Thursday, March 30, 2017

Now, What About Political Cartoons?

     In this early part of 2017, there is tremendous political turmoil. Trump is President, and let’s say that both parties can agree that he has made some serious mistakes. The country is divided, in conflict within itself, and there has been a huge ruckus about the repeal of Obamacare- which was just defeated.

     What’s a cartoonist to do? Nowadays I see streams of political cartoons showcasing all the issues to hand. The cartoon mag I work with the most, the Funny Times, is now chock full of political cartoons.

     But here’s the controversy. My “mentor” as a newbie some years back was a book I read by the wonderful cartoonist Randy Glasenbergen, called “How To Be a Successful Cartoonist”. In this book Randy notes that one should never make a cartoon that is offensive to anyone. I liked that advice and have always followed it. Thus I have always avoided doing political cartoons.

     An additional factor is that my family, friends, and in-laws are all over the map. Some are Christian, Mormon, Buddhist, Republican, Libertarian, Democrat, Independent, conservative, liberal. I cherish them all. How does one manage to not offend anyone?

     Recently my editor at the Funny Times challenged me to make a cartoon about Trump. That opened up a new door. But I developed cartoonist’s block over that one, and weeks went by with no ideas. Perhaps it is because the current political situation, in my opinion, is just not funny. Creepy, yes. Scary, yes. 

     But then I had a flash of inspiration, and here it is in the below cartoon. Just take your Most Hated Politician (admit it, we all have one) and plug them right into this cartoon. And there you have it! Problem solved, and I got to make a political point in there as well (subtle, but there nonetheless).

     As an aside, the Funny Times is a great cartoon mag. It comes out once a month in hard copy. It does not carry ads so is not beholden to any corporations or companies that would crimp their style or limit their humor. And they feature lots of different artists, styles, and types of humor not seen elsewhere. I highly recommend it. 

     Here’s a link to their site:

     I’ll also post a link to Randy Glasenbergen’s book “How To Be a Successful Cartoonist”. It is out of print and somewhat out of date as digital work, the internet and email submissions have now taken over. 

     But his advice on starting out in cartooning is true and timeless. His writing is encouraging, positive, and covers all the important points. The book also has lots of funny cartoons. Randy was one who was able to actually make a living doing cartoons (very rare these days) and he did it by making cartoons prolifically and supplying very creative humor that resonates with just about anyone. One can still get a copy on Amazon:

     If my political cartoon is well-received and gives no backlash, I may do another one soon. Stay tuned! 

     Feel free to visit my website, , for a relaxing time enjoying some unusual cartoons with a messsage. Best enjoyed with a glass of wine or herbal tea, take your pick. 

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cartoons and a Sense of Identity- Who Are We, These Days?

    This may be a strange topic for a cartoonist’s blog, but, hey, cartoonists - possibly more than others - can cover just about any topic you can think of. As long as we are funny while doing so.

    My latest commentary (or rant?) is about the intricate bonding of a person’s identity to their online persona and connection to today’s technology communication channels.

   There are many statistics and demographic studies these days that point up how much time, energy, and attention is spent by the average person online- browsing, social media, Twitter, Instagram, on and on.

   The question that comes to mind is, if all of this were to suddenly disappear, where would the average person be? WHO would they be?

  I actually had a small-world version of this happen today. Over the last few weeks, my Google Chrome (which I use for my Windows 10) began to stall and crash. Then, suddenly, that alarming alert window appears out of nowhere. “You have a Zeus virus- Microsoft is down! Call this number right away or all of your data will be lost!” Computer now frozen.

   I called Tech Support at Time-Warner (oops, Spectrum these days) and was advised that this is a scam, and not to call the number. I was told to take the computer immediately to Best Buy to the Geek Squad, as it was infected with ransom-ware. That’s where you call the number on the alert, the guy pretends to be Microsoft, and guides you to unwittingly give them access to your computer. Then you have to pay $500 to get control of your computer back!

    Luckily I was aware of this and it all turned out well, as I never called the number. Unlike what the agent predicted, I did not in fact have to re-install Windows and erase all the content of my computer. The guy at Best Buy showed me a simple way to exit off the alert, no big changes needed.

    But during those hours of queasy dread as I hauled off to Best Buy, I had an existential crisis of sorts. I realized that my computer had become my lifeline and there was literally almost no action I could take in life without my computer.

   I work from home, so all my business records, links, docs, are on this computer. All my artwork, art connections, and data are on this computer. All my precious photos are here. I need not go on- I’m sure your computer is the same.

   Suddenly I was forced to face the prospect of losing all that data and starting over, and not having computer access for at least a day. Yeah, yeah, I run a backup every month on my computer. But who knows how to take the backup drive and re-load everything again? Not me, that’s for sure. That would lead to another exhausting bout of anxiety, more calls to Tech Support and more. And more days offline. What crucial posts and communications would I be missing during this time? I'm having a panic attack after being offline for even an hour.

    A friend of mine refers to the online community as a “hive-mind” and he may be right. For me, the prospect of being disconnected even for a short time from "the hive" was, I confess, horrifying.

   But underneath all this is a more philosophical point. Where have our identities gone? Are they really merged with our online persona? Are our physical lives in the real world becoming just a sideline activity? If I were to lose all my files, docs, and art, what would be left of me? Would anyone know I was here? Would I know I was here? 

    After this crisis, one thing I can say is that I have taken all my cartoon art and backed it up on a good, old-fashioned large-volume thumb drive. So if it all goes down, I have the one thing left and right to hand that is really precious to me - my cartoons.

    Cartooning gives one a sense of identity. It may not be something in the physical world like singing, or throwing a clay pot. But each cartoonist has their own unique style and their own voice. So far, every cartoonist I have met told me they started cartooning at a very early age (5 years and up) and never stopped. There’s got to be a reason. For a cartoonist, each cartoon is an expression of themselves and the essence of their being.

     Not to get all lofty, as cartooning is also just plain fun. So that’s all for now. I’m off to start my next cartoons- which are on physical universe paper with ink and water colors. After all this, I need something I can touch.

   Here’s a cartoon I made to put all this fuzzy thought into picture form.

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