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AAEC statement on originality of cartoons

Last week, while not mentioning Bill Day or his alleged instance of plagiarism or reuse of his own cartoons, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists released a statement calling the practice of plagiarism damaging to the profession and the practice of reselling old cartoons with slight modifications is “just plain bad for both the art form and for business”

The full statement is below:

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists Endorses Originality.

Over the years, there have been rare instances where an editorial cartoonist passes off someone else’s work as their own. This practice diminishes the cartoonist, their body of work and damages the profession of editorial cartooning.

The vast majority of political cartoonists create imaginative, original art and commentary on a daily basis and are a vital part of journalism.

Passing someone else’s work off as your own is not tolerated in written reporting, and it should not be tolerated in political cartooning. Indeed, it is not tolerated within the membership of our association. Further, reselling old cartoons with only a few labels changed is just plain bad for both the art form and for business.

These rare instances of plagiarism should not detract from the thousands of unique, original and well-drawn works created by hard-working cartoonists every year. These fresh, original creations jump off the page (be it paper, monitor or mobile), engaging readers and making them think, talk, argue and act.

New, creative and original political cartoons make a difference in our society. The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists will continue to dedicate itself to supporting and promoting the craft.

Community Comments

#1 Monty Rohde
@ 10:51 am

I think there’s several points that are being missed here. Despite the fact that at least one of the editors at his syndicate noticed, why did the company not care enough to crack down? Despite literally hundreds of examples of self plagiarism how many newspaper editors complained? Did they not notice or did the not care? Either way it says some incredibly bad things about how the industry is viewed by the remaining few individuals that use its content.

I also know plenty of people have pointed this out already: there’s also the fact of the matter that a good number of AAEC members do occasionally self-plagiarize and will continue to do so. More importantly the AAEC and the editors that employee their dwindling number of members have routinely piled the most prestigious awards of the industry on these people because they are considered among the best the profession has to offer.

Not to mention the fact that heck even though Jeff Stahler has reformed his plagiarizing ways, his work is pretty much the same stuff. Which is basically just like 90% percent of the people working in the profession anyways.

Some day if I ever get rich I’m going to create my own syndicate. My syndicate will hire a bunch of artists in China to draw like Jeff Mcnally, make witty references to movies, employ tired visual iconography developed over a century and a half ago, use pathetically overstated visual metaphors (complete with labels) and draw awful caricatures.

I won’t charge the half dozen remaining newspapers pennies for my syndicates amazing cartoons. No I’ll undercut everyone and charge them in fractions of a cent and I’ll still make a killing because I’ll pay my skilled original and creative artists in stale poptarts.

#2 Jim Lavery
@ 12:46 pm

“Despite literally hundreds of examples of self plagiarism how many newspaper editors complained? Did they not notice or did the not care?”

I think nobody noticed–which could be why he is down and out and needed financial support.

#3 mike peters
@ 7:59 pm

Well , well , well, aren’t we all proud of ourselves ?. Isn’t great being part of the pure cartoonists who never do anything wrong. Who are never influenced by anyone or anything ? who are not touched by the MacNellys or the Oliphants. Hell, I sure was and MacNelly was my best friend. Isn’t fabulous when we can drag someone down so it brings us up a little? Boy, feels good doesn’t ? Look in the mirror my friends.

#4 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 9:57 pm

‘New, creative and original political cartoons make a difference in our society.’
-The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

I don’t find this quote to be objective, or frankly even rational. Editorial cartoons are anachronisms that serve as topical gag-a-days to fit the paper’s political slant. Has anyone heard an actual person (non-cartoonist/fan) talking about such a cartoon in this century?

#5 Jeff Darcy
@ 11:59 pm

Monty you write about “the remaining few …”
who use Editorial cartoon content.

The facts are that just about every daily newspaper in the
country still print Editorial cartoons every single day.

In fact the mid size daily in my neck of the woods,
The Lorain Morning Journal sometimes prints two a day.

I’ve always been in awe cartoonists who produce both a comic
strip and Editorial cartoons and keep both at a high standard.

So I can just imagine what it must be like to work all day
loading delivery trucks and then come home and have to
produce a highly illustrated cartoon to meet a syndication
quota….with the hope you can make enough to make your mortgage.

Bill Day spent much of his career turning out impressive cartoons
with sophisticated draftsmanship in Detroit, home of Henry
Ford, who might have been impressed with Day’s time saving
methods- considering his situation. Disney also employed
similar methods.

Never got better than a C in math, but my guess is 5 cartoons
a week over a career as long as Bill Day’s adds up to a lot of
cartoons to try and remember not to ever repeat.

I always thought it was the message of the
cartoon that’s most important…not the drawing. That’s what clients are really buying.

Now that the Editorial Cartooning standards and practices dept. has run its high horse over Bill Day how ’bout it run it over to the next convention of Publishers and Editors and lobby in person for retaining and hiring editorial
cartoonists. So cartoonists like Day can be gainfully employed and not have to employ time and energy saving shortcuts. Then maybe more of us will have the
scratch to spare to donate to all these kickstarter campaigns

#6 Joe Engesser
@ 11:11 am

Gag tooners have ‘self-plagiarized’ for years selling to trade journals…it’s even encouraged. If it’s YOUR same (or slightly altered) drawing with a gag slanted for another market, sell it! Makes perfect business sense.

