Showing posts with label political cartoons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label political cartoons. Show all posts

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tim Kreider Q&A: "I’m frankly glad to not be a political cartoonist right now"

transcribed and edited by Mike Rhode

Tim Kreider recently appeared (2/8/18) at Politics and Prose's store at The Wharf to read from I Wrote This Book Because I Love You, his new book of essays. Kreider spent years as a cartoonist for the Baltimore City Paper, and is a very entertaining guy, so he's always on my list of people to see when he comes to town. With his permission, here's a transcript of his question & answer session.

Tim Kreider (TK): It is traditional, I gather, to do a Q&A after a reading, so I will gladly A, if you wish to Q…

Audience Member (AM):  Are you still doing cartoons?

TK: I’m not mostly. No. I don’t know what that’s about. I did it for 12 years professionally and I got pretty burnt out on both cartooning and politics by the end of it. I was a political cartoonist. I think part of it is – my girlfriend studied opera at Oberlin, and she gave that up, because opera singers are basically not allowed to have any fun, ever. No drinking, no smoking, it’s pretty much opera all the time. She doesn’t sing karaoke either now, and I think it’s a little bit like that for me. When you devote yourself passionately to something and then you have to give it up, you have to give it up. It’s like breaking up with some one. For a while, even if you’re going to be friends later, you just cannot see them.

Also, I’m frankly glad to not be a political cartoonist right now. What would you do? One of my students told me about a form of satire that came to prominence in the late Soviet era which consisted of reciting the official propaganda and rhetoric verbatim and straight-faced – which is what we’ve come to in this country. You’ve probably heard Mark Hammill reading Donald Trump’s tweets in the voice of the Joker, and it’s impossible to believe the Joker didn’t actually write them -- they sound so much like him. I think we may be post-jokes now. “No” would be the short answer, but I miss it. There are cartoon ideas, and those are not essay ideas, and drawing is way funner than writing. You’ve got something at the end of the day that wasn’t there at the beginning of the day. Also, you can tell if it sucks just by looking at. This book [holding up his new collection]… I have no idea. No, it’s good, it’s very good.

AM: Do you have a writing process?

TK: Someone asked me that last night and it gave me my first cartoon idea in years. The caption is just, “The Writing Process” and I’ll let you imagine the process by yourself. The first year must be spent procrastinating and feeling anxious and guilty all the time. You must then undertake a series of massive secret time-wasting projects.

Yeah, there’s a lot of that. I don’t even know how this book got written. I barely even remember doing any writing. There was always a lot of time feeling anxious and guilty. Writing a book is a marathon, rather than a sprint. I don’t know how interesting this is, but I made some rules for myself. I decided I had to have an office, so I went to the vast, ornate reading room of the New York City Public Library at 42nd St. to write my first book. It’s good to not do your work in exactly the same chair in front of exactly the same laptop where you email and watch Netflix and goof off. You have do to it on a regular schedule.

Someone gave me the good advice that if it’s going very badly, just make yourself do twenty minutes a day. If you are not getting anything done, call it a day – go to a matinee or go to the zoo. But if you find you’ve accidentally gotten absorbed in it, then good.

I don’t know. Is that an answer to your question? I have no idea what the process is… you know what the process really is? You sit around with people smarter and funnier than you drinking beers, and remember everything smart and funny that they say, and then steal it. That’s pretty much how everything gets done. That’s my actual talent in life – cultivating friends.

AM: I think the last time you were in town [for a book event], you were still cartooning for the Baltimore City Paper, so I was wondering where and what you’re teaching.

TK: I teach at Sarah Lawrence College and I teach one of the few things I am qualified to teach. I teach writing essays, just like the ones I write.  I was very resentful about having to do it at first. Writers just want to be left alone and never work an honest day in their lives. And that’s an honorable goal. At first I felt like I was a bear at a circus, having to wear a tutu and ride a bike, but it turns out that I secretly love it. I’m very fiercely devoted to my young charges and when one of my students got a piece she wrote in my class published, I was much happier then when I get anything published any more. Much. I felt like some doting grandma who wanted to tape it up on the fridge.

AM: [Are you going to write a novel or a longer work?]
20180208_194014TK: I think it might be really hard… so, no. This was hard. 200 pages – it took me five years! I don’t know what idea would sustain me through that much concentration, that much focus, and that much labor. I admire the epigrams of Nietzsche. I think if you can say something in a sentence, why take a paragraph; if you can do it in a paragraph, why take an essay; and if you can do it in an essay, why take a book? There’s a nice book by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, who wrote The Little Prince, but also wrote a great book on aviation, Wind, Sand and Stars. I’m going to paraphrase, but he’s ostensibly talking about airplanes, but you know he’s talking about writing when he says, “Somethings attain their perfection not when nothing more can be added, but when nothing more can be taken away.” I admire concision and elegance in writing, so it would have to be a subject I felt required a book. It’s hard enough just writing an essay. Some of these essays are just one year and thirty pages long and it took me years. I don’t know what would possess me to that extent, unless I got sent into space... which is what I’m angling for.

