Gary Brookins Retires; New Pluggers Fill His Shoes

After 40 years of cartooning Gary Brookins has decided to retire from deadlines.

Gary announced his plans on April 1st when Rick McKee‘s first Pluggers panel showed up:

You may notice a different signature on the cartoon today, and no, it’s not an April Fools joke … I’m in the process of retiring from cartooning. This has nothing to do with Covid 19 … it’s been in the works for quite a while (my wife and family have been encouraging me for a couple of years to consider taking it a little easier, and I think they are right). Anyhow, 40+ years of relentless deadlines is enough, and I have other interests I want to devote my time and energy to. Editorial cartoonist Rick McKee from Augusta, Georgia, will be taking over “Pluggers.” Rick is a terrific cartoonist and I know he’s going to do a fantastic job. We’ll be alternating days for the next several months, and my last “Pluggers” cartoon will appear Sunday, August 23 [emphasis added].

Rick McKee is a political cartoonist. After nearly 30 years with The Augusta Chronicle, with over 20 of those years as their editorial cartoonist Rick was laid off last year. He continues his political cartooning and is syndicated by Cagle. Since April 1, 2020 Rick and Gary have alternated the daily Pluggers panels (with a little hiccup on April 3 and April 4 when Rick did both). Beginning May 10, 2020 they began alternating the Sunday page with Rick signing his first Sunday that day.

In that same post Gary also said he was passing Shoe on to Ben Lansing:

Ben Lansing, a talented cartoonist, illustrator, web designer (and Richmonder) will continue art production on “Shoe.” Ben has actually been working with us on the strip for five years, initially doing color, but a couple years ago he began producing most of the daily strips, and I did the Sundays. He’s now doing most of the Sunday strips, as well, and he’ll also take over completely in August.

Ben a cartoonist for decades and, as Gary mentioned, has been assisting on Shoe for five years. More of Ben’s work can be seen at his website.

Shoe is distributed by King Features Syndicate, Pluggers by Tribune Content Agency.

Gary adds:

I am very confident that I leave both of these features in very capable hands … both Rick McKee and Ben Lansing are not only terrific cartooning talents, but really nice guys, to boot. I wish them both the best and I look forward to reading their ‘toons with the rest of the readers.


above: early (1980) Brookins, 40 years later politicians are still trying to buy votes

Gary Brookins began editorial cartooning at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1979, after thirty years Gary was laid off from the Times-Dispatch. By that time he was already doing the Plugger panel (since February 10, 1997) and the Shoe comic strip (since at least July 17, 2000 as “MacNelly Productions” and signing since October 23, 2000).

Pluggers was not Gary first stab at syndication. In 1996 he partnered with fellow Richmond editorial cartoonist Bob Gorrell to a three times a week political panel. Muddle America ran 1996 to 1998. Ten years earlier that same team did a daily comic strip called Cobwebs. Later Gary and teammate Chris Cassatt ghosted the daily Frank and Ernest panel for a couple years.

Lambiek’s Comiclopedia has a very brief entry for Gary.

We wish only the bluest skies for Gary.


hat tip to Brian Henke for the lead.

2 thoughts on “Gary Brookins Retires; New Pluggers Fill His Shoes

  1. There are so many MacNelly imitators that it’s hard to keep count. What happened to originality?

  2. Gary is such a wonderfully talented cartoonist! And a great friend! I wish him the very best in his retirement! I will miss his work, but I am excited to see both strips continue under Rick and Ben.

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