Mr. Fish, the Top Altie Cartoonist is Laid Off

This column comes to us from Mr. Fish, Dwayne Booth, a long time contributor to our site and one of the most innovative, powerful cartoonists around.  Fish is probably the farthest to the left of any cartoonist on our site, and is probably the harshest critic of President Obama of all the cartoonists.

Alternative weekly newspapers have taken more of a hit than the regular newspapers recently, and the “altie cartoonists” have been disappearing.  Mr. Fish, who is probably the most prominent altie cartoonist of them all, survived a bloodbath last year when the Village Voice dropped all of their cartoonists except for him.  Now the Village Voice has dropped every cartoonist, as Mr. Fish is laid off from the Village Voice/LA Weekly.  Fish has written this piece for us on his departure.

See an archive of Mr. Fish cartoons here.

See a collection of my favorite, most offensive Mr. Fish cartoons here.

by Dwayne Booth (Mr. Fish)

Ever since the takeover of the Village Voice Media Company in 2006 by New Times Media, I knew my days were numbered.  We all did – by that I mean everybody at the old LA Weekly, where for nearly 6 years I wrote, cartooned and illustrated and produced a shitload of work.  That is, up until yesterday.

I was cut as a cost-saving measure.

Once comprised of a sizable and competent staff capable of competing with the other two major metropolitan newspapers in the area, namely the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News, the current personnel who remain to produce the ever diminishing pages of the LA Weekly might best be described as only slightly outnumbering the Osmond Brothers.  In fact, there are perhaps as many as 100 office chairs in the Culver City building, where, following a very depressing exodus from Hollywood in 2008, the Weekly now resides, that have never known ass.   Never.

In fact, if you were to compare the old, pre-merger LA Weekly and, while you’re at it, the Village Voice from 5 or 10 or 30 years ago, with today’s versions you’d see how Mr. Fish (not to mention Norman Mailer, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, Barbara Garson, Katherine Anne Porter, M.S. Cone, James Baldwin, E.E. Cummings, Nat Hentoff, Marc Cooper, Ted Hoagland, Tom Stoppard, Lorraine Hansberry, Allen Ginsberg, Joshua Clover, Jules Feiffer and R. Crumb) no longer fits in with the TMZ/Your-ad-here!/journalism-produced-cheaply-will-produce-cheap-journalism look of the papers.

I recently received a letter from someone bemoaning the obvious drop in quality of the LA Weekly, as evidenced by the paper’s online incarnation, by saying that, “If I knew nothing about LA, I would think all that went on there were Burlesque shows.”

No kidding.

Sure, in response to a shitty economy and a pandemic shift by news junkies from pulp to PC, they’re have been definite changes in the print media industry over the last five years.  And, sure, attempts to restructure the financial model on any business institution that sees its profit margins shrinking will always have some effect on the product that’s being produced, but mustn’t a shift to protect the body of an organization take special care not to jeopardize serious trauma to the head as well?

Does an incoming administration really assert its authority when it rips up the old Constitution so beloved by those it seeks to rule, saying, “This thing is pointless ““ it was written with a feather!  We have Microsoft Office now!” or does it merely demonstrate its own arrogance and self-centeredness and misguided sense of intellectual privilege?

Haven’t we learned anything from the New Coke fiasco from the 1980s, for Christsake’s?

At one time, and not too long ago in fact, the brain of the Village Voice and the LA Weekly seemed quite capable of contributing to the national conversation about art and politics and literature and popular culture, but now, unless the word diet is affixed to the end of any of those subjects, or unless they are included as part of a movie title or bit of Hollywood gossip or a crime story, the Village Voice Media company seems as if it has absolutely no opinion to offer.

Specifically, to read the Village Voice nowadays is akin to watching somebody who you once respected and whose opinion about the culture you valued receive a lobotomy and then who, desperate not to lose your company, attempts to keep you around by offering to show you what he looks like with his pants off.  It’s embarrassing.

So now what? “¨Â “¨When will the progressive and egg-heady spirit of the Alternative Press return? When will indie journalism raise its collective acumen above an eighth-grade reading and crouch-grabbing level?

And, getting back to me, where does a radically left-leaning political cartoonist go to piss off powerful people and to document the rage and contempt of liberal-minded loud-mouths and vengeful humanitarians? Where does a court jester, one who endeavors to rob just enough dignity from the king to make dissent seem possible and worthwhile to those most victimized by hierarchy, go?

You tell me.

I’m assuming that the answer, depending on who you are and what you value, is either Hell or High Water.

January 18, 2010

I thought I would add a postscript, since every time I put Mr. Fish cartoons in the blog we get comments describing him as a Photoshop artist.  Fish certainly uses photo reference, but he draws the cartoons in pencil.  some of his original drawings are shown below. -Daryl

By Daryl Cagle

Daryl Cagle is the founder and owner of Cagle Cartoons, Inc. He is one of the most widely published editorial cartoonists and is also the editor of The Cagle Post. For the past 35 years, Daryl has been one of America’s most prolific cartoonists.