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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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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Somebody's Got To Say It

I just received the annual Chuck Brooks book, still entitled (all evidence to the contrary) "Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year." Have you ever seen a more ghastly gathering of editorial cartoons? I'm reminded of the old Casey Stengel quote when he was managing the '62 Mets -- "Can't anybody around here play this game?"

Each year Chuck's call for submissions brings on a crisis of conscience. I declined to send cartoons several times but eventually caved to the logic that, "Of course it's going to be weak if good cartoonists fail to submit work."

But this is the end of the road for me. I can't remember being so disheartened about my profession. Thank God for Peters, Luckovich, Ramirez, Keefe, Morin and one or two others in this volume, or innocent readers might actually believe this motley assortment is the best the artform has to offer.


31 Comments:

at 12/11/07, 10:30 AM Anonymous ck said...

Well, you're not a 'good cartoonist'.

I generally find your stuff unimaginative, and probably in 80% of the newspapers produced.

Bash Republicans or Faith = editorial cartoon.

 
at 12/11/07, 10:52 AM Anonymous Matt said...

Wow, that was uncalled for CK.

I'm a republican and a person of faith, and personally I find Jim's take on things to be quite poigniant. I'm very quickly reminded of the stone throwing cartoon around the Slaby case. CK, why don't you listen to your mother when she says "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all."

Thanks Jim!

 
at 12/11/07, 10:58 AM Blogger Rus said...

CK,

I've got to ask...if Jim is unimaginative and not a "good cartoonist," why is it that you have chosen not only to follow his work, but to actually check out his blog?

 
at 12/11/07, 12:05 PM Anonymous kevin said...

I'm sorry you feel that way, CK. Jim's job is to make us think, not to rubber stamp our preset opinions.

 
at 12/11/07, 12:06 PM Anonymous cincycub said...

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.

Yep, CK, Jim sure does suck ;)

 
at 12/11/07, 1:19 PM Anonymous JCD said...

There is one mean, bitter, closed minded dude that comments on this board seemingly every day...he's boring.

Jim, on the other hand is brilliant.

Jim, I was wondering if you think the "Best of Collection" just isn't well compiled...or if there are just less good cartoons and cartoonists practicing now?

 
at 12/11/07, 1:42 PM Anonymous EditoonFan said...

I like Charles Brooks' "Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year" book, but I also bought one of Daryl Cagle's "The BEST Political Cartoons of the Year" books. I got that same sick "Is this the BEST?" feeling in my stomach.

I think it's the branding of these cartoons being the BEST, when in reality, they are just a collection of cartoons.

Besides, the cartoons that are the very BEST to Jim Borgman may not be the BEST cartoons to anyone else.

But I think you're making the point that if you did include the best, the book would be 10 pages thick.

My response to that is see how much slack is given to the very few remaining cartoonists on newspaper staffs these days.
Then look at cartoonists who aren't on staff ... Ann Telnaes, Pat Oliphant, John Bergstrom (attackcartoons.com), Kirk Anderson, etc.
Their cartoons are much, much stronger because there are no newspaper editors who are afraid of offending somone.

Editorial cartooning in newsprint is dead.

 
at 12/11/07, 1:43 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,
Who are your top ten favorite editorial cartoonists today?
Who are holding up their end of the bargain?

 
at 12/11/07, 3:49 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, thanks, Jim, for deigning to raise the quality of work in Chuck's books by submitting your cartoons, though it must be exasperating to find yourself surrounded by lessers. Truth is, I agree with your assessment for the most part. Just a bit surprised at your sharp criticism of so many of your colleagues. I doubt the declining number of editorial cartoonists has as much to do with the quality of their work as it does with newspaper economics these days. (Or could the lousy quality of their work be a result of newspaper economics?) Anyhow, I like your "Aw, shucks" persona better than your "Am I the only one who doesn't suck?" persona.

 
at 12/11/07, 3:59 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new collection seems no worse than any other recent edition of BECY.

Unfortunately, the contents are dictated by whoever took time to send stuff in. Thus the book features a lot of frankly weird, amateurish stuff from marginal talents (and some who simply cannot draw) for whom this book constitutes their sole opportunity at nationwide print exposure. (The same could be said, by the way, about the AAEC's Web site).

A better title would be "Editorial Cartoons of 2007." Can the "Best" nonsense.

Having said that... There are more than a "one or two other" cartoonists besides the ones he cites whose work appears.

 
at 12/11/07, 4:08 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last graf should have read:

"... There are more than "one or two other" cartoonists appearing besides the ones he cites whose work is worthy of its calling."

