We are currently living through the largest die-off of plant and animal species since the Dinosaurs 65 millions years ago. Many estimates put the loss over 30,000 species per year due to human activity. Dr. Reinhold Leinfelder, professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, explains this rapid loss of biodiversity and what it may mean for the health of the planet. The interview was drawn by cartoonist Jan Feindt and conducted by Alexandra Hamann, who is working on a book-length series of graphic interviews with Claudia Zea-Schmidt.
By Jen Sorensen
One of the most prominent works in the field of comics journalism right now is Sarah Glidden’s How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (Vertigo, $24.99), a graphic novel recounting her 2007 “Birthright” tour of Israel. Cartoon Movement will be featuring exclusive new work by Glidden in the coming weeks, and in anticipation of that, here is a closer look at the book that launched her career.
Taglit-Birthright Israel is a program that offers a free educational trip to Israel to North American Jews between the ages of 18-26. Glidden, trying to get to the bottom of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, braces herself for a barrage of pro-Israeli propaganda. She assumes the role of cynical, wisecracking observer, although her irreverence occasionally gives way to bouts of wide-eyed wonder. In page after page of expressively-watercolored artwork, she tours Israel’s famous sites, encountering some heavy spin as expected, but also engaging in conversation with left-leaning Israelis who complicate her tidy convictions. Glidden remains sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians throughout, but grows increasingly uneasy at the difficulty of assigning blanket condemnations (“You would have come here too” she imagines a man in a painting – a Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis – telling her). It’s a book about finding humanity, with all the ambiguities that entails, as opposed to black-and-white answers.
What makes the book a particularly effective piece of graphic storytelling is Glidden’s extensive use of imagination to convey a point. As the Birthright tour guide lectures, we find ourselves drifting into an imaginary courtroom inside Glidden’s head, with the author serving as judge, jury, and attorneys. “This court is now in session to hear the case of ‘Birthright is trying to brainwash me vs. Birthright is actually pretty reasonable,” Judge Glidden announces. It’s the first of many fanciful scenarios that play out in the cartoonist’s mind as she struggles with the Big Questions posed by the trip. Later, while listening to a speaker at the Kinneret Cemetery who is glorifying the early settlers a bit too much for her liking, she envisions herself bursting in on the early-1900s kibbutz, frantically flailing her arms and shouting, “WAIT! None of you are thinking of the consequences of your actions! What you’re part of will escalate into a war in which thousands will lose their homes!” As the tour progresses and Glidden becomes increasingly conflicted and full of emotion, we find ourselves back in her mental courtroom – only now it’s empty. The jury’s out.
While the subject matter is heavy, there are lighthearted moments as well. Glidden goes swimming in the mineral-choked Dead Sea (“I feel like this is a metaphor for something, but I’m not quite sure what.”). At various points, she gently mocks the ditzier girls on the trip. Later in the book, she encounters a shopkeeper in the Muslim quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem who used to live in New York; he’s a Yankees fan, she’s a Red Sox partisan. He jokingly threatens not to sell her a pair of earrings she’s been eyeing.
Hanging in the balance throughout the story is the question of whether or not Glidden will get to make a side trip to the West Bank at the end of her Birthright tour, to explore the other side of the Green Line. [MINOR SPOILER ALERT!] A combination of safety concerns and arrangements falling through unfortunately thwart her plans. This reader found herself wishing Glidden could have gone on to Ramallah – it would have made a fascinating coda to the book – but things don’t always go your way when you’re traveling abroad. With another trip through the Middle East already under her belt, though, we can look forward to getting more of Glidden’s perspective in the future.
Jen Sorensen draws the political cartoon "Slowpoke" and recently had a graphic travelogue published in The Oregonian. Her work can be seen at slowpokecomics.com.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 13 journalists are still missing in Libya, including Mohamed al-Amin, a Libyan editorial cartoonist.
Kevin Kallaugher, editorial cartoonist for The Economist, recently gave a TED Talk on "The Magic and Power of Caricature."
Noise Pop, an indie music, art and film festival held last month in San Francisco, enlisted local artists to do a series of comics capturing their impressions of the performers, including Kid Koala, Yo La Tengo, Aesop Rock, and The Stone Foxes.
Our Comics Journalism Editor, Matt Bors, will be speaking on a panel at the National Conference For Media Reform called "The Future of Journalism Is... Comics?" on April 9th in Boston. Erin Polgreen, Susie Cagle, Ron Wimberly, and Sarah Jaffe will also be on hand to discuss the field.
Art: Susie Cagle
Cartoon Movement is pleased to welcome an editorial cartoonist from Canada to the network. J.J. McCullough is a 26-year old reporter and cartoonist based in Vancouver. Besides having an excellent style of cartooning, J.J. describes himself as being politically conservative. His work will add valuable new perspectives to our platform, as the majority of cartoonists around the world tend to have a generous liberal streak. Check out his website here.
By Stephanie McMillan
When I draw editorial cartoons, I want them to do one or both of two things: expose the system and encourage resistance. In this era, when life on this planet is being systematically killed and converted into profit, and human beings are crushed by exploitation and oppression, to make a principle of creating apolitical art is worse than useless. In fact, in a time of acute crisis, there is no such thing as apolitical art. Whatever the intention of the artist, art that does not promote resistance (overtly or tacitly), in effect supports the status quo.
Purely decorative art does have its appropriate place and time: a time of peace, harmony and sustainability. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a time. Today, the world cries out for a culture of resistance, art that contributes to building a movement to fight back. We are in a state of emergency, and conditions demand that artists (and everyone else, for that matter) be engaged in the process of putting an end to this system and transforming society.
