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

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Chat with DC-Born Cartoonist Liza Donnelly

Liza Donnelly by Elena Rossini

by Mike Rhode

We're going to wrap up this crummy, lousy, bad year with an interview with an excellent, world-class, funny cartoonist to put a hopeful spin on starting 2021. The Washington Post ran an excellent article by Liza Donnelly earlier this year in which she pointed out that she was born in DC. With this hook, she's agreed to answer our usual questions.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I do a variety of things, but I am perhaps most known for my New Yorker cartoons.  These are typically single panel drawings with a caption below them, although I have done many for The New Yorker that are sequential and sometimes without captions.  For other publications, I have done comic-like narratives, and I do a lot of political cartoons as well. Some for The New Yorker, some for CNN, Medium, Politico and others.  Lately, I am the innovator of live digital drawing wherein I draw on my tablet and share immediately on social channels.  Sometimes it’s just a visual reportage, other times I offer my commentary in the drawing of what I am seeing. I have done this for a variety of outlets: New Yorker, CNN, CBS, Fusion, others.

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

I work in both digital and traditional pen and ink. It depends on the job. All of my New Yorker finished drawings are on paper with a crow quill pen and ink.  No Photoshop with those. I use an iPad for my digital work and sometimes enhance or fix with Photoshop.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born? What neighborhood or area did you live in?

I was born in 1955 in Washington and was raised near Chevy Chase Circle.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning? Did you leave DC for it?

I began cartooning when I was around 7 years old. I traced two cartoonists I liked— Charles Schulz and James Thurber.  So I am self-taught from early on. I left DC to go to college, and art study was only part of my plan. I went to the liberal arts college Earlham College and thought my career would be in biology (my other interest), but eventually my cartooning took over and I became an art major.  

Who are your influences?

 As I said, Schultz and Thurber.  But also Herblock, Garry Trudeau, Ben Shahn, Jules Feiffer, Dr. Seuss, WIlliam Stieg, Saul Steinberg, Claire Bretecher, Nicole Hollander, R.O Blechman.  There are many others, and many more New Yorker cartoonists.

Did you see any of the comics exhibits or talks that started appearing in DC as the Smithsonian, Corcoran or Kennedy Center in the late 1960s or early 1970s? If so, any memories to share with us?

Sadly, no.  But I do remember when Saul Steinberg had a big show at the Whitney (or was it the MoMA?) in the late 70’s. That blew me away that a cartoonist could be in a museum show.  I was happy that cartoons could be considered art.

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

I would not waste so much time worrying about whether I was good enough. And just draw!  

What work are you best-known for?

Probably my New Yorker cartoons, I have been there over 40 years and counting.  But now I am being known for all my work on social media, including my live drawing and I am known for being an early feminist cartoonist, although not the first of course. I draw and give talks about women’s rights a lot.

What work are you most proud of?

Getting into The New Yorker, particularly at age 24. I am also very proud of the book that I wrote, Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists.  I am writing an updated version to be published next year.  I am proud to have brought the history of the women drawing cartoons to light.

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

I hope to continue at The New Yorker, but I really also want to develop my live drawing journalism.  I feel what I am doing is a way to look at the news in a fresh and innovative way, and I have been told by many of my fans that it is a rewarding and interesting way to experience the news. It’s hard to get the large outlets to hire me, but I keep pushing forward. I also am trying my hand at screenwriting.

What prompted you to compile a book on woman cartoonists? How do you feel the field has changed since you did that book? (for example, I see a lot of woman comic book/ graphic novel and web cartoonists now, even as the editorial cartoon field continues to be mostly white men.

I became aware of the notion that there weren’t many women in cartoon field when I was in college. Before that, I just wanted to be a cartoonist and gender was not on my mind.  This was at the tail end of the second wave of feminism, and I felt that equal rights was achieved pretty much, and didn’t examine my professional world very much.  Boy, was I misguided. As I said, I knew I was in the minority, but it wasn’t until 1999 when I was invited to be on a panel of women cartoonists at the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) convention (which I think was in DC that year).  There were five (I think) of us women at a table for the panel. I was not even a member of the AAEC, but they asked me to be on the panel because there were/are so few women drawing political cartoons. I was already doing some political cartoons for The New Yorker.  In preparation for the panel, along with sitting there and looking out into the room and seeing a standing-room only audience of male cartoonists—it struck me.  What is going on?  Why is it there are so few women doing this? I began my search for answers and it led to me writing Funny Ladies. I spent a year in the NYC Public Library researching the archives of the magazine going back to 1925 when it was founded.  The field has changed tremendously. There are so many more women drawing cartoons now, that is what inspired me to write a new edition of the book.