Sorry.

 
at 12/11/07, 4:13 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, maybe the best way to do justice to BECOTY and BPCOTY books is to form a jury of maybe 5 big cartoonists and get them to pick the best cartoons among all the submissions for the collections, (with the help of Charles or Daryl in each of their books)

Another thing about good hard hitting cartoons: All cartoonists have a responsability in this issue, if we only submit "dumb" cartoons, then we are only to get "dumb" cartoons printed, of course many people is going to say they draw what they know the editors are going to like. But, who says they can't submit those har hitting cartoons that never get printed in their newspapers for the "best of the year" collections?... how come there is not a "killed cartoons" section in any of this collections?... that could make them a lot of more interesting.

 
at 12/11/07, 5:27 PM Anonymous Weekly Cartoonist said...

Yeah, it's pretty darn bad. A lot are dreadful.
The pity is that young aspiring cartoonists use such collections as examples of the craft. (No wonder they think it's easy.)

 
at 12/11/07, 7:44 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's all about money and keeping a job and buying a bigger house and who knows, maybe they're friends with bush (you know, the like minds thing)

 
at 12/11/07, 9:13 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

JIM BORGMAN LIED! INNOCENT PEOPLE DIED!!1!1!

 
at 12/12/07, 12:37 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>> how come there is not a "killed cartoons" section in any of this collections?... that could make them a lot of more interesting.

Do you think any newspaper editor is going to appreciate his/her cartoonist showing which cartoons their editor didn't want to publish?

 
at 12/12/07, 6:03 AM Anonymous t.nowicki said...

Part of the problem is an overabundance of syndicated cartoons being used in place of staff cartoons. Those staff cartoonists who don't have their work syndicated yet are needed to freshen the contents of the pool from time to time, and it gives the good ones more incentive to work harder and be even better than they would be otherwise.

Yeah, it's pretty darn bad. A lot are dreadful.
The pity is that young aspiring cartoonists use such collections as examples of the craft. (No wonder they think it's easy.)


The pity is that young cartoonists who are any good are a lot less likely to be able to get their foot in the door in the first place, if all they have to rely on are their cartooning skills, and then they aren't around to raise the collective quality of the cartoons in books like this. Meanwhile, the only thing lousy cartoonists need to get ahead is friends in high places.

Do you think any newspaper editor is going to appreciate his/her cartoonist showing which cartoons their editor didn't want to publish?

Whether or not this even matters depends on the editor's reasons for rejecting them.

In some cases the rejection is unreasonable, and at times like that I don't see why the cartoonist should care. Steve Breen drew an excellent cartoon on the Kyoto Protocol, but it was rejected by his editor because it was of a factory with smokestacks arranged so as to resemble a giant hand giving the finger. I wish I had the original art, I LOVED it! I hope it at least got published in one of the several Killed Cartoons books that I've heard of being put together since.

 
at 12/12/07, 10:13 AM Blogger Justin Bilicki said...

The editorial cartooning profession is currently in a strange spot. Editors want to print fluffy, non-offensive cartoons that entertain readers. A giggle is s safer than a protester. Those cartoon end up being giggled off and forgotten. With print media suffering, editors will do anything to keep reader, advertisers and their own job. Unfortunately, it’s usually the cartoonists that complain and not the readers. And then again, why would a reader write to an editor asking him/her to publish a cartoon they disagree with?

It is the cartoonists editorial obligation to influence, educate and, at times, entertain. Lately, something different, unusual and frightening is happening.

 
at 12/12/07, 11:16 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great call, Jim.

My limited experience in the industry is that there's so much gladhanding that people never hear the truth. It's such an unfair industry and the best don't always prosper, that I think people think their duty is to tell everyone else how great they are instead of being honest that some people just aren't on the same level as others.

 
at 12/12/07, 1:49 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

my first experience taking my artwork public was in gradeschool when I entered a halloween window painting contest in a strip mall; the owner of Santo's Pizza said that if I won first prize he'd give me a free pizza; of course I won and of course I didn't get the pizza; my first bad "taste" of art in corporate america

 
at 12/12/07, 2:36 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great editorial cartoons are being produced ... Telnaes, Stahler, Pett, Stantis, Borgman, Oliphant, Luckovich, Rall, Bennett, Sack, Sherffius, Benson ... I could go on.

The issue is what makes it in the book(s). "Oh, we don't have an OJ cartoon...." And then they sift through the pile to find an OJ cartoon no matter how awful it is. Crap makes it into the book.

To show you how subjective it is, look at this list of the TOP 10 Editorial Cartoons TIME MAGAZINE released. It's @#%#@ ridiculous.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/top10/article/0,30583,1686204_1690170_1690363,00.html

 
at 12/12/07, 3:37 PM Anonymous Brian Fairrington said...

The notion of a real "Best" book is an impossibility and a logistic nightmare. A better title would be "The only cartoons we could get the cartoonists to send us by the publishing deadline...."

The idea of having a group of cartoonists choose what cartoons would be in the book is also unrealistic. What is "best" to one person may not be the best to another and so on. The book would take ten years to ever hit the shelves because no one could agree.

These books are nothing more than a way to reflect on some of the cartoons produced on some of the major topics of the past year. The use of "best " in any title is a marketing decision by the publisher. That being said, I cannot speak for the quality of all the cartoons in both books, but I hope they are at least of a professional standard in ours.

 
at 12/12/07, 4:42 PM Anonymous mike said...