#7 Mike Lester
@ 11:53 am

There should be no problem w/ Bill Day signing his name to his own work as many times as he wants. There should be a problem when he signs his name to Zack Fowlers work.

And by covering his tracks, Daryl obviously agrees.

#8 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 3:14 pm

Russ Heath told me himself that Roy Lichtenstein lifting his work made him, by far, more well known than all of his comic book work combined. And I think I read that Dick Ayers feels the same.

In some circles this is that gun designer’s 15 minutes.

#9 Steve Artley
@ 12:47 am

I plagiarize Mike Peters’ above comment on this one. This has gotten way to ugly.

#10 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 10:45 pm

This topic has had me thinking. Find my illustrated commentary here:

#11 Jeff Darcy
@ 6:06 pm

Amen to Mike Peters comment.

If I could be publisher Warren Buffett for a day I’d hire
Mike Lester,Matt Bors, Ted Rall, Matt Davies, Patrick O’Conner
Chip Bok, Bill Day and then go out and buy more paper’s and
hire the rest of the unemployed and underemployed cartoonists
I haven’t mentioned…and everyone would live happily ever after.

Best Regards-
A cartoonist and more importantly, a fan of cartoonists

#12 Monty Rohde
@ 1:22 pm

I do find the reaction my post go pretty amusing. Pride? Hardly. Crack open a copy of Imagine FX or wander over to Deviant Art and check out some of the top concept artists. Those people put my pathetic body of work to shame and creatively and artistically they easily blow away pretty much all but a handful of members of the NCS and the entirety of the AAEC.

They produce a considerably higher quality of work and at a considerably higher speed too. For years I’ve heard professional cartoonists complaining about your daily deadlines and you know what? You barely produce any artwork, especially compared to your average professional entertainment artist.

Also yes professional entertainment artists reuse artwork all the time. However its mostly for background and environmental elements and they make sure to disguise it.

They don’t copy, paste, and simply throw a new line into a bubble.

Mr. Darcy, I’m sorry but I don’t agree with you and I’m not particularly sympathetic. I realize what he’s doing is partially a matter of personal survival, but if that is the case he probably should reevaluate his career choice and prepare to loose his house, and cut expense every way he can because it is only going to get worse. Cartooning especially editorial cartooning is no longer a career. Unless you manage to create an audience for yourself online or are an established artist benefiting from a large fan base created by an extensive print career the current industry has no future.

Print publications are going to continue to fold because they are utterly failing to draw in a younger audience. Anyone reading a newspaper at this point is likely at least in their 40s at youngest and that demographic is only going to get older. Those that exist will continue to be subject to brutal cost cutting in a cynical effort to drive up revenues and boost stock price. A lot of college paper no longer have editorial cartoonists because no one is interested in doing them any more.

The situation of editorial cartooning is this:
1)A profession depending on a shrinking print publication industry that has a shrinking audience.
2)Most of the artists remaining in the profession are older and from what I have seen in the last decade and a half very few of you have changed or grown much as artists and writers.
3)As staff cartoonists are being shaved very few of you have landed on your feet. Has anyone in the industry experienced an improvement in the quality of their living standards after being cut?

Once an editorial cartoonist has lost their staff position they’ve lost the default audience provided by the paper. Not enough of the audience seems to be engaged enough in their work enough to support them independently of their paper despite now having the ability to do so now.

Editorial cartooning has been creatively moribund for decades, and while I can’t quantify it I know a certain chunk of the population is bored of them. I know I am and a few other people here seem to share that opinion. The profession has shown very little external influence in terms of creative inspiration and has picked up very few new skill sets. Watching an editorial cartoonist try and make an animated cartoon is just painful, forget the quality of the animation most of you have no idea how to pace anything. Get a stop watch and watch a cartoon for crying out loud.

The situation all remaining editorial cartoonist face is this: change your career, upgrade your artistic or self marketing skills (which by no means guarantee success but can’t hurt), or hope you can ride out the decline of the print industry and retire or die before you loose your job.

This isn’t my opinion. Just look at what’s been happening in the job market.

#13 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 2:22 pm

Mr Monty above is a bit long winded and misguided, but he is not essentially wrong in stateing the obvious decline of Editorial cartooning in newspapers.

However the artwork on D.A. etc that impresses him so, without clearer definition, seems to be mere photorealism, all technique really and not difficult to master. If the pictures are all different, the technical tools are all used over and over, whether on paper, canvas or tablet.

While the same can be said of cartooning techniques it is true, the distinction is cartooning techniques serve a narrative purpose; while photorealisim obstructs storytelling.

And finally, however true it appears to you, commenting that someone “prepare to loose his house, and cut expense every way he can because it is only going to get worse.” is not at all appropriate; unless the goal is to be a ass. Especially when claiming: “This isn?t my opinion. Just look at what?s been happening in the job market.”


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