I'm very interested that you're doing a new edition of the book. How current are you going? Cartoon editor Emma Allen's added a lot of women to the roster. And are you including the web-site-only ones? 

I am being very current.  I will only interview a few women that are new since the old book, but will list everyone that's new. Not including online cartoonists, only in print ones.  It's a juggle, but that's my plan.

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

I do something else for a while, non-cartoon related.  It helps to put it down and return later.

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

I really don't know.  I think perhaps The New Yorker will go to an online version and continue to run cartoons, so that's good. Although online payment is much less than in print it is hard to make a living. Thankfully, graphic novels are very popular and I think that's the future of our craft--graphic narratives. 

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Growing up, I enjoyed being in the center of the political world. The monuments and museums are beautiful and I like being close to the ocean.  The diversity was also something I now realize I benefited from. Washington has an international feel to it, with all the Embassies, and I enjoyed that. I love the proximity to the Eastern Shore and the Delaware beaches.

Least favorite?

When I grew up in DC it was a heavily segregated city, and I hated that feeling.  I rode the bus a lot to get to downtown or school--there was no Metro back then-- but hated the car culture. Our neighborhood was just a block from the DC line with Maryland, but you had to drive everywhere to get groceries etc.

How often (pre-covid) do you get back?

I don't have family there anymore, so I go back every five years for my high school reunion, or for a political event. I live draw the ICFJ Gala every year, which I really enjoy, so that brings me back every year.

What monument or museum do you like to return to?

I love walking around the Mall and just soaking up the atmosphere, the history. All the museums are great.  My favorite museum in my teens was the Hirshhorn Museum. I interned when I was in college at the Natural History Museum, cleaning bat skulls and cataloguing South American rodents (my other love besides cartooning was biology and I thought that was the field I might end up in).  

How about a favorite local restaurant? Past or present or both.

Remember, I didn't live in DC as an adult. When I was a kid, we rarely ate out. But there was a fancy steakhouse downtown that we sometimes went to for special occasions, name forgotten.  There was a Chinese restaurant near Chevy Chase Circle where we used to get take-out from and sometimes eat there, called Peking Palace. I don't know if it's still there, but I loved it.  

 Do you have a website or blog?

Yes, and my illustrated column on Medium:

How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you, personally and professionally?

I have been lucky not to have been affected health-wise, and no one in my immediate life has either.  

Professionally, it has given me time to work on long-term writing projects and try some new ones. Also, because I can't go places and live draw, I began live drawing every day from my studio. I hold my phone over my hand and draw something and talk about it. During the pandemic, it made me feel connected to people and I was told the same by others and they said watching me was meditative.  I would talk about the pandemic and draw aspects of it, then Black Lives Matter, then the election. Sometimes it's an illustration of an event or people (George Floyd, for instance), sometimes a real political cartoon created in real time for my audience. It was and is therapeutic for me and I get a lot of drawings created while gaining new followers. I learned to loosen up as well and draw freehand in front of an audience, with no preparation. It is a combination of my political cartoons and my video reportage -- a new type of editorial cartooning, if you will, with commentary. I now do this each weekday on Instagram Live  (@lizadonnelly) and on a new startup called HappsTV, who approached me to work with them ( 

Liza can also be found at the following links.

New Yorker


12/30/20 9:30 PM - updated with question about current cartoonists in new book.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Quick holiday book recommendations - Mary Shelley, Bill Mauldin, and Wakanda Files

 by Mike Rhode

A few books that would make good gifts have come in -- well, a lot have, but I'm behind like everyone else these days. Part of my problem is that, as an editor, I assigned two of these to academic reviewers for the International Journal of Comic Art, and then I read those reviewers opinions... so I've linked to those reviews as well.

