Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sketchy Plans: How Top Cartoonists Plan Draw a Bead on President Obama

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sketchy Plans: How Top Cartoonists Plan Draw a Bead on President Obama

Article excerpt

Barack Obama isn't going to get a shave now that's he's been elected president -- but he isn't getting a free pass from syndicated editorial cartoonists, either, whether politically conservative or liberal. True, cartoonists across the nation haven't portrayed Obama before the election in the rough kind of way that Herblock -- The Washington Post's Herbert Block -- caricatured Richard Nixon before his 1968 election. In one of the most famous editorial cartoons, Herblock offered a "free shave" to presidents-elect, thereafter changing his portrayal of Nixon as a swarthy character to one who, even if he was still a crook in the cartoonist's view, was at least clean-shaven.

Whatever their political viewpoint, one thing editorial cartoonists agree upon with this president is that he's easy to caricature.

"He's got a better face to caricature than (Republican nominee John) McCain because his face is long, and he's got those ears," says Chuck Asay of Creators Syndicate. "He's a very handsome guy, and he's got ears like George Bush. And he's got that messiah-like character that is easy to make fun of."

Asay, a political conservative, is looking forward to at least four years of an Obama presidency: "It's a win/win situation for me because I disagree so much with his politics. I know there will be much fodder for me to go after. He'll be easy to both criticize and caricature."

Obama was "pretty easy" to capture in caricature, says Nick Anderson, the Houston Chronicle cartoonist syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group, but McCain was a challenge: "I would exaggerate the features -- the big cheeks and the balding hair -- but for a long time it wouldn't look like him."

It was the opposite problem for Scott Stantis, the Birmingham (Ala.) Daily News cartoonist, whose editorial cartoons are syndicated by Copley News Service and whose "Prickly City" strip is syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate. He got a pretty quick fix on the GOP nominee: "McCain, of course, looks like he's a squirrel, storing up nuts for the winter, with those cheeks. He's very animated, and he's got those short arms he can't lift above his shoulders."

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was also easy, says Stantis, who adds, "I've gotta admit I had a crush on her."

Obama, on the other hand, is more like a still-life. But that's where the magic of cartooning comes in, Stantis says. "We have this wonderful medium where we can have people fly and jump and twist around," he says. "It's so weird to me that cartoonists don't take advantage of that."

Among some politically liberal cartoonists, there's a fear that Obama -- a smart and disciplined politician not given to gaffes and risible appetites -- will be a difficult subject on the drawing board.

"He's just going to be very difficult to mock," Mike Luckovich, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution cartoonist syndicated by Creators Syndicate, told an NPR interviewer just before the election.

"It's going to be the end of cartooning as we know it," agreed Mike Peters of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, syndicated by King Features Syndicate Inc.

But other liberal cartoonists aren't especially worried that they'll have no material to work with in an Obama presidency. …

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