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Who is the Bad Cartoonist and does he matter?
The editorial cartooning community has been going through a season of discontent for many years and it seems that the pitch is only getting louder. If it’s not discussion of the gloom and doom of the newspaper industry, it’s the complaints about the book collections, who’s copying who and who’s pulling down the profession with mediocre work. On that last topic, an anonymous editorial cartoonist has created a blog called Bad Cartoonist who seeks to point out the less then stellar in the field. His posts have so far taken pot shots at cartoonists at every level of the profession – from the younger generation to the venerable Pulitzer Prize winners.
To better understand the purpose of the site, I invited him/her (most likely a him) to an interview. A phone interview was declined, but he agreed to an email interview. The following is the results of our email exchange.
Alan Gardner: What is the purpose of your site/Why did you start it up?
Bad Cartoonist: I’m really not sure. I guess I started it because I got pissed off because of all the crap I hear from other cartoonists about how our profession is dying and how someone else is to blame. There are some seriously talented cartoonists working right now. But there’s more detritus than anything else, a quick scan at caglepost.com will show you that. Someone has to say it so I guess it will be me. It’s our fault too. There, I feel better already.
I figured since we spend most of our time pointing out the hypocrisy of others it was about time someone point out our own. Kind of like ‘who watches the watchers’ isn’t it? Except without the superpowers. Or murder, or mass destruction. OK, bad analogy but the point holds true. We spend our time satirizing others so can’t we satirize ourselves?
A: Naturally, many cartoonists are going to be angry or resentful at your site or purpose. What do you say to them?
BC: I don’t know that too many will be that upset. They get worse in their inboxes everyday. If they do get upset then they might be in the wrong profession. It might be telling to see who gets upset about the things I say. You know your hitting the right spots when someone gets angry.
A: Why the anonymity?
BC: I wish I had a really good answer for this but, I don’t. It all boils down to the fact that there are things I want to say that piss people off and I would rather be able to say them without people knowing who I am. Political cartoonists are generally a kind lot – except for Paul Conrad, he’s a bona fide prick – and many of them are my friends. I’d like it to stay that way- except for the Conrad thing. We’ve all been waiting years for him to keel over.
Also, my shrink told me it would be cathartic.
A: Other than cathartic value, what impact do you hope or think your site will have OR maybe stated – because you’ve chosen to be anonymous, how much clout do you think you can actually wield for change? Why should anyone pay attention to you?
BC. I really haven’t given it that much thought. I don’t have enough of an ego to think that I will actually make any changes – heaven knows that insipd thought died years ago when I brought my first cartoon to my first editor. If I do anything it might be pointing out the things that no one else has had the guts to say yet. And do it with some real vitriol.
A: What do you think would happen to you if you were ever outed as the bad cartoonist?
BC: Let’s hope we never find out.
A. What is your interest in editorial cartooning?
BC: Waining. Day after day, my interest dies a little more.
A: Are you a published cartoonist?
BC: Does the Penny Saver count?
Short answer: Yes. You might have heard of me. I have won national awards. But that doesn’t mean much anymore. Journalism is in such a sorry state we’re giving ourselves awards every chance we get. Cindy Procious won a few for being married to Clay Bennett. I hear if you go to dinner with Steve Sack then you are automatically made a finalist for the Pulitzer. Matt Davies won a Pulitzer because the judges thought that he invented scribbling. Last years winners had praise heaped upon them because they used something called the internets.
A: Why not provide a site for outstanding examples of great cartooning?
BC: That’s a good question. The heart of the matter also lies in editorial cartooning. Why don’t we draw cartoons that make people feel good or are uplifting and kind? Because nobody would care. We laugh at cartoons when they have a fierce way of saying sometihng — whether or not we agree with it. The worst cartoons in the world are the ones that try to be funny for the sake of it. Give an me opinion or give me death. Besides, I’m not what you would call a touchy-feely kind of guy.
A: So you view your site as satire? – like the Comics Curmudgeon of editorial cartooning?
BC: I didn’t really set out to accomplish anything specific. I’m sure it will have it’s fair share of satire but, because of who I am and what I do, my opinion is going to be splashed all over the place.
A: What is your measuring stick for excellent cartooning?
BC: I think a cartoon has to do one of two things: make me laugh or make me think. If there is something in the way the cartoonist has done their work that gets in the way then it fails. If I don’t recognise a caricature,, it’s too cluttered, if the joke falls flat or it’s just so cliche’ that I don’t want to honor it with even the smallest of chuckles then, in my opinion, it’s a failure. Style is less important unless, of course, it gets in the way.
A: Who do you think should be the finalist for the Pulitzer this year?
BC: I love what Steve Sack has been doing. Sherrfius has done some nice things with his style and has a simple approach that works most of the time. I even like some of what Paul Combs has come up with. Clay Bennett is, as always, in a class by himself. Unfortunately, no one on God’s brown earth can get into the heads of those wacky judges who seem to come out of left field every year. A few days after we are done pouting about how it should have been us, we usually nod our heads in collective agreement.
Editor’s note: Reading the blog posts, you can tell this is definitely an insider. Will the editorial community receive this site as a Judas or a sympathetic whistle-blower? It might depend on who the “Bad Cartoonist” is. It’s a small, leaky community. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we know how’s behind this.