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Cartoon Complaint Campaigns

Tempers run short in turbulent times, so it is no surprise that provocative editorial cartoons sometimes get blowback from readers. Cartoons generate angry conversation on social media, but they seldom generate complaints to us, or to the newspapers that run them – unless there is an organized campaign to solicit complaints. These campaigns usually take the form of Facebook pages that demand that an editor or cartoonist is punished, or simply demands an apology, and newspapers are often quick to apologize.

Sometimes editors blame their choices on poor editorial cartoons in general, as when the New York Times dumped the little Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate that they hosted and announced that they would stop running editorial cartoons entirely in all of their editions. One of our CagleCartoonists, Patrick Chappatte, lost his regular gig for the International New York Times with this editorial overreaction, over a cartoon that Patrick didn’t draw.

Back in July of 2016, a complaint campaign against the St Louis Post-Dispatch targeted this Dave Granlund “itchy trigger-finger” cartoon and elicited a typical apology from the editor.

This week there was a similar campaign of complaints and demands about the “Bad Cops Under the Bed” cartoon of mine that ran in the St Louis Post-Dispatch, but this time the newspaper, to their credit, didn’t apologize and stood behind me and the cartoon in an editorial.

The offending Antonio Antunes cartoon that lost a job for CagleCartoonist Patrick Chappatte, crushed a little syndicate and lost a top venue for all editorial cartooning as the New York Times banned cartoons.

Earlier this month there was yet another complaint campaign about a Gary McCoy cartoon in the Florence SC Morning News. This longtime CagleCartoons subscribing paper prints just about every cartoon that opposes abortion rights and there aren’t a whole lot of those, so when one pops up it is no surprise that it gets ink in Florence. The abortion topic doesn’t mix well with Black Lives Matter (I thought the cartoon was offensive myself) and the paper apologized, going the New York Times route of announcing that they are no longer running any editorial cartoons at all. They still like our columnist Michael Reagan though, so they continue to be a good subscriber and we hope to woo them back with more, great conservative cartoons. (Those anti-abortion cartoons are pretty hard to resist in Florence.)

Also earlier this month, our CagleCartoonist Rick McKee suffered a complaint campaign with this cartoon in The Columbian newspaper in Washington. The newspaper took the usual route of apologizing for the cartoon, but didn’t ban all cartoons.

There are more recent examples with cartoons from cartoonists who aren’t represented by my little syndicate generating complaints campaigns and newspaper apologies, but I’m not posting them here because, well, they aren’t represented by my little syndicate.

This is the new normal:

1. A reader is offended by a cartoon she disagrees with in her local newspaper and puts up a Facebook campaign soliciting complaints demanding an apology, the firing of the editor and/or the firing of the cartoonist.

2. The Newspaper apologizes for their poor choice of cartoon; or they stop running all cartoons. No other newspapers get complaints about the cartoon, only the one paper that has a campaigning reader gets complaints.

3. Repeat.

It was nice to see the St Louis Post-Dispatch break that pattern this week, standing by my cartoon. Editors should have the guts to stand behind their decisions.


Not So Funny In China

Not so Funny in China

I just got back from a speaking tour in China as part of a cultural exchange through the U.S. State Department, talking to college audiences about my political cartoons and what it’s like to be an editorial cartoonist in America.

The best measure of political freedom is political cartoons and whether cartoonists are allowed to draw their own leaders. Chinese cartoonists almost never draw their leaders, and my Bush-bashing cartoons seemed very foreign to Chinese audiences, who seemed genuinely concerned for my safety; they thought I was in danger from the politicians I lampooned. The questions were the same, wherever I went:

Q: Do your cartoons hurt your personal relationships with the politicians you draw?

A: No, I don’t have personal relationships with the people I draw.

Q: Do you worry that your drawings will hurt the reputation of someone you have drawn?

A: No, if one of my cartoons hurts the reputation of a politician that I am criticizing, then I am pleased. (Sometimes the crowd murmurs when I say this. It doesn’t seem to be what they expect me to say.)

Q: Do you ever apologize for your cartoons?

A: Sometimes, but only if I make an error or if the cartoon is misunderstood. Usually the people who are angry about a cartoon are the people I intend to make angry, and I am happy to make them angry. (The crowd murmurs at this answer, too.)

Q: Do you ever draw cartoons that are supportive of China?

A: No, I don’t draw cartoons that support anything. I just criticize. In America we have a special term for positive, supportive cartoons, we call them: “greeting cards.”

Q: Now that you have visited China, and have learned more about China, will you be drawing cartoons that support China?

A: Probably not.

Q: What do you think about the terrible things that Jack Cafferty from CNN said about China? What can be done to make CNN apologize for these remarks?

