Letter to Time Magazine

TIME published its list of “Top 10 Editorial Cartoons of 2008” and it’s, well, fucking atrocious. So I’m sending this Letter to the Editor to TIME:

To the Editor:

Your list of the Top 10 Editorial Cartoons of 2008 is an insult to editorial cartoonists, many of whom are losing their jobs to the economic downturn in the newspaper industry. In 2008 hundreds of brilliant political cartoonists produced thousands of hard-hitting, thought-provoking and hilarious cartoons about everything from the flash in the pan that was Sarah Palin to the rise of Barack Obama, and all you could come up with was this phoned-in crap?

Never in American history have so many talented artists worked in so many diverse styles using as many approaches to produce as exciting editorial cartoonists. Yet never have the political cartoons appearing in print in mainstream print media have been so bland, inane, and just plain stupid. (The good stuff appears in alternative weeklies, family-owned dailies and, of course, online.) It’s a paradox, and it’s hurting our profession.

It’s one thing for lousy cartoons to appear in print somewhere. It’s downright appalling to anoint them the best work produced by a field in a given year. Heck, even among the artists you selected, they all did much better work than the pieces you picked. How would TIME like it if someone published a list of the Top 10 Newsmagazines of 2008—and it was just a list of blogs by 16-year-olds typing in their parents’ basements?

Do us a favor: If you can’t find a few clean and sober editors to take the time to sort through the year’s editorial cartoons, don’t bother.

Very truly yours,

Ted Rall
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists


  • Ted, Time does not give a flying fuck about editorial cartoons. Step it up and draw some Mohammed caricatures if you want the press to even notice you.

  • They care about them enough to list their Top 10.

  • 1.Simply wrong. Back when it was Uncle Sam and the taxpayers' Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, everything worked. It is 100% a failure of privatization. So Uncle Sam should be replaced with a Monopoly Mr. Moneybags. Or one of Nast's fat trust capitalists. And what's being bailed out is not Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but things like AIG, and with a blank check. The only thing missing to make this pure Soviet-style propaganda would be a few black-face acorns peeping around the corner.

    2. The less said about this, the better. And I was even caught/stranded personally by one of the cancelled flights then. But please. Plus, the moronic non-businessman segment of Time's readership will have no idea what this is about, too long ago.

    3. Chip Bok always makes me appreciate that Ted doesn't pretend he can draw normally. I agree with your AAEC fellow who said the Headlines ruin the punchline. Time puts them there because they think their readers are barely literate, even culturally.

    4. Matson can draw well generically, it's topical, it's got action, and it probably at least draws the attention of younguns. But no gift for caricature, Biden doesn't belong there, and there's not even a scintilla of humor.

    5. Stupid, not so stupid there's anything wrong with making a cartoon out of it, but there is something wrong with putting it in a top ten list. OT, is that the Big Media character from Candorville moonlighting?

    6. As someone who lived in the Communist bloc before the end of the Cold War, this IS Soviet-era-style propaganda. Singapore is one of a handful of countries – Israel and Georgia being the other 2 – from which you could have gotten this neocon drivel as an import. Plus, he had to put RUSSIA on his Putin caricature, because he's such a phucking moron that he used up the BEAR as a symbol of the Cold War. 50 strokes with the cane, Heng.

    7. Can draw, and well, but jeeze. Stupid. Still, something for the old folks. There is little message here. I feel for Bruce Tinsley now. Jon Stewart was picking on him unfairly. Mallard Fillmore just makes it more obvious that there's a blunt, humorless, trivial message.

    8. You can't blame the choosers (or cartoonists) for the headlines, but boy do they suck. Trivial issue, but this is technically the best cartoon in the bunch. Well drawn, moderately funny.

    9. boring, but wiley miller should appreciate the diagetic labels. happily celebrates the conflation of electoral democracy with pro sports.

    10. ONLY if this cartoonist is under 10 should this have ever been published.

  • Though the shrill tone has got to go, you're spot-on as usual.

    I stopped religiously reading the available MSM online cartoonists (you, danziger, payne, etc — the folks on yahoo news) some time this summer, but I could easily have picked a better list than this trash.

    How does the Varvel get one spot, let alone 2?

    I suspect Time's list is a lot like the yearly "Best American Poetry" collections: nepotistic and shoddy horseshit.

  • Judas Peckerwood
    December 18, 2008 6:19 PM

    Time's choice of its top 10 editorial cartoons is a perfect reflection of how much the magazine itself sucks. It's nothing but pablum for ignorant twits with pretensions of being informed.

  • Weak sause. The link is't working now. I guess TIME must have decided not to go through with their list after your enlightening letter Ted.

    Keep it up.

  • Nice letter, Ted! Keep up the great editorial cartoons!

  • Jeez, I took one glance, and immediately found infamous retards Varvel and Gorrell.

  • Jeppe Warberg Larsen
    December 19, 2008 6:34 AM

    Watching those cartoons made my jaw drop. How could they pick 10 such dull, pointless, unwitty and unoriginal drawings. Even if you browse cagle.com for just 2 minutes, you ought to stumble on something better than these. There should at least have been some Tom Toles, John Trever, Mark Streeter or Mike Lester. Those cartoonists have EDGE!!

  • Ted,

    I assumed you were just being cranky. But then I checked out their top 10. Holy crap! None of them are clever or funny. I can't believe how bad they are.

  • MD — FMx2 failed because they gave loans to (and bought loans given to) people who couldn't pay them back. So you had misguided government intervention (I know, I know, that's a redundancy) coupled with corporate greed ("hey, FMx2 is buying all these worthless mortgages — let's make more!).

    Result? Economic collapse.

  • I looked at the issue. I wanted to buy it on the slim-off chance that it would have something interesting. I needn't have bothered. Fawning over Obama. Somewhat fawning over Palin (Ignoring the legislative report completely). Distorting the South Ossetian war (In cartoons and pictures…).

    Of course, Time's comic columnist left a while ago… And DC Comics, which is run by TW, is falling fast as Dan DiDio ruins the company and drives the fans away…

  • "Yet never have the political cartoons appearing in print in mainstream print media have been so bland, inane, and just plain stupid. (The good stuff appears in alternative weeklies, family-owned dailies and, of course, online.)"

    Spot on!

  • Clifford Vickrey
    December 21, 2008 11:46 AM

    As a cartooning layperson, I do notice the terrible average quality of editorial cartoons, and others I speak to have as well. And good cartooning is one of the few cheap, easy ways print publications can generate interest and revenue these days. (The newspapers in many break-rooms across the country go unread except for the comics).

    I'm glad you're calling out Time. On the other hand I'm not sure if editors care whether cartoons are good or terrible because offending people and taking risks may cost readership. Journalism in general has gone insipid and anodyne because of the profit motive (Christopher Lasch was spot-on in describing this, and this was over ten years ago); cartooning is not exempt from this trend.

    And Ted, you probably don't like suck-ups or verbal back-rubs (you seem to prefer invective and abuse), but I love your cartoons because they actually editorialize, however outrageous many of your views are. Plus as a Soviet history buff your work reminds me of early Agitprop posters, esp. those by the great Mayakovsky.


  • Waaah. TIME left me off their list. Grow the fuck up, douchebag.

  • I don't care that they left ME off their list. What I care about is that they made no attempt to choose the best work of the year, and pretended they did.

  • LOL @ the last anonymous. I could've submitted a drawing, made out of diarrhetic shit, of Tom Cruise eating placenta and it would have been superior to all of that crap.