Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.
Quite a number of readers have informed me that Volvo is owned by Ford, in reference to a cartoon I did a few days ago about the Ford plant closings. Sorry about that. No one caught it here and I'm apparently behind on my automotive reading.
And I could just as easily have chosen Saab or Volkswagen or Subaru to label the back of that car. Kicking myself. My bad.
On another matter, it always cracks us up here on the editorial page when readers complain that our page is BIASED!!!!!!!! Imagine! Opinion on an editorial page. I don't know how people reach adulthood without grasping the concept that an opinion page is for opinions. And an editorial cartoon is, yes, my take on the world, nothing more nor less.
So accuse me of anything but bias. It's like accusing a nun of praying. It's what we do. It's our calling.
It's sure inconvenient when your best idea happens to be the one that will take hours to draw. This image of congressional members up for reelection this year wanting to keep their distance from Bush was my best State of the Union idea, but drawing the entire Congress averting their eyes was a challenge. And why do I always think of these labor-intensive ideas on Mondays, when we shoehorn an hour-long editorial board meeting into the afternoon?
I'm torn about Mallory's closed meetings. Clearly the people have the right to watch our business conducted in public. On the other hand, we've toured that sausage factory for years during chaotic council meetings and it's hard to say I miss it.
Glad I Asked
Thanks for all the thoughtful comments on yesterday's post. Most of your comments confirm my own intuition. Even I
wouldn't know how to answer the question, "Do you like this cartoon?" of my own work. Nor would an up or down vote mean much of anything to me or my editors. In this profession, engaging readers in the debate is the big Thumbs Up no matter whether or not they agree with the cartoon. The only Thumbs Down would be if no one responded.
In gratitude for your taking time to answer my question, I want to take a few moments to answer some of yours.
First of all, you sweet worriers, never fret about me or the thickness of my skin. I've been hearing from readers for nearly thirty years and there isn't anything anyone could say that would cause me to flinch. Editorial cartoonists have a unique digestive system that turns bile into fuel. Vehement responses make me smile. There are some people on this earth that you want to be on record as standing against.
I approach every response from a reader knowing that I have had the audacity to stick an opinion under his/her nose before they've even had their coffee in the morning. That gives everyone the perfect right to respond however they like. No worries.
There's a timing issue involved in posting the final drawing along with the preliminary sketches, much as I like the idea. I'm trying to be as fresh as I can with these postings, so you actually see the notes hours before the drawings are done.
But there's a larger debate going on in this and other newspapers. In this online world, should we be posting all of our work on the website before it runs in print? You know that news stories appear on the site as soon as our reporters can write them. Should my cartoons be posted the same way, or do we post them online as they roll out in print? Sometimes I draw two or three cartoons in a day and then none for a few days -- I instinctively space them out so there's a steady diet for readers. Does the online world negate such thinking?
As for the posting of Zits sketches, you'll probably notice I've constructed a firewall in my brain between the strip and the editorial cartoons. This blog will likely stick to my editorial cartoons and anything else I generate entirely on my own. If Jerry Scott and I ever decide to do a Zits blog, it will be an entirely different animal that springs from the very different process of creating the strip.
OK, slightly mushy but here goes. I'm really liking talking with you all on this blog. Look, editorial cartoonists typically work in private, alone with our thoughts all day long. If you ever saw the flotsam and jetsam that flows through a newspaper office, you'd understand why we erect barriers to protect a little island of privacy so we can hear ourselves think. Over the years I have managed to paste together phone and email filters that help me cope with the torrent of requests that rush in if one dares to put out a welcome mat.
So I had a few doubts about opening up a porthole that was sufficiently sealed when I started this blog, and maybe indeed I will someday look back at this period of innocence when I could communicate intimately with you small tribe of blogophiles. But for now let me just say that I'm having fun.
One thing I like about bloggers is that they seem to be idea-driven, enjoying the give and take with few ulterior motives. Contrast that with the email world, in which probably two-thirds of the messages I receive amount to, "Please send me something for free." Email made that kind of requesting so easy that I've all but abandoned it professionally. Bloggers seem to be satisfied exchanging thoughts. Way more fun!
Stopping to ask for Directions
I've been tentatively wandering around the blogosphere in the last few days with a lot of patient coaching from my son. I had heard that a few editorial cartoonists have blogs, so I wanted to see what they do with them.
One of my favorite cartoonists is Mike Luckovich at the Atlanta Constitution. The energy in his work makes my adrenalin rush, and just when you've settled into his quick, one-liner sort of voice he lands a roundhouse punch to your stomach. Mike is never as simple as a reader might want to believe. If you don't know his work, I encourage you to check him out. He's reprinted everywhere -- they must keep a toothbrush for him in the Newsweek offices.