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley's Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, Brea Grant and Yishan Li, Six Foot Press, 1644420295, $19 

From the book's Amazon page, we learn - When angsty teenager Mary Shelley is not interested in carrying on her family’s celebrated legacy of being a great writer, but she soon discovers that she has the not-so-celebrated and super-secret Shelley power to heal monsters, just like her famous ancestor, and those monsters are not going to let her ignore her true calling anytime soon. Everyone expects sixteen-year-old Mary to be a great writer. After all, her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother are all successful writers (as they constantly remind her)―not to mention her famous namesake, the OG Mary Shelley, horror author extraordinaire. But Mary is pretty sure she’s not cut out for that life. She can’t even stay awake in class! Then one dark and rainy night, she’s confronted with a whole new destiny. Mary has the ability to heal monsters… and they’re not going to leave her alone until she does. 

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I'm a big urban fantasy reader these days, especially of books written by women. It's a good choice for a young adult who likes manga, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's funny, and well-drawn (by Li), with some minor family drama, but a lot of fun ideas. As an older white man, I'm not the target audience, but I'll be buying the rest of this series for myself as it comes out. Li's an artist I wasn't familiar with, but I'm going to look into more of her work (some of which is apparently not for this age group).

Drawing Fire: The Editorial Cartoons of Bill Mauldin, Todd DePastino (ed.), Chicago: Pritzker Military Museum & Library, 2020. 250 pages; $35.00. ISBN 9780998968940.

From the book's Amazon page, we learn - The first career-spanning volume of the work of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin, featuring comic art from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm, along with a half-century of graphic commentary on civil rights, free speech, the Cold War, and other issues. Army sergeant William Henry “Bill” Mauldin shot to fame during World War II with “Willie & Joe” cartoons, which gave readers of Stars & Stripes and hundreds of home-front newspapers a glimpse of the war from the foxholes of Europe. Lesser known are Mauldin’s second and even third acts as one of America’s premier political cartoonists from the last half of the twentieth century, when he traveled to Korea and Vietnam; Israel and Saudi Arabia; Oxford, Mississippi, and Washington, DC; covering war and peace, civil rights and the Great Society, Nixon and the Middle East. He especially kept close track of American military power, its use and abuse, and the men and women who served in uniform. Now, for the first time, his entire career is explored in this illustrated single volume, featuring selections from Chicago’s Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Edited by Mauldin’s biographer Todd DePastino and featuring 150 images, Drawing Fire: The Editorial Cartoons of Bill Mauldin includes illuminating essays exploring all facets of Mauldin’s career by Tom Brokaw, Denise Neil, Cord A. Scott, G. Kurt Piehler, Jean Schulz, and Christina Knopf, with a Preface by Tom Hanks.

This book is aimed at me - an older white male - except most of Mauldin's career took place before I was an adult. Never mind that ... he was an excellent cartoonist and a true proponent of a free and equal America with rights for all. After these past four years, we need to return to his values more than ever. While I got a review copy from the Pritzker, I would have gladly bought this is I saw it in a store first. Todd DePastino does an excellent job rounding up a diverse group of essays and providing the relevant grounding for cartoons that can be 70 years old now. IJOCA's review is here.

The Wakanda Files: A Technological Exploration of the Avengers and Beyond, Troy Benjamin, Epic Ink, 2020. 978-0760365441. $60.

From the book's Amazon page, we learn - An in-world book from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Wakanda Files—compiled by request of Shuri (Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War) as part of her quest to improve the future for all people—is a collection of papers, articles, blueprints, and notes amassed throughout history by Wakanda’s War Dogs. In a nod to Wakandan technology, the pages of the book have a printed layer of UV ink with content that is visible only under the accompanying Kimoyo bead–shaped UV light. Within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Wakanda has been on the forefront of what is technologically possible. Their ability to stay ahead of the rest of the world is second only to their ability to keep themselves hidden. As the architect behind many of Wakanda’s great advancements, Shuri is constantly seeking ways to improve what has come before. To aid in her search, she researches the past for context, reference, and inspiration by compiling The Wakanda Files. Organized into areas of study, including human enhancement, transportation, weapons, artificial intelligence, and more, The Wakanda Files trace the world’s technological achievements from the era of Howard Stark and early Hydra studies to modern discoveries in quantum tunneling and nanotechnology, weaving together the stories, personalities, and technology that are the fabric of the MCU.

