January 20, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

Arab, Uzbek Political Cartoonists at the SI

Last week I was lucky to be invited by the Society of Illustrators ED Anelle Miller to mingle with colleagues from the Middle East and Uzbekistan visiting under a program run by Christopher King of the US State Department.

During a time of great political upheaval in the region, in fact on the day when the president of Egypt announced new crackdowns on expression, we were talking together about our mutual interest: saying true things with images in print.

We began by walking through a current show of the work of Kadir Nelson, limning the struggle for equal rights of minorities in the US.

Later, one of America’s leading caricaturists and art journalists Victor Juhasz and artist and scholar (in the field of women in cartooning in the Middle East) Marguerite Dabaie an I took turns presenting work at a sit-down session in the Library.

For all that, I kept noticing that these artists mostly wanted to talk about  their work, how to get it in shows.

Just like us!

The Kadir Nelson show. I pointed out that in this amazing painting Washington is clearly seen and the slave, although, in the foreground, is hardly visible. And that this show presents the African American figure emerging form this shadow.

At the newly revamped and brilliant Air Force Show in the SI Dining Room Victor Juhasz explains the process by which SI artists travel with troops and come back with extremely diverse, deeply heartfelt and sometimes deeply disturbing images. The gentleman at Vic’s left is an interpreter.


Ramzi A. Taweel, Palestinian cartoonist showed his work on a tablet to Margo Dabaie, Palestinian American artist, who wrote a dissertation on women in Arab cartooning.

The Arabic interpreter here looks as if he’s laughing up his sleeve but actually he is quietly speaking into a mic which transmitted to headphones held by the Arabic speakers. I was amazed at this technology. Although when my slides went haywire this gentleman let me know that he couldn’t translate my disjointed narration. That was helpful because I wasn’t making much sense in English anyway. Apologies here to Vic for what a 1/30 of a second exposure can do to your face.

Magda Lofty.

Samir Abd Elghany, Egyptian cartoonist.

As they listened I felt a kind of receptiveness and intensity that the camera caught as well.

Here I am with Ramzi Taweel, who works in the office of the president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and draws for the press in his off hours. Cartooning as a sideline is not an uncommon lifestyle for cartoonists around the world.

It was great to connect with everyone. Very grateful to the SI and the State Dept. for the chance to make these friends. Here’s to them and all artists everywhere, especially in the tough spots, struggling to speak freely where free speech can be a seemingly impossible luxury.

In solidarity.

The Master

Wonderful to work with John Dixon of the Village Voice.  Oceans of illustration under the bridge there but really great to pick up on a new vibe with John, whose work on Voice covers have been a recent inspiration.

This was for the film The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson, signature director of Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia etc. This film, from my pre-release info, was based on  a Hubbard-like leader of a Scientology-like cult, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. So the sense we were shooting for was a dominant figure using others and feeding off their energy.

My idea was to have the Hoffman character pop off of the screen and begin to grab Anderson in a darkened movie theater.


John wanted to play with ideas focusing on the director.

Here he is considering a confrontation between Hoffman and the spirit of Hubbard.


In this he is inside Hubbard’s head.


Finally John and editors returned to my original take. It’s great when your interpretation is seen as as good as or even preferable to the preconceived one of the editorial staff. I believe that we, as artists, are called in, not just for our ability to craft images, but to consult on the best interpretation of an idea. That is, I feel, a huge part of our job. Many thanks for the great collaboration with some new friends in an old hangout.

PS: Finally saw the film last night. The image, it turns out, was, of the three, the most appropriate to the movie. However, I was surprised to find that the film was really about the Joaquin Phoenix character. The Hoffman character is a symbol and kind of a 2D creation. Phoenix, however, is flesh and blood every minute. He gives and all-out, high-risk, opened vein, Actor’s Studio type portayal (channeling Montgomery Clift in my opinion) that will win him, if not an Oscar, a lot of Oscar-buzz. Not that this matters. It is a performance not to be missed.

The Complete 2012 Conventions Live Blog

Here, in its entirety is my 2012 RNC, DNC convention live blog work for thenation.com. Grand total: 152 illustrations.

