January 23, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.


Watch Meet cartoonist Steve Brodner on PBS. See more from Need To Know.

Recently when the wonderful Matt Wuerker’s editorial cartooning Pulitzer triggered a hit job on the art  by a writer at Slate my old pals at Need to Know decided to investigate the issue of cartooning on the web.  This introduced me to the amazing Hannah Yi, who herself is the perfect exemplar of the new media maestro she is reporting on.  She showed up at my studio with camera,  audio equipment, using my lights (no make-up ,as you can see) and with another big skill set as interviewer.  She handled the visuals beautifully, did screen grabs, threw in music and edited with elan. You can see more of her work HERE.

Thanks to her for this perceptive piece of writing and movie.  Hannah, you are the future. Thanks for the lesson. I’m glad you think I’m making progress.

From Paper to Pixels: Political cartoonists Leap into the Digital Age

By Hannah Yi,
May 21,  2012

Matt Wuerker was touching up the colors on a cartoon of President Obama wearing gym shorts, a tank top and sweatband, when he was interrupted by a sudden burst of commotion in the Politico newsroom. The Pulitzer Prize winners had just been announced online.

“It was very surprising,” said Wuerker, who hadn’t expected any sort of excitement during what seemed like a typical Monday afternoon. He had just won $10,000 and journalism’s top prize for his editorial cartoons. “The newsroom all jumped up, and I got to run around and high-five everyone.”

Breaking news alerts and tweets quickly pointed out the significance of how Politico – along with The Huffington Post – was one of the first online news outlets to win the Pulitzer Prize since its inception in 1917.

But in the wake of Wuerker’s win, the cartooning profession has also come under scrutiny, as media critics debate its contemporary relevance in the increasingly digital world of infographics, photo memes and data visualizations.

Slate’s Farhad Manjoo fired the first shot with his piece, “Editorial Cartoons Are Stale, Simplistic, and Just Not Funny,” in which he called Wuerker’s genre “an increasingly timeworn form…blunt, one-dimensional jokes, rarely exhibiting nuance, irony or subtext.” Manjoo went on to suggest that the Pulitzer committee should “cast a wider net and get more flexible in how they recognize graphical journalism.”
Video: Cartoonist Steve Brodner on creating political satire for the YouTube generation. Produced by Hannah Yi

Wuerker is the first to admit that political cartoonists have enjoyed a monopoly over editorial graphics until now. “We had it really good for several centuries when American political cartoonists – even dating back to the Revolution – didn’t have to share that part of the media landscape with anyone else,” he says.

The earliest example dates back to the 1870s when cartoonist Thomas Nast took on New York City’s political machine Tammany Hall and its leader William “Boss” Tweed. Nast’s cartoons about their corruption plastered the cover of Harper’s Weekly. Eventually the power of ink and paper sprinkled with satire led to the downfall and arrest of Tweed. Fast forward to the 1950s when cartoonist Herblockdepicted the Cold War hysteria and even coined the word “McCarthyism.”

“Herblock cartoon’s against McCarthy had a profound effect in the same way Doonesbury cartoons were effective during Watergate,” said Hess. But whether he could name a recent cartoon with similar impact, “Oh, I don’t think so.”

Hess partly blames the blunted impact to the simple fact that the traditional home for cartoons is on the wane. As print newspapers fold and aggregation websites blossom, cartoonists – along with anyone working in journalism – are left to compete in a fragmented and chaotic media landscape.

“When Thomas Nast was doing cartoons, he had a huge chunk of the media pie, maybe two-thirds since there were very few newspapers then,” said political cartoonist Steve Brodner. “If Nast was a cartoonist today, even with all his talent and passion, he’d only have a crumb of that pie.”

The fight over crumbs is pushing some veteran cartoonists to figure out new ways of giving life to their paper characters.

“I’m finally finding my footing,” said Brodner, who’s been a cartooning for 35 years but only started dabbling in animating his cartoons in 2008.