AM: How does it feel writing about something so personal? Is it cathartic? Do you not think about the audience when writing?

TK: I’m a very lazy person, and I really write about my own life because writing about other things would require research. I’m not a journalist. I was never trained in that discipline or those ethics. I’m just a guy. So all I know enough to write about is my life and stories I’ve heard from my friends, so that’s why I do that. But it comes with certain drawbacks, like, it’s weird. It’s weird to go on first dates with people who already know everything about you. I just did an interview on NPR, and it’s one thing to spend five years making a lot of calculated revelations and refining something gradually into what you hope will be art, even if the raw material is your personal life, and quite another to have some guy ask you personal questions on national radio. It turns out I’m actually kind of private [laughs]. You can’t write imaging your mom looking over your shoulder, or you would never write anything at all. Although there is an asterisk after some of the titles of essays in this book, and a note on bottom of the table of contents that says, “Note to Mom. Do not read.” Those will be the first ones Mom reads, I’m sure.

Yeah, it’s somewhat weird, but once you’re able to write about something, if you’re able to refine it to the point of being artful, you’re past it and it’s not really you anymore. There’s hazards to that; writing about something distances you from it and codifies it, and, it’s not really yours anymore in a way. There’s a trick I do in my class when we’re talking about memoir and autobiography, because they’re all young, and young people believe they are special and unique and fascinating. So this is my famous “You are not Special” lecture, which is actually a strength and not a weakness, because all the stuff you think is special and unique, and all the things you think are shameful secrets, are not. They are universal. They are boringly common. The trick I do is a thing I read about in an interview with Orson Welles, who in between being a genius director, had to do all sorts of show biz jobs. He was a stage magician and a fortune teller. He does this thing… I will do it now. I will prognosticate. I will say to someone – you have a scar on your knee… yes? So does everybody else because that’s what you fall on when you’re a kid, so we all have scars on our knees, and we all think that that is our scar. The takeaway for my students is that your secret shameful scars are everybody else’s too.

Some of my circumstances are unusual or unique, but I feel like they are illuminating way more universal conditions. I’m not pathological, I’m just weird, so I’m banking on the assumption  what’s true of me is likely true of a lot of other people. I would say my experience so far is that has been rewarded. The more risks you take, the more letters you get from people effectively saying, “Oh my god, I thought it was just me! I can’t believe you came out and said that.” Which is slightly gratifying.

AM: What do your students think of your writing?

TK: [laughs] I have no idea. Those are some other people you can’t imagine looking over your shoulder while you write. The reason I wear suits is because I teach and I wear them as a kind of armor, a semiotic armor, because I felt fraudulent like most teachers secretly do when they start. I needed the students to buy into this illusion of authority. I need to affect a certain persona in class so they perceive me a certain way, but you would be doing your reader a disservice if you did that. It’s the same kind of compartmentalization that we all do in various fields of our lives, I guess.

I don’t know if many of my students have ever talked to me directly about my writing except to say, “I really liked your book; it was funny”—that kind of bland generic compliment. My hope is that I am modeling for them the kind of honesty that I try to teach. Who knows? But yes, it’s a creepy thought and I try not to indulge in it.

AM: Do you watch and lot of movies, and who are some of your favorite directors?

TK: Yeah, I watch a lot of movies. Actually, the first thing I ever got published nationally was an article in Film Quarterly. That’s where I started writing. I had a slew of articles in Film Quarterly for a while in the late 90s, early 2000s. They were about Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, the Coen Brothers and Steven Spielberg. They were about Eyes Wide Shut and A.I. and The Straight Story and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? I would say that my main artistic role model in life has been Stanley Kubrick, even though that seems a weird role model because he was so, in a way, absent from his own work. But of course, he’s deeply present in that he exerted freakish, fanatical control over every frame. I think I admired him not just for the beauty and the darkness of the art, but for his MO in life which is ‘secure control if you’re an artist.’ That’s a lot harder to do in Hollywood than it is in writing, because more money is involved. And more other people, and other people, as we all know, ruin everything. When you’re a writer, it’s just you and maybe an editor. Securing autonomy and control are real important to me. I know way more about Stanley Kubrick than really is healthy, but he’s someone I look to those anecdotes [about him] for little inspirational guides to conducting my own professional life.

