Bloghorn asked cartoonist Rod McKie for a opinion piece following our recent post about US cartoonist Daryl Cagle’s controversial view of non-new world cartoonists. Our thanks to Rod for agreeing. The following is an edited extract of his full submission and Bloghorn has added the links.
I do a lot of my cartooning work in the US, and have, in the past, described many editorial cartoons as pointless, irrelevant, and even of taking up space where (my, not your) comic strips or gag cartoons should be.
That view is of course a bit of a caricature of what I actually think, and it is caricatures that we are dealing with in terms of this debate; Daryl’s caricature of the “rest of the world’s cartoons”, and a lot of angry editorial cartoonists from the rest of the world’s caricature of Daryl Cagle, and his arrogant assertions about US political humour. As always though, when we are dealing with caricatures, there is a germ of truth in the over-simplified distinctions; some “wit” just does not translate beyond its own borders, and some editorial cartoons in US newspapers are very good, excellent even.
But I’m not going to go along with caricatures of Daryl Cagle himself. The reason I know about the plight of Egyptian cartoonist Essam Hanafy, who was imprisoned for drawing a cartoon that was critical of the Egyptian Agriculture minister, and Iranian cartoonist Nik Ahang-Kowsar, who was imprisoned for making fun of a popular conservative cleric, is because I read about them on Daryl’s site, which fully supports the work of Robert Russell and The Cartoonists Rights Movement.
What does slightly bewilder me, though, is Daryl’s defence of editorial “…cartoons about Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears with no underwear…” as a sign of a superior form of editorial cartooning, and his belief that such drawings, presumably because they are some small part of pop culture, are part of the political debate. It troubles me that Daryl seems to be celebrating a form of dumbed-down, celebrity-obsessed, anodyne, editorial filler cartoon, presumably for the purposes of syndication, as some kind of high-cultural achievement. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it strikes me that the sort of isolationist editorial cartoon Daryl advocates are those Art Spiegelman foresaw coming to a paper near you, with his description, after he resigned from The New Yorker to protest about the “widespread conformism” of the United States media, of the US media as “conservative and timid”.
As for why some cartoonists from overseas communicate their message in wordless cartoons, employing symbolism and metaphor, well that’s simple enough, LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES. But there is also a deeper, darker secondary reason for this, and it is one that Daryl Cagle should never forget; in his country it is simply the cartoons that get “killed” when the message is too overtly political, not the cartoonist.
I will leave it to my colleagues to point out that Daryl’s belief that editorial cartoonists in the UK, and further afield, are amateur hobbyists who get paid in turnips or some similar object in lieu of actual currency, is simply ridiculous. I will leave it to my colleagues because I get annoyed just thinking about how much some editorial cartoonists get paid, in the UK and in the US. I will leave it to my colleagues because you have no idea how much it pains me to have to support editorial cartoonists, many of whom I think are overpaid and overindulged brats at the best of times.
Bloghorn thanks Rod for time taken and invites comments below. All comments are subject to moderation and editing if we think it is needed.