Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am swamped with a deadline and I need to get some work done before the Thanksgiving holiday. So, here's a quick one!

Here's an old commercial by that genius Stan Freberg just to put you in that festive eating mood. See you on the other side!

Big thanks to Rich Powell for finding this commercial. As Rich noted: "The Genius of Stan Freberg is greatly missed in today's commercials." Amen, brother -- and pass the cranberry sauce!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Andy McClure: His Facebook Post Mocking Conservative Christians Taken Down, He Changes It to a Cartoon That Goes Viral

Above: the banned dialogue that Andy McClure changed into a cartoon.

I didn't know this until I read about Andy McClure, but if you post something on Facebook and a couple of people flag it as "inappropriate," then that post is taken down. And, sometimes, the person who wrote that post, gets banned from Facebook. Oh, and this also goes for Twitter and YouTube and I'm sure all the others.

Notice how there's no part of the process where Facebook actually reads and then judges the post (with a serious glance at the First Amendment). Facebook just responds to a couple of people hitting an "inappropriate button" and then, knee-jerkedly,  kills that post.

So, if someone is saying something you don't like on social media, you and some like-minded friends can just gang up,  flag it as "offensive" and "violating Facebook's Term of Service" and then the post is killed. There is no freedom of speech in the electronic frontier.

As David Badish of New Civil Rights Movement in his piece Post Perfectly Mocking Right Wing Christians Taken Down By Facebook, So Author Turns It Into Cartoon writes:

"By now, many people know if they can convince enough of their friends to falsely claim a post on social media – say, Facebook or Twitter – or a video on YouTube is "offensive" or violates their terms of service, the post will automatically get taken down, leaving the person who posted it to try to fight to have it reinstated. Many times, that person gives up and the haters get their way. 
"Not Minnesota's Andy McClure, who posted to Facebook a simple yet extraordinarily effective and on-point dialogue he wrote showing a conversation between a reasonable, rational person and what we can assume is a far right Christian conservative."

He made his dialogue into a nine-panel stick-man cartoon. And it went viral, circulating thru many people who copied it onto their timelines and onto other social media platforms. Andy McClure made it unstoppable. 

Cartoon Better, Even If It's Harder

Talking about editorial cartoons today. But this also applies to other cartoons now that I think of it.

Tjjeerd Royaards of Cartoon Movement writes about "tribute cartoons;" specifically, cartoons about the Paris attacks. He very politely cites that a lot of the popular ones are the same (a bleeding eiffel tower). While he loves cartoons like these, he asks if cartoonists are being asked to produce a thoughtful cartoon in too little time. He also proposes the idea that cartoonists who have a large body of older work may just repurpose an older cartoon.

Generally, a cartoon after a tragic event (an attack, a prominent death, a tragedy, a war, etc.) is being asked to be insightfully poignant and humorous. When you produce on an assembly line basis, some cartoons are going to be better than others. If you go for the first idea you have, then a lot of the time, a lot of other cartoonists will have that idea and draw it up. Then it's yahtzee-time.

"Yahtzee" is a term that's used when a lot of editorial cartoonists draw up the same idea. If you go to a site that has a lot of editorial cartoons from time to time, then you have seen this. I read about it first in Doug Marlette's book about cartooning, IN YOUR FACE: A CARTOONIST AT WORK (1991).

He also talks about the danger of low-lying fruit kinda gags. It's a good term. It means what you think it means: the easy joke that you can just pluck off and start drawing. It's not good. And Marlette is the only one I have ever read that tells us that the reason he was so good was because he very quickly would sense what the low-lying gag was, and try to make it better -- or twist it.

This is all good advice, and it means that the cartoonist --- that odd combination of a person who writes as well as a person that draws -- needs to be a better writer, even if it's harder to do.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Iranian Cartoonist Behind Iconic Image After Paris Attacks Imprisoned

It's been a week since Hadi Heidari, a cartoonist at the Shahrvand newspaper, was arrested by Iranian authorities as part of its crackdown on on free expression.


Hadi Heidari, a cartoonist at the Shahrvand newspaper, was arrested on Monday and sent to Tehran's Evin prison, his lawyer told Reuters in a telephone interview from Tehran. 
"He was convicted two years ago for his cartoons and was sentenced to one year in jail. The authorities had a different interpretation of his cartoons than he had," the lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, said. Heidari had served about a month of the original sentence, Nikbakht said. 
The Tasnim news agency, which is close to the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said Heidari had telephoned his family from prison and told them his arrest stemmed from the original conviction. 
It was not immediately clear why Heidari had been re-arrested. Hardliners have accused other recently arrested journalists of being part of an "infiltration network" linked to hostile foreign powers.

From Newsweek:

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an independent human rights group, said two of Heidari’s co-workers confirmed that “a young man came with a warrant. He showed Hadi the warrant, and they took him quietly.” The reasons for Heidari’s arrest remain unknown, although he was arrested in 2009 after encouraging the release of political prisoners, The New York Timesreports, and was arrested again in December 2010 for creating “propaganda against the state.” 
Heidari’s cartoon has been shared alongside the now iconic drawing by French designer Jean Jullien of the Eiffel Tower inside a circle, creating a peace sign, that has become a symbol of solidarity with France and the victims of the attacks. Heidari also created a cartoon to represent the twin suicide bombings in Beirut last week that killed 44 people, by drawing a blood-stained Lebanese flag with birds flying from the green tree at the flag’s center. 
Responsibility for the Paris and Beirut attacks has been claimed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Iran has condemned both attacks.

Rob Rogers Wins Berryman Award

Congratulations to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers upon his winning the 2015 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning.

Hat tip to my Dad for letting me know! Thanks, Dad!