There was a professional conflict where I was very much thinking of a certain Stanley Kubrick anecdote. It was when he was a young man working on his first Hollywood movie. He was some kid in his twenties. Some veteran photographer was working the set, and Kubrick started out as a photographer, so he knew his shit. He told the photographer the distance and the lens that he wanted, and he went on break, and when he came back it was set up at a different distance with a different lens. The guy explained to him, “Yeah, but it’s going to look the same on screen; don’t worry,” and Stanley Kubrick without raising his voice said, “Put the camera at the distance I told you to, with the lens I asked for, or get off my set.” That is utterly alien to my character, but I try to remember that to try to cultivate his discipline, because sometimes you have to be that guy, in the battlefield between art and commerce.

AM: You mentioned liking to write in the NY Public Library. What would be some of the other cultural highlights of the City for you?

TK: I was just talking about this earlier with somebody. You know, there’s a life cycle to New York. There are some people that go there and they’re lifers. They love that place, and they’re never going to leave until it gets nuked. If then. I wasn’t one of them, or didn’t think I was. I went there for the reason that a lot of young people do, which is ambition. You have a specific ambition and you go there, and you either fail or you fulfill it and then you move somewhere reasonable for a human being to live. Unfortunately, I accidentally acquired a circle of friends, and a girlfriend, and a job I like, and now I’m stuck in the most god-awful place on earth. The things I truly love there are Film Forum an art house revival theater, Grand Szechuan Chinese food (never more than twenty bucks), and yeah, I like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I used to go only when I had out of town visitors, because you always hit the same highlights, and I started to cultivate it as a habit. You just go for half-hour… it’s basically free… well, a suggested donation… I like those things about the city. It’s a good city for depressed people. It offers constant stimulus if you require that. And it’s a good backdrop for your life, when your life is not going so well. You look up at the skyline and think “Well, Jesus, at least I’m not in Belair, MD.”

AM: It sounds like you don’t your assign your book to your students…

TK: Oh my god, no.

AM: …when you teach a class on essays, and assign good examples. Do you take much yourself from those examples? It sounds like your inspirations are more music, or movies or drinking with your friends.

TK: I read all kinds of stuff. I think I’m pretty catholic in my reading tastes. I secretly had to take a class course in essays when I agreed to teach one, so I’ve read a lot of them. I had certainly read the essays of David Foster Wallace. When I came across his ocean liner essay in Harper’s, I weirdly felt a kind of relief because back then I was a frustrated writer while being a cartoonist, and I felt, “Ok, this guy is the writer I would be if only I was a much better writer, so I’m off the hook. I don’t have to do that anymore.” But I think everybody in my generation of writers kind of felt that way. “He was speaking in the voice that everyone hears in their heads,” is the way people often put it. I read a lot of non-fiction, but you don’t learn to write by studying things for lessons. I feel that when teaching writing, you’re really just a study hall monitor. You have to make them read a lot and write a lot, and they have to do that core year, and eventually maybe they’ll be writers. You just absorb it by osmosis. You learn the rhythms of good prose. Hunter Thompson said he used to type out the last page of The Great Gatsby because he wanted to know what it felt like in your fingers to type prose that great. I make my students memorize literature, because I think you have to internalize those cadences and you have to have that in your head. I think you absorb stuff by example, unconsciously.

One of the first sentences I ever noticed as a young reader was from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I noticed it because it wasn’t the content in the sense that it was funny; it was the way it was formed. It was when the Vogon ships, these giant rectangular spaceships come to Earth to destroy it. It’s a scheduled demolition; we just hadn’t been informed, and the sentence is, “The ships hung there in the sky in the same way that bricks don’t.” It’s nice, huh? You learn these tricks, and you file them away, thinking “Ah, I’ve got to do that,” and you just pick up about a million of those. Any wise stuff I pretend to say in class is just filling time while they are reading and hopefully learning stuff like that. Right now, I’m reading Robert Caro, the historian. I read all his volumes in the LBJ bio, and now I’m reading Power Broker about Robert Moses. He writes 800-page books which are only volume one of his series, and I write really short essays, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot from him. You are never lost reading that stuff; he turns everything into a story. You always know where you are and why you’re reading. Even the boring part of the LBJ bio, which is where LBJ grew up, what that landscape is like, he turns it into a story, and the story is, “This land is crap.” It looks incredibly fecund on the surface and it is for a couple of seasons until you denude it with crops or with cattle, and then the rains come and wash it away down to the bedrock, and you’re fucked. Ambitious people came there , and their fortunes were squandered and this is the background LBJ came from. It all ties into why that guy, who was a sociopath, cared enough to pass the Great Society bills and the Civil Rights bills. Even in the tiniest details, you understand why you’re reading this stuff. I’m sorry, I’ve gone on too long. We do that when we read the Caro books; we become colossal bores.

AM: Are there any female essayists or authors you introduce  your students to?

TK: They all love Joan Didion. I don’t. Mostly because she’s humorless. I acknowledge that she’s a great writer, but I just can’t lover her because she’s not funny. It’s just my predisposition. I can’t really warm up to a writer who I don’t think is hilarious. But they love her, and I respect their judgment, so I teach Joan Didion.