A: Most Americans don’t know Jack Cafferty and haven’t read about his remarks, but most Americans have a negative view of China and would probably agree with Jack Cafferty’s remarks. I wouldn’t expect CNN to apologize. (The students murmur.)

It’s interesting that CNN’s Jack Cafferty is a big, continuing issue in China; the students all seem to know about the guy and seem personally insulted by him.

The students ask whether I am excited about the Olympics (no, I’m not) and what I think about the earthquake (it was terrible, but I wish President Bush had responded to Hurricane Katrina as quickly as the Chinese government responded to the earthquake).

I learned what the Chinese think are funny — pigs and homosexuals. If I ever give a speech in China again, I’ll be sure to show all of my cartoons that feature pigs and homosexuals.

I didn’t show cartoons about China. I just wanted to show how I draw disrespectful cartoons about American leaders. That was enough to shock these audiences and show how different our press freedoms are. I was always asked how China is depicted in cartoons, and I answered that there are four symbols of China in international editorial cartoons: a panda bear, a Chinese dragon, the Great Wall, or the guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square –- the audience gasps –- many of the students have never seen the famous photo, and the subject of the Tiananmen Square “incident” is rarely discussed. At one speech, I mentioned the four symbols, the audience gasped, and one student jumped up, saying, “Oh! Oh! What kind of dragon?!”

I explained to the college kids about “censorship” in America, and that the government never censors cartoonists, but that freedom of the press belongs to the guy who owns the press and cartoonists often complain about their editors. This seemed to be a difficult distinction for them to grasp, in a country where the government owns or controls the press.

The Chinese have embraced capitalism; the country is booming, but the Chinese are eager to prove that economic freedom and political freedom are separate matters that don’t go together. The willingness of the Chinese to accept the restrictions on their press is shocking to my American sensibilities – just as my cartoons were shocking to the Chinese.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 850 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. Daryl runs the most popular cartoon site on the Web at His book “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2008 Edition,” is available in bookstores now, and he has a new book coming out this fall, “The BIG Book of Campaign 2008 Cartoons.” See Daryl’s cartoons and columns at


Too Many Cartoonists Too Little Time

Too Many Cartoonists, Too Little Time

Whenever cartoonists get together we complain about syndicates (the businesses that sell our cartoons to newspapers). Cartoonists are no businessmen — we want syndicates to be like mothers to us, selflessly nurturing our careers so we don’t have to sully our minds with yucky business thoughts, when we’d rather be thinking about cartoons. But syndicates don’t act like mothers, and cartoonists have some very colorful names for the syndicate executives who sell their work – in fact, some of these colorful names include the word “mother.”

In addition to being a political cartoonist myself, I run a small syndicate that specializes in editorial cartoons; I see that there must be one thousand aspiring cartoonists for every working professional, as I’m deluged with unsolicited submissions that are truly awful. At times like this, when people are passionate about politics, the inner political cartoonist emerges from the psyche of the talentless “wannabe.”

Many wannabe cartoonists recognize that they have no drawing talent, but it seems that everyone thinks they are a writer. I get many submissions from writers who are looking to collaborate with editorial cartoonists. These writers want to send me gags, or want to find cartoonists who will draw their gags. Here is a typical gag submission:

“So, we have President Bush standing there, and he says, ‘Things are improving in Iraq’ and behind him you see two massive armies, the Shiites and the Sunnis, about to fight each other, and the sky is filled with thousands of U.S. helicopters, then, in the next panel …”

These are people who think in words, not pictures. For some reason, this group of wannabes includes lots of lawyers who think they are funny. I think lawyers are funny, but I laugh at-them, not with-them; and it is a dark humor that makes me want to go take a shower afterwards. These guys just don’t get it. The cartoon writers often send obvious or trite gags that they think are brilliant and original. Sometimes the writers follow up with angry mail when they notice that another cartoonist has “stolen” their gag.

The second group of wannabes do their own drawings, but can’t see how truly awful their drawings are. These guys like to use computer fonts in their cartoons instead of hand lettering. Often they will use clip art in their cartoons, or lift photographs from the web, or they will use simple objects like squares and circles, and then have these objects making comments in speech balloons. These wannabes frequently don’t know how to work their scanner and will send murky gray images that show crinkled paper backgrounds from the napkins they drew their cartoons on.

One thing aspiring editorial cartoonists have in common is paranoia. I get inquiries like this: “I’m really funny and I have some great ideas, but I need to know how to get them copyrighted first so you won’t steal them.”

I have a notice on our syndicate web site that that says: “We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.” Often the submissions come in with a note saying, “I know you don’t accept submissions, but …”

Ambitious aspiring cartoonists see syndicates as gatekeepers, guarding a barrier to the success they deserve. Sometimes the passion and perseverance of these wannabes can be frightening. They find my home phone number and my home address. Drive and perseverance in the face of adversity is a virtue, so their quest never ends.

