David Fitzsimmons on The State of Cartooning

When I opened my annual “American Association of Editorial Cartoonists Notebook”, our trade journal, the bell tolled for my profession, page by page, cartoonist by cartoonist. The Golden Age of Oliphant, MacNelly and Paul Conrad is long gone. This year our annual AAEC convention will convene in Ottawa with our Canadian colleagues because our numbers are so small we could meet in an abandoned Fotomat kiosk.

above: Clay Jones cover to the current Notebook

When I was a kid I didn’t listen when the Master Sergeant sarcastically encouraged me to consider a “back up.”

“Doing what?”

“Carving gargoyles. See all the Cathedrals in the want ads hiring stone masons? Your odds of finding work are just as bright, sunshine.”

I‘m glad I didn’t listen.

David Fitzsimmons delivers his “annual State of the State of Cartooning Address.”

These days when young cartoonists ask me for career advice I tell them,”Learn to carve gargoyles.”



24 thoughts on “David Fitzsimmons on The State of Cartooning

  1. Shorter:
    AAEC -an organization that supports editorial cartoonists writes about the demise of editorial cartoonists by running a cover by an editorial cartoonist ridiculing another editorial cartoonist.

    You can’t get more unprofessional than that.

  2. Refusal to self-police, self-criticize and hold open discussions of the art form is not only dishonest but is exactly how you kill cartooning.

    The First Amendment not only calls for self-criticism but demands it.

    DISCLOSURE: When I first saw Ben Garrison’s work, I confused him with the cartoonist for the Onion. You may judge my comments accordingly.

  3. I didn’t criticize another editorial cartoonist. I criticized Ben Garrison.

    And it doesn’t get less professional than an editorial cartoonist telling another editorial cartoonist who he can and can’t criticize. If I tell Mike Lester to start basing his opinions on facts instead of conspiracy theories, I seriously doubt he’d listen to me.

    Garrison accepted an invite to the White House to help Donald Trump with his propaganda then was disinvited due to antiSemitism. It was a news story. And there are editorial cartoonists telling me I can’t cover it?

  4. Mr. Jones is already aware the issue isn’t about him. He’s free to draw what he pleases just as I’m free to say -among other things, attacking another cartoonist is unprofessional.

    But my post is clear: the issue is and has been w/ the AAEC an organization that wouldn’t fill a mini van and so far left they deride non-conforming opinion and then attack the cartoonist for the unpardonable sin of having a contrary opinion. They don’t lament the loss of editorial cartooning. They lament the loss of liberal editorial cartooning. Much like this site.

  5. I can’t speak for the AAEC so I won’t. I’m only speaking for myself.

    No one attacked a cartoonist. I attacked Ben Garrison. Ben Garrison doesn’t do what I do. If you think he does what you do, then I’m so sorry for you.

    No one attacked Ben Garrison for his viewpoint. What has been attacked is the White House trying to legitimize what Garrison does. Let me remind you that he was invited to the WHITE HOUSE by the PRESIDENT of the United States. That’s kind of a news story. How is that not fair game for a cartoonist? We can hit each other. We’re not doctors.

    Why is it the biggest proponents of the “snowflake” talking point are the biggest snowflakes and crybabies? This victimization game you constantly play isn’t selling outside your Trump bubble.

  6. It is the literal truth that Garrison draws Trump with rippling muscles and other attributes that are nowhere in evidence in the object of his adulation. That’s not cartooning, that’s North Korea-style fawning over Dear Leader.

  7. What Mr. Lester fails to mention is that he owes his current gig with Counterpoint entirely to the AAEC and the (liberal) cartoonists in the Association.

    In the summer of 2018, (liberal) cartoonist Nick Anderson approached the president of the AAEC (liberal) cartoonist Pat Bagley with an SOS essay he had written about the crisis facing newspaper cartoonists. He wanted to publish it on our website and in the Notebook, but Mr. Bagley thought it important enough for wider distribution and suggested he try and find a larger platform.

