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Kristin Kay
Kristin Kay

Graphic Opinions: Editorial Cartoonists And Their Art [UPD]

Editorial cartoonists are known for their masterful, often trenchant use of images and text to express opinions or provide critique. Sometimes their work even propels national conversation or social change.

Graphic Opinions: Editorial Cartoonists And Their Art


The lesson provides an in-depth look at how the work of editorial cartoonists has held those in power accountable, as well as the characteristics and challenges of this important form of opinion journalism. Students analyze cartoons from around the world, with iconic examples from Benjamin Franklin, Charles Philipon, José Guadalupe Posada and others. The lesson also invites students to compare editorial cartoons with modern forms of graphic political expression, including memes.

The chances of Columbus residents being sketched, caricatured, and graphic-novelized have never been greater, as cartoonists from around the nation converge this week for the second annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus event (shorthand designation: CXC.)

CXC is a celebration of all things cartoon, from comic strips to graphic novels to animation to editorial cartoons. Appearing will be Pulitzer-prize winners Garry Trudeau, creator of the Doonesbury comic strip, and Washington Post editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes.

Happily, such pictures are beginning to find less favor withreaders—and with cartoonists. Says Bill Mauldin, at 53 a. 35-yearveteran of the editorial page: "Cartoons are getting better, more andmore away from labels. Readers are more savvy. It is less and lessnecessary to put names on things. The trend is more interestingdrawing, less complicated captions." To sharpen his point, Mauldinspent last semester teaching a course in his profession at Yale. "Ideliberately started with a nondrawing bunch," recalls the mosttechnically proficient cartoonist of his generation. "What counts isthe thinking. A drawing with authority helps give authority to an idea,but there's no way a weak idea can make a good cartoon." Don Wright,Pulitzer-prizewinning cartoonist of the Miami News, agrees. "Theeditorial cartoon has become a welcome relief from some of theponderous, elitist, overwritten poopery that typifies so many editorialpages today."

Wright's judgment has been accepted by many editors who know that, ofall features, the editorial cartoon is the least imitable by TV.Cartoonists have been encouraged to explore new forms: Jules Feiffer'spsychiatric monologues have spawned a generation of imitators; GarryTrudeau's campus favorite, Doonesbury, is bringing politics back to thecomic strip. Moreover, because cartoons are a major journalisticattraction, editors are often tolerant of artistic statements thatwould not be welcome in a prose piece. Says Herblock: "A lot ofnewspapers run my stuff even though they don't agree with me. They feelit's a signed piece of work, an example of personal opinion." Thisliberty has brought U.S. editorial cartooning to something of arebirth. It is a renaissance with too few galleries; the great epoch ofnewspapers is gone and with it, many of the journals that carried theart of the great cartoonists. Yet the work somehow finds space in thesurviving dailies, in magazines and in student publications. At itsfrequent best, contemporary cartooning in the U.S. steadily outshineswork anywhere else in the world. No country now produces corrosivelampoons equal to Patrick Oliphant's vaudeville sketches or PaulConrad's acidulous critiques. The competition for attention may havereduced the impact of graphic art everywhere. Yet the cartoon seems tobe gaining influence. No photograph damaged Lyndon Johnson so much asDavid Levine's waspish drawing of L.B. J. lifting his shirt to reveal agall bladder scar—in the shape of Viet Nam. Richard Nixon onceadmitted, "I wouldn't start the morning by looking at Herblock." EvenPresident Ford, gazing forlornly at a gallery of U.S. politicalcartoons, recently conceded, "The pen is mightier than the politician."

It is likely to remain so. The mood of the nation is skepticism, notcredulity. The appetite for the cartoon is whetted. International andlocal tensions call for caricature, not portrait. Today, more than ascore of editorial cartoonists answer that demand—and answer it withastonishing quality. These artists fulfill the difficult prerequisitesthat Historian Allan Nevins lays down for their work: "Wit and humor;truth, at least one side of the truth; and moral purpose." After 100years, the nation that nurtured Nast can be proud of his successors.

