I averaged a little over one plaque a year when I was a reporter. One of them was for a story I felt deserved it — it had resulted in immediate corrective federal legislation, so it was kind of a shoe-in — but the others were more based on, first, an editor deciding it looked like the kind of story you submit for an award and then a judge agreeing that it looked like a story that gets a plaque. In every case, it was not my best work of the year and it was basically a prize for following the herd.

    For example, many years ago, I did a major Sunday feature on sexual harassment in the workplace for the business section. Some professional women called to thank me, a few stopped me on the street to say how much they liked it. It didn’t win anything, but had I written it a year later, I’m sure it would have — because the next year was the whole Anita Hill kerfuffle and the judges would have been hurling plaques at anything that touched on the topic.

    And this example: We had a reporter who would write a story each year about cancer, just so she could submit it for this minor award of a plaque and a check for $50. She often won, because she’d tailor the story to the judges’ patterns. I don’t know if she bothered to hang the plaques, but she’d have fun with the fifty bucks.

    Anyone who needs a plaque can get one. And it’s nice to be able to add “award-winning” to the adjectives with which you describe yourself when you are trying to part a potential client from some money. But if you starting taking that stuff seriously, I think you’ve lost track of why you do what you do.

    At least, I hope that’s not why you do what you do.

  56. Why even become an editorial cartoonist if you don’t care about affecting society? Anyone who would throw away the opportunity to say something meaningful with their work is turning editorial cartooning into just another boring routine job.

    When readers tell me that I’ve helped them understand a point, or strengthened them as an activist, or inspired them to use their own talents in the service of social change, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something real.

    About a month ago I wrote an essay for the VJ Movement called “Editorial Cartoons are Subversive.” It’s here:

  57. Mr. Rall. I’ve seen your work. I like your work, but with all due respect I’m not sure where you get off running down the quality of work produced by others or the manner in which they choose to market themselves. Maybe it’s not what you would do, but why must you be so natsy about it?
    I think toons are like any other creative endeavor in that their appeal can be very subjective. Just because you don’t like someone’s work doesn’t mean that its’ crap.
    I am but a lowly rookie whose work I’m sure you would say is the epitome of amatuer production. I may never rise above my current status but I will always try to conduct myself with respect for the creative process and the work produced by my fellow cartoonist.
    I really enjoyed this site when I first came here because I could read what real pro’s were saying in the hopes of grasping some deeper insight into the world of the professional cartoonist. For the most part that has been the case with the exception of a few current posters who seem to only want to run others down for one reason or another. I think Mr. Rall that maybe you need a hug?

  58. ” Everyone I know who has won major awards?including me?thinks awards are stupid. In fact, I have never met a working editorial cartoonist who takes prizes like the Pulitzer seriously.”

    “Everyone I know who has won major awards” and “the working editorial cartoonists I have met” is what pollsters would call a “sampling error.” Everyone I know loves the Red Sox.

  59. An award is very special…means others appreciate your work.I’m not sure “stupid” is a good word for recognition of your accomplishments. Unless you are speaking of the actual trophy, like the one ya got from the bowling alley made of plastic and fake marble with no name on it.

  60. I’ve won 3 pulitzers now to date and I’ve decided to give the stupid things back.

  61. Who can’t use a hug?

    What some people don’t understand is that, for the vast majority of editorial cartoonists, winning an award is nothing more than a useful resume entry. What really matters to us is the impact our work has on our readers and the respect of our friends and colleagues. When a friend who us a great cartoonist tells me I’ve done a good cartoon, that counts a zillion times more than the opinion of the Pulitzer committee, which is painfully ignorant about the profession they are supposed to judge.

    Winning a prize is not a real

  62. @Ted, I’m just questioning your ability to speak for everyone. I can understand your point of view, just not your attempt to make it appear EVERYONE agrees to it. That I question openly. Sampling error indeed.

  63. While I haven’t polled every single AAEC member about this issue, I have been an AAEC member since the early 1990s. During that time I have attended 14 conventions. The topic of awards comes up every year, and I think it’s fair to say that I’ve heard from the majority of big-name editorial cartoonists on this topic?including Pulitzer winners.

    I have never met a cartoonist who thought the process was fair, reasonable, or anything other than completely arbitrary and capricious. This includes Pulitzer winners.

