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BorgBlog
Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder


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.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Jeff Stahler

For more than twenty years, my colleague in editorial cartooning here in Cincinnati has been Jeff Stahler. Jeff spent most of those years drawing across town at the Cincinnati Post, the smaller afternoon newspaper, and now he works remotely for the Columbus Dispatch from his studio above his garage in a leafy old suburb here called Wyoming.

Yesterday we had lunch together at a cozy cafe near his house on a glad-I'm-alive sunny autumn Thursday. The trees were every color between yellow and red outside the window. As we drank coffee and talked I found myself appreciating how lucky I've been to have such a genuine friend as Jeff to compare thoughts with over the course of my career and to push me to do my best work.

It would be pressing it to call what we have a rivalry. We frequently talk to each other on the phone as we ink and are pretty open in sharing our thought process with each other, falling about a foot-and-a-half short of actually disclosing the idea we're working on. Jeff is a quick reactor to the news and often has a cartoon in the paper just as I'm beginning to focus on the topic. I think of myself as a ponderous cartoonist, opting for the deeper thought if it takes an extra day to cook. For that reason, Jeff has jack-rabbited past me on a regular basis, and in today's quick-cycle news world that is an approach that has its benefits.

Jeff built a new garage two years ago for the purpose of perching a studio above it. This was my first visit. It's a large eaved room with a couch under one set of windows for reading, which he does around 7:30 each morning after walking with his wife Jeannie for an hour in their neighborhood. ("On Mondays we always take a flat route. By the end of the week we may venture up a hill," he says.) His drawing board and computer are nestled in an opposite corner with an adjoining desk for organizing his piles of work. He stays in touch with his editor in Columbus via a small laptop and files his stuff electronically mid-afternoon. There's soft jazz on the radio. And there's quite a large open space in the room. "For pacing," he says.

Jeff draws his Dispatch cartoons, a weekly Wednesday cartoon for USA Today, and the daily panel Moderately Confused, a feature NEA syndicates much as it had Jim Berry's Berry's World. It's a lot of work, but Jeff shrugs it off with his big easy grin. I can't remember ever seeing him flustered or panicked. The stuff seems to roll right down his arm onto the paper.

Stahler is one of the most under-appreciated cartoonists around. Every cartoon works. His ideas are absolutely water-tight, insightful, funny, sophisticated. And he draws in that deceptively simple the-sparer-the-better style that demands every line be exactly where it should be. His characters always have life, nuanced expression and great natural movement. Somehow, after drawing fifty thousand couples saying something to each other in front of a TV, he still breathes life and uniqueness into each one. And the kids he draws feel like they've been lifted directly out of the house next door.

I don't know how momentum builds around certain cartoonists to be finally recognized with the prizes and awards they deserve, but I wish it would build around Jeff. His quiet and graceful style may always be the gentler party in the room when judges gather. But name me an editorial cartoonist who hits for a higher average. Jeff Stahler's cartoons deserve a Pulitzer Prize and I hope someday soon the spotlight shines on him.


5 Comments:

at 11/10/06, 10:39 AM Blogger Charles Brubaker said...

Nice post, Jim. Awesome

Correction - Newspaper Enterprises Association (NEA) syndicates "Moderately Confused", not Copley. In fact, that comic panel was picked up as a replacement for NEA's then-recently departed comic "Berry's World".

 
at 11/10/06, 4:23 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great tribute right there from you.

 
at 11/10/06, 7:24 PM Blogger Steve Willhite said...

Excellent tribute.

 
at 11/11/06, 3:02 AM Anonymous stacy curtis said...

I was lucky enough to convince The Kentucky Post (the Kentucky edition of The Cincinnati Post) into giving me an editorial cartoonist internship the summer during my junior year of college.

My internship was the best learning experience of my college years.

First, I want to say both Jim and Jeff had lunch with me, looked over my cartoons and gave me guidance when I needed it the most. I am still very appreciative of their guidance.

Both cartoonists spoke very highly of each other and I was disappointed to find out they weren't mortal enemies. I imagined Jim having the best cartoon of the day and Jeff would mail him a dead rat in a shoe box. Then I imagined Jeff having the best cartoon the next day and Jim dropping a flaming bag of dog poo on Jeff's doorstep. In reality, these were not only two of the very best editorial cartoonists around, they were two professional gentlemen and most importantly, friends. I learned editorial cartoonists do not need to have a chip on their shoulder. They can be well-rounded individuals and at the same time create very pointed commentary.

I was in awe of Jim's beautiful linework and passionate cartoons. I was just as much amazed at how Jeff Stahler could bring the same compassion and beauty to his cartoons and yet only use 1/3 of the lines Jim used. To me, their work is yin and yang. Complex. Simple. Both beautiful.

Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to chime in with praise for two of the best editorial cartoonists around!

Cheers!

 
at 11/11/06, 1:15 PM Blogger who said...

What a tribute. Can you nominate him? Thanks for writing, too. Such wonderful images from your words. We need to watch and continue to pray.

 
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