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Daryl Cagle – a response

October 8, 2010 in Comment, News

Bloghorn Opinion logoBloghorn 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.

Bloghorn cartoon on differences in humour

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.

You say tomato, we say cartoonist …

September 27, 2010 in News

Bloghorn Opinion logo Bloghorn must take issue with the US political cartoonist Daryl Cagle over a blog post in which he talks about the “cultural” difference between cartoons created in America and those from the rest of the world.

Cagle, who also syndicates cartoons through the Political Cartoonists Index argues that there is a ‘‘BIG cultural gap’’ between American cartoons, where the emphasis is on humour and/or making a clear point, and those created by ‘‘world cartoonists’’, which are more oblique.

He takes the view that in America cartooning is a proper job, but for ‘‘world cartoonists’’ it is merely a hobby, as all these cartoonists do is enter competitions.

‘‘The American cartoonists’ idea of actually making a living from our work, and judging our success by the size of our audiences, or our wallets, seems strange to the obscure foreign cartoonists, who are busy building their CVs and planning their travel schedules.’’

He goes on to say;

‘‘Most world cartoons look strange to an American eye and we have a hard time finding world cartoonists to syndicate, whose work can be understood by our audience.’’

Bloghorn is not saying we don’t recognise his view of some foreign cartoons, particularly those seen in international competitions, but we think he has got American and ‘‘world’’ mixed up with English speaking and non-English speaking.

We would ask Mr Cagle to take a broader view, perhaps by looking at UK cartooning for a start. There are plenty of cartoonists here who draw cartoons which are funny and make clear points.

And many UK cartoonists are as baffled by wordless and often worthy competition cartoons as Cagle is. Indeed, not too long ago John Jensen wrote a three-part article for this blog in which he outlined the difference between British cartoons, which focus on being funny, and those created by our European neighbours, which are about a more serious form of wit.

Indeed, just as Cagle characterises them as ‘‘daisies in the gun barrels’’ cartoons, so Jensen talks of ‘‘countless brick walls, endless rolls of barbed wire, and doves of peace in need of a vet’’.

You can read John Jensen’s series here: Wit and Wisdom: part 1, part2, part 3.

And in response to Cagle’s view of ‘‘world’’ cartoonists as hobbyists, we would like to point out that there are many cartoonists in the UK making a living. They may be striving to do so against the odds – and the PCO which runs the Bloghorn does all it can to help them – but they are professional cartoonists and funny to boot.