Great thanks to Katrina vanden Heuvel, Richard Kim. Frank Reynolds, Emily Douglas, Annie Shields at The Nation.

And special thanks to Lisa Reist my right hand and guru guide to the dharma of awesome.

These are in reverse order as they appear on the original site: http://www.thenation.com/blogs/steve-brodner

These are all made using 2B, 4B pencil in 8 1/2 X 11 75lb bright white paper in Allied Artists sketchbooks augmented in Photoshop, in the spirit of enthusiastic political engagement, participation, voting, and . . .  democracy.



The takeaway.


Debating the truly empty chair.

“We also believe in something called citizenship.”
——Barack Obama

“Never forget their sacrifice.”
—Vice President Joe Biden

“I’ve got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan: Gentlemen, it never makes sense, it is never a good bet to bet against America.… And we have no intention of downsizing the American dream.”
—Vice President Joe Biden

“Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits, but it is not the way to lead from the highest office.”
—Vice President Joe Biden

“God bless ’im”
—Jill Biden, on Joe

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer puts on the dog.

John Kerry

Charlie Crist, stranger in paradise.

“In Romney world the cars get the elevators and the workers get the shaft.”
—Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan


Osama shows up once again at the Convention.

“Republicans want to write discrimination into our Constitution.”
—Tammy Baldwin


“It turns out our governor was Mitt Romney, and what we should have had as governor was ‘Myth Romney.’ ”
—Barney Frank

Tonight we’ll probably see the good Biden. But I even love the bad Biden. Here are a few of his greatest hits.

A little left-over business from last night. On CNN, Castellanos’s perhaps prophetic response to Clinton.

Bill Clinton, you take me to the fair.

Bill Clinton, guest artist.

Obama not getting lost in translation.


Elizabeth Warren.

“We built our business with a little help from our neighbors and our country.”  —Jim Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco. Elizabeth Warren’s original idea.

Sandra Fluke, bull’s-eye.

New convention clock. Fox coverage of Jerusalem and God going on two hours plus.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper pays tribute to shooting and fire victims, but stays mum on guns and climate change.

Delegate listening to Cecile Richards.

Steny Hoyer: “They [the Congressional Republicans] want to drown the captain, and are prepared to sink the ship to do so.”

Cecile Richards, idea person.

Fox is moving its convention coverage to Jerusalem.

Richard Trumpka: “We love our country. We build it. We wake it up each morning. We fix it when it’s broke. We put it to bed at night.”

The secret life of Barbara Mikulski.

Nancy Pelosi, always effective.

“When she said, ‘There’s no such thing as us and them,’ I think Republicans are going to have something to say about that given the last few years,” snorted Bret Baier. Fox News.

Michelle killing them softly.

Michelle warms up Mr. Cool.

Michelle Obama, an original but familiar.

Castro kills.

Castro on Mitt.

Julian Castro. The nearing future of Texas.

Sean “Avenging Angel” Hannity on Fox: “In 2004 God was mentioned in the platform seven times. This year, God was removed.”

O’Malley: 2012, 2016—He’s got them both covered.

Deval Patrick: “We know Mitt Romney.”

Lilly Ledbetter, American Hero. “Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account.”

Shep drills down on the issues.


Tammy Duckworth. True hero, survivor of Iraq chopper crash and Tea Party slander. Senate candidate, Illinois.

Representative Jared Polis: “My great grandparents were immigrants to this country. I’m Jewish, I’m gay, I’m a father, I’m a son, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m a congressman from the great state of Colorado.”

Osama Hologram will be on call.

Tonight’s crowning moment so far: just run Mr. Multiple Choice’s greatest hits and Ted Kennedy commentary. Play this all fall.

Joe Kennedy III. Tonight played by Prince Harry.

Obama considers an appearance of Jimmy Carter.

Majority leader Harry Reid.

Cory Booker. Defender of Wall Street.

Steny Hoyer. My favorite corporate Democrat. Friend of the telecoms, voted for the Iraq War. Huge corporate fundraiser. Collects, bundles, distributes money to Democratic candidates.

And the grand finale paid by Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy.