Friday, November 20, 2015

All the Cartoons from the March 5-11, 1966 TV Guide

"Agent 99 Goes Pop!" on this March 5-11, 1966 TV Guide cover of "Get Smart's" Barbara Feldon created by none other than Andy Warhol. Copyright 1966 by Triangle Publications, Inc.

TV Guide was, like a lot of the major magazines of that time, a gag cartoon market. Here are all four cartoons from this issue.

On the "TV Jibe" page, there are three cartoons with the title "The Repairman Cometh."

Richard Decker:

Robert Censoni:

Chon Day:

Here's a standalone half-page Joseph Mirachi cartoon from another part of TV Guide:

And I would be remiss if I didn't let you have a look at the Barbara Feldon piece:

From the March 5-11, 1966 TV Guide: Joan Rivers prepares for the TONIGHT SHOW

"Comedienne Joan Rivers: What She Went Through ..." A TV Guide picture feature, copyright 1966 by Triangle Publications, Inc.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


There's big money in cartooning and enormous markets, so says the Cartoonists' Exchange booklet titled HOW TO MAKE MONEY WITH SIMPLE CARTOONS. This is just one small part of the correspondence school ephemera, which encompassed lesson books, as well as devices to create jokes and characters (the Comic Character Creator and the Laugh Finder).

As the HOW TO MAKE MONEY WITH SIMPLE CARTOONS booklet will tell you, here are the principles that all successful comic strips are based on, editorial cartoon techniques, chalk talk information, caricature, proportions, realistic figure drawing, the "three steps in developing a cartoon sketch" and so much more. This is copyright 1949 The Cartoonists' Exchange, Pleasant Hill, OH.

-- Edited from an original November 19, 2009 blog entry.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Happy 30th Birthday CALVIN AND HOBBES by Bill Watterson!

Thirty years ago today the very first CALVIN AND HOBBES comic strip appeared in newspapers.

That's a long time ago. It was the reason I bought the paper! And I didn't have much money to go and spend it on a newspaper. I remember seeing it and thinking that it was too good. Too good to last long! My view of the world was that the mediocre stuff was the only thing that became popular. I am happy to be wrong!

Kids today tell me they love CALVIN AND HOBBES. When I teach cartooning classes, it's regulalry cited as a favorite. When I ask them where they got the collections, the answer is always the same: from their parents.

So, Calvin is being passed along from one generation of people to the next. Not thru toys. There aren't any. Not thru TV specials or movies. There aren't any of those. Calvin lives on the page and is kept in circulation because it's good stuff. Really good stuff. People are smart that way.

Comic strip creator tries to 'Grin Big' after losing copyright case

Gary Blehm created a newspaper comic strip titled PENMEN in the 1990s. It was a wordless strip featuring the above stick-figure characters.

Actually, like a lot of cartoonists, the idea for PENMEN came in the 1980s, when Blehm was in high school. PENMEN had reached a level of success before the strip. In the late 1980s, he created a popular poster of the PENMEN.

Here's a 1989 TV interview:

It was the popularity of the poster that lead to the syndication deal with Creators Syndicate.

As Lance Benzel writes in this Colorado Gazette article:

Gary Blehm had it all in the 90s -- a rare syndication deal for his distinctive comic, a best-selling poster, a rewarding side gig speaking to schools. Then, it was all derailed by a rival that he maintains ripped him off from top to bottom. Thing is, the courts sided with the rival -- Life is Good -- and Gary's been left to rebuild his brand while dodging insults online that he's a hack and a ripoff artist.

That rival, the "Life is Good" company, uses a stick figure as well on its t-shirts and caps. 

Blehm's lawsuit, filed in 2009, sought to make the case that coincidence alone couldn't account for similarities between the characters. 
Both Jake and the penmen had "round heads, disproportionately large half-moon smiles, four fingers, large feet, disproportionately long legs, and a message of unbridled optimism. 
Side-by-side comparisons showed that Jake shared the same interests, even using similar body language as he strummed a guitar, caught a Frisbee and warmed himself by a fire, all staples of the "Penmen" universe. 
Blehm's lawyers, from Holland and Hart in Denver, suggested a time and place when Blehm's work had been copied. One of the first stores to start selling the "Penmen" poster was Harvard Coop Bookstore in Boston. During that time, the Jacobs were selling T-shirts from a van a few blocks away, Blehm's lawyers alleged. (The Jacobs maintained they never had heard of Blehm nor seen his poster.) A judge, however, tossed the suit, ruling that while the artists pursued similar ideas, their "execution" was sufficiently different to avoid copyright claims. A federal appeals court reached the same conclusion in 2013, effectively quashing Blehm's legal action. 
"To read the case, they agreed with nearly every point we made," Blehm says. "But they said they couldn't let me have a monopoly on a stick figure. I don't consider it a stick figure."
Legal action has hit a dead end, but Gary Blehm is still drawing, with a new feature he's calling Grin Big. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Joann Sfar: "Keep Drawing, Keep Creating, Keep Living

French cartoonist Joann Sfar has created a number of cartoon images that have gone viral after Friday's Paris attacks. They are at his Instagram page.

Lior Zaltzman writing in her The Forward article Jewish Cartoonist Goes Viral after Paris Attacks  explains:

He posted a series of images on his instagram feed. In a particularly popular one he asked people simply not to pray for Paris: “Our faith goes to music! Kissing! Life! Champagne and joy!” 
[...] As an artist and as a cartoonist, the answer is — his answer is — keep drawing, keep creating, keep living. Keep making the world beautiful and interesting. Keep bringing into the world the things that are vital and alive, in the face of ISIS, people who destroy life, who destroy beauty, who destroy culture and history. When ISIS destroys historical artifacts and attacks cultural centers, our response should be to create more.