This book is aimed at a young adult audience too, probably received as a gift, given the price. It must be popular this season as Amazon appears to be sold out. As a teenager, I would have loved this book. As an adult, I admire the cleverness of the packaging (especially that little uv light which is the middle detachable ball there on the right in the photo), and the conceit of being a set of spy reports from the MCU. There's not enough Black Panther in here, which makes sense because the book is a report to him, but that may disappoint people who expect to find him in a book with Wakanda in the title. In conclusion - a good grandparent's gift to a fan of Marvel movies, if not the comic books. IJOCA's review is here.

All 3 books were provided by the publisher's representatives. We don't receive anything but the books, and that includes advertising or link revenue. So buy them from your local store if you can.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Flugennock's Latest'n'Greatest: "Kick Me Hard"

From DC's anarchist cartoonist, Mike Flugennock -

"Kick Me Hard"

Right about now, I'm sure most of you are laughing yourselves silly at all the Progressives out there who voted for Biden under the delusion that they could "push him left", when anybody with two brain cells to rub together could take a look at his record over the past 40 years — not to mention his lineup of Cabinet picks — and see that anybody who thought they could push that sonofabitch left is on some kind of weirded-out psychedelic voyage.

Take, for instance, this whiny-ass tweet from the knobs at DNC front group Sunshine Movement: "We elected you, Joe, now it's time you act"...

Oh, f'crissake, give me a big, fat break. The old bastard IS acting. He came right and said that "nothing would fundamentally change" and that he wouldn't ban fracking right out in front of God and everybody.

"Progressive" voters bought that horseshit like a bunch of ignorant-ass rubes, and now the DNC is doing the equivalent of taping a big "Kick me hard" sign onto their backs, like we used to do back in seventh grade — and I, for one, have sub-zero sympathy for those losers.

"Jacobin and Democratic Socialists of America promote illusions in a 'progressive' Biden administration", Gabriel Black at the World 
Socialist Web Site, 11.25.2020

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Art of Political Cartooning (with Ann Telnaes and Scott Simon)

The Art of Political Cartooning

Scott Simon, Barry Blitt, Pia Guerra, and Ann Telnaes.

The New Yorker contributor Barry Blitt; cartoonist Pia Guerra; and Washington Post editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes explore the art of political cartooning with Scott Simon, host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Dick Wright

by Mike Rhode

Dick Wright of The Providence Journal-Bulletin was the 1983 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Editorial Cartooning. As Dave Astor has written, “Wright worked for the [San Diego] Union-Tribune … (starting in 1976) and later joined The Providence (R.I.) Journal, the Nashville (Tenn.) Banner, and The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Currently [2005], he’s affiliated with the Gwinnett Daily Post of Lawrenceville, Ga. He was syndicated by Tribune Media Services, then Copley News Service, and finally for several years in the early 2000s by Daryl Cagle. His work was collected in the book If He Only Had a Brain... in 1998. The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco “houses over 300 political cartoons illustrated by famed cartoonist Dick Wright in the mid-1990s.” He retired from editorial cartooning in 2005, around the same time he was profiled by the Washington Times. Wright has recently returned to editorial cartooning.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I draw editorial cartoons.

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

I use a brush, pen and India ink.
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1944.

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

I live in Warrenton, Virginia.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

I am self-taught. I went to Long Beach State University and I majored in finance.

Who are your influences?

Mad magazine, and especially Mort Drucker. Also, Walt Disney.

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

I think I would do more local cartoons.

What work are you best-known for?

I can't think of a single piece of work. In general probably my caricatures.

What work are you most proud of?

Well, when I started I was pretty rough. I guess that given where I started I am most proud of what I developed into. My work is a far cry from when I started. I had some help along the way. Mort Drucker was a great encouragement to me as well as Karl Hubenthal in Los Angeles.

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

I am content to do cartoons about Virginia at this point in my career.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
I used to keep a file of "ideas" that I used to trigger new ideas. If you worked at it long enough something would come.

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

I think that the future in cartooning is in online venues.

What local cons do you attend?

I don't attend any.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I worked in DC for Scripps-Howard Newspapers. I got to know DC a bit. I guess being in the middle of the action was my favorite thing. I ran into many people that were real players. I enjoyed that

Least favorite?


