Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cartoons Across the Millennial Divide

It's Swingback Saturday again! A couple more things I wanted to mention about this month's AAEC Convention: Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher moderated a discussion with Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on the cartoons of the political magazine Puck (1871-1918). Kahn and West have written a book of Puck's cartoons, chiefly by Joseph Keppler, Bernard Gillam and Fredrick Opper.
Chances are that if you've seen any colorized editorial cartoons from the period, they are from Puck (or its Republican rival, Judge). The most famous toons include "The Tattooed Man," in which Gillam satirized "Phryne Before the Tribunal" by depicting a disrobed James Blaine tattooed with various scandals, and Keppler's "Here I Am Again, What Are You Going to Do with Me," in which an enormous dragon labeled "Surplus" (with a tail labeled "Tariff Question") sits in the well of the Senate to the consternation of the legislators. (I should have bought the book, but I'm still reading the book about Jay N. "Ding" Darling we were offered when we arrived.)

One is impressed by the proportions of the cartoons, which could span two pages of the magazine, and by the process involved in making them: the cartoonist had to make separate prints for each of the colors that would go into the cartoon.

I was also impressed by a display among the Billy Ireland exhibit's of World War I cartoons of a Winsor McCay animation of the sinking of the Lusitania. The propaganda piece took months to complete and shows just about every second of the ocean liner's demise, with explosions, and victims tumbling off the wreck and bobbing in the ocean. The museum has it available to watch on a tablet if you have 20 minutes to spare. A very different experience from his "Gertie the Dinosaur" or his print comics.

Because of my interest, springing from the R.C. Bowman cartoons I've posted here, in the McKinley administration and the Spanish-American War, I also appreciated Steven Brodner's preview of his work for an upcoming book on American Presidents of the 20th Century. Brodner has an uncanny knack for pushing caricatures beyond what ought to work yet somehow rendering them instantly recognizable, and I'm definitely going to buy that book when it comes out.

But I don't have any pictures of those things, so here's a picture of a magazine in the Billy Ireland Library instead.

Last night, I went to the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning, where I was particularly interested in seeing Darrin Bell. Bell draws the cartoon strips "Candorville" and "Rudy Park"; he is also one of the very best editorial cartoonists in the biz today. I was going to say "young editorial cartoonists," but there really is no need to qualify that judgment with an age restriction, and Ethel Kennedy will back me up on that.
Tom Racine (above right) interviewed Bell on his career, and I was surprised to learn that Bell had actually given up on editorial cartooning for a while. It took the shooting of Trayvon Martin to renew his dedication to the editorial page (although it had occasionally shown up in "Candorville"), for which, I suppose, we must grudgingly thank George Zimmerman.

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