Anyway, I see that his blog mainly consists of the posting of his published cartoon each day with an invitation to vote yes or no to the question, "Do you like this cartoon?" Then the reader is invited to post a comment.
The blog gets hundreds of comments most days, and it occurs to me that maybe that's what readers really want --- just a simple means of registering their vote and a comment on the day's cartoon.
I've been enjoying posting sketchbook pages and behind-the-scenes material on my blog and have felt this might be something unique. But it occurs to me to stop to ask, "What would interest you?" Would you like to have us posting the day's cartoon with a comment prompt? Or do these over-my-shoulder napkin scrawlings interest you?
Is anybody else feeling that Bob Huggins' continued presence everywhere is starting to get creepy? In a convoluted way, I used to think of the guy as having a sort of macho class. But these "not going anywhere" commercials are starting to feel like the company that doesn't know when to leave.
Sharon Morgan, our editorial page receptionist, furnished us with a great belly laugh in the staff meeting today by comparing him to Bill Murray in What About Bob? I grabbed claim to that one quick and am working on it for Sunday's Forum.
As is often the case, I can see the cartoon I want to draw in my head, and my quick sketch captures the heart of the idea with a scrawlish sort of purity. The challenge on a day like this is to not polish the idea in executing it.
One of the joys of this blog for me is in showing you the quick sketches that often please me more than the final drawing that's developed from them. Every cartoonist I've ever met has the same feeling about his/her sketches: we all wish our finished work could have the same energy and purity as the sketches in our sketchbooks.
A good snowy morning at Starbucks today. When I walk out of there with a fistful of napkin sketches I start the day on a hopeful note.
This would be a great day to be more of a college hoops fan than I am. The Crosstown Shootout will be big in tomorrow's news. I love it when I can add a layer to the conversation with a cartoon on the day's Big Event.
My buddy Keith laid out the larger picture of the two basketball programs last night for me, so I understand the basic dynamics. But I wish I had an allegiance in my bones.
I'll be taking a brief break to hang with my kids for the MLK holiday weekend. More sketchbook stuff when I return.
By the way, the Sandwich Generation cartoon from the previous post will run on Sunday. That's a little further ahead than I usually work, but I wanted to get some cartoons in the bank to cover some of my break.
The phrase "Sandwich Generation," meaning those of us burning our candles at both ends to take care of aging parents and young children, has been rolling around in my head since reading the Caretakers special section in the Enquirer on Sunday.
Then a friend drove the theme home with a nightmare story about her recent holidays, whisking her sick child out of her father-in-law's hospital room when she discovered a fever of 103 coming on fast. Too sick to travel home, she spent the next three days in a hotel room near the airport changing her daughter's cold compresses and being driven out of her mind by the Cartoon Network.
My doctor frequently reminds me that those of us in the Sandwich Generation need to take care of ourselves while minding the slices of bread on either side.
Here's a brief sketchbook history of the Sandwich Generation idea I'm working on today (chronological from bottom to top.)
Monday Morning Quarterback
My office overlooks Paul Brown Stadium and today the plaza looks as cold, gray and vacant as if an epic letdown had not happened there Sunday. The sinking of our collective hearts into our collective stomachs on the second play of the game was as close to a communal trauma as this town has shared since...what, they put Olestra into Pringles?
My reaction cartoon won't run until Tuesday, so I tried to fast-forward my thinking to the mood we might share by then. In my book, the Bengals have done their job if they simply get us to mid-January without our contemplating the existential abyss of the gray midwestern winter. We'll eventually look up from our frustration to realize we had a blast this season (and it's only six weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.) Maybe it's my job to thank them for us.
I like the idea of the fans signing Carson Palmer's cast with a thank you, but my pencil rough looks awfully static. I'm playing with variations on the composition, hoping for something more dynamic.
Forum Steps Aside
The traditional weekly Forum section stepped aside today to let the Caregivers special report take its place on the presses. The Caregivers report sprung from an idea by Tony Lang for a Forum project and was carried forward by the News department. This morning I've already heard from a friend who intends to keep the section for future reference, so it seems like a worthy reason to have set aside our Forum plans for a week.
But it left me without a home for a Bengals playoff cartoon today, a party I would ordinarily have joined in. Instead we ran the cartoon I drew on Friday on Saturday's editorial page, not a standard day for my cartoons. (This was the cartoon I had to draw in the last hour of the day Friday -- my last posting on this blog -- and that day ended with the rush of pulling off a reasonably good cartoon with the clock ticking in my ears. When it works, there is no better feeling.)
