UK cartoonists respond to Daryl Cagle

Published On September 28, 2010 | By Joe Gordon | Comics

American cartoonist and respected commentator on the scene Daryl Cagle recently posted a comment about US editorial cartooning and ‘the rest of the world’ which has stirred some debate, not least on the blog of the UK professional cartoonist’s association, the Bloghorn, who have taken exception to Cagle painting the rest of the cartooning world outside the syndicated US mainstream with the same brush, his post appearing to infer that ‘world cartoonists’ spend all their time doing relatively obscure works with the aim of getting them into international competitions, while US cartoonists are busy earning a wage and creating cartoons that use both words and pictures to make a point and create humour:

The American cartoonists’ idea of actually making a living from our work, and judging our success by the size of our audiences, or our wallets, seems strange to the obscure foreign cartoonists, who are busy building their CV’s and planning their travel schedules.

Unfortunately, American cartoonists rarely participate in international competitions, giving many of the cartoonists around the world the idea that we are aloof elitists. When we look at these contests, American cartoonists see a foreign style that doesn’t fit with our taste. ”

Bloghorn takes exception to this and to be honest it’s not hard to see why – how exactly he can have the US cartooning scene as distinct but be happy to lump in the entire rest of the globe in one undifferentiated lump? Yes, some cartoons will depend on a certain cultural knowledge and so not travel well, others can travel across divides, but regardless I think plenty of cartoonists around the world create editorial cartoons which both make a point and create humour while they do so. Steve Bell, Zapiro and the late Naji Al Ali spring to mind right away, the latter a fine example of one who often created the wordless cartoons which Cagle seems to take exception to (surely a gifted cartoonist can make a point with or without words?).

(a wordless but powerful work by the late Naji Al-Ali)

The Bloghorn gang’s response does note that cartoons from other cultures can confuse them too and that they have also seen too many similar entries in international competitions (they point to an earlier article on just that subject on the Bloghorn by John Jensen), and make a point about the difference not just between American editorial cartoonists and the rest of the world as Cagle has it, but between the Anglophone world and cultures with different languages and history, before going on to point out that there are many cartoonists working successfully and professionally in the UK that he seems to be ignoring in his post. And I’d argue that there are professional editorial cartoonists just as successful in their own languages and cultures; sadly I found Cagle’s article rather dismissive of the rest of the cartooning world (as I said, even just lumping everything not successful in mainstream US papers seems to me to be ignorant and ill-informed, not what I expect from him at all).

It certainly seems dreadfully ignorant of the UK cartooning scene for starters – we are, after all, one of the great historic homes of cartooning satire and we’re proud of that tradition. Just last month I attended the largest literary festival in the world, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where large audiences turned up to see the likes of Martin Rowson and Steve Bell, two hugely successful, satirical, humorous, professional British cartoonists, so respected they are invited to one of the world’s foremost literary celebrations. Mr Cagle, please take note of that. We not only have them, we celebrate them; I’m not sure how you missed that. And I am sure some of our readers from other non-US and non English language countries have examples of their own successful, gifted professional editorial and political cartoonists. And the size of the wallet and audience are not the only, or indeed most important, indicators of a cartoonist’s success. I’ve seen plenty in major newspapers which are dire and derivative (not to mention unfunny), just as I have seen some which are genius.

(Steve Bell on the recent Liberal Democrat conference, from the Guardian, a well known home to some good cartoons in the UK, by and (c) Steve Bell)

Meantime the discussion has moved on to Twitter, with Bloghorn noting online that they posted a response on Cagle’s blog, but the comment hasn’t appeared on his blog comments so far, although that could simply be that he hasn’t had time to moderate his comments yet. I asked Bloghorn’s editors what comment they left and it was fairly simple, directing Cagle to their response to his article on the Bloghorn blog:

Thanks Daryl for an interesting and provocative post. I am writing on behalf of the UK Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation and we have responded to the points you have raised here at our blog. We hope you would like to engage in a conversation.”

Hopefully Daryl will post that comment on his blog and engage in a conversation with his UK cartooning colleagues. Meantime, perhaps we should have a whip-round and buy Daryl a collection of Steve Bell works and a subscription to Private Eye?

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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