    Mr. Anderson got the attention of CNN who ran the essay on their website, which eventually grabbed the attention of an investor who wanted to underwrite a new publication. Counterpoint was created by (liberal) cartoonist Anderson, (liberal) cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher, and (liberal) cartoonist Rob Rogers — all of whom, it should be pointed out, were past presidents of the AAEC and are still very much involved in the organization on a day-to-day basis.

    During the formation of Counterpoint, the (liberal) cartoonists behind it decided they wanted a publication that encompassed a spectrum of political views, and especially wanted to include cartoonists who had recently been dumped by their publications like (conservative) Rick McKee and Nate Beeler, as well as such notable (conservative) cartoonists such as Eric Allie, Lisa Benson, and, oh hey, Mike Lester.

    (btw, for readers interested in subscribing to the free bi-weekly newsletter, which teams up cartoonists from the left AND the right to comment on the same timely topic, they can sign up here: https://www.counterpoint.com/)

    I’m sure Mr. Lester will now denounce and disassociate himself with Counterpoint now that he knows how closely they are affiliated with, as he says, the “AALIBERALEC.”

  8. “What Mr. Lester fails to mention is that he owes his current gig with Counterpoint entirely to the AAEC” -Mr.Trostle.

    If that were true -it’s not along w/ the entire birth of CP timeline (maybe give Nick a ring) it has to do w/ the conversation which is the clear unprofessionalism of the AAEC and why many conservatives dropped out. Nor do we bother to enter the Pulitzer,etc. The AACE chooses a side, promotes the liberal and mocks the conservative perspective. They’re entitled to do so but not on my dime. This is analogous to knocking off a MAGA hat.

    You’re free to deflect in your reply but it’s not the topic.

    In parting: the group of cartoonists at CP are grateful for our opportunity, we are collegial, competitive and want to kick each others ass twice a week every week all while remaining friends and for one reason:

    We’re blessed to work in this country for a man who believes in free speech and this medium. In other words we are a small example of what America, American capitalism and freedom looks like.

    (fyi: editorial cartooning is not my primary means of income. I’ve been a commercial artist for many years but when I draw editorially I seem to have what every cartoonist wants: a visceral reaction. Thanks for that.)

  9. In retrospect I’d like to retract my criticism of Clay Jone’s cartoon. He’s right. He’s free to attack another cartoonist who was invited to the WH. It was news I hadn’t heard since Mr. Garrison isn’t someone I follow and wasn’t entirely up to speed on the story.

    My criticism of the aaec (lower case intended) stands.

  10. >The AACE chooses a side, promotes the liberal and mocks the conservative perspective

    Really? Let’s bring up another recent occasion then. While planning the 2016 AAEC convention at Duke University, the (alleged liberal) co-hosts of the annual editorial cartoonist gathering — including myself, Cullum Rogers, AAEC President Adam Zyglis, and cartoonist Kal Kallaugher — all reached out and invited every current and previous member of the Association to attend, including all the aforementioned (conservative) cartoonists now at Counterpoint… and especially everyone in the cadre that has spent years attacking the AAEC in public. We saw this as an opportunity to include everyone in a public forum in an important election year.

    With Duke University encouraging us to set up panels across the political spectrum, (conservative) cartoonist Scott Stantis programmed a session on Conservative Cartoonists and invited a slew of conservative cartoonists to speak. Adam, Kal, Scott and I contacted every conservative cartoonist who had been a member of the AAEC, and a few who hadn’t. One person —Chip Bok — accepted.

    I personally reached out and invited a couple of right-wing cartoonists even though they had repeatedly attacked me and the AAEC publicly over the years. When one of them replied ‘why bother, it’s not like you care about what we have to say,’ I pointed out I was literally inviting them to speak on a public panel. They sneered “guess my invitation got lost in the mail.”

    Duke University asked if it were possible to get more conservatives on the panel, as they would be broadcasting this and all the other public panels on YouTube, and we sent out another round of asks. No reply. The other slots on the AAEC panel went to several Young Republicans on campus that had nothing to do with cartooning.

    Cullum and I also put out an open call for all cartoonists to submit work for a major exhibit on HB2 (the so-called bathroom bill in North Carolina) and gender politics, and made an extended effort to include all takes, no matter if it were pro or con, no matter the political persuasion. We ended up showing it in three venues over 5 months.