Editorial cartoons are by nature critical. When asked why his work is always negative, one cartoonist points out that “a positive cartoon is called a greeting card.” I would add that a neutral cartoon is actually an illustration. The function of editorial cartoons is to attack and subvert those in power and their official pronouncements (which are, inevitably in class society, lies).
Editorial cartoons may not often be radical, and are rarely revolutionary, but if they are good, they are always oppositional. This is true even in parts of the world where open opposition is a death sentence. Under such conditions, a cartoonist’s opposition may be subtle or concealed, but it is always there. Readers perceive this. It is the reason readers love them.
Editorial cartoons reveal truths about current events and politics while making the reader laugh, usually in bitter recognition. The form – an image in a box, with or without a bit of text – forces the message to be pared down to its minimal essence. When done well, a cartoon reaches the reader’s consciousness with instant clarification, turning a previously complex or obscured concept into something now obvious.
I have often used the phrase “resistance through ridicule.” When we use humor to expose absurdity and hypocrisy, and inspire our readers to laugh at those in power, then we help our readers to be less afraid. When our respect for the powerful switches to contempt, we can better imagine them toppling from their lofty positions. We can imagine toppling them ourselves.
Stephanie McMillan is an editorial cartoonist/illustrator based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. You can check her comic strip – Minimum Security – published five times a week on United Media’s Comics.com and minimumsecurity.net. She also publishes "Code Green," a weekly editorial cartoon about environmental emergency.
This post was published originally on the VJ Movement blog
The Malaysian newspaper, Berita Harian, ran an apology for publishing an editorial cartoon last Sunday featuring Ultraman running from a tsunami that immediately sparked outrage. The Nation in Thailand also apologized for a carton featuring a Sumo wrestler grim reaper using the nation of Japan as a surfboard.
Inkstuds posted a great radio interview with comic journalist Joe Sacco that is well worth your time.
If you are passing through Norway this month, be sure to stop by the KinoKino arts centre in Sandnes. They are currently running an exhibition on comics journalism featuring art from the biggest names in the field. Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Ted Rall, Guy Delisle, Rutu Modan and Marjane Satrapi are all represented, as well as Amir and Khalil of "Zahra's Paradise," Sarah Glidden, and Cartoon Movement editor Matt Bors.
Cartoons will find a way. With Internet down, and a lack of newspapers to publish in, Libyans have started using the streets in rebel-controlled cities as a publishing platform for cartoons. Reuters has posted an excellent slideshow of the anti-Gaddafi caricatures and graffiti, stating that freedom of expression is becoming a 'key weapon in the fight'.
This post is an edited and translated version of an article that originally appeared in VIMAgazino, the Sunday supplement to Greek newspaper To Vima, on Sunday March 6, 2011. The online version of the article can be found here.
There are many ways to rebel. With anger, with acts of violence, with e-activism, with words, or, in the case of the Cartoon Movement, with powerful images.
The unrest in many countries in the Middle East serves as inspiration for the many cartoonists active on this new site, cartoonmovement.com. Created and run by cartoonists, the rapidly growing platform offers a publication platform for professional editorial cartoonists, and is open to the public to enjoy the fruits of their labor and to give feedback on the cartoons produced. All the cartoons and comics have a link to the political realities around the world.
Always following current events, the subjects range from the student demonstrations in London to the remarkable escapades of Silvio Berlusconi. In recent weeks, the focus has shifted to the bloody events in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi is easily mocked, even without the help of cartoons, demonstrated for example by Vanity Fair, that recently published a collection of the excessively styled military uniforms, some reminiscent of Michael Jackson, preferred by Gaddafi. Ridicule is also easily achieved with cartoons: Gaddafi teeters on a razor blade, and annoying tweets make him lose his balance. Gaddafi as the devil's partner. Gaddafi as a cornered animal.
The political direction of the site is clearly in support of the demonstrators, and their call for democracy and human and civil rights. The perspectives offered are from all over the globe, and the origin of the different artists gives rise to an observation. The most bloody, the most intense cartoons are not made by cartoonists from the Arab world, but by cartoonists from countries like Sweden, Italy and the United States, safely separated from the unrest and violence by distance. Whatever the reason may be for this, perhaps part of the answer lies in the motto the website offers. 'There is more than one truth', is written on the homepage; at Cartoon Movement, everyone can draw their own.
Original author: Dimitris Theodoropoulos
Edited and translated by Tjeerd Royaards/Spiros Derveniotis
AFP reports that media rights groups are pressing the UN to intervene in the case of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a Sri Lankan cartoonist who disappeared 14 months ago. With 17 journalists killed in the last decade, Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous countries on earth for reporters. Ekneligoda worked for an opposition newspaper.
Michael Cavna of Comic Riffs has an interesting article on Arab cartoonists working amid the various uprisings in the Middle East, including with Cartoon Movement contributors Amr Okasha and Sherif Arafa.
Writer Erin Polgreen has launched the Tumblr site Graphic Ladies, spotlighting women working in comics "to help shift the overwhelmingly dude-ified narrative of the comics industry and spotlight the work of rad lady creators."
The 2010 Grambs Aronson Award for Cartooning With a Conscience was given to Gary Varvel, the editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star. Varvel won for his series "The Path To Hope," an exploration of the lives of the urban poor in Indianapolis. The judges cited his empathy toward the people profiled and the ambition of the multi-part series.