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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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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

2 Groundhogs

Too Many Words, Not Enough Pictures

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Strickland Plan

Monday, January 29, 2007

Up Against the Locker!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And the Winner is....

Cover Boy

9th and Long

One of the more curious challenges we cartoonists faces is when reality outpaces our ability to exaggerate it. Exhibit A: the Cincinnati Bengals.

For years it was tough to distort the team's ineptitude, (though it was a lot of fun trying.) Now, with the 9th arrest of a Bengals player in about a year, I hardly know how to exaggerate the pathetic character of these guys.

Rainbow Coalition

Monday, January 22, 2007

Glass Ceilings (Made in America)

State of the Union

Friday, January 19, 2007

Got a Buddy in the Carpet Business

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Streetcar Named Desire

Citrus Freeze

Anything Here?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tuesday's Cartoon

A Little Help?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Turbulence in the Hub

Q&A/Minority Generic Characters

This comment was posted yesterday and it provokes an issue I have been concerned with for years:

I have a question concerning drawing generic people in political cartoons. The character in this particular cartoon resembles the Jeremy character in your Zits cartoon strip. I've noticed the males in other political cartoons you've recently drawn resemble the dad in your cartoon strip. One editor said she wouldn't accept political cartoons from me unless the characters represented minorities. She said the majority of white male cartoonists tend to draw characters that are white and male. I applaud you for having the hispanic and african-american friends of Jeremy in the Zits strip. I've noticed that my recent cartoon submissions have been dominated by white, male characters. I'd be interested in reading the thoughts of other cartoonists concerning this subject of drawing minority characters in political cartoons.

There are a couple of questions here, and maybe sometime I can write about why characters tend to unintentionally cross over from comic strip to editorial cartoons and vice versa. (The short answer is because that's how I draw people.)

The other part of the question interests me more. I have tried for a long time to represent a diverse cast in my editorial cartoons because that's how I see life in our rich and textured society. But racial images are so charged in our times that it is harder than you'd think to represent a casually diverse world in cartoons. Maybe others who have worked at it can add to this discussion.

Certainly the easiest opportunity to use generic minority characters is in an ensemble cartoon whose whole point is to symbolize a wide range of people.

I have managed at times to use generic minority characters in cartoons whose subject had nothing to do with their racial identity. They stand simply as spokesmen for the human race like white characters do all the time in cartoons. In my experience it is a rare occasion when minority characters can speak a punch line without skewing it as a statement about their ethnicity.

Here are a few successful examples:

But turning the main generic character in most cartoons into a minority character threatens to change the reading of the intended statement, no matter how good the cartoonist's intentions. For example, this cartoon about handgun control

suddenly has racial implications if I make the characters African-American

This cartoon was simply about the ridiculous prices otherwise sane people were paying for gym shoes:

Portraying the characters as minorities, even innocently drawn and devoid of offensive stereotyping, gives the cartoon a racist reading and readers would have appropriately run me out of town.

Frankly, even doing this exercise for discussion purposes feels awkward, but I am trying to make the point that portraying a racially and ethnically diverse cast in editorial cartoons must be done with great sensitivity lest the point the cartoon is trying to make gets twisted by the baggage our culture brings to it. The same can be said for depicting women or any other minority as punchline deliverers.

At this point in history, in our American culture, White male cartoon characters stand for Everyman, whereas minority cartoon characters stand for Every Minorityman. I look forward to the day when we move on, as our children largely have, to a colorblind world. Maybe the next generation of cartoonists will show us how to do it.

Here are other randomly chosen cartoons from my archive depicting generic characters talking about non-racial, gender-neutral issues. Imagine the character as an ethnic minority or as a woman, and see how the reading of the cartoon changes:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Friday Cartoon

Thursday's Cartoon


Wednesday Notes

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mental Block

Some days everything looks like a cartoon idea. I read the paper or listen to NPR and I jot down ideas thinking,"No, this is too easy. These ideas must not be any good. They're coming too fast." I look at the roughs skeptically throughout the day as I work on the best and, if I haven't managed to stare the fun out of them, can draw as many as three if no one gets in my way. My record is four, which I've done twice in my life. Sometimes a straggler will even look decent the next day. I call those "cold pizza." Great for breakfast.

But today (and yesterday) I have been staring at a brick wall about fifteen feet thick. I poured a bucket of sweat into yesterday's Escalation cartoon, a drawing that would ordinarily slide right off my fingers. Went home and fixed dinner for my kids while my wife attended a meeting, then returned to work and dripped blood from my forehead until midnight trying for that second idea. Nothing.

What is that?

Before hitting the bed last night I got my head straight. I said to myself, "OK, son, you've been here many times before. Wake up tomorrow with fresh energy, go to Starbucks with a loose attitude and sneak up on the news, pretending you need nothing from it, you're just idly curious. Ideas will pop up all over the place. All you need is one."

But nothing happened at Starbucks and nothing happened in the hours after that, and I have been sitting here all afternoon with the most deadening old cliches running through my cranium. (If you actually like the cartoon I ended up drawing - see below - you get extra stars in my book as loyal everlovin' fans. Bless you.)

Co-workers can see that look on my face and the unseasoned ones try to be helpful by suggesting topics. I bury my hands in my pockets to avoid swatting them like flies. The seasoned co-workers avoid eye contact and scurry busily away. It isn't TOPICS I need, it's IDEAS. I have pages of topics. I have bored holes with my eyes through all of these topics many times. I am saying to myself, "OK, new governor. Strickland's cleaning house. Raising the ethical standards. New day. Fresh start. Come on, Jim. New governor. Fresh start. Strickland...." It goes nowhere.

The only thing anyone could say to me that would truly help is, "Jim, everybody has a bad day. Go home. Take a nap. Ask your wife to massage your head. Or do a belly dance for you. Have a nice single-malt scotch, take a walk in the brisk night air and come back tomorrow, poor baby."

No one has ever said these words to me. In the newspaper business, you go out in the parking lot and have a smoke, tuck in your chin and go pound the paper again. Newspaper people endure.

On his way out the door tonight my buddy Bruce, ever aware of the struggle, stuck his head in my door and said, "All you have to do is draw two more tomorrow."


Monday, January 08, 2007


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