My wife and I went this year to the Association of American Editorial Cartoonist’s annual convention in Sacramento, California. We had a wonderful time talking to different cartoonists.
In the opening reception, we got a chance to watch J.D. Crowe win the Rex Babin Award for local cartooning. It’s a prestigious cartooning award, as most American cartoonists have more influence on local affairs than they do in national affairs. He gave a moving tribute to Rex Babin, the late cartoonist whom the award was named after.
I got a chance to meet Pedro Molina, the Nicaraguan cartoonist who won the Cartoonists Rights Network International Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award for his work in depicting the authoritarian government of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.
I also got a chance to meet Ward Sutton, the winner of this year’s Herblock Award, one of the highest awards that an editorial cartoonist can receive. We had a wonderful time talking about his work and his life.
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists Convention featured talks from political cartoonists from Canada and New Zealand, as well as a presentation from this year’s winner of the Herblock Awards, Ward Sutton.
I walked to the convention at around 8 a.m. and it was fun walking the alley ways and side streets. I didn’t realize that Sacramento was such an artistic town, with murals and galleries in nearly every street. It seems like a college town, with many 20 and 30 something people hanging out and looking cool.
The New Zealand cartoonists who were presenting their work were Rod Emmerson, Nigel Buchanan, Sharon Murdoch and Toby Morris. New Zealand is a country of 4 million people, and it is the first country to give women the right to vote. Since that time, it has elected 3 women prime ministers.
Ward Sutton did an overview of his cartooning career, starting with his time in college doing editorial cartoons for the school newspaper. After leaving college, he did work for local papers and eventually became a contributor in 1998 to The Village Voice. Sutton is a fan of multi-panel comics, influenced in part by Bloom County. He has recently created Kelly cartoons for The Onion.
Terry Mosher, Wes Tyrell and Graeme Mackay talked about the Canadian cartoon scene and the importance of doing cartoons on local subject matter.
During the second evening, The Atlantic Magazine’s Mckay Coppins gave an inspirational speech on the importance of defending the freedom of the press.
Cartoonist Matt Bors began talking about the history of the Nib, a website dedicated to political cartooning.
Brian Fies gave a talk about how Fies became a successful graphic novelist. Fies started out in The Woodland Daily Democrat, a small newspaper that gave Fies a chance to do many of the functions that are required to publish a newspaper. From that experience, Fies was able to start a successful freelance writing and illustration career.
Last year, Brian Fies home was burned down in the fires that had raged through Northern California. To process his experience, Fies bought a paper pad and some cheap pens and quickly created a comic that eventually became the book “A Fire Story.” Fies doesn’t just chronicle the tragedy of his own loss, but he explores the effects of the fires on the whole community. KQED contacted Fies to ask if director Kelly Whalen could convert his graphic novel into an animated short feature. The animated short won a local Emmy.
Rob Rogers spoke next, talking about his experience getting fired by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rogers had been cartooning for The Post-Gazette since 1993, and had always had a good working relationship with his editors.
When Keith Burris became the editor of the Post-Gazette, he immediately began to kill any Rob Rogers cartoon that criticized President Trump or his policies. In a 3 month period, 19 cartoons were rejected. In previous years, Rogers would on average have two or three cartoons rejected in an entire year. When 6 cartoons were rejected in a row, Rogers was told to meet 2 Human Resources representatives and told that Rogers would have to have the editors dictate the ideas for his cartoons. When Rogers rejected that, he had an interview with Tapper and CNN about his current situation with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
After the interview, Rogers met again with the 2 Human Resources rep and was given 2 options:
1) Rogers could work as a freelance cartoonist for the newspaper at $100 per cartoon.
2) Rogers could accept a severance package with the paper where the newspaper would have full ownership of all the cartoons that Rogers has ever done for the Post-Gazette.
Rogers rejected both options and was fired by the newspaper. Since that time, Rogers has worked in several freelance projects and continues to syndicate his political cartoons.
During the afternoon break. I joined a few cartoonists in walking from one venue to the next. The favorite part of the convention was when I was able to talk to the cartoonists and share about our various experiences in different parts of the country. Cartoonists from the South talked to me about how crazy some of the local elections were, with some of the more far Right candidates expressing racist views. Cartoonists from Michigan and Illinois talked about their election situation in the Midwest, which doesn’t seem as tainted by racism. These conversations are important to me as a Californian living in a liberal bubble, to give me a chance to see the country from different perspectives.
On this particular walk, we were joined by Tim Eagan, a cartoonist from Santa Cruz. He asked us who we might support for President in 2020. I said I’m pretty open right now, but that right now I’m leaning towards Sherrod Brown, a progressive Democrat from Ohio. Tim suggested that I check out Amy Klobucher, Democrat from Minnesota. Paul Pinderski is a libertarian cartoonist and hopes former Massachusetts Governor William Weld runs the Libertarian ticket. He wants a candidate with experience in collaborating and compromising for bipartisan bills. I’m a Democrat and I want a candidate who can do the same.
Beyond politics, we shared also about our lives, our friends and family. I got to know about some of these cartoonists on a personal level, and not just as for their politics.
In the evening, we attended an awards night. But the topic of most of our conversations was just how our personal lives were doing. My wife doesn’t like politics very much, but she enjoyed talking to the editorial cartoonists because they were so nice.