Jim,

I couldn't agree with you more. That's why I haven't submitted cartoons to the BECY in several years.

Mike Smith

 
at 12/13/07, 1:07 AM Anonymous Paul Berge said...

Nevertheless, I do enjoy seeing what our Canadian cousins have been up to.

 
at 12/13/07, 10:09 AM Anonymous john said...

Jim,
I posted this earlier on the "Daily Cartoonist" site. Reposted here in case you don't frequent that site:

Well speaking as someone who isn't a staff editorial cartoonist whose work has been printed in the Brooks book along side the tops in the profession, let me just say... ouch! Those stinging rebukes kind of sting. But now that I've got my air back, I have some comments, not so much in defense but to give you another perspective.

I've been to AAEC conventions and I've heard the laments before regarding the Brooks books. And while I certainly understand the desire to put out the best work possible in an annual some see as representing the profession, I also think a lot of cartoonists get their cheeks clenched a bit too tightly over this. They don't give readers enough credit. The past year's award winning comics are printed on the first few pages, and the top cartoonists are the ones who have four or five pieces of theirs included. Clearly, this is the best work. Turning to a random page and reading an unsatisfactory comic from an unknown artist isn't going to sour anybody on the entire profession. It might, however, encourage somebody to think he/she could do better.

Still, Borgman is absolutely right -- this year's "Best" is a ghastly gathering. It always is. I'm flipping through a "Best" book from 1974 and there is brilliance right next to stinkeroo. But here's something encouraging: in 1974 the style and tone tends to stay the same from comic to comic. In 2008, there's an enormous variation. Not all of it is pleasing, but it's a sign of evolution, of growth, right? In fact, in that regard, the only discouraging thing I see is that there are no "alternative" cartoonists included as they have been on the AAEC website.

Understand that I'm not fighting for a make-print program for non-staff cartoonists. If Brooks didn't solicit for or include any of my work, I would fully understand. The majority of my work is very local and it's always difficult for me to find five comics I can submit. I squeeze my cartooning work in and around my other (re: financially rewarding) commitments, so I recognize I'm not the best representative of somebody advancing the craft.

That said, I'm not sure at all what Borgman (and Wiley and Lester) would propose to do otherwise. I would say that Borgman's decision to opt out in the future is unfortunate. I'm hoping it was just a rant because if he really means what he has said, he is in danger of sounding like just another cranky classic rock fan raging on about this inferior punk, alternative, hippity-hop music....

 
at 12/13/07, 11:54 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good that you bring this topic into discussion Jim, but staying out it's not the best.

 
at 12/13/07, 10:48 PM Blogger Abell Smith said...

Hey "t.nowicki," pretty poor taste going out of your way to specifically trash another cartoonist like that. It's obvious you've never met her.

Apparently, they don't teach manners up there at Western...

 
at 12/14/07, 2:35 AM Anonymous T.Nowicki said...

A cartoonist should be judged as a cartoonist on his or her work, not on the kind of person they are or might be. Just like how when you choose the President, you should be voting based on his perceived capability to serve as President, not on whether or not you'd "like to have a beer with him."

Ms. McMillan could be a perfectly nice person. I'm in no position to judge that one way or the other.

But her work, as a cartoonist, is terrible. Her drawing stinks, her gags aren't funny, her writing is pathetic, her characters are uneven, and her politics are so deranged I don't know a single person who can tell where the seriousness ends and the satire begins. ALL of these could probably be drastically improved upon if she made a real, honest effort to do so-her character models aren't totally unsalvageable, and she has a grasp of minimalism that would be TERRIFIC if the few details she did include didn't look so sloppy–but her comic reflects no such effort, I'm sorry to say.

I hope you can see how this ties in to the larger issue we're all commenting on.

Don't form your opinion of a person's art on your opinion of the person.

 
at 12/14/07, 5:27 PM Anonymous Harold said...

The cartoons in that particular collection have always run the gamut from very good to very bad. It's certainly not the 'Best Editorial Cartoons' as the book's title might lead you to believe, but the collection is also not an indication of a profession in decline. There are a lot of great editorial cartoonists working today. In fact, I would say more than ever before. The 'golden age of cartooning' was golden because of the period's abundance of jobs and opportunities for those in the craft, not because of the abundance of talent.

Is it a worse indictment of the craft when its lesser names lack skill, or when some of its bigger names lack integrity? I would argue the latter is more damaging. I have seen examples of some of the best in your field succumbing to the plagiarism of cartoon ideas, and the blatant theft of another cartoonist's drawings.

So, be careful when you're throwing stones... especially from a glass house (or glass-topped light table in this case).

 
at 12/17/07, 4:25 PM Blogger Jeff Parker said...

Jim-

One thing's for sure -- future books will be much worse without your work in it.

 
at 12/23/07, 6:17 PM Blogger David Ford said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
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