The first week I always teach M.F.K. Fisher’s essays, a great food writer. I don’t care about the food at all, but she makes you understand why you should, or at least care about something passionately. I like Rebecca Solnit a lot; she’s one of my favorite political writers. And she’s not just a good political writer; she wrote a great memoir called The Faraway Nearby. I really like Lionel Shriver for her prickly, contrarian intellect. Meghan Daum is a great essayist, she wrote a book called The Unspeakable. A friend of mine introduced her work to me because she thought we were up to the same things, which is using the raw material of our own lives to try to write about universal stuff, but it was not memoir, it’s personal essay. Those are some of my top picks.

AM: What’s your impression of Washington, DC?

TK: I don’t really have a strong impression here. I’ve got a lot of good friends here, and I visit often, but I don’t really know the city. I don’t have a good sense of it as a city. I should say I’m from Baltimore, so I’m biased. I like Baltimore because it’s an eccentric, hard-drinking, dirty, insane city. And DC is not like that, to my knowledge.

AM: I find your voice refreshing and unusual for the New York Times. How did you start writing for them?

TK: I never stopped writing even while I was a cartoonist, and the reason I started writing for them is that a guy I sort of knew got something published there, and it was terrible, and I thought, “Oh, if he can be in the New York Times, I’m going to be in the New York Times.” So I wrote something for that same column and it just happened to appeal to a certain editor there. He’s my go-to guy there, and he’s also a friend, and we go out to lunch at least once every couple of months. It just happened to appeal to him personally, but it also occupied a good in-betweenish niche. It was a column on alcohol, and it seemed like everyone’s column was either “Oh man, I went out and got wasted last night,” or “I am now in a 12-step program and it has saved my life.” I was neither of those people. As someone who used to drink a lot and loved it, and now had to moderate things some, and missed it, I had all that ambivalence. I tell my students if you can find that niche in between, you’ve got a shot at getting something published. That led to me standing here, in a weird succession of events. An agent saw that, and is now my fabulous agent, and she got me a book contract, and it was all very abrupt and unexpected. It forestalled a midlife crisis for me. I’m sure it’ll come crashing later.

AM: I was wondering who is your favorite comedian?

TK: Well, some names are now taboo to speak. I don’t think I have a favorite one. I really like good standup comedians. I really like Chris Rock. I just saw Dave Chapelle’s second Netflix special which I liked, a lot, partly because he addressed his first one, which I did not see, and spoke to some of the criticisms in a way that was interesting and funny. Those are the first two that come to mind. Humor-wise, I was more into cartoonists and writers. My favorite cartoonist, B Kliban, was a guy who studied under Richard Linder, a surrealist painter at Pratt Institute, and he always continued being a surrealist. He was just a surrealist who drew cartoons. He did this famous book, Cat, in the late 70s and you saw these tiger-striped cats everywhere on dishtowels and mugs and stuff. When I was twelve I got Cat, because I made the lateral move from Garfield to Cat, and then I read his other books which had titles like Whack Your Porcupine or Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head. That blew my mind, his very observant and dark humor. It took me decades to get some of those jokes. I’m still in the process of getting some. My first book is just shamelessly imitative.

Yes, Kliban has a totally different style from Linder. But I’m a teacher now, and I’m not trying to teach my kids to write in my style. Ideally, I’m trying to teach them to write as well as they can, which may be very different from mine. And sometimes you have students you’re probably not helping much because they’re too different from you.

AM: Back when you were cartooning for the Baltimore City Paper, did you consider yourself a political cartoonist?

TK: Yeah, I did. I didn’t start out that way. I wanted to be like B Kliban and do absurdist nonsense. My first book, which is still my favorite of my books I have to say, is all that stuff, and then the 2000 election got stolen, and then 9/11 happened, and we invaded some other country that had nothing to do with 9/11 for some reason, and it felt like it would just be frivolous and unforgivable, with access to even a really tiny marginal public forum, like the Baltimore City Paper, to do art about anything else. I have some regrets about that, because those were prime creative years I squandered on a really ephemeral art form. I wouldn’t go back to it now. I feel like I did my time. It was like being conscripted in the Army in a way. It’s time for younger people to get out there.

AM: Do you recommend any African writers?

TK: Nope, I am almost entirely ignorant of the entire literature. I’ve had students complain in evaluations that my syllabus is pretty ‘white guy Western canon,’ but I suffer from the boundaries of my experience, and being sheltered, and being who I am. I have to teach the stuff that I authentically know and love, and that happens to be that stuff. I teach Montaigne and went way out of my way to find a bearable translation for them. They’re still lazy; they didn’t even like Nabokov. I should probably work to expand that canon since hopefully I’ll teach there for a long time. I don’t feel my students from other cultures are being well-served, necessarily. 

