Cartoon Critique Returns

I don’t know if I will keep doing this, but the reaction to Friday’s cartoon critique was so interesting and mostly positive but I thought I would keep it up with this latest batch. If you’re just joining the program, you probably already know my own work. But what you don’t know is what I’m reacting against: the so-called mainstream editorial cartoons that run in most major newspapers and on most major media websites, almost always to the exclusion of the  good alternative stuff. Most artists get into an artform in order to build upon what came before. That’s also true of alternative artists, since our influences come from other places, but in the marketplace as it exists today, we are mostly defining ourselves by not being like this crap.


Cartoon by Steve Greenberg - Silencer

This is what I call the phony “I don’t care about politics” genre. After all, it’s by a political cartoonist. Someone who lives and breathes politics. Someone who is paid by a large daily newspaper, one that won’t even pick up my stuff for $20 a week via syndication even though I’m from the state that it’s in, and pretends that all he wants do is wallow in escapist television garbage. Sorry, I’m not buying it.


Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

This cartoon illustrates the problems with the metaphor-based form of editorial cartooning. It’s almost like you need that fancy Enigma code breaking machine from World War II to decipher the thing. And then, assuming that you’re smart enough and caffeinated enough to figure it out, you have to conclude that all that work probably wasn’t worth it.


130574 600 Terror Hill cartoons

I admit it, this one kind of freaked me out. It’s another metaphor. At first, I thought to myself that since Uncle Sam was involved, he was going to have to climb Capitol Hill and this had something to do with the failed vote on the gun background check bill. Then I realized what it really was, that terrorism would be a hard hill to climb. Again, you can really see how these metaphor cartoons are hard to pull off. I mean, if you follow the analogy, this means that Uncle Sam wants to become more of a terrorist? Or that terrorism is something that were just going to have to get over? I don’t know. Makes my head hurt. And I really don’t understand the whole enormous buried skull.


130573 600 Inspirational Marathon Runners cartoons I am guessing that this was probably an attempt to be emotional, but all it looks like to me is like a 1%er banker is running to the rescue. Did this happen? How did I miss this story? Very strange. Congratulations, by the way, to the cartoonist for winning the 2013 National Headliner Award. He already previously won two Pulitzer Prizes.

No alternative cartoonist – Tom Tomorrow, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, Stephanie McMillan, or myself – has ever won the National Headliner Award.


130571 600 Flag Waving cartoons

Another two-time Pulitzer winner weighs in with… What? I have no idea. Yeah, I recognize the national anthem. What exactly this has to do with the Boston bombing… What? Editors will no doubt love this.

Bear in mind, I intentionally chose cartoons by people who make a lot more money than I do and have won a lot more awards than I have and are much more successful than the best cartoonists in the business. According to the prize committees and the HR departments of America’s newspapers, this is what I should be doing instead of what I am doing. This is what gets rewarded.



  • The one where Uncle Sam is running up a “hill” that is Terrorism…that’s not an “enormous buried skull”, that’s the Grim Reaper’s face, right? So that Uncle Sam is …running up the Grim Reaper. Somehow?
    I’m gonna assume that the cartoon was supposed to be published yesterday and that it makes sense if the viewer is stoned.

  • alex_the_tired
    April 21, 2013 12:56 PM

    The cartoon with the explosions and the woman who wants to just tune out (despite wearing a flag decal on her shirt). Okay, I get the premise: there’s terrible things going on in the world, and a lot of people (especially the “patriots”) want to ignore it after a certain point.

    But that isn’t anything new. At best, the cartoon is doing like “So it goes” does in Slaughterhouse Five (or was it Cat’s Cradle?) It merely reinforces my oh-so-jadedly sophisticate world-weary view of life. It’s filler. It’s the “uh” or the “um” that chokes American speech (seriously, watch the BBC. The newscasters do not use the “ums”).

    But Ted, you’re only going halfway in on this.

    Is there any editorial cartoon you can present to us that you approve of? I’m not saying that as some sort of a confrontational challenge, but rather as a clarification request. Show me what you consider good and — more importantly — explain why it’s good.

  • What the flippity-freaking-phuq is that last cartoon?

    The national anthem is a war-song, and that’s freakn’ disturbing when you are a country that murders innocent people in wars for profit. (It would be disturbing if the U.S. were run by good people, too, but at least it could still make some kind of sense.)

    So what does this hack do?

    He conflates the most violent part of the song with a goddamn bombing that is almost inevitably part of the general culture of violence and blowback created by a country whose major sin is bombing innocent people.

    This cartoon is so terrifically goddamn stupid it actually critiques itself. When someone asks me “What’s wrong with America?” I can load up this page, point to this image, and say “This motherfucker. This motherfucker is what’s wrong with America.”

    Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop. Show good cartoons. Show muscle cars. Show cute puppies. Put up kittens. Put up tentacle porn or goatse or tubgirl or a kitten-version-of-goatse but anything but this. Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.