Welcome to DNC 2012! Hard to avoid the signs of the times.




Coda. For a man who almost nobody likes, whose dad may have unliked him tonight. From a letter by George Romney, words to contemplate.

The presidential and vice presidential nominees… and Romney and Ryan.

Romney Olympics 2012: Pentagon Cuts/Pentagon Spending Spree

Romney Olympics 2012: The Abortion Flip

Romney Olympics 2012: The Healthcare Flip

The Romney Olympics 2012

President Who.

Rubio’s speech gives Romney a new perspective on his VP pick.

Sarah Palin, Fox News: “If the Republican Party is racist, why have we elected so many minorities? Why did we elect Susana Martinez?… Why do we have so much respect for Herman Cain, and so many of these minorities?”

Happy to be here, and happy to contemplate 2016!

Marco Rubio claims his family escaped Castro in 1956. Castro must have looked like this.

So if this Clint Eastwood blends with Mitt Romney in viewer’s brains, is that the image Republicans want?

Ann Coulter, Fox News, on the Youth Vote: “Why are we all letting infants vote? Their brains aren’t fully formed!”

Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples, says Romney worked on saving Staples and its jobs—not Bain and its investors. That was easy!

The Oparowskis—who lost their son—Mitt was nice to them. The Humanize Romney Project.

Bobby Jindal, my favorite Republican (as a caricaturist), gets to be seen again as a man of action… and escapes this convention!

Education is just like milk.

My opinion.

The Education Party. Is Our Children Learning?

I love my brother, but OWWW!!

Jeb, we hardly knew ye.

Oh, to be a Romney son.

It’s the Loopy/Dizzy Comedy Hour!

Connie & Mary

Connie Mack starts the evening!

Paul Ryan, tongue puppet, by Koch Industries. Available at RNC concession stands.

Paul Ryan’s Growth Agenda.

Ryan’s Honest-T

Gov. Susana Martinez (NM) slightly delayed tonight. Jan Brewer had to check her papers.


Condi Rice, accompanied tonight by an escort of 4,000 soldiers lost in Iraq.

GOP’s Favorite Dish

Chris Matthews, MSNBC: “All of this is disgraceful BS. They’re saying things to people to get them to stand up and applaud something that’s not going to happen. And if it does happen it’s a prescription for screwing people.”

Tonight all delegates get free Mike Huckabee coathangers.

Huck used to be so skinny. Must be all those Chick-Fil-As!

John Roberts, Fox News: “Romney has been attacking Obama on substance. Obama has been attacking Romney on personal.”

What pops into your mind when you see John McCain?

As a prank, the RNC puts up Bush video to scare the hell out of the delegates!

The Insulter In Chief

Wallace on FOX just now.

Ron Paul’s legacy. Another butt that burns for Ayn.

What does Rand Paul’s head look like to you?

Mitch McConnell — Where are the jobs?

Day Two! Here’s a deleted scene from the Ron Paul video. His 1964 civil rights position.

The American virtue of being an a**hole.

And away we go!

The delightful Ann Romney, here to humanize Mitt. How can she miss?

Nikki Haley. Anti-union, anti-black innuendo all in one speech!

Nikki Haley, former Sikh, now fiercely anti-immigrant. Also loves those Eggpersons.

Artur Davis loved Obama then tried to run for governor of Alabama and failed. Now he hates him. Are you following this?

The GOP convention may not be the best place for Ted Cruz to tell his family’s immigration story.

Rick Santorum goes over his To Do list.

One clock they forgot.

Scott Walker: saved in Wisconsin by Kochs, knows how good it is.

Bob McDonnell, Virginia governor, who loves the ultrasound machine. We thought he would like one too.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin dealt with a recent heat wave by telling citizens to pray for rain.

Ohio Governor John Kasich has the backing of the race-based anti-voting rights movement. And vice versa.

Police at the RNC are paid with $50 million voted by Congress. We (the public) built it.

Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH) used to be State Attorney General. She spent years prosecuting Planned Parenthood, but ignored a large mortgage corporation Ponzi scheme.

Media stay on message.

We (the public) built it.

Do you think Reince Priebus got the job because he looks like a fetus?