    This is not a matter of sore loserdom. Once people hear how the Pulitzer committee deliberates, they understand that the process is inherently flawed.

    Among the lowlights:

    1. Many judges are not familiar with editorial cartoons. Some are editors at papers that don’t run them at all and never see them. They require crash courses in the field.

    2. Few judges have a deep understanding of the profession. One year that I heard about, a judge expressed confusion about the work of Tom Tomorrow, Ward Sutton, Ruben Bolling and myself. This judge wanted to throw out those entries off the bat on the grounds that they weren’t cartoons at all! Whether or not we four artists deserved to win is not the point; the point is that this judge had never even heard of widely syndicated cartoonists and indeed had never seen an “alternative” political cartoon. In that instance the committee “tabled” those entries for later consideration?which never occurred.

    3. During most years, any single judge can veto any entry. So an outstanding entry, whom all but one judge thinks ought to win, can get nixed because of the ignorance or political views of one incompetent judge. This tends to result in the mediocre and unchallenging being elevated over the intelligent and the hard-hitting.

    4. Consider the results. Among the cartoonists who have been passed over year after year are: Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Scott Stantis, Steve Kelley, Jen Sorensen, Matt Bors, Steve Sack, and many other worthies whose work has been much, much stronger than most of the entries who have actually won. If the Grammies get dissed for snubbing the Stones and the Kinks, well…this is the same thing.

    The reason I claim to be speaking for almost every editorial cartoonist on this topic is because, well, I am. There may be exceptions?but the only controversial aspect of what I’m saying is that I’m saying it in public.

  64. I’ve only been a member of the AAEC for about two and a half years, and I haven’t yet been to any conventions (wrong side of the country), but no-one has asked me about awards.
    The only knowledge I have of Ted is reading his comments here and his cartoons, and the gnarliest five dollar bill he sent me after choosing one of my cartoons for the Daily Beast, but I would have to agree that ANY contest is flawed from the beginning. Any of you guys entered a piece into a show with only one juror? The recognition factor is something I would think that any cartoonist would be happy for, and whatever cash prize accompanied the trophy would certainly be welcomed, but luck and perhaps what the jurors ate for breakfast that day seem to have as much to do with their choices as merit.

  65. The two arguments,

    One–editorial cartooning is another format of serious journalism. I.E just as the journalist offers their opinions about news events etc so do the editorial cartoonist, only in another medium. A sort of, ‘picture also speaks a thousand words’.

    Two–that because of the serious nature of the editorial columns and it being more often than not intended as a general, so there we are sort of thing–the editorial cartoonists job is to provide relaxing humor without changing the overall mood of the columns, and so the content has to be political related, but not necessarily an opinion.

    My question is, if we follow logic, shouldn’t editorial cartoonist by default write serious columns with political cartoons?

    There seems to be a lot of professionals on this site, could somebody please outline why this maybe isn’t so from the business side, or any personal experience about why political cartoonist don’t or would not.


  66. Basically, Learning, I would say you’ve got it right.

    IMO, however, a political cartoon that does not express an opinion is just an illustration.

  67. The two camps about what editorial cartoons are:

    1.Political opinions expressed thru cartoons

    2.Cartoons making fun of the news

    Neither one is right or wrong, good or bad. But the problem is #1 is the only real definition for editorial cartoons.#2 is what a good deal of what is being passed off as “editorial cartooning” has devolved into.

    Adherents to #1 are rightfully critical because the definition of what they do is being dumbed down making them less able to do what they’ve devoted their talents to.

    #2 is fine–good political satire could be produced under that definition–or even some funny gags. But it shouldn’t be confused with #1 nor should it replace it.

  68. TED: “I forgot to mention that many of the better cartoonists refuse to appear on Cagle due to the low pay.”

    Really??? While not presuming to include myself as one of your “better cartoonists”, you personally recruited me to UFS from Cagle. Pay was so bad I broke my contract, went back to Cagle and am paying UFS monthly out of my own pocket. Bad move but it was mine.

    -Editorial cartoon awards are validating but sometimes they validate cartoons that aren’t editorial. That confuses everybody.

    -Alan’s 2cents is right.