AM: It took five years to write your last book; is there anything before that where you feel you totally missed the mark and would like to go back and revise?

TK: Yeah, Montaigne did that. In real scholarly editions of his work, they show which lines were written when, because he just kept going back and revising. He would think of clever things to say or a related anecdote or he would have a new thought. In fact it just happened to me. It happens all the time. This is why you can’t look at your old books. When you’re writing a book, you’re obsessed the whole time with “Is this any good or does this suck?” which is not a very useful question by the way. At some point, that stops being the relevant question, and the relevant question is, “Is it done?” and then that’s when you’re done. When it feels like the best book that the guy I was in those five years could write in that time. And we commend him for his effort and move on to the next book. Although there’s some lines I wrote in my first book that I love more than any lines in this book, but that’s probably just because I hate this book right now.  That’s a bad way to end. [laughs]

Friday, November 24, 2017

Back to the Future with Winsor McCay

by Mike Rhode

Warren Bernard is known to many as the Executive Director of the Small Press Expo, but he's also an indefatigable collector of specialties in the comic art field. He and I refer to these as the "Secret History of Comics." Lately, he's been providing a lot of ads drawn by New Yorker cartoonists to Michael Maslin's Ink Spill. When I visited him recently, he pulled out a whole box of Winsor McCay's editorial cartoons clipped from the Chicago Herald and Examiner. I looked through barely any of the box (there's always something more to see at his house), but what struck me was how sadly relevant are these cartoons dating from 1929-1930 by McCay (who was also creator of Little Nemo, and Gertie the Dinosaur, and a founding father of animation). Almost 90 years later, we're still dealing with many of the same issues and Warren provided scans for me to share with you.

There's a narcotics problem hollowing out the social and civil life of our country....

and an international drug problem...

...although it's apparent to everyone that the  War on Drugs dating back to Ronald Reagan and the 1980s has been a stunningly expensive failure.

Distrust and ill will lead to tariffs that block trade and business...

...while a President's speech disrupts international organizations.

Schools are failing their students, leading to high levels of ignorance... 


... which is infecting the mood of the country...

... leading to an endemic lack of trust in government among certain Americans ...

 ...while also filling prisons, which now are being run for profit, and thus prime for overcrowding. 

Public works projects, including highways, are desired by 'common citizens and tax payers' ...

... but the large companies in the country are using their power to manipulate Congress and the media on their own behalf...

...while farmers suffer from high seed prices, low commodity prices and high debt while big agribusinesses like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland Company get even bigger. 

Meanwhile, there's ongoing probes of the Executive Branch and Congress for sexual, ethical, lobbying and foreign interference issues...

that's going to take a lot of effort to resolve and preserve democracy.

 Meanwhile, 16 years of ongoing wars have led to tens of thousands of veterans, many with medical issues, having problems integrating back into society.

Sadly, I'm afraid that Warren and I could have added many more cartoons if I had time to look through more than a tenth of the box.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Catching up with conservative cartoonist Al Goodwyn

by Mike Rhode
It's been 6 years since I interviewed you for the Washington City Paper - The world's changed a bit since then - have you?
Other than grayer hair and higher cholesterol, I haven't changed much.  Still enjoying life in DC.  And you're right, the world has certainly changed, some for the good and some for the bizarre.  What's also bizarre is that the good and bizarre labels seem to flip depending on individual political perspectives.
About six months ago you started a cartoon blog with Jeff Newman where you provide conservative political cartoons and he does humorous commentary on public events.  Can you tell us how that started, and why you're doing it? How is the reaction?
I had been wanting to try my hand at blogging for some time.  Given that the first steps at blogging aren't really part of the creative process, but include figuring out the mechanics of blogging, the layout, and all of the key strokes needed just to get started, it stayed on the back burner for years.  Jeff's a good friend of mine back in South Carolina and we chat often about politics.  He was actually the push to make the blog finally happen. 
It was over a few beers with Jeff that the topic of blogging resurfaced.  We convinced ourselves we could manage a blog.  Isn't beer amazing?  We wanted the theme to somehow counter the growing number of people who get their news from Comedy Central and memes.  We were both a fan of the book Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole where people seemingly amassed in a confederacy to stymie the protagonist's every move.  From our prospective those who simply latch on to whatever fits their world view without validation from other sources were acting like drones, hence Confederacy ofDrones was launched. 
With lots of snarkiness, satire and sarcasm, we've been posting on a fairly routine basis since then.  Part for fun and part for sanity.  We've loaded over 150 posts so far. We even appreciate other perspectives and disagreement especially when opinions are backed up by facts. The blog can be found here:  The reaction has been positive and we've enjoyed engaging with other bloggers on politics.
You've been picked up to do print cartoons for the Washington Examiner, which was Nate Beeler's home when it was a daily. What is the story behind that? Is it all new material for them?
Nate is a phenomenal editorial cartoonist.  His work was a part of my metro commute when the Washington Examiner was a daily newspaper.  I was sorry to see that daily paper go away, partly because it changed my commute routine but mostly because it was another step in the fading of political cartoonists.  Nate has been, and I'm sure he'll continue to be, used by the Washington Examiner through syndication. 
My involvement with the Washington Examiner came about because my cartooning outlet of 28 years, the HealthPhysics News, was cutting back on costs and no longer wanted cartoons.  My start at cartooning began with them back in 1989 when they were called the Health Physics Society Newsletter and ever since then I had been a regular contributor … until this summer when they let me know that they would no longer be running cartoons.  I think they felt worse about it than I did.  It's a business decision that I completely understood.  They had been great to me over those many years and without them, it's possible I may never have tried my hand at cartooning.   
Since one door closed, I was in search of another.  The Washington Examiner, now a weekly news magazine, has its offices near mine in downtown DC.  I made contact with several people there and after they looked at some of my work, we met in person.  They were encouraging during that meeting and indicated that they'd like to occasionally use my work.  The first was in the September 18th issue. 
How does it feel to have a 'reinvigorated' political cartoon career as a conservative in 2017? 

