Twenty years ago in September, I became the first “alternative” political cartoonist to appear in the New York Times. At the time, there was a lot of hand-wringing by “mainstream” editorial cartoonists. I used multiple panels. I didn’t use labels or metaphors. No donkeys, elephants or Uncle Sams.
Later in the ’90s, cartoonists Tom Tomorrow and Ruben Bolling also ran in the paper of record. Altie editorial cartooning had arrived. By 2000 I was running in Time, Fortune, Bloomberg Magazine and 140 newspapers.
As it turned out, the mainstream guys needn’t have worried. For the next 10 years, alties were cock-blocked by awards committees. The NYT stopped running altie cartoons.
Now, at long last, the NYT appears to be leading the way forward again.
Sunday’s New York Times “Week in Review” section will mark the debut of a weekly cartoon by Brian McFadden, who appeared in “Attitude” and does the strip “Big Fat Whale.” According to the paper, Brian will run for several months. So check it out! He’s one of the best cartoonists in the country, period.
After Brian, they might start doing similar short-term residencies with other altie cartoonists.
The bad news, such as it is, is that the NYT has eliminated its weekly round-up of syndicated editorial cartoons. It’s not all bad–those cartoons were so atrocious they were making the whole profession look bad. On the other hand, this could lead to the death of syndicated cartoons once and for all. Often they’re the only cartoons that a reader ever sees.
The future, however, will be very few cartoonists doing lots of freelance stuff.
A lot of older cartoonists are angry about this, and not happy about the triumph of the rising alties, but frankly, the revolution began in 1991. This is 20 years overdue. Personally, I hope the best and smartest of the old guard can adjust by using modern techniques and abolishing hoary tropes like donkeys and elephants.