By the way, the cartoon I pulled out of my archives to run on the Caregivers editorial page today is one that readers have asked me to copy for them over the last few years since it initially ran. It was inspired by watching my aunt and cousins take care of my uncle as Alzheimers dragged him down. The drawing was an example of departing from the headlines to draw about what might be the larger concerns in readers' lives.
I spent this morning training on my new Mac -- TAH DAH! The IT folks came through for me and I'm finally a fully-functioning blogging machine.
Here's my sketchbook page from a truncated day. Better be an idea on there somewhere. I have to file a finished drawing in one hour.
Mining Tragedy drawing
As the day goes by, the idea I'll work with usually emerges from its seedling form in my sketchbook notes. Today I liked the phrase Hearts and Mines, a play on Hearts and Minds. I imagined a miner and his wife faced with the challenge of going back into the mines after a tragedy like this. The heart and mind at odds with each other.
The drawing of the miner came together easily, but I had trouble placing his wife where I wanted her. (Version 1 shows the wife's figure roughed in, her tummy against the bowed miner.) I'm working solely from my imagination in an office with no models to pose for me, remember. Her figure stood there awkwardly -- after a lot of failed attempts, I blacked her out (Version 2).
The idea insisted on a second figure, though, as this was so clearly a family and community tragedy. I cleared my head with a walk around the block and came back with a new pose in mind for the wife. Version 3 is the way it will appear in the Enquirer tomorrow morning.
As I finished inking some Zits dailies late last night I was mesmerized by the apparent rescue of the miners in West Virginia on CNN. When I headed for bed around 2AM I was playing with images to draw today -- miracles, hope, brotherhood, keeping the faith.
I somehow missed hearing the tragic, more accurate story on the way to work and only learned the sad outcome from Enquirer editor Tom Callinan in the elevator. (It often strikes me as ironic that though I work in a newsroom I often hear the news from family members or in casual conversation or sometimes when passing the bank of TVs on the newsroom wall. I have no official way of being alerted to news events.)
Getting a blog up and running is probably kindergarten stuff for most of you, but we're having more trouble behind the scenes than you'd imagine getting BorgBlog launched.
A foreshadowing came the other day when my buddy Bruce dropped into my office and said, "My wife and I had to laugh when we saw the computer in the cartoon you drew today." He was referring to a cartoon of a kid writing thank you emails and sending them out en masse. The kid was seated in front of a monitor the size of a Barbie dollhouse. "Do you realize that computers don't look like this anymore?"
My eyes panned over to the computer on my office desk which is, if anything, bigger than I'd drawn it.
Somehow back in my little hobbit hole at the Enquirer, generations of newsroom upgrades have passed me by, and when we tried to blog last week my screen wouldn't even show a blog, much less let me create one. Our wonderful Systems folks were called in one by one and each assumed the same puzzled stance in front of my computer, arms akimbo, hand on chin, staring. In me they had discovered the technological equivalent of the Japanese soldier still fighting WWII from an island cave decades after VJ Day.
Why was I still running OS 8.6? Because no one had told me otherwise.
From my computer at home I'm able to post verbal additions to the blog, but getting sketches up seems to require an act of Congress. IT is helping me post until they can "build a new computer" for me today.
That conjures up images of its own. I'm imagining wire coat hangers and ET satellite dishes, my little MASH unit trading cans of spam for keyboards. Sketchbook pages will have to wait for a day.
Tour the sausage factory
This blog is intended to be a peak over my shoulder as I go about the process of creating my editorial cartoons. I’ll post notes I scribble over coffee in the morning, doodles during meetings and some rough pencil sketches that develop throughout the day – that is, the raw materials that go into the finished drawings you see on the editorial page. This blog is most likely to be refreshed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Touring this sausage factory is not for the faint-hearted. I won’t be making any effort to translate or interpret for you the sometimes-cryptic hieroglyphics in my sketchbook. A cartoonist frequently spends a whole day following the call of a distant muse only to pull an unrelated idea out of a back pocket. My initial sketches are seldom decipherable to anyone but me, jotted down solely so they won’t slip away as I pursue others. Then again, almost every drawing I publish in the Enquirer has its origin in these sketchbook pages. Some are flash fried for the next day’s paper; others are marinated for months.
You’re invited to respond to these musings if you like, either verbally or with your own drawings. Though I seldom use other people’s ideas, suggestions are politely entertained and enjoyed, sometimes twisted into new shapes or mangled beyond recognition. The muses don’t let me up for air very much, so no responses are promised.
If this leaves you with an appetite for more sausage, check out borgman.enquirer.com where you’ll find all sorts of other cool stuff.