The clout of editorial cartoons has waned, but their ability to capture complex issues inside a single box makes them some of the most accessible and revealing documents from 200-plus years of presidential campaigns. And now two exhibits, one newly opened at the National Archives and one at the Newseum, which is scheduled to open in April, in Washington, D.C., highlight their importance and intrigue. "When you go back through history and try to get the simple essence of what is going on in each campaign," says Sandy Northrop, curator of the forthcoming "Penning the Presidents" exhibit at the Newseum, "you look at political cartoons."

The spots reportedly brought Hanna to tears, but McKinley still won, partly because rival William Jennings Bryan was even more widely caricatured by cartoonists as a backward Bible thumper. Cartoons from the McKinley-Bryan race caused enough of a stir to inspire legislation in New York and other states to make it easier to sue cartoonists and their bosses for libel. The legislation failed, but it underscored the potency of these singular drawings.

The Cold War conflict affected the Middle East as both the United States and the Soviet Union tried to expand their influence in the region beginning in the mid-1950s. It was a period when the wider American public was becoming more aware of the region, and the U.S. was emerging as both an economic and military power. Ongoing tension between the American and Soviet superpowers fueled numerous military conflicts in the region over the complex issue of Egyptian-Israeli relations. The regional turmoil commanded the attention of editorial cartoonists who tried to make sense, place blame, or convey their opinions of the discord.

With its surprise war initiative, Israel easily defeated a concerted Arab military attempt to press along its borders. The Six-Day War led to capture of territory from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Bill Graham showed the Egyptians in retreat, prepared to blame both the United States and Great Britain for their failure to prevent the conflict. Graham spent thirty-seven years working as the editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Gazette.

Political cartoons are rhetorical artifacts where journalism and popular culture intersect. Through the use of images and words, facts and fiction, political cartoons provide their readers with a point of view: a single frame loaded with vivid images and condensed meaning. Political cartoons perform several political and social functions; the main one is to provide political commentary on current events and social issues. Additionally, cartoonists often see their work as a weapon against the abuses of power. Thus, they seek to expose and ridicule the powerful. The result is not always funny, but it is often surprising.

Political cartoons are a form of communication with extraordinary rhetorical power. In order to construct meaning, and in hopes of persuading their audience, cartoonists use different rhetorical strategies, such as the use of metaphors and widely known cultural references. Like other rhetorical artifacts, political cartoons are not a straightforward form of communication. To understand one cartoon, people require multiple literacies, and often different people have different readings. Although the influence of political cartoons has diminished in some parts of the Western world, they continue to do political work around the world.

The tradition of visual satire continued into the Civil War where Thomas Nast is most notable known for his cartoons in Harper's Weekly. Nast is known for his graphic social commentary on the Civil War, which was quite often intensely clear. Political cartoonists like Nast analyzed serious and complex issues and made them humorous. Boss Tweed once blamed his decline the "damned pictures" (Iziren). Nast's work is another example of the impact of political cartoons on American society.

Independent voices are vital to a democracy, and editorial cartoons provide a way to dress down the powerful and challenge the status quo. Yet, politics is a risky realm, and editorial cartoonists risk reprisal in all settings.

By the 1990s, the digital age opened a new frontier to the media, to quickly and cheaply reach a limitless audience. Editorial cartoonists stepped away from the editor's edict. Through the World Wide Web, artists reclaimed their independent voice and emerged as global freelancers.

Reject with editorial review. The Editors identify submissions that in their expert opinions would not fare well during the review process; these manuscripts are rejected without additional external reviewers. Oftentimes, more than one Editor will be consulted during this initial screening. This shortens the time to decision and ensures a manageable workload for reviewers. Examples of manuscripts that would not be peer reviewed include the following: the paper is a routine extension or minor technical improvement of research already published; the science lies outside the scope of Analytical Chemistry; the science does not meet Analytical Chemistry standards; insufficient data are provided to properly substantiate the claims and conclusions made; closely related work has already been published and few, if any, new insights are provided; the work is narrowly focused and not of broad, general appeal to the readership of Analytical Chemistry; the manuscript is a resubmission of a paper that has been previously declined, without the addition of adequate new science and/or without notification in the cover letter of previous submission; or the manuscript deals with known analytical methods and does not offer a significant, original application of the method, a noteworthy improvement, or results on an important analyte.


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