    -Ed. cartoons should change peoples’ minds??? Isn’t that proselytizing and what evangelicals try to do?

    -Caldecott winners can’t carry the financial jocks of the Berenstain Bears and similar schlock.

    -Daryl’s recipe for editorial cartoonists is exactly the same way they create genetically modified salmon.

  69. Normally I would just ignore Cagle since as far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t speak for me or our profession. However, his latest comments angered me, not just because he diminishes American editorial cartooning, but that young, aspiring cartoonists might take his advice to heart. We have an obligation to encourage the new generation to become editorial cartoonists because they are interested in participating in political discourse, not because they want to just draw funny pictures of celebrities. Also, since Cagle is the only game in town for many international cartoonists, he is inaccurately representing our profession to the rest of the world.

  70. For an editorial cartoonist, being awarded a Pulitizer is like winning the lottery.

    His/her first name changes to “Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoonist…” Historically it meant syndication deals and job security- my career ended as a daily editorial cartoonist when a two-time winner decided he’d take my position when his newspaper (same chain) folded.

    An effective cartoon makes the target look ridiculous as in “Johnny Fontaine’s not getting a role in that picture. He made me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!” (from The Godfather.)

    That’s why caricature- a dying art- is so important imho.

    Finally- try to imagine producing five cartoons per week, fifty weeks per year when judging the work of editorial cartoonists who work for the dailies.

    Preaching to the converted at an alt weekly simply doesn’t compare.

  71. I can’t help but find it at least a bit unfortunate, that the person who often does the most speaking for editorial cartoonists, and who’s megaphone is often heard by the media and rest of the world, has that audience not on the merits of his work, but because of his early mastery of aggregating cartoons online and distributing them as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

    This isn’t a comment on him or his work.

    It just seems odd to me that the guy who created a modest fiefdom engineered to exploit our little corner of the universe by playing as perfectly and efficiently as possible within capitalist economic rules (without rocking the boat), has become the primary spokesperson for an art form whose sole purpose since its inception was to rock the boat and break the rules.

    What’s wrong with this picture (so to speak)?

    And what exactly (at the risk of of being perceived as self important), is the point of being an *editorial* cartoonist if you’re just going to give people what they want?

  72. To comment on something that was said much, much earlier–yeah, edgy may do better on the web, but the people who spend a lot of time on the web, are, by and large, far younger than the people who read newspapers. One hates to generalize about older people(I’m rapidly getting to be one myself), but the over-60 set aren’t known for their cutting-edge sensibilities.At this point in time, when you’re talking about newspaper readers, you’re talking about retirees, who tend to be set in their ways and dislike being challenged. Cagle understands this.
    As for Ted on prizes–everything he says about the process is no doubt true. But dude, get real–EVERYONE wants a Pultizer.

  73. @Terry,

    I want one too. It would be useful. (But if I did win, it wouldn’t mean I was any good.)

    My point, that edgy cartoons outperform bland ones online, is that print newspapers might do better with all readers–including younger ones–if they ran edgier content.

    Also, I don’t buy the argument that old people are all boring fuzzyduddies. I’ve met far too many cool senior citizens to believe that.

  74. @Ted Also, I don?t buy the argument that old people are all boring fuzzyduddies.

    Nor is it an argument I’m making. As individuals, there are plenty of cool, edgy old people. But as a demographic, they really like “Blondie”.

  75. Aw, papers don’t care about most awards anymore anyways. That includes the Pulitzer for cartooning. Means the bean counters can’t lay off the cartoonist, at least for a year.

    When I won a Green Eyeshade a few years ago, the Miami New Times didn’t even bother to notify me of the win! Instead, a corporate VP (from Denver!) mentioned it in passing a few weeks later. I dropped a note to the Miami editor. No reply. A couple months later, the heavy wooden plague arrived in the mail, stuffed unprotected into a manila envelope, corners peeking through the ripped corner holes. No note, nothing.

    A few years later, the whole chain dumped all cartoons out of every paper in a cost-cutting move. What a surprise.

  76. I would have pushed the “thumbs up” button on Nick Anderson’s comment twice if I could.

  77. If Cagle’s business model is that newspapers want ideological illustrations that don’t rock the boat and are not local….maybe the profession of editorial cartooning is dead.
    I don’t believe I said ….maybe.