It's great to have an outlet whether it's the blog or in print.  There's so much going on and so many opportunities to identify contrary opinions to what's happening in politics and society, that there's plenty of motivating material for cartoons. 

Even though I lean to the right and most of my cartoons have a conservative tilt, I still poke at Republicans and President Trump.  Of course many would say, and I'd agree, that those are easy targets based on recent missteps and gaffs.  Fortunately as far as US presidents are concerned, we don't elect them for life.  Unfortunately, in the absence of term limits for congress, the country has moved too far away from the citizen politician and more toward entrenched career politicians.  You'd think with the level of political fodder available today for lampooning that the world of political cartoons would be a thriving industry.  Maybe, again, some day.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Jim Berryman Drawing for a Nash car dealership

by Scott Stewart

This drawing by Jim Berryman, son of Clifford Berryman (both worked for the Washington Star and each won the Pulitzer for cartooning), was given to my grandfather who had a Nash dealership in Georgetown from 1930 to 1963. The building later became the Biograph Theater and now is a CVS -- located on M Street across from the Four Seasons hotel. Progress.

The dealership was called Williams and Baker after my grandfather and his partner Preston Williams. Despite being the nation's capital, DC was in many ways a very provincial town and it was common to do business with well-known people. Among my grandfather's customers were members of congress, John Willard Marriott (whose first root beer stand was on 14th street), and a number of Washington Senators and Redskins. This was before air conditioning was widespread, which later led to a population boom in the 1970s and beyond to our current city's sprawl.

The car in the drawing looks to be a 1946-1947 Nash Ambassador.

Wiki entry for Berryman: James Thomas Berryman (June 8, 1902 – August 12, 1971) was an American political cartoonist who won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. Born in Washington, D.C., Berryman was the son of Clifford Berryman, also a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist. The two Berrymans are the only parent-child pair to win Pulitzer Prizes in the same category.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Mitchell MacNaughton - An Artomatic Interview (updated)

by Mike Rhode

Mitchell MacNaughton's caricatures and cartoons recall the 1960s as well as today's issues. He's sharing a room at Artomatic in Crystal City and agreed to answer our usual questions.


What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Many people would label my work as political cartooning, although that’s not quite how I would describe it. Sure, for many pieces I use ink and my subject is political, but I think that there in a certain refinement that would put it closer to the art side rather than the cartooning side.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

If I’m solely creating a black and white piece, my tools include micron pens, black India ink, and either charcoal or a black colored pencil. If I’m creating a piece in color, it could range from gouache to watercolor with certain elements re-colored digitally.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1989 on farmlands in Western New York, where I would live for 17 years until I left for Pittsburgh.

Why do you draw and comment on characters and events from the 1960s?

I find mid-century America fascinating because the dynamic of the country completely shifted in a handful of years. President Kennedy came to office on a wave of optimism as the U.S. came to terms with it’s post-war life, then his death is the first in a dark period that saw other assassinations along with riots and strife, and the decade comes to a close with the start of one of our lowest points of the modern century - The Vietnam War. It’s span of years that starts out on a high and bottoms out in a low, and for some reason that intrigues me.


Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I had always wanted to live in DC, as it’s a natural fit for somebody with my artistic themes, and after years of plotting a planning I finally got my chance when I was offered a job at a political direct mail agency. While here, I have never lived in any neighborhood outside of Alexandria.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

While in studying for my degree in graphic design, I knew that my priority was becoming an illustrator. Thankfully for my perseverance, I had many teachers who insisted that I would fail or that the market was too crowded, so while I was in their classes I would look up artists and and search illustration advice websites out of spite. I took what I was learning in my design courses and let that influence certain facets of my drawing that created my current style.