Blockhead Boehner

7 pm: Blockhead Boehner (for all you Gumby fans). His and Mitch McConnell’s Job #1 has been to block and destroy the Obama presidency. When he talks about pain in the United States, it never seemed that important before.

Tonight, the first actual night of the Republican Convention, we see the big stage set, which was designed with Romney’s input, replicating his idea of a warm and comfortable living room. It has thirteen TV screens. That sort of figures.

What’s most important here is the new post-–Citizens United politics in America. Post-partisan now mean Neo-Oligarchian.

And the funny part is all the howling we will hear about the Constitution. The right’s argument makes sense if you understand which “people” we are supposed to care about…

…and if you flip the word “We” just a bit.

So a big challenge for the GOP in Tampa who can best make “Me” sound most like “We”!

See you at 7.


Hurricane Isaac has postponed the first day of the GOP Convention. Perhaps a Trump outdoor event might still proceed. A fervent hope.

Ann Romney realized she wouldn’t make the networks if she spoke on Monday so she was switched to Tuesday night in the primetime hour. She also arranged with The Weather Channel to be inserted into hurricane coverage.

Bigger storms are brewing, however.

The platform suggests that the party is pretty unified on the idea that fertilized human eggs should be recognized as persons. As a result Tampa is now experiencing a massive pilgrimage of entitled Eggpersons demanding credentials.

This question is causing considerable delays as Eggpersons demand to be seated as delegates,

They immediately hold a caucus complete with an appearance by the candidate.

One of the first results: logo change.

And what about Paul Ryan?

I am reminded of a famous photo of GOP prankster Roger Stone, who had Nixon art tattooed on his back.

Some similar ink for Ryan involving Todd Akin would perhaps be enough to keep the GOP as happy as a blastocyst in glycoprotein.

I’ve covered many political conventions over the years. They are hard to forget, but sometimes I think it would be a good idea.

Today, conventions seem to be about very little. They mostly exist as a fancy feast for fat cats and the creatures of the media-industrial complex.

They hold the country’s attention for the better part of a week, but without really having anything new or very revealing to say!

So why is it a good idea for an artist to cover them? Because we do very well with BS. We know how to sift through it and find stuff you can use. In fact, we find it nourishing.

So for the next week we will focus on Tampa, which happens to be about eighty-four miles from Walt Disney World… and is, very possibly, now an even greater Fantasyland.

Like many protesters I will be confined to a specially designated area (in my case in an uncredentialed apartment house in New York). But with enough pizza and beer I expect to be able to see Tampa and Charlotte from my house.

For the conventions I will be posting regularly on my live blog on TheNation.com, FacebookTwitter andTumblr, producing my dignified art. These characters, though, pretty much draw themselves.

What if we thought of the candidates as mash-ups of personalities and archetypes? So who would Paul Ryan, for example, be a mash-up of? Perhaps Howdy Doody meets Arnold Schwarzenegger?

And Mitt Romney? Maybe Gordon Gekko meets Mr. Bean.

So check out my flowing clustermashorama for the weeks of both conventions.The liveblog begins Monday, August 27. Grovel-to-grovel coverage. Going Koch to Koch. At my blog on TheNation.com.

Understanding Mitt

Mitt Romney, who was universally condemned for denigrating the “47%” of the US who are whiney complainers, addicted to mooching off the government. I don’t know if everyone understood what he was saying. As a very successful recipient of government largesse for many years and also a person who barely pays taxes, it’s possible he was engaging in a reflective bit of self examination. Perhaps Mitt was caught coming to a place of retrospection and healing, where he realized that the thing he hated most was an essense of  . . . his own make-up! It is possible that Mitt Romney is an enlightened master of self- knowledge. It is the rest of us, being his psychological inferiors, as in so many other things, who are ignorant and are once again misunderstanding this giant of American politics. Like Adlai Stevenson, we face the prospect of a brilliant and misunderstood intellect meeting defeat at the ballot box. Defeat?  . . . sorry, I mean having his ass made into a chik-fil-a . . . and served back to his gang by people who pay taxes and work for a living.

For thenation.com. On an exciting deadline.

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