Squeezing Originality Out of Editorial Cartoons

Stein, Ed
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p38
This article present's the author's comments on the vulnerability of editorial cartoonists due to the resulting sameness of so much of editorial cartoons. I do not collect clips any more. Any time I want to. I can see everybody's work on the Internet, This wonderful accessibility has a serious downside. It has given rise to a depressingly homogenous American style, not just of drawing but of the way we conceive ideas. Anyone who logged on to Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index the day after actor Christopher Reeve died would have found no fewer than 11 drawings of Superman flying from his wheelchair. On any given day there will be a numbingly repetitive series of cartoons, all on the same subject and using the same metaphors and visual images. This is not a case of group plagiarism, but it is a suspicious case of groupthink. With the exception of a handful of artists who have made a conscious effort to develop a distinctive graphic style, our drawings, with minor stylistic differences, look pretty much alike, as well. We have become like a huge family of identical siblings; we can tell each other apart at a glance, but nobody else can. When I came into the field, it was understood that syndication and the Pulitzer Prize belonged to a handful of nationally known cartoonists. They were cartooning royalty; the rest of us need not bother.


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