Bad Cartoonist!

The new blog Bad Cartoonist is written by someone who is obviously a political cartoonist, but he’s keeping his name to himself. (Or she. But odds are, given the demographics of political cartoonists, it’s he.)

And he’s pissed off by the laziness, hackery, and lack of imagination that characterizes most political cartooning nowadays. For instance:

Todays lesson is a follow-up on yesterdays lesson on how you too can be a cartoonist with out really trying. Today we’re going to learn from one well-paid, syndicate, award-winning cartoonist; Jeff Stahler.

Yesterday we learned how you can rip off Hollywood or Cnn when realise you don’t have a creative bone in your body. For those of you who are so insipid that you can’t even make a cartoon out of a movie poster we have the following technique. We’re going to call it the ‘Stahler’ because he does it more than anybody else but, keep in mind, every cartoonist on the planet does this, repeatedly. And they all hate it with a passion.

The idea is simple. If you can’t come up with an idea about a news story, just draw a cartoon of people reacting to the news. Most often this cartoon will be of two people, husband and wife, sipping coffee at the breakfast table reacting the newspaper in their hands. The cartoonist must draw the newspaper. No one knows for sure why, but it is a rule that is followed religiously. Subtle variations include: two people at a cafe; two people in front of the TV (in this instance the cartoonist must draw the remote control. Don’t ask why, just do it. It’s a rule.); two people reading a sign and so forth.

Two illustrate “the Stahler,” he posted this image, which was created by overlaying two different cartoons by Stahler which were published less than a month apart.

An overlay of two cartoons by political cartoonist Jeff Stahler, both showing a husband and wife reading the newspaper at breakfast. What the overlay reveals is that the two cartoons are almost identical; the wife, in particular, appears to have been traced the second time.

I don’t share all the values of Bad Cartoonist; I think you can be a good political cartoonist without being good at caricatures, and for some styles of cartooning repeating images works. But I think that whatever style you work in, any good cartoonist strives to be creative and demonstrate good craft within the parameters of that style. Within the style he’s working in, Stahler — like way too many successful political cartoonists — displays virtually no creativity and cheats on the craft. Which is why political cartooning — and in particular, the kind of political cartooning most often found in mainstream newspapers — has lost almost all creative vitality.

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7 Responses to Bad Cartoonist!

  1. I wonder what the economics of this are. In other words, if you compared the Stahlers with the more creative political cartoonists, would the more creative ones be more successful, and if not, then you have your explanation.

  2. 2
    Kevin Moore says:

    Judging who is “more creative” is probably a subjective value judgment, but for my money, I’d say the list would include several successful cartoonists: Tom Toles, Pat Oliphant, Tom Tomorrow, Jeff Danzinger, Ann Telnaes, Clay Bennett – people who write and draw their own stuff in unique styles. They may have their off days, but I would never accuse them of phoning it in – or photoshopping it in, either.

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    That didn’t look like photoshopping – it looked like photocopying!

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    Hey! Amp! Get to work! I want to know what happened to those two Jewish kids!

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    And how many families ever have a situation where the couple sits over coffee in the morning while “Dad” reads the newspaper?

    It has to be the morning. Newspapers are almost all morning papers now. I date myself to say that I remember when you could read a paper in the morning and then get a completely different paper in the afternoon. Dad used to get the Boston Herald in the morning and the Boston Traveler in the afternoon. The Globe had two editions at one time, I think, and then there was the Boston Record and the Boston American. The Herald and the Traveler merged, the Record and the American merged, and then the Herald-Traveler and the Record-American merged, with the result just calling itself the Herald. Both the Globe and the Herald are morning papers now. The Globe used to have Szep, but I don’t know if he’s still in there. That man used a straight razor instead of a pen sometimes, it seemed.

  6. 6
    Kevin Moore says:

    RonF: You raise a good point (and sorry, Barry, but it’s a slight tangent) about newspapers. When American cities had more than one newspaper competing for readership, readers were better served – and writers and cartoonists were better paid. There were more opportunities for writers and artists to express themselves and develop their voices – and thus more opportunities for readers to find a diversity of view points and styles. It wasn’t a utopia, and there was certainly a conformist/mainstream/element of manufactured consent, but media diversity – in ownership as well as numbers of papers – generally served the interests of their local communities and the larger democratic society.

    The current troubles of the newspaper industry are largely of their own doing. The consolidation that started in the late 70s has drastically reduced the number of newspapers – just in time for the Internet to arise and allow for the diversity print media used to excel at (and still does, but in different forms than newspapers.)

    For writers and artists, the loss of newspapers is a loss of clients, made only worse as the remaining newspapers tighten budgets, cut out staff writers (reviewers) and farm out writing and cartooning jobs.

    In a sense the Bad Cartoonist is reacting to the aesthetic decline of mainstream political cartooning due to the encouragement by editors and basic economics of hackwork.

  7. 7
    Nickleking says:

    Found some stuff indicating that posts are made by Robert Tanner. An AP reporter… not a cartoonist.

    Still a great read though!