Syndicates: Where Pols Talk to Their Lampooners

By Astor, Dave | Editor & Publisher, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Syndicates: Where Pols Talk to Their Lampooners


Astor, Dave, Editor & Publisher


Editorial cartoonists had a memorable 1988 encounter with singer Robert Plant, whose many Led Zeppelin credits include "The Song Remains the Same."

That incident will be described later in this story, but the Zeppelin song (and film) title has some relevance to the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists as it nears its 50th-anniversary convention July 4-7 in Washington, D.C. -- where the AAEC held its first meeting in 1957.

"Some of the problems then are the same problems now," noted

AAEC President and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/United Media editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers, who said one of those issues is job losses. Also, there continues to be debate about what's the best cartoon style (for instance, hard-hitting or joke-oriented?).

But some things have not remained the same over the past half-century. One example is the rising number of cartoonists now tackling animation and doing blogs to find new creative challenges -- and try to increase their job security.

And, while the AAEC (like editorial cartooning) remains mostly white and male, female and African-American creators began joining the organization in the 1970s. The AAEC also was apparently more cozy with politicians in its early days -- and even made then-Vice President Richard Nixon an honorary member during its first convention.

The AAEC was forged through the efforts of men like John Stampone, an Army Times cartoonist who grew alarmed after seeing a Saturday Review magazine story about editorial cartooning's alleged decline. Stampone contacted some of his peers, and more than 80 cartoonists turned up for the first convention to discuss their craft and hear speakers such as Nixon, according to V. Cullum Rogers, the AAEC's current secretary-treasurer and a cartoonist for The Independent Weekly of Durham, N.C.

Cullum Rogers spent a lot of time this year researching the AAEC's history, including burrowing through the organization's archives at Ohio State University's Cartoon Research Library and looking at decades of Editor & Publisher magazines stored at Duke University. Much of what he found appears in the "Golden Notebook," a special 112-page edition of the AAEC's "Notebook" magazine that will be distributed at this month's convention and also made available for sale to libraries, cartoon fans, and others who are interested. The anniversary publication -- put together mostly by Cullum Rogers and J.P. Trostle (who's also news editor of AAEC's EditorialCartoonists.com site) -- includes pieces about each convention since 1957, along with scores of photos and other content.

"Some shots have never been seen before," said Trostle, who noted that cartoonists dug deep into their closets to unearth some of the pictures.

Cullum Rogers said Nixon was by no means the only major political figure to speak during an AAEC convention. Cartoonists met John F. Kennedy in the Rose Garden in 1963, were addressed by Lyndon Johnson several times, and even visited Johnson's ranch during their 1971 meeting in Austin, Texas. "LBJ was a huge cartoon fan," Rogers noted.

AAECers traveled again to the Rose Garden to hear Ronald Reagan in 1987, listened to Al Gore in Memphis in 1991, were addressed by Ralph Nader in Toronto in 2001, and chatted with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento in 2005. …

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