What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

The Smithsonian.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I love Mexican food just about anywhere.

Do you have a website or blog?

I have a website for a book I wrote called "Growing Big In God". I wrote short messages about many topics about life. I was a pastor of two churches and used my experience and knowledge to help others deal with the tough side of life. Dick Wright Cartoons is my Facebook page with new cartoons.

How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected you, personally and professionally?

I work from home anyway so it really hasn't impacted me much.

 Can you tell us a bit about being a church pastor and your faith?

I grew up in church. I had a very powerful experience with God at about the age of thirteen. From that time forward, I was deeply engaged in church and was very focused on spiritual things. On my own I began to read the Bible every evening before going to sleep. In reading the Bible, I learned a lot about God and it changed me. Even as a young teen, I became very interested in someday serving the Lord as a pastor. My parents were middle class. We struggled financially even as my dad worked two and three jobs as far back as I can remember. When it came time for me to go to college, I did not have you the heart to ask for help in going to college. I was interested in going to a bible college to become a pastor. Instead, I attended Junior College with no particular direction. I dropped out and got a job as a draftsman because I could draw. In those days we actually drew by hand the things we were building. I advanced quickly and moved up to a junior designer at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. I became interested in engineering.

By then I was married with two little girls. I wanted to become a senior designer, but you had to be degreed. So I went to Long Beach State studying engineering and worked full time. While I was at Long Beach State I began to draw cartoons for the university newspaper, the 49'er. I did this a couple of years and finally I went to some local newspaper editors and asked them what they thought of my work. They were very encouraging and began to print a few. This changed my whole direction. I began to consider changing my career goal from engineering to cartooning. I spent about two years contacting newspapers looking for a job. Finally, I was hired at the San Diego Union as their back-up cartoonist and illustrator and I was on my way. It didn't take long for my editorial cartoons to be used more and more and I became the lead cartoonist. I was in San Diego for about eighteen months and then moved to the Providence Journal and that is where my career took off. I was focused on being as good as I could be. I would get up at about four in the morning and read the paper cover to cover. My intent was to know what was going on so my cartoons had substance. I worked at it. I became syndicated and my list of papers grew to about 420. This was a lot, since at that time there were only about 1700 dailies in the country.

This went on for years, but I never forgot the early experience I had with God and my very distinct call to be a pastor. As my list of papers grew I reached my limit. I began to struggle to keep the numbers up and had to work harder just to stay even. I began to realize that there was no way I could sustain what I had been doing for years and I became discouraged. I began to question what I was doing, and for what? At this time I began to think about becoming a pastor and fulfill that early calling. I was 52 at the time. I began to seek out what was necessary to become a pastor. I had a friend who was a pastor who told me that in Virginia all you needed to become a pastor was to be ordained by a church and I could become a pastor. His church ordained me as I had 30 years’ experience leading and teaching the Word. Within a month I had gathered together a group of 21 people and we started a church and I was the pastor. In 12 weeks the church grew to 100 attenders. Three years later we completed a new church building. In five years, my church had grown to more than 400. I retired and then came out of retirement to help another small church get established. I am currently the assistant pastor at that church now.

 You mentioned Mort Drucker who just passed away this month, after a long life. Do you have any specific stories or anecdotes about knowing him?

 When I was trying to get into cartooning, I wrote Mort a letter with some of my work to Mad magazine. I received a letter back from him. He was gracious and encouraging. He offered advice about cartooning that was very helpful. One of the things he told me was that every assignment I get and send off should be better than the last job I did. He said this was the way to get better. He said that when you plateau and level off, keep working at doing better than your last job. He said this is how he improved. Mort was a very kind and gracious man. Many years later, when I was the cartoonist at the Providence Journal, I was involved is getting the program set for an editorial cartooning convention. I contacted Mad and talked to the editor and invited all the cartoonist to the convention in Newport. Mort and Jack Davis showed up along with some others. What a thrill! I have a photo of Mort and myself taken at the mansion where we were hosting the convention. He was so gracious and kind to me. What a great cartoonist, a great man. I miss him.

 4/23/2020: Updated with links to Wright's Facebook page, thanks to DD Degg of the Daily Cartoonist.