Some horrid amateur cartoonists are convinced that the world of professional cartooning is a closed shop, an old-boy’s network where success is a matter of who you know. Wannabes try to be friendly with my employees or cartoonist colleagues, hoping that the relationship will get them past the barrier. Many terrible submissions are forwarded to me by friends.

When I was an aspiring cartoonist I thought the syndicates were arrogant for sending form-letter responses, or for ignoring submissions – but now I understand why. For many wannabes, any response is an invitation to argue. The aspirants are convinced that their work is great and anyone who doesn’t “get it” needs educating. Giving a polite brush-off sometimes fuels their anger.

Ironically, editorial cartooning is a terrible business. Newspapers pay only a few dollars a week for packaged groups of talented cartoonists who are, in turn, poorly paid. The professionals compete for fewer and fewer staff cartoonist positions at papers that are cutting back, as the internet crushes print. More and more professional cartoonists can’t make ends meet. The syndicates aren’t really a barrier to success for the aspiring cartoonists, just a hurdle on the road to more frustration in a dying profession.

My profession is fading away, I’m poorly paid and there are thousands of rude, talentless wannabes who want my job … but Britney Spears shaved her head – at least the life of a professional editorial cartoonist has its little pleasures.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Editions,” are available in bookstores now.

Copyright 2007 Cagle Cartoons Inc. Please contact Sales at [email protected] for reproduction rights.


The New York Times and Cartoons

Last week The New York Times ran one of my cartoons. The cartoon showed three kids on a couch with their laptops and iPods, one says, “Check out Saddam hanging. Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.” The next one says, “He’s so dead.” The third one says, “Let’s look again at Britney Spears with no underwear.” The caption reads, “The death of newspapers.” It is a cartoon that plays well with newspaper editors who are obsessed with the crass, unedited Internet that is destroying their business.

The Times ran my cartoon in their weekly round-up of editorial cartoons where they edit the cartoons to remove the artist’s signature and attribution. Typically, the Times will print the artist’s name and attribution alongside the cartoon, as with the two cartoons above mine where the artist, his newspaper and syndicate are credited. But in my case, only my name is given, no credit is given to, my publication of record, which was erased from my cartoon and omitted from my attribution.

Although it is traditional for a cartoonist to sign his work and include his publication name in his signature, some newspapers object to any mention of a Web site in a cartoon, or in a syndicated column; the concern is that mentioning a Web site is like giving the cartoonist or writer a free advertisement. The Times wouldn’t be concerned about their readers picking up a copy of The Columbus Dispatch, so an advertisement for another newspaper doesn’t carry much value, but a mention of might send readers to a serious competitor. This is ironic, given the subject matter of my cartoon. By itself, the cartoon is funny, but suggesting that the cartoon came from a Web site – particularly, whose audience dwarfs the New York Times – that might just be too painful for the Times to acknowledge.

The Times calls their weekly cartoon round-up “Laugh Lines,” a title that doesn’t sit well with editorial cartoonists who consider themselves to be graphic columnists. Like columnists, cartoonists are sometimes funny; sometimes we want the reader to wince; sometimes we want to bring a tear to the eye. Some of the most famous cartoons are serious cartoons. We all drew the Statue of Liberty weeping after 9/11. Bill Mauldin famously drew the statue of Lincoln weeping after the assassination of President Kennedy. But don’t expect to see a poignant cartoon running in The New York Times under the title “Laugh Lines.” Many cartoonists decry the trivialization of our profession by editors who choose to reprint cartoons that are soft little jokes. Serious cartoons are not so popular with timid editors who want to avoid offending anyone. We call this phenomenon “Newsweekification” because of the funny, inoffensive, trivial cartoons that Newsweek chooses to run each week – just like the Times. The secret to becoming a popular editorial cartoonist is to be funny and not express an opinion.

The New York Times reprints syndicated cartoons on Sundays, but hasn’t had its own editorial cartoonist since the 1950s. More and more newspapers are doing without staff cartoonists as our profession slowly dies. Top newspapers without cartoonists include the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune. There are two famous quotes, attributed to “the editor of The New York Times,” (although I’m not quite sure just who actually said these). The first is: “We would never have an editorial cartoonist at the Times because we would never give so much power to one man.” The second quote: “We would never have an editorial cartoonist at the Times because you can’t edit a cartoonist like you can a columnist.” (He must have forgotten about how the Times edits the signatures and attributions of out the cartoons.)

