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Army Of God

6a014e5f5d3c7c970c0168e681bf86970c-800wiToday we launch the first monthly installment of Army Of God, an ambitious 100 page work of comics journalism by David Axe and Tim Hamilton focusing on the Lord's Resistance Army in the Congo, the people they've terrorized, and the people fighting back.

Based on Axe's reporting from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010, Army Of God  explores the history of the LRA and what is now one of the worst ongoing humanitarian crises in the world. Based on eyewitness accounts from captives and those working to stop the destructive militia, each chapter focuses on a different person and their role in the saga. With stark black and white artwork from Tim Hamilton, each character's chilling account is brought to life, from diplomats to LRA soldiers to the women and children directly impacted by their campaign.

The first chapter recounts the Congo's long history of colonialism, corruption, and strife that have set the stage for the conflict of today.

"The situation in Congo is changing rapidly in some regards, and in others it's not changing at all," says Axe. "Corrupt president Kabila just won re-election, most likely through massive voter fraud. His hold on power will be a stumbling block to improved security. But growing awareness of Congo's problems, and a new U.S. military mission to help fight the LRA, offer some hope."


I Don’t Want to Say Canadian Cartoonists Are Old...

By J.J. McCullough

JjpeakshotI don’t want to say Canadian editorial cartoonists are old, but at one of our recent gatherings someone literally had to leave early to tend to his 100-year-old mother. 

Like many industries in the country, Canadian editorial cartooning is primarily a legacy business built around a few long-running brands and a handful of domineering personalities. Like Canadian politics, it tends to be fairly closed world of conventional opinions and self-perpetuating cliques. Like Canada itself, its future is hardly certain. 

It may be revealing to note that if I was writing this article 10, 20, or even 30 years ago, few facts would be terribly different. Canada’s most recognizable editorial cartoonists, such as Terry “Aislin” Mosher, Guy “Bado” Badeaux, Andy Donato, Brian Gable, and Dale Cummings, have all been employed at their respective newspapers for at least three decades. All are sixty and up, and all generally hold the same safe, centrist political views and gentle, irreverent sense of humor associated with middle-aged Canadian boomerdom. Accomplished, acclaimed, and satisfied, they’ve put in their hours and deserve the status they’ve earned. Whether they’ll have any credible successors is another matter.

The standard model personified by these men (and they’re almost all men) is a single cartoonist employed by a single paper, usually until death or an incredibly elderly retirement. In the 2011 edition of Portfoolio, Canada’s annual “best-of” editorial cartoon collection, out of 38 featured cartoonists I was the only one under 30.

Though this is not something you’re supposed to observe in polite company, the flaws of this gerontocratic system are becoming increasingly apparent. Many of Canada’s older cartoonists have seen their talents steadily decline in their golden years, and more than a few of them now routinely churn out lazy or sloppy work that is presumably only tolerated by editors out of some perfunctory sense of Canadian politeness. The unintended side effect, unfortunately, is that a whole generation of Canadians are growing up unaware that any alternative exists. 

In the United States, the country that usually perfectly mirrors Canada’s cultural development, observers often remark that the decline of political cartooning in that country (spurned by a similar disillusionment with a graying elite) is compensated by the rise of other forms of political satire, from The Onion to South Park. No comparable trend seems to be emerging in Canada. A recent article in the liberal-leaning Walrus magazine blamed the country’s comparatively stricter laws on libel and slander as part of the problem, but a larger culture of political disengagement seems equally culpable.  

BeaverCanadian politics are, in short, not nearly as interesting as they once were. The current prime minister, Stephen Harper, is a bland, conservative technocrat, and most local governments are led by men cut from a similar cloth. Economically solid but in many ways post-ideological, the country has long been bereft of passionate, polarizing debates, even over once proudly irresolvable Canadian bugaboos like language and federalism. Good for stability, perhaps, but undoubtedly a weak era for hard-hitting political commentary at any level beyond the superficial.

Quite like America, however, Canadian newspapers remain in a state of severe existential crisis, bleeding revenue and readership to cheaper, faster online options. In such a climate, in-house editorial cartoons teeter precariously from being an extravagant luxury to those who can afford them to an extravagant waste of money for those who can’t. 2009 saw one of Canada’s most legendary cartoonists, Roy Peterson, forcibly retired from his job at the Vancouver Sun as part of a cost-cutting campaign, and it’s estimated as few as 20 people in the entire country still make a living at the practice.

To the extent they still care, many smaller Canadian papers now syndicate the surviving handful of cartoonists nationally for a couple of bucks per toon, a business model that has significantly disincentivized editorial cartooning as an entry-level position — not to mention effectively killed any lingering notions that a cartoonist should seek to specialize in local, rather than national or international commentary. Most college papers, for their part, have long abandoned the practice of running cartoons on their own opinions pages, or do so only out of the most begrudging sense of tired obligation. If there’s a new generation of Roy Petersons waiting in the wings, in other words, they’re certainly a quiet bunch.

This is a downbeat analysis, but only because it’s hard to escape the notion that Canada is truly in the midst of the twilight of what has historically been one of its finest domestic art forms. In their prime, cartoonists like Peterson and Aislin, as well as the late Duncan Macpherson and Len Norris were acknowledged masters in what was then a crowded international field — a remarkable per-capita accomplishment for a relatively small country — and it’s hard to study the vibrant political turmoil of Canada’s 1960s, 70s, and 80s without learning of their work and its influence. 

Today, however, when fellow Canadians complement me on my work, they almost always do so with a weird mix of surprise and bitterness. 

“I like your cartoons,” they’ll say. “But why is the stuff in the papers so bad?”

I suppose in another decade or two I won’t have to bother thinking up an answer.

Behind the Scenes: Elena Ospina


This series started out with the concept of simply having cartoonists make some photos and screenshots of how they work. It seems cartoonists never 'simply' do anything, and the bar continues to be raised. After Elchicotriste's hilarious photo report, Dan Carino's excellent video and John Hilliard's audio slideshow, this week's edition is again something special.

Elena Ospina made this professional-looking video of her work process, which is a mix of traditional drawing and digital coloring. Sit back and enjoy!

Army Of God Preview

LogoThis month Cartoon Movement will begin serializing Army Of God by David Axe and Tim Hamilton, a non-fiction graphic novel about the Lord's Resistance Army that has terrorized the Congo.

Based on Axe's reporting from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010, AoG will explore the history of the LRA with eyewitness accounts from captives and those working to stop the destructive militia. Each chapter will focus on a different character and their role in the saga, from diplomats to LRA soldiers to the women and children they capture.

The first chapter, focusing on the history of the Congo region, will go up on the 15th. Below is a page from the chapter on Joseph Kony, the mysterious and brutal leader of the LRA, and above is the logo designed by Hamilton.


New Cartoonists

One month into 2012, and more and more excellent artists continue to join the community. Last week we welcomed Alfredo Martirena from Cuba, and this week we introduce cartoonists from Spain, Italy, Turkey and Ukraine:

Ricardo Plástiko


Ricardo describes himself as an 'artivist'. His work appears in various social and political publications in Barcelona.

Federico Ricciardi (Riko)


Riko is an architect and he cooperates with newspapers and advertising agencies as graphic designer and illustrator. He has published his illustrations in Comix, Autospint, Rombo, F1 racing, Il Mattino, and Jokonline.

Faruk Sorayat


Faruk Sorayat is a retired art teacher from Izmir, Turkey.  He has won both national and international awards with his work.

Alexander Dubovsky


Alexander Dubovsky is the second cartoonist from Ukraine to join Cartoon Movement. His work appears in national and international publications.