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.
Man, Things Were Starting to Look Up
It's a shame Rudy Giuliani has dropped out, now that he has finally beaten Ron Paul in a primary.
God Bless You, Patricia Corbett
Goodyear or Bust
The Cincinnati Reds are considering moving their spring training home from Sarasota to Goodyear, Arizona.
Spending a week watching spring training is one of the top remaining unfulfilled dreams on my list. It has never quite worked out, what with kids in school and all, and moving it all another thousand miles away makes it seem a little less likely.
I'm doing my editorial cartoon at home today, sparing my co-workers the hacking and coughing my poor family has suffered with for several days now. Yesterday my brain was AWOL but today I'm giving it a go.
People have asked me for years why I go into the office at all. "Can't you do your cartoons from home, with the internet and email?" Technologically there is nothing stopping me from a life working in my pajamas, and there are lots of Cincinnati winter days when even I don't understand why I make the commute.
But there's something about going into my 19th floor office downtown overlooking ribbons of asphalt hustle and bustle that gets me in the mindframe to think about the Big Stuff in the news. There I overhear conversations among reporters and editorial writers, pick up bits from the bank of TVs in the newsroom, and generally absorb the helpful stress of complaining readers and anxious editors. OK, I don't really understand it either, but it's worked for a long time now.
From my little studio space here at home I'm more tempted to think about the little stuff of family life, which is why I draw Zits almost exclusively here. The house is quiet during the day, my dogs sleep nearby, the birds feed outside my window -- it's harder to get cranked up about global markets crashing and candidates clashing, even if the same information is available to me in both locations.
Which is why I'm making another pot of coffee right now. Surely I can get twisted into a knot about something.
It took me a few days to catch my breath after Garry Trudeau mentioned Zits in Doonesbury last month. This Sunday we were the clue for 111 Down in the New York Times crossword puzzle. (I finally got to fill in an answer in ink!)
Union Terminal at 75
A few nights ago my wife and son and I saw the Imax film about skiing, as Jake is a huge ski enthusiast. When I say I "saw" it, I mean I listened to it for ten minutes while the cameras swung through mountain passes and dropped over cliffs. Predictably, I left after ten minutes of lightheadedness and had time to kill in the big empty rotunda of Union Terminal waiting for them. There were just a few workers and me there and it was the first time I’d felt the profoundness of the space, minus the hustle of families and kids.
It’s like being in the presence of a giant. A kind of reverence takes over. I studied the beautiful details -- (one of the founders was named Newcomet — how cool is that?) Pound for pound, it is hard to imagine that any other building in this town contains the memories, the joy, the fears and the grief of that building from its WWII days when it witnessed soldiers on their way to war or families greeting the return of their changed boys, or, tragically, their bodies.
Now, in its reincarnation as a museum center, I have an invitation to see Bodies: The Exhibition. As a visual learner, I always thought I would absorb health warnings better if I could actually see what the foods, medicines and supplements were doing to my body. On the other hand, as a squeamish person, I'm worried about fainting dead away.
Has anyone seen Bodies: The Exhibition? Any thoughts?
Sausage Factory Episode 396
So I had this notion to do a cartoon about the "Clinton surrogates", those anonymous lackeys who spread lies and rumors on behalf of Hillary, smearing her opponents. They plant the rumor that Obama is Muslim. They bring up old stories about his drug use as a kid. The Clintons claim innocence and outrage, but their ends are served. Anyone who has watched Bill and Hill all these years knows they orchestrate every move in this campaign.
The image of the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz occurred to me. That's them in my coded scrawl above.
I got this far in inking the cartoon when my inner tuning fork started vibrating. Something felt wrong. The flying monkeys were still right, but calling Hillary the Wicked Witch of the West wasn't my point and it was threatening to overwhelm the subject.
Believe me, if I ever feel Hillary is a witch I'll draw her that way. But that's not how I feel, and it's way too strong of an image to toss off casually. I like a lot of what she says and I'm pulling for her as a woman, I just hate this machiavellian aspect of how the Clintons operate. The witch image had to go or somehow be minimized.
(The scanner didn't pick up the pencilwork on this drawing, so I've approximated some elements I hadn't inked yet -- Obama trapped in the crystal ball, an hourglass, and the monkeys approaching the window. Man, those monkeys inhabited most of my childhood nightmares!)