    Conrad had it wrong…..

    (he should’ve said) DON’T opinionate……. illustrate.

  78. @Milt

    Two years ago my former employer bought a package deal, reduced the size to three columns and dropped the cartoon to the bottom left hand side of the page. Nothing on the oped page.

    As long I can remember the editorial cartoons ran at the top, right side, 4 col. with another one on the oped page. The cartoons were always the most read feature on the page.

    I always thought the editors resented that. That makes the cartoonist’s performance on the newspaper’s website all the more important.

  79. If I hadn’t experienced the same insecurity phenomenon, Pat, I’d think you were crazy.

    The editor of C-Ville Weekly (in Charlotteville VA) canceled my stuff because it was the most-read and -commented-upon feature in the paper. “I don’t want this to become the Ted Rall Weekly,” she told me.

    If I were an editor who had one feature that was popular, I’d try to get more like it, not cancel it. But hey, that’s me.

  80. Dave Stephens still never came up with that list…Too bad, that would have been a fun read.

  81. Although it’s possible that he suddenly got so swamped with work that he was unable to read TDC, it’s safe to assume that he doesn’t even know the names of 20 editorial cartoonists.

  82. Ted — Requesting a list from Dave is kind of lame. He stated in post #52 that he used the Pulitzer as a way to gauge quality in editorial cartooning and that yours was based on what ?Ted Knows Better.” Consider his list the last 20 years of Pulitzer winners.

    In post #67 you said: “That doesn?t mean we take (awards) seriously as objective measures of quality.”

    Respectively, what do you consider objective measures of quality in editorial cartooning to be?

  83. Is Ted a dead horse?

    If so, he is a dead horse with high opinion of his “horse sense” to discern the “good” artists from the “bad” artists…

    Your “logic” is wack-a-doodle. It is only ‘safe to assume’ I have not answered you – which I haven’t.

    I have read political cartoons for most of my 47 years. I have been a full time cartoonist for almost 20 years. There are great cartoonists of the past 100 years that I have studied and appreciated including a great many political cartoonists. Maybe I’ll make a list someday, but I have no interest in making one now…

  84. “what do you consider objective measures of quality in editorial cartooning to be?”

    And so we come full circle, in a conversation that began with a list of ways to make sure a cartoonist had the largest possible number of sales and was attacked for ignoring the subjective measures of quality in editorial cartooning.

    (Can we go home now?)

  85. Ann Telnaes
    Joel Pett
    Tom Toles
    Mike Lester
    Matt Bors
    Tom Tomorrow
    Ted Rall
    Rob Rogers
    Rueben Bolling

    Off the top of my head I only came up with 16 that I always read when i come across them

  86. Things I hate about the Internet, #1:
    People don’t read.
    I will write it again: there is no objective standard of quality. And the Pulitzer is the worst example to cite if you want to argue otherwise.

  87. Hey thanks Rick! Note I am ranked one slot ahead of Ted! Ha!

    I find it strange that a group of cartoonists that are supposed to have strong opinions bash Rall for having strong opinions. There’s always a grey area between schlock and exceptional where personal opinion comes into play. But there’s an awful lot of schlock on opinion and comics pages. Is it Rall’s 90 percent schlock or Stephens’ 50 percent (yeah, I’m just making these numbers up)? Who cares! It’s still way too much, and it’s dragging the artform, the printed artform anyways, into oblivion.

    Off-topic note: these new like-dislike buttons are unnerving me. I thought they only used these things on sports blogs?

  88. > there is no objective standard of quality

    Actually, there is: Sturgeon’s Law, which states “90% of science fiction is crap”

    Ipso facto, Sturgeon’s Law, corollary: “90% of everything is crap”

  89. It should be noted that not all the cartoonist who appear on Cagle’s site are part of his syndicate. And his syndicate line-up is as good as any other syndicate

    The vast majority of editorial cartoonist working today appear
    on his site. They include not only Pulitzer winners but also
    Herblock winners.

    The reason I chose to go on his site after not being on it for years is because he asked me and more importantly because READERS kept asking me why I wasn’t on it.

    His site has given the profession needed exposure it wouldn’t have had. The small minority of cartoonists slagging it off
    makes about as much business sense as slagging off the
    Newsweek and USA TODAY cartoon roundups.