Who are your influences?

Currently I am obsessed with Kukryniksy - a group of 3 artists who created work out in Russia during World War 2. In fact, I would say that the whole era of political art during World War 2 had a great effect on me. Artists used their astounding talent at a time when the world was witnessing pure evil, and the artwork was unyielding.


If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I would work up the confidence to promote myself much earlier. I am the only artist in my family, so I was (and to an extent still am) blindly wandering around trying to figure out what to do, and that creates a sense of never being good enough to compete with those who seem to have it figured out.

What work are you best-known for?

To the extent that I am known, it would probably be for my drawing style and political subject matter.

What work are you most proud of?

I am most proud of creating artwork that highlights certain news stories in the world that may not get as much attention, such as the human rights abuses of Bashar al-Assad or civilian casualties of drone strikes. When you are a political artist, it can be very easy to take the easy attack on a subject, suck as making Trump bright orange, and while that can be fun it should not be at the expense of using your skill to touch on other issues.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

One project that I have had on my mind is an animated story/documentary about my uncle’s time in Vietnam and his life after being exposed to Agent Orange, but that is a hefty project that requires many steps in the build-up. Another interest I have been wanting to purse is taking classic literature and spoofing/rewriting them to mock out current political climate.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

If I’m feeling the rust coming on then I have to get up and step away from my desk, because I know that if I don’t I will just end up on Youtube and destroy my entire night. Usually I can go play video games for an hour or so to refresh myself and get back in a work mode.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

That’s so hard to say. The illustration and art field feels like it is and has been going through such a rapid transformation with the shifting a mediums that they depend on, such as print media and the freelancing economy. All I can do is keep making my work and hoping that I can find new ways to keep it from becoming stale.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I have only attended Small Print Expo as a visitor, where I spent most of my time at the Fantagraphics’ tables.
What's your favorite thing about DC?

I absolutely love the amount of food choices. Possibly it’s because I’m originally a small-town rube, but I’ve become so much more adventurous in my eating here simply because the options are all present for you to try.

Least favorite?
Transportation as a whole. The Metro system only functions in various stages of broken, making a two station trip take upwards of 30 minutes. That isn’t to say that driving is any better, because the drivers here are absolutely wild. Trying to get out of D.C. on these roads with it’s drivers is like trying to escape from a Supermax prison. Nearly impossible.

What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?

My favorite without hesitation is the Presidential portrait room at the National Portrait Gallery.


How about a favorite local restaurant?

Cape Banh Mi in Alexandria. The catfish is one of the best things I have eaten.

Do you have a website or blog? for my art and for my blog.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Washington cartoon (presented without comment)

Courtesy of the Library of Congress
  • Title: "To begin with, 'I'll paint the town red'" / Hamilton.
  • Creator(s): Hamilton, Grant E., artist
  • Date Created/Published: 1885 January 31.
  • Medium: 1 print (2 pages) : chromolithograph.
  • Summary: Cartoon showing "Democracy" portrayed as the devil holding a bucket labeled "Bourbon Principles" and a paintbrush (in which appears a profile caricature of Grover Cleveland), both dripping red paint with which he plans to "paint the town"; he is standing on a wall overlooking a view of Washington, D.C. showing mostly government buildings.
  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-10482 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-5418 (color film copy transparency)
  • Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
  • Call Number: Illus. in AP101.J8 1884-1885 Case X [P&P]
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
  • Notes:
    • Illus. in: Judge, v. 7, no. 172, 1885 January 31, pp. 8-9.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Resist! political cartoon newspaper coming to Arlington

Resist! and Magic Bullet in
Arlington's Central Library lobby

On Friday, January 20th, the Resist! political cartoon newspaper will be available at One More Page Books of Arlington, VA, Busboys and Poets of Shirlington, and in the lobby of the Central Library. The paper will also be handed out by volunteers at the L'Enfant and Federal Center SW subway stops during the Women's March.
And for one week, the Little Free Library of Alcova Heights, Arlington, VA on 7th Street will be solely carrying it too.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ann Telnaes wins Silver Reuben award for editorial cartooning

Ann Telnaes with her award, courtesy of Barbara Dale

Ann Telnaes has won the Silver Reuben award from the National Cartoonists Society in the editorial cartooning section. Ann does animated cartoons for the Post's website. This is the second big win for an political cartoon animator, as Mark Fiore just accepted his Herblock Prize this past week. While still doing ink on paper cartoons, Ann won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, so she's still got it.