Then it struck me as funnier to have Bill and Hill in a normal strategy meeting releasing the flying monkeys. I flipped the paper over and we were back on track.
Before the swiftboaters scream, yes, I looked up the old Oliphant cartoon from the early '80s when I was about halfway through to make sure I wasn't skimming his composition or characters. I was pleased to see we had entirely different orientations, but I did like the way he drew the legs of the monkeys hanging down in flight in the distance, so I used that. I gave them all monkey tails. Did they have tails in the movie? I couldn't remember.
Steve Brodner's Naked Campaign
If you haven't seen Steve Brodner's videos
for the New Yorker website, check them out. Each one shows Brodner drawing a candidate and talking about him/her.
How much fun is that?
Everything You Know Is Wrong
Another lesson in humility last night.
As I watched the New Hampshire returns come in, insistently refusing to confirm my assumption that Barack Obama would ride the Zeitgeist all the way to the Democratic convention, my editor Dave Wells' parting words came back to me from earlier in the day:
Dave (standing in my doorway, looking at the cartoon I'd filed for Wednesday's paper), "So you're sure Hillary's going to lose tonight?"
Me: "Positive. Her people are saying that anything less than a 10% thrashing would be a victory."
Dave: "So if you're wrong we run one of those 'Dewey Defeats Truman' retractions?"
Me: "Don't worry. It's not gonna happen."
I'm usually pretty timid about predicting how people will vote -- historically I've proven to have a tin ear on these matters -- but this one was carved in stone according to every poll. I was so swept up in the projections from yesterday morning's news shows that I didn't even plan a backup cartoon.
Around 9PM I called Wells, my cheeks stuffed with crow feathers. We agreed to kill the 'Hillary Coronation' cartoon and switch out a cartoon I had finished for Thursday about Bush in the Middle East. It's not an elegant solution -- the Mideast cartoon is premature and it's about Obama, not exactly the theme of this morning's news -- but it was better than being flat-out wrong in predicting Hillary's demise.
But there's the reality. I can't wait until the returns are in to start a cartoon for the following morning's newspaper. So cartoonists have to either make an educated guess how things will turn out and keep our fingers crossed, or draw about something else entirely and risk appearing clueless.
When conventional newspaper deadlines are a thing of the past and everything is delivered live in a continuous flow on the internet, we won't have to worry about these things. I'll just post my cartoons when I've had the chance to respond to events rather than anticipate the news. Sweet. Maybe in time for the Chelsea Clinton inauguration.
Didn't You Used To Be President?
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
Hamilton County Democracy
I'm inclined to agree with the last post's commenters that the MLK/Obama cartoon didn't quite work. I was trying to convey my excitement that, while we've had a dream since Dr. King's day, there is finally a realistic road map to the White House. Obama's blank expression threw it off.
As I worked on the cartoon, I found that a smile on Obama's face made him appear to be gloating. A stern expression made him appear to be confrontational, which I don't find him to be. So I tried for a look of steady conviction, and didn't quite capture it. You wouldn't believe how much whiteout is on that cartoon.
Live and learn. (Although I'm still not sure how I'd draw it better today.)
Tools and Stuff
Jim: Do you use the Micron pens on the editoons, or only on the ZITS stuff? Have you ever tried using a ball-point pen? I'm told by Locher that MacNelly, before going digital, used a ball-point pen for lots of cross-hatching--at which point I serious reevaluated my need to only use "proper" art tools on a job.
Jeff MacNelly was one of those guys who could draw with a stick in the mud and win a Pulitzer Prize. Though I have a large altar full of cartooning saints, I don't think I ever saw a more natural cartoonist than MacNelly.
I own one of Jeff's ballpoint cartoons and it's lush and beautiful. Unfortunately, it probably won't outlive me because the ink isn't permanent and has already begun to change color. Eventually it will fade and wash out. There's a lot to be said for paying attention to the materials we use.
