Matt Wuerker, 2010's winner of the Herblock award, and Signe Wilkinson are the editorial cartoonists who were two of the three judges for the 2011 award. They've shared their thinking behind the selection of Tom Toles as the winner with us.
Judging the Herblock award this year was really, really hard. There was too much good work in way too many inventive forms. It's good news for our readers ... but hard for judges. Different judges would have ended up with a different decision.
In the spirit of transparency, we'd like to lift the veil a little on the thinking that went into our judging this year. Think of this as a little WikiLeak of what happened on the path to awarding the 2011 Herblock Prize.
Before the judging, it was agreed that this year the finalist would also be recognized. We knew the job was to come up with two top cartoonists.
We had a great, broad sampling of political cartooning today: lots of traditional single-panel cartoons, plenty of stellar "altie" work, a number of great ventures into cartoon journalism and, of course, the animation submissions. We even had cartoons rendered with actual oil from the BP spill.
In the apples and oranges comparisons that are such a big part of the process, it was hard to measure the simple punchy genius of single panels by the likes of Pett and Britt against long-form docucomics that went beyond the headlines, like those submitted by Ohman, Wasserman and Varvel, or for that matter animated reporter's sketchbooks such as the engaging submission from Rex Babin.
Mike Thompson's finger on the pulse of Detroit crime and Bill Day's attention to child abuse were both powerful uses of our medium. For taking us where cartooning had not gone before, Ted Rall's enterprising trip to Afghanistan was particularly noteworthy. Pat Bagley's wonderful loose humor and engagement with his readers made him a contender. The "Alties," led by Bors and Sorensen, all made it to the semifinal pile, as did Ramirez, whose graphic punch and strong, clearly expressed political opinions kept him in the running right up to the end.
We all agreed that, to the best of our abilities, we'd not judge according to our political bent but solely on the quality and consistency of the cartooning found in the portfolios we were looking at.
Though Matt Davies had what we all agreed was the single best cartoon of the year, "WikiLeaks" (by the way, a non-animated black-and-white single panel), the quality and creativity of the Toles and Telnaes portfolios put them at the very top. Choosing between the two was excruciating and took a while, but in the end we felt the overall consistency of Toles's complete portfolio made him the winner, with Telnaes No. 2 by a hair ... or a .3 Micron line.
---- Signe Wilkinson and Matt Wuerker