The other winners, all a worthy bunch, are detailed at -

2016 Reubens: Michael Ramirez, Anton Emdin are big winners at ‘the Golden Globes of comics’

Comic Riffs

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Angelo Lopez wins cartooning award in the Annual Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards

Selections from the press release:

Cartoon Winner
"Editorial Cartoons," Angelo Lopez, Philippines Today

"Throughout his life, my father held a deep commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press." Observed Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights "He would invite reporters and news crews to join him in the most impoverished city neighborhoods, to Indian reservations and communities in Appalachia, California's Central Valley or rural Indiana—places that often lacked electricity and plumbing—and he would ask the press corps why it wasn't covering those issues and these places. The Journalists who followed his '68 campaign created the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards in his name, to honor those who covered the issues most important to him."

This year's Book and Journalism Award winners were chosen from out of more than 300 submissions. Historian Michael Beschloss chaired the judges' panel for the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

The book award, now in its 36th year, will be presented by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy at a ceremony featuring remarks by Kerry Kennedy and Michael Beschloss on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

The ceremony will also feature the presentation of the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, celebrating their 48th year. All honorees will receive a bust of Robert F. Kennedy in recognition of their award.

(as in the past few years, ComicsDC editor Mike Rhode was one of the judges)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

PR: Winner of the 2016 Herblock Prize is Mark Fiore

[corrected 2nd paragraph]

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, DC, Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 – Mark Fiore has been named the winner of the 2016 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. Fiore is the first to win the Prize with all animated cartoon entries.

Mark Fiore, who the Wall Street Journal has called “the undisputed guru of the form,” creates animated political cartoons in San Francisco, one of the most fertile regions for creating political animation and cartoons. His work has appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site,,,,, NPR’s web site and is currently being featured on online news sites ranging from KQED and to The Progressive and Fiore’s political animation has been featured on CNN, Frontline,, and cable and broadcast outlets across the globe.

Beginning his professional life by drawing traditional political cartoons for newspapers, Fiore's work appeared in publications ranging from The Washington Post to the Los Angeles Times. In the late 1990s, he began to experiment with animating political cartoons and, after a short stint at the San Jose Mercury News as their staff cartoonist, Fiore devoted all his energies to animation.

Mark Fiore was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for political cartooning in 2010, a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 2004 and has twice received an Online Journalism Award for commentary from the Online News Association (2002, 2008). Fiore has received two awards for his work in new media from the National Cartoonists Society (2001, 2002), and in 2006 received The James Madison Freedom of Information Award from The Society of Professional Journalists.

The Herblock Prize is awarded annually by The Herb Block Foundation for "distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock." The winner receives a $15,000 after-tax cash prize and a sterling silver Tiffany trophy. Mark Fiore will receive the Prize on May 24th in a ceremony held at the Library of Congress. Mark Shields, a nationally known political analyst, columnist and commentator, will deliver the annual Herblock Lecture at the awards ceremony.

Judges for this year's contest were Kevin Kallaugher (KAL), editorial cartoonist for The Baltimore Sun and The Economist, winner of the 2015 Herblock Prize; Michael Rhode, archivist and author, commentator on comics for the Washington City Paper and creator of the ComicsDC blog; and Peter Kuper, alternative cartoonist and illustrator best known for his autobiographical, political, and social observations is also a visiting professor at Harvard University.

Judge Kevin Kallaugher (Kal) commented, "Mark Fiore's entry contained an engaging and powerful collection of visual commentaries.  Fiore demonstrated a great use of parody, adept writing, great visualizations and solid journalism to deliver thought provoking editorials. Like a good Herblock cartoon, Mark's work displayed a consistent and determined passion to fight against societies' ills and absurdities. It is his skilled and masterful cartoon craftsmanship steeped with determined political convictions that make Fiore's animations worthy of the Herblock Prize."

Peter Kuper added, "From the numerous high quality entries to this year's Herblock Foundation award, Mark Fiore's animation entry rose to the top. Not because it was animated, but rather because he demonstrated a consistently strong handle on his subject matter with an ability to convey complex topics with great humor, rage and irony. Fiore produced a powerful body of work that addresses a range of current events and brilliantly serves them up with a smile and a kick in the gut, heart, and other body parts. His work honors the legacy of Herblock and expands the form."

This year's finalist is Ruben Bolling, pen name for Ken Fisher. He is the author of the weekly comic strip "Tom the Dancing Bug" and will receive a $5,000 after-tax cash prize.  Judge Peter Kuper stated "For decades Ruben Bolling has consistently produced full page comics that find new angles of attack on familiar subjects. With subtlety, yet tremendous humor, he constructs each comic without any wasted space to build to surprising conclusions. Many of his strips take on several topics at the same time and over the years he has honed his art to deliver these ideas with great verve."

The Herb Block Foundation seeks to further the recognition and support of editorial cartooning: