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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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Friday, March 30, 2007

Annual Rites

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I Got Blisters On My Fingers!

Renaissance Man Christopher Karp asked me to draw a poster for the Karp Family Concert to benefit Immunology Research at Children's Hospital. In addition to being a leading medical researcher, Chris is also a concert violinist and his astonishing family, all concert musicians, travels from Madison, Wisconsin on what has become an annual pilgrimage to support this good cause.

Been Busy 2

People Working Cooperatively is a service agency here in Cincy whose mission is to do small-to-medium size home repairs that will allow elderly, disabled and lower-income people to stay in their homes, folks who might otherwise find themselves out on the streets or dependent on government programs.

I'm friends with the wise and generous Chuck Hirt, the co-founder of PWC. Chuck now lives in Slovakia, but back in the day he and I used to drive to the various job sites on the day of Repair Affair (their annual all-volunteer day) and entertain the troops with drawings as they worked. It was a blast and I developed a bond with the agency.

2007 marks PWC's 25th anniversary, and I just finished the celebratory logo for this year's Repair Affair last night in the wee hours.

Been Busy

Here's the print I created for the Fine Arts Fund campaign here in Cincinnati this year. For you non-locals, the flying pig is a symbol of our town (don't ask) and the FAF is a non-profit annual campaign to raise money for the various arts organizations here. A signed print will be given to every Leadership Giver, which means those who dug $1500 out of their pockets and paychecks.

I've signed 600 prints so far, halfway to the projected number of 1200 Leadership gifts.

New Timeline

Chris Henry

Monday, March 26, 2007

No Traction

To The Tarbellmobile!

Icon Wanted

When I came up with this idea on Friday regarding Elizabeth Edwards' recurrence of cancer, I realized there was no universally recognized cartoon shorthand for Cancer. the idea called for a "Cancer" figure to be throwing cold water on the frivolity of the 2008 Campaign.

Drawing Cancer as Death or the Grim Reaper wasn't quite right. Though her cancer has been called "incurable" in the news accounts, death is not necessarily imminent, thankfully. The figure in this drawing had to be walking away, so there wasn't much opportunity to be subtle.

I settled on this gaunt spectral figure but clearly it's lacking some sort of identification prop. (My editor mistook the figure for a slug.)

Just wondering if anyone else has tackled this one. Icon for hire.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anything Here?

What's In Your Wallet? 2

Cartoonists Crack 508-Year-Old Humor Puzzle

CINCINNATI, Oh. -- An international team of cartoonists led by Jim Borgman and Jerry Scott has cracked one of the world's oldest humor puzzles that researchers say is so complicated that its solution, if drawn, would require three supertankers of ink and cover a piece of paper the size of Central Park and parts of the Bronx.

The 18-member group of cartoonists worked for four years to solve a purely theoretical humor conundrum posed in the 16th century by a priest, a monk and a rabbi in a bar. Simply put, the problem involves the arcane field of marginal humor and its relationship to the unintentional pun.

"The average layman will never understand how funny this is," said Dave Coverly, a leader of the subgroup which dealt with hypothetical inconsistencies in the area of nose sizes and the creator of Speedbump. "Even many cartoonists can't understand the implications of our work."

The problem's proof, announced simultaneously in Oslo, Stockholm and at the Lakewood Community College comic symposium on Wednesday, contains 9,147 Yiddish phrases, more than four million googly eyes and a caricature of George W. Bush with ears visible from space.

Researchers project that the solution, if viewed by a population the size of the Micronesian island of Tonga, would cause seismic laughter equaling a quake on the order of magnitude 7.0 on the Andy Richter scale.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Leis We Can Do

Monday, March 19, 2007

Plenty for War

Jay Kennedy

Those of you in the cartooning community who read this blog will know the name Jay Kennedy, comics editor at King Features Syndicate. Jay was the editor for my editorial cartoons throughout most of the years that my work was syndicated by King and continued as the editor for Zits.

You've heard by now that Jay drowned last week while on vacation in Costa Rica at age 50. Those words still stun me, though I've grappled with them through a long weekend.

By the time my editorial cartoons reached Jay's eyes they had already passed under the eyes of my Enquirer editor, so Jay played no active role in that capacity. Truth be told, his participation in "editing" Zits was pretty much confined to challenging Jerry Scott and me on matters of taste from time to time and then framing his defense of the strip for the flurry of editors who might complain. (Jay owned one of the world's greatest collections of underground comics, so his role as prude was pure academic exercise.)

The greater role Jay Kennedy served in my life was as a bridge. His presence at King was like having a fellow cartoonist embedded in the syndicate world, able to translate the business concerns of a newspaper syndicate to me, and translate the sensibilities of us cartoonists to the world of suits. The marvel is that he did this without changing voices, speaking in an authentic way that could be understood in both vastly different worlds.

Over the years, without quite knowing it, Jay and I became good friends. We cried together when each of us lost our wife and we danced at each other's wedding. We walked with each other through life's darkest nights. He was the only executive I've ever known who made more time to talk than I could afford. He listened. He was always available for a conversation. He loved taking an idea and examining it from every angle.

My late wife Lynn loved to sit with Jay at cartooning functions. At the end of the evening we'd compare notes on our conversations. I would have invariably spent the evening talking mundane cartoon matters with the cartoonists around me.

"Let's see," Lynn would say. "Jay and I talked about origami, Impressionism, Catcher in the Rye, post-traumatic stress syndrome, the war in Iraq and the the "69 Mets."

