The Staying Power of Editorial Cartooning
“All cartoonists are linked together in the world – it’s our language, one we can communicate in.” –Liza Donelly
I would be thrilled to earn a living doing what I am passionate about: commenting on the day’s news in pictures. Why do I continue creating artwork in a medium that people say is dead and no longer profitable here in the States? Why do I relentlessly pursue a career in a field in which the odds say I won’t succeed enough to support myself financially?
I believe in editorial cartooning’s inherent value. The medium has staying power. Simple pictures that resonate with an audience – it’s in our DNA, evident from the first cave paintings from thousands of years ago. Creating simple pictures, particularly editorial cartoons, is in my blood. Too many, namely those my own age, are apathetic about the world around them. I hope that my cartoons, even if people don’t always agree with them, might spur those who view them to be inquisitive about what is going on in the world.
Satire is powerful. Editorial cartooning, a form of satire, is especially powerful because of how the medium, in its simplicity, is connected to the human psyche. A one or two-panel cartoon has the immediacy that other satirical mediums can never quite capture. People have been killed in other countries for creating editorial cartoons, and four more joined the number last week with the tragedy in France.
Each cartoonist, satirist, journalist or publication attacked or silenced is an attack on free expression. I continue making cartoons because of their embodiment of free expression and power to question the status quo despite their primitive nature. I do not personally fear for my own life, and expect that the most I will ever deal with is trivial hate mail. However, seeing that editorial cartoonists can be viciously and senselessly killed in other countries makes me realize how close to my heart and damn important this medium is to me.
If U.S. publications truly wanted to make a statement condemning the senseless attack on Charlie Hebdo and express the value of editorial cartooning, they would make a genuine effort to hire more editorial cartoonists. They would make a genuine effort to pay cartoonists for what their work is worth. They would stop promising young and new cartoonists (and established ones as well) “exposure” in place of payment for reprints or publishing. They would stop posting or sharing cartoonists’ work without permission or payment.
I know that no cartoonist goes into the field of editorial cartooning for the money. They do it because they enjoy what they do and believe in the power of free expression. I also know that the news industry is struggling to adapt to the age of the Internet and is stricken with budget woes. However, written or spoken words are empty without actions. I want to see the U.S. and its publications show that it values the art of editorial cartooning.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the cartoonists, editors, and guard officers killed in the attack on Charlie Hebdo. A publication cannot be run successfully without good, and in Charlie Hebdo’s case, brave editors. My thoughts and prayers are also with the Muslim community, as I know terrorist attacks like this can only strengthen Islamaphobic attitudes among many. Regardless of how viewers interpret the content that Charlie Hebdo ran, acts of violent retaliation are never the answer.
The sword will never win. There will always be a desire for laughter and satirical commentary that will outlive any reactionary violence. We cartoonists and other satirists are too stubborn. Events like the Charlie Hebdo shooting only drive us to sharpen our wit and humor to stand stronger in the face of hatred and brutality.
Satire at its best makes us laugh and ponder our own standing. Its main objective is not to offend, but to make people examine their own values. Done wisely and with integrity, it can bring people together, even if for a brief moment.
Je suis Charlie.