    I’m surprised to hear Clay Jones rip the quality of work on
    Cagle since I believe his very funny cartoons also appear on it.
    Someone mentioned Oliphant.MacNelly and Conrad on this post. I never remember seeing any of them draw local cartoons on a regular basis
    All were on one side of the political fault line
    .All worked ahead of the news, All were topical.
    Cagle was asked a marketing question. And he gave a marketing answer. And since he created the number one editorial cartoon web site in the country, I respect his opinion.

    Now if the Pulitzer Board would just give Ted Rall a Pulitzer so he would shut-up with his tiresome,petty “all cartoons, but mine and my buddies, are crap” rant

  90. Spurgeon, Sturgeon, whatever it takes (like you said, #1 problem on the internet is “people don’t read”)

    Forget movies, stick to cartoonists. If our popular truism that there “fewer than 90 staff cartoonists remain” is accurate, than I could certainly name 9 staffers who do not suck. If (by my estimate) there are about 300 cartoonists doing editorial style work in North America, than there are certainly 30 who are producing great work. Sturgeon abides.

  91. Ted — I can read. In fact, I’m hooked on phonics.

    I realize you said in post #59 that “cartoons are like porn, Dave?you know quality when you see it. The simple truth is that there is no standard on which everyone agrees.”

    I guess I was asking what YOUR objective standards of quality are — because making statements like “better cartoonists,” “higher-quality cartoons,” and “a few are good, some are OK. Most are really, really bad. Like, godawful terrible” seemed like you’d have to have some kind of standard.

    But I’m not sure I really care now.

  92. I find it ironic that alti-cartoonists who are supposed to be
    anti-establishment,anti-mainstream rebels seem care about all
    these mainstream established contests and enter them as often as they complain about them.

  93. Uh… that’s not true, Darcy. I’ve entered the Pulitzer maybe twice, just for the hell of it really, and have no doubt my entry was in the first shovel full aimed at the dumpster. I submit to maybe one contest a year, some years none at all. Most of my anti-establishment colleagues do the same.

    I know this because we all meet secretly to bitch about you mainstream guys and share needles.

  94. @Jeff: My Cagle-bashing is not meant personally. As I said, many of his cartoonists are good. Most are not. This is hardly a Ted Rall (C) 2010 opinion. This is boilerplate opinion among editorial cartoonists. As for awards, I’m not motivated by jealousy. I have won more than my fair share of major awards?2 RFKs and a Pulitzer finalistship is much more than I had any right to expect. I’m just callin’ ’em like I sees ’em. As we all do, right?

    Also, Jeff, I have judged two cartoon contests. My experience was that NO altie cartoonists entered either of them. I asked altie friends why not. They all said they didn’t think it was worth applying because it’s expensive and alties never win. My impression is that few alties send in submissions due to the high entry fees and long odds of winning.

    @Aaron: You’re right, you shouldn’t care about my standards (which are not objective). My point isn’t that I’m right about everything. I’m not. My opinion is just mine. My objection is to people who think that award committees have magic powers to select the best and the brightest. As we’ve seen year after year, their opinions are some of the least reliable around.

  95. I can think of no other art form that has changed as little over the years, for whatever reason, as political cartoons. You have to go back to… what?… the late Sixties?… when Oliphant and MacNally and Szep etc broke the old Herblock mold to find some kind of widespread stylistic innovation in the field. This just can’t be a good thing, can it?

    So Tom Tomorrow is dismissed as being “too wordy” and Rall and Bors are irrelevant because they’re “non-mainstream,” what ever that means.

    And when Cagle offers advice like this, which almost all editors would wholeheartedly agree with, yeah it matters. And if awards don’t reward both excellence AND innovation, and most don’t, that matters, too.

  96. Derf: So you admit to sharing needles- I knew you guys were into that knitting craze -I just knew it!

  97. @Jeff, I hate that my view comes off as an anti-Cagle view. It’s not. I think most cartoons of late are going for the most obvious idea and you find that on any site that runs a lot of cartoons. The AAEC’s is probably even worse as there’s little standards on who gets published there.

    I just don’t think a lot of cartoonists are trying very hard. I think a few are and they’re doing great jobs.