Jay told an interviewer once that he loved comics because they allowed an artist to talk directly about life instead of obliquely, like so much of the rest of the art world. Jay knew my children, their ages, what was going on in all of our lives and never failed to ask about the next chapter in any ongoing life stories we'd shared. This from behind stacks and stacks of comic strip submissions that were piled on his desk each day.

Jay Kennedy was a gentle, curious and creative soul and I will miss his voice on the other end of the line. "Jim, it's Jay. Do you have time to talk?"

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More Gonzales

And He Saw That It Was Good

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sunshine Week


Monday, March 12, 2007

Anything Here?

Stealth Election

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Walter Reed Fiasco


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

If a Butterfly Flaps Its Wings in Beijing...

The Next Coming of Tom Terrific

Monday, March 05, 2007

Thoughts on The Arts

I'm going to be speaking to some local groups about giving to the Fine Arts Fund over the next weeks. This is the story I'll be telling them:

In 1993 I visited Barrow, Alaska, the tip-top point of the North American continent, as the departure point for a dogsledding trek I was invited to take with the late great Susan Butcher and her husband Dave Monson across the North Slope to Prudhoe Bay. The journey is a whole story in itself. But what I want to tell you about is the week I spent in Barrow, an Inuit village isolated on the tundra hard against the Arctic Ocean.

Susan Butcher and I had met at a conference a year earlier and struck up an unlikely friendship – her a hearty outdoorswoman who in 1978 had been dropped into the Alaskan wilderness with four dogs and a sack of tools and who had proceeded to build for herself a cabin where she lived and trained dogs for five years before becoming a legendary four-time Iditarod champion; and me, a soft doughy cartoonist from Ohio who could have drawn her cabin beautifully, but would have frozen quietly within hours had my life depended on building it or otherwise surviving in that unforgiving environment.

Susan and her husband invited me to mush with them across northern Alaska as they groomed that year’s batch of three-year-old huskies for competition, and that’s how I found myself in Barrow in May of 1993 preparing for a five-day trek over 300 godforsaken miles of featureless ice and snow and wondering how I had gotten myself into this.

Susan Butcher was Elvis in that part of the world, and for a week I got to know the residents of Barrow as a minor figure in her entourage. We visited people in their homes, met the local dignitaries and even joined in the harvesting of a legally harpooned whale a mile out on the shelf ice of the Arctic Ocean. I could not have been on more unfamiliar turf. Well, there was no turf. It was permafrost. (I watched a work crew bury a sewage pipe by cutting into the ground with giant chainsaws one day.)

I have been in many unfamiliar situations in my life, but there was something uniquely foreign about this one. Nowhere could I find any attention given to aesthetics. In this harsh land, the only abilities that seemed to matter were the ability to find food and traverse space. The richest man in town had a weatherbeaten three-room cabin with bare walls that looked like all others. But inside we found an all-terrain vehicle, three kinds of snowmobiles, a speedboat, skis, snowshoes…and a frozen seal thawing on the living room floor.

In Cincinnati, and sometimes in other places I travel, when I mention that I’m a cartoonist ears tend to perk up in curiosity. People have questions and one sort of reaction or another. In Barrow, the mention of “cartoonist” was met with a blank stare. There were no follow-up questions. Helpfully mentioning that I drew both editorial cartoons and a comic strip only seemed to dig the hole deeper.

One man I met, trying to make conversation, said finally, “Do you hunt caribou?”

“No,” I said. “We don’t have caribou where I live.”

“Oh.” That seemed to confuse him. “Do you hunt moose?”

I told him that we didn’t have moose in Cincinnati either.

Finally, perplexed, he asked, “Then what do you hunt?”

It was hard to explain that the only thing I had ever successfully hunted for was a certain rare pen nib called the Gillott 404, and that I’d had to Google it six or seven different ways before finding it in an art supply store in lower Manhattan.

The point is that I spent the week looking for my little toe-hold in the Inuit culture and could find none. Where people must work so hard to simply survive, there was no luxury for art beyond some scratchings in whale baleen or the occasional quilt. No one I met in Barrow would have wasted valuable resources on something as functionless as a painting or a violin. The lack of color and music deadened my senses and had the cumulative effect of draining me of joyfulness. I was relieved when we left, even to mush across 300 miles of polar bear territory standing on the runners of sleds.

Since that experience I have wondered how many Mozarts or Rembrandts, Warhols, Disneys, DeNiros, Springsteens or Baryshnikovs have been born into places that did not understand them or support their passions and which subsequently did not become richer for the gifts they have to give to their communities or, for that matter, to the world. These are the colorless places, the deadening places, the places where vibrant spirits go to wither and die.

You may think that the arts are for someone else. You may be an infrequent museum-goer and theater may not be your thing. But the arts, the artists and the art students of this community reach you every day in a hundred different ways and lift your spirits anyway.

As an editorial cartoonist who wades waist-deep into this town’s idiosyncracies every day, I know that, with all its charms, this can be a trying place to live. Don’t try to do it without the color, the fun, the richness and the joy the arts have to give.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thrill Ride

Jim Borgman
Today at the Forum
Paul Daugherty
Politics Extra
N. Ky. Politics
Pop culture review
Who's News
Roller Derby Diva
CinStages Buzz....
The Foodie Report
Classical music
John Fay's Reds Insider
High school sports
UC Sports
CiN Weekly staff

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