A number of cartoonists e-mailed me this week with the same question, “Hey, Daryl, I saw your cartoon in the Times, how do I get my own cartoons in the Times?” I regret that the reality behind the big-time political cartooning business is a little disappointing. Here’s how it works: dozens of cartoonists around the world e-mail their cartoons to the Times and other “pay-per-use” newspapers who accept unsolicited submissions. It is the same thing with USA Today, send it in and if they run it, they pay $50 – but the Times is a little different. Instead of just paying $50, the Times doesn’t pay unless the cartoonist notices that they ran the cartoon and sends them an invoice. The Times doesn’t tell the cartoonist that they ran the cartoon and if they don’t receive an invoice, the Times saves the $50.

Suppose The New York Times dealt with McDonalds the same way they deal with cartoonists. The Times would say:

“Hey, McDonalds, I want you to deliver a hamburger to me every day; I may choose to eat it, and I may not. If I choose to eat the burger, I will pay you for it. If I don’t eat the burger, I won’t pay you. I’m not going to tell you if I eat a burger or not. If you want to get paid, you’ll have to see me eating the burger and then send me a bill, and the bill must tell me when you saw me eating the burger. I understand that you’ll have to watch me all the time to see if I’m eating one of your burgers, but that shouldn’t be a problem, because I’m very big and very interesting, and I expect you to be watching me all the time anyway. If you’re lucky, I might eat one or two of your burgers every year.”

There are about one thousand aspiring cartoonists for every one who actually makes a living as a professional editorial cartoonist. I’m sure that if the “wanna-be” cartoonists would actually look inside the editorial-cartoon-burger, to see how it is made, it would give them a belly ache – a $50, New York Times-sized belly ache.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005, 2006 and 2007 Editions,” are available in bookstores now. Copyright 2007 Cagle Cartoons Inc. Please contact Sales at [email protected] for reproduction rights.


What’s In One Name?

What’s in One Name?

I’ve often thought that it would be great to have only one name, like cowboy gunslingers Paladin and Shane. Rock singers can be such superstars that they only require one name, like Madonna, Cher, Sting or Bono. One name is cool. My personal heroes are Lassie, Flipper, Shamu, Snoopy and Spartacus.

Great artists and composers are referred to by one name. Most people would be hard pressed to think of the full names of Michelangelo, Raphael, Monet, Degas, Rembrandt, Brahms, Bach or Beethoven – we think of them all by one name.

To be known by only one name implies success or infamy. We talk about “Hitler” more often than “Adolph Hitler.” “Walt Disney” became only “Disney.” After a slow start with “Mickey Mouse,” Disney went on to name more than 90 percent of his characters with a single name, from each of the seven dwarfs to Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, Simba, Ariel and Aladdin. One name is so cool.

It’s not just the cartoon characters; the cartoonists themselves often go by single names. The top three editorial cartoonists in Canada are Cameron Cardow (“Cam” of the Ottawa Citizen), Thomas Boldt (“Tab” of the Calgary Sun) and Terry Mosher (“Aislin” of the Montreal Gazette). Around the globe cartoonists are expected to choose a single name. Usually the single name is the cartoonist’s last name; sometimes it is a combination of the artist’s names, like Mexico’s Antonio Neril Licon (“Nerilicon”). Thailand’s Stephane Peray is “Stephff.” Cuba’s top cartoonist is Aristedes Esteban Hernandez Guerrero, but his pen name is simply “Ares,” which is much easier to digest. Other top international cartoonists go by their first names only: Antonio, Pancho, Arcadio, Christo, Dario, Tayo, Petar, Olle – the list goes on and on.

Single names are less common among American cartoonists. The late, great Virgil Partch was known as “Vip.” Kevin Kallaugher, the former cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun, is “Kal.” Many American cartoonists sign their cartoons with their last name only, but we don’t call each other by our last names and we would expect attributions with our cartoons to list our full names. Many cartoonists, like me, put both their first name and last name into their signatures on their cartoons.

Going by one name is not always a matter of choice for a cartoonist. Newsweek magazine is known as a showcase for editorial cartoonists, and it is their policy never to mention a cartoonist’s first name. Newsweek takes the cartoonist’s signature out of his cartoon and prints the cartoonist’s last name in tiny type under the cartoon. In Newsweek, political cartoonists Larry Wright, Dick Wright and Don Wright would each be called, “Wright.” Editorial cartoonists Kirk Anderson and Nick Anderson are both “Anderson.”

Going by one name is cool, when it is a nickname, or when it is a name that someone chooses for himself. When somebody else chooses to call me by one name it shows disrespect, much in the way that a drill sergeant talks down to his troops in boot camp. I can’t imagine Newsweek referring to George Will’s column as being written by “Will.” Photographers and illustrators also get two names in Newsweek credits; only lowly cartoonists are limited to one name by Newsweek’s longstanding policy.

I suppose it is the nature of the profession for cartoonists. One name will have to suffice. We get no respect. (But what we do is cool.)

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2006 Edition,” are available in bookstores now. Copyright 2006 Cagle Cartoons Inc. Please contact Sales at [email protected] for reproduction rights.