MacNelly had a what-the-hell aspect to his personality that was part of his genius. I happen to have been present the first time he saw a Wacom tablet (I want to say late-'80s) and he picked up the stylus and drew Shoe standing on the wing of a B-52. The cartoonists around him stood with our jaws scraping the floor. As the group of us talked about where these technological developments might lead in our work, I asked him, "Wouldn't you miss drawing the strip by hand?"
"Hell, no," he said. "It would just give me more time to draw other stuff."
When Jeff transitioned to doing his editorial cartoons digitally, I don't think they looked any different than his hand-drawn stuff. The man was a force of nature.
Check out his drawing of an elephant
from the website www.jeff-macnelly.com
Oh yeah, the Microns. I use them in everything I do along with good old Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star ink. They're both permanent inks and I haven't detected any changes in the lines over the years I've been using them.
Coming Out Of Iowa
This is the cartoon I'd like to draw for tomorrow's page, but it's always risky to predict an outcome that could change overnight. Pundits have blown it before.
All Sketched Up And No Place To Go
There's gotta be a way to use this...
Thoughts on Collaboration
I am in the early stages of a cartoon strip collaboration and am wondering what advice you might be able to provide. I'm the artist and my collaboration partner is the writer.
Good luck, WB,
My thoughts, for what they're worth:
First, make sure you like your partner. There is no way to do a comic strip together without intricately interweaving your lives. You will begin thinking with one brain. Like the old TV commercial, you will see him through your medicine cabinet every morning when you wake up. You will pull each other through thick and thin in more ways than you can imagine.
Find ways to split the work in half, just as you're splitting the income. Otherwise resentment will fester. There are many many aspects of the work besides the drawing and the writing. Who will do the books and banking for the partnership? Answer fan mail? Send out originals and prints for donation? Design and manage the website? Arrange the sale of originals when they come in? Approve book dummies? Interface with the syndicate? File the copyrights? Both partners should feel they are doing half of the work and spending equal amounts of time. (Jerry Scott and I say we have a great partnership because we each do two-thirds of the work.)
Agree to a schedule. I'm fortunate to have a partner with the same sense of responsibility for deadlines as I have. It’s stressful when one partner is an early bird and the other pushes every deadline to the limit. If lateness causes late fees to be assessed, charge them to the partner who is responsible for the work being behind schedule. That's only fair.
In our case, the work has become very organic. I contribute to many ideas and storylines; Jerry contributes to all drawings. You may prefer to have a firewall between the two. In any case, for the first years, be sure you are communicating with your partner thoroughly and that you both feel the writing and the drawing is as good as it can be. For years we would go over every Zits rough on the phone to punch it up as high as we could. Try not to be defensive about your half of the production. If your partner has a good suggestion, take it willingly. If you feel s/he's off track, express it diplomatically.
Give credit to your partner freely. Acknowledge in public and in private his/her strengths. Don't blame.
Everything relating to the strip should be owned and owed 50/50. Don't give resentment any toehold in your partnership.
I hope this helps.
I got home from vacation late Tuesday night and was surprised to find myself sitting at my desk yesterday morning, just hours later, with a deadline hanging over my head. I don't know about you, but on re-entry days it takes me the better part of a day just to go around and turn on all the factory lights, flip the machines on and open the windows. It was midafternoon before I finished reading the newspapers and catching up with vacation clutter.
On normal days I have a dozen topics swirling around in my head, any one of which might pop open to provide the day's cartoon idea. But on re-entry days I'm lucky to have two thoughts to rub together. Yesterday I had the slimmest sliver of a concept -- something about taking down the Christmas tree and the Iowa caucuses.
By now I know to respect that faint sound of a tuning fork quivering in my brain, so I held onto this slight image all day and tried to find the connection. Something about dragging the tree to the curb, the end of the season of good cheer, the beginning of the political season. It came together around 4PM when it absolutely had to.
When I looked at the cartoon in the newspaper this morning I thought it looked more sinister than I'd intended. It may even come off as a shot at Iowans, who I actually appreciate for doing some of the early heavy lifting in the campaign process. Maybe there's too much blackness on the right side of the drawing. Maybe the "Politics" figure should have been walking toward a far-off farmhouse across a comically vast snowy field?
Just to get us warmed back up, here are a few cartoons from the days before I left on vacation (while BorgBlog was taking a break.) Consider them visual jumping jacks to loosen our muscles for the new year.