    This is a perfect time to talk about this. It’s October. How many Halloween themed cartoons will be drawn? Next month, how many turkeys? December, don’t get me started.

    I’m with Creators Syndicate and Cagle subscribes to my cartoons. I hope he continues to do so.
    And Jeff, thanks for saying my cartoons are funny.

  98. I suppose it’s only fair for me to post my (subjective) criteria for good cartoons. Among my guidelines are:

    Originality. If I’ve seen the same idea before, I’m unimpressed. If you have a novel take, unique approach and, yes, non-MacNelly-influenced drawing style, I’m more likely to like a cartoon.

    Courage. Cartoonists who are unafraid, who criticize their own political party, who are not PC, who attack sacred cows (mom, the flag, religion, popular public figures, the military) impress me.

    Love of Form. Not everyone has a sense of rhythm, timing, cadence, etc. I never understand the comic book guys who show someone talking–but their mouth is closed. If you boldface the wrong word or your style isn’t internally consistent, you’ve lost me.

    There are lousy alties and awesome old-style cartoonists. In general, however, the alties tend to display more originality, courage and love of form. You didn’t catch any alties drawing Saddam setting off nukes in 2003, you know?

    But as those who saw me pick toons for Daily Beast know, my favorite cartoonists include many, many non-alties.

    P.S. Ditto Clay. Holiday and obit toons suck because they’re predictable and thus unoriginal.

    P.P.S. I forgot to include Strong Opinion in my list of criteria. Cartoonists who draw about new movies or even a new version of a computer operating system should have their pens broken.

  99. I’d add a few prerequisites for a good editorial cartoon to Ted’s list:

    A cartoon that doesn’t resort to labels.

    A cartoon without an elephant or donkey or Statue of Liberty or Justice… or Uncle Sam in tears.

    A cartoon with legible, easy-to-read dialog balloons, with lettering that doesn’t run up- or down-hill, and lettering that doesn’t purposely mix upper-and lower-case type (an editorial greeting card?).

    A cartoon without the pubic-hair scribbles in the corners just to fill the space with SOMETHING, as long as it doesn’t require any real effort to draw.


  100. “Cartoonists who draw about new movies or even a new version of a computer operating system should have their pens broken.”

    I think their pens being broken in the first place is why they draw those types of cartoons in the second place.

    As for obit cartoons, I think they’re AWESOME. By awesome I mean a great big heaping bowl of suck.

  101. Quote:

    “Courage. Cartoonists who are unafraid, who criticize their own political party, who are not PC, who attack sacred cows (mom, the flag, religion, popular public figures, the military) impress me.” (TR)

    Those were sacred cows in 1980.

    Today’s sacred cows are anything that upsets the “progressive” (ahem) left. Cartoonists have timidly jumped through every hoop the PC crowd has ordered them through. This, imho, put editorial cartooning on th eroad to irrelevance faster than anything else. Sad.

    Alties can be just as shallow, predictable and timid as the the mainstream cartoonists. They are “cutting edge” only to the middle aged.

    The trend among the 20-something and college readers these days is toward a sterile look- clean lines and photoshopped to death. Work that exists only in binary numbers.Comic book style.

    Finally- while not a political cartoonist- altie Linda Barry is one all time greats.

  102. There are exactly 247 ceiling tiles in our bedroom. I know this because I laid awake all last night worried that Ted and others might think I’m one of the really really bad like godawful terrible cartoonists syndicated by Cagle.


  103. @Derf
    If you insist on doing that, you might want to try my proprietary new shading medium, “Pube-A-Tone”. It will be available online as soon as I secure a reliable supply of… well, you know… and figure out how to make it adhere to the transfer medium.

  104. @Pat Today?s sacred cows are anything that upsets the ?progressive? (ahem) left. Cartoonists have timidly jumped through every hoop the PC crowd has ordered them through.

    Gosh, Pat–I know YOU haven’t succumbed to the left’s blatant and relentless intimidation. Exactly what sacred cows do you think all those namby-pampy, noodle-spined cartoonists would attack, if only they weren’t such cowards?

  105. @Terry
    re: sacred cows

    Anything deemed “politically correct.” PC has been traditionally dictated to us by “progressives” i.e. the Left.

    You didn’t know that?

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