Politics in Prime Time: Cartoonists Use New Tools to Add Depth to Drawings

By Tornoe, Rob | Editor & Publisher, November 2012 | Go to article overview

Politics in Prime Time: Cartoonists Use New Tools to Add Depth to Drawings


Tornoe, Rob, Editor & Publisher


When it comes to politics, it doesn't get much better for the nation s political cartoonists than election season, which is like the playoffs, Super Bowl, and World Series all wrapped into a two-month span of silliness on par with any episode of The Benny Hill Show.

Cartoons are more popular than ever, and as newspapers adjust to the digital world, many editors seem unable to figure out how to best position their cartoonists to take advantage of all the new tools available to them. Editorial cartoons are no longer relegated to a rectangular box on the op-ed page, intended to bring some humor to an otherwise gray mass of text--social media and new technology allow for cartoonists to reach into new areas of potential growth.

One cartoonist always on the frontier of what cartoons can offer is Pulitzer prizewinner Ann Telnaes of The Washington Post. A couple of years ago, Telnaes switched from traditional pen-and-ink cartoons to producing short animated cartoons three times a week for washingtonpost.com. The result has been an impressive flow of traffic and a unique voice that keeps readers coming back.

This election season, Telnaes teamed up with The Cartoonist Group to produce POTUS Pick, an iPhone app that gives users the ability to interact directly with both Obama and Romney, thanks to the 24 original animation sequences Telnaes produced especially for the app.

"This is an app cartoon, not a cartoon app," said Telnaes, who has been intrigued by how smartphone applications could allow cartoonists to approach their work in new and interesting ways. "In print, users are passive--meaning that editors determine what they see," Telnaes said. "With apps, the evolution of the relationship between users and cartoons takes a big step forward due to the potential for interactive and non-linear content."

Another cartoonist who took a big step forward is Matt Bors, a Pulitzer finalist last year whose work is syndicated by Universal Uclick. Frustrated by what he calls "lady-hating legislators" focused on limiting women's rights when it comes to everything from abortion to contraception, Bors created the Avenging Uterus, a superhero that stands for truth, justice, and women's reproductive rights.

At first, the Avenging Uterus appeared exclusively in Bors' traditional cartoons, but the character developed an instant following on Twitter when Bors created an account in her name, leading animator Jeremy Joseph of Headache Films to approach Bors about working together on an animated short.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"A staff cartoonist could do much of the work if they were willing to learn," said Bors, who has pushed the boundaries of traditional cartooning with graphic journalism reporting from global hot spots such as Afghanistan and Haiti. …

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