  • The acid is burning my face.

    But hey — it’s an interesting feature, this “Rall Bash” thingy. It’s fun to read. I wonder if any of the OWS deadbeats will donate something for this content which you’ve put effort into, twice now. Maybe they’ll donate if it becomes a regular feature?

    Nah — they won’t. In between skateboarding and dimebagging, their plate is full.

    Ted, you know how this works. You choose your audience. The people who like those shit cartoons have deep pockets. Meaning, the consumers. Hence they are valuable to advertisers. Hence they get hired by editors. Do you think Soccer Moms who spend money at Macy’s want to read an editorial cartoon about how Roger Ebert was a moron and George Bush is the world’s leading terrorist?

    Stop blaming the editors. You, and only you, have chosen your audience. It just so happens your audience are a bunch of deadbeat losers that only spend on new skateboards and dimebags. To them, the web should be “free”. Just ask all the musicians suffering losses due to these criminals.

  • As Alex says, the first one is that most Americans ignore most news. Not a bad cartoon, since it’s quite TRVE.

    The third cartoon tries to combine ‘marathon’ with ‘fight against terrorism.’ Not an altogether bad trope, since it was repeated endlessly by many other cartoonists. Sisyphus and all that.

    The shadowy image in the fourth cartoon is supposed to be a policeman helping, even though (as in Hunger Games and US real life drone attacks) the first bomb was, apparently, to lure people in who were trying to help, only to be killed or crippled by the second bomb. And, as Mr Rall says, maybe it’s not a policeman but a banker?

    The last cartoon was Ramirez, who is an extreme right-wingnut who has won two Pulitzers (don’t they have any standards? What were his two cartoons that won?) All he showed was a flag at half mast, nothing special, but nothing to criticise.

  • Ted — by the way: I notice you didn’t include this one by noted “alternative” and “edgy” cartoonist Brian McFadden, he of Big Fat Whale fame.

    Let me do the honor:

    I’m not sure I get this one. What the fuck is it saying? That Bostonians like to do things like go to baseball games and take nice walks? That they like to enjoy a beer? And what — run the marathon again next year? Or — does it mean that things should be normal instead of fearful? What the fuck, my head hurts just thinking about it! But this is the trash that passes for “alternative” in today’s world. These are the assholes that claim artistic integrity. What a sellout.

  • Wait a minute — I get the Brian Big Fat Whale one now: It means ….. wait for it …..



    That’s so fuckin’ edgy and alternative!!!

    (Yeah, he’s from Boston. That’s no excuse.)

  • exky said:

    The people who like those shit cartoons have deep pockets. Meaning, the consumers.

    Bullshit. The publishers like this shit. We’ve been over this. Consumers would choose angry and edgy over pointless illustrations, which is why publishers have to put the brakes on the entire endeavour. We see this time and time again in an anti-populist regime: the media doesn’t reflect the sensibilities, even the low sensibilties!, of its consumers.

    But hey, in exky’s world, the customer always gets what it wants, which is why the Republican candidate last election was wildly popular in the primary and Congress just passed background checks on guns like 90% of the population wanted.

  • I recognize that last cartoonist! He used to work for the LA Times about 15 years ago when I lived in LA. Back than he drew pretty edgy stuff that was hyper conservative and eventually he was fired for it I believe. Guess he learned his lesson, eh. But now you are working for the LA Times. Better watch out!

    I get what you are saying about metaphors although the silhouette one makes perfect sense to me. The artist didn’t want to highlight a specific person by drawing them in detail because he wants to illustrate all the heros not a particular hero.

    Anyway, you are right that mainstream news media is asking their cartoonists to illustrate politics without commenting on it. Goes right along with the whole “unbiased” fetish they have. The current business model of “fair and balenced” news doesn’t allow for commentary of the sort you do, unless of course it is the only “fair and balanced” news station out their in which case a radical conservative slant is just what they doctor order.

    THe papers not running you is part of a larger problem with unbiased news sources. They don’t run ANYTHING that might offend someone because they want to target the largest audience possible. I don’t think this is some artistic conspiracy. It is merely a business model that you don’t fit in.

    What you need to do is gather up some good old fashion yellow journalists and form a rag to compete with the NY Times. THan it will make sense to cry if they don’t run you.

  • There is some room for alternative artists in the mainstream space though. Just look at the props Rolling Stone gave Molly Crabapple.

  • @Sekhmet, the bombs bursting in air was the enemy shelling us so that part of the comic makes sense. It’s still a boring ass comic though. Not defending it. The Michael Ramirez I remember would have drawn a sick twisted comic about muslims not this trite crap.

  • aaronwilliams135
    April 22, 2013 11:01 AM

    I get it now, Exki is one of these mainstream sellouts. That’s why he’s so pissed at your critique, and your readers.

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