Brodner’s style fuses his traditional paper cartoons with cutout photos, music and politician sound bites. Viewers of Brodner’s work often see his hand in frame drawing his cartoons. In his most recent work for the Washington Spectator, a pencil sketch of Mitt Romney is layered over photos of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini while Brodner voices his own commentary.

Reigning Rick

Rick Meyerowitz, a king of the land where art and wit meet, has been way busy lately. Feeling that no truly definitive tribute to the National Lampoon existed, he decided to do one himself. So, after years of work, we now have the beautiful 300 page  Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the Lampoon Insanely Great .

In it he lovingly pays tribute to the writers and artists of that great mag and the sensibility that made it possible. This is a major event, a bright spotlight for once on a kind of humor (hip, literate, political, sexy, sick) in print that may have reached its peak with the Nat Lamp. Rick  was the signature artist of the Lampoon, doing some of its most famous images.  But that doesn’t prepare you for the insight and skill with which he compiled this work. An appreciation by Steve Heller below from The Daily Heller.

Also tonight he and Maira Kalman unveil their latest New Yorker map at “You Are Here → Mapping the Psychogeography of New York City,” an exhibition of work by a selection of contemporary artists that will map the emotional terrain of the world’s most famous and influential urban center, New York City, and explore the effect of the city’s powerful moods on those who live and work here. “You Are Here” will run from September 24 through November 6, 2010, and will be celebrated with an opening reception on Thursday, September 23 from 6–8 PM. The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public.

Pratt Manhattan Gallery

144 West 14th Street, 2nd Floor

(212) 647-7778

Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Making people laugh is the lowest form of humor,” said Michael O’Donoghue, one of the wits behind The National Lampoon (and a substitute English teacher at my high school). But making people laugh hysterically was the goal and success of The National Lampoon, which picked up where MAD magazine left off.

Now an insightful and entertaining new book chronicling the Lampoon titled Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the Lampoon Insanely Great by Rick Meyerowitz (designed by Laura Lindgren) provides the first in depth look at the art of Lampoon art and art direction.
Meyerowitz contributed a few of the Lampoon‘s most iconic covers, including Mona Gorilla. In this book, he documents the major contributions of the other writers, artists and designers and frames it in the free-wheeling, rule busting context of the times that Lampoon helped define.
Speaking of the Lampoon, I had a dream once:

What would I have given to become the art director of The National Lampoon? My left arm? My right knee? My pinky toe? Yes, yes, and yes. I would have slashed these and more essential body parts off just to land the best art direction job a poor boy from Stuyvesant Town in the backwaters of Manhattan could hope to get. I so loved the Lampoon when I first saw it – at least the concept – that it became my dream job. From the first issue, designed by Cloud Studios, I was confident I could do better – much, much, much better. In fact, I was already doing Lampoon-like things for underground newspapers, so I figured I was a shoe-in, if only I could get my shoe in the door.

It was not, however, ever to be. By the time I received my Doctor Martins, Cloud was out and Michael Gross was in. His art direction was cleaner and tighter than the previous anarchy, and his typography combined with visual acuity enabled the Lampoon spirit of parody to shine. Yet under his reign I longingly wanted even more to be hired by the Lampoon (in whatever high ranking design position I could get). So I did what any red blooded, ambitious, go-getter would do. I tried to copy it in other publications I was working on.

I became art director of Screw magazine, which published an offshoot zany rag called Mobster Times (subtitled “Crime Does Pay”). It was just before Watergate blew the top off President Richard Nixon’s administration. I tried so hard to make MT in the mold of NL. But lo and behold, I didn’t have the lightness of touch that Gross had. My hand was heavy, my type was crass, my attempts lacked nuance.

Nonetheless, every year for three years I took my portfolio up to the Lampoon anyway, where I was pleasantly rejected with one of those great “we have your telephone number” responses. Instead, I was hired as art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page – and the Times is where I remained for almost 33 years. Still, I often have a recurring dream that I was art director of the Lampoon after all – and with all my appendages intact.

Watch for Lampoon events in Los Angeles and New York.