    So please, tell us again who’s choosing a side here, and who’s excluding conservatives.

  11. I had let mail stack up and just now opened my AAEC Newsletter envelope.

    The cover by Clay Jones is just another example of how far the AAEC has detoured from being a fraternity of the craft to a
    sad side street of left-leaning political correctness.

    I myself am not a fan of Ben Garrison, but to imply he lacks journalistic integrity is the height of myopic moral narcissism
    and assumes that he is drawing from less conviction than others might. I suspect Garrison is just as faithful to his conservative beliefs as Clay Jones is to his own intolerant liberal religion.

    This isn’t about self-policing. If it were, the cover never would have been featured. This is about shaming any cartoonist who might believe Donald Trump is a better policy alternative for the country than a liberal Democrat or a “Democratic Socialist”.

    The big tent AAEC has turned into a pup tent reserved for those
    who want to cuddle under their warm liberal blanket of superiority.

  12. 2016 AAEC convention at Duke University invitation?

    First I’ve heard of this attempt to reach out. I never got one but then I’m really hard to find. I’m done here.

  13. I’m a “civilian” on here who wanted to put down my popcorn long enough to say a couple things.

    1) Ben Garrison was disinvited from the WH (only after someone up there bothered to do some research and consider the “optics”) because he’s had a history of making cartoons pushing blatantly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories—not simply “conservative”, but “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”-level stuff. The fact that Garrison got as far as an almost-invite and wasn’t ignored as the kook he is was troubling. It would be nice if the conservative cartoonists on here did a little research before jumping to his defense (or assuming that Jones’s dig at him was an attack on conservatives in general.)

    2) And as the average newspaper reader, I’m trying to find some sympathy in my heart for Mr. Gorrell and Mr. Lester. But all I can think is: “Your side won, what you crying about?”

    Where I live, Mr. Gorrell’s comics run in my hometown rag on the regular, surrounded by letters to the editor that agree with him. Your mighty hero Trump is sitting in the WH owning the libs on a daily basis. The guy that coined the term “feminazi” was just given the Congressional Medal of Freedom. Whenever I try to tell my congress critters that, hey, I’m a little concerned about my taxes being wasted on yet another Trump golf trip I’m told that it’s all cool because my 401K is doing great now (aside: it is not)—that is if they don’t ignore me completely because red-state liberals do not exist. (Oh, sorry, liberal beliefs are actually a heretical “religion” compared to real Americans, right Mr. Gorrell?)

    In the lurking I’ve done on this site at least, I’ve come across cartoons from both sides of the aisle, along with plenty of pretty interesting and heartwarming apolitical stuff. And yet, the only time a conservative shows up in the comments is when he gets his panties in a twist over some perceived slight.

    Could it be that the problem isn’t “conservative bias” but that maybe some of you guys are just real pains to be around?

  14. > 2016 AAEC convention at Duke University invitation?
    > First I’ve heard of this attempt to reach out. I never got one but then I’m really hard to find. I’m done here.

    Interesting, Mike, considering you submitted not one but three cartoons to the HB2 exhibit that was part of the AAEC convention.

    So you clearly received the announcement to the open call that was sent out, and took us up on that invitation. Anyone in the show would’ve also been on our mailing list and received invitations to attend the wider convention.

  15. Throughout the year(s) I respond to and send images for many reasons that are out of sight out of mind. This appears to be one of those. Please accept my apology for wrongly accusing the AAEC.

    But I’m correctly accusing the AAEC of promoting one cartoonists attack on another.

  16. Who knew that all those paintings of Chairman Mao and Stalin and Kim looking strong and heroic are actually political cartoons? And here I’ve been assuming they were smarmy political hackery, made to order.

  17. Kip,

    According to Lester and Bob Gorrell, they only have just as much credibility as a cartoonist for Pravda. And I’m intolerant for not accepting that about myself.

  18. I have no idea what you guys are talking about but I’ll give you the final response: If I drew a cartoon attacking Nick Anderson or Clay Bennett or Jack Ohman (by the way: they’ve all been invited/univited to the WH) how long do you think I’d keep my job w the WPWG? (we all work for the WPWG).

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