Editorial cartoons offer insightful artistry

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The Washington Times was designed as a strongly visual newspaper for a strongly visual world. For 40 years, this sensitivity has not weakened. As the work on this page attests, The Times’ commitment to visual excellence has provided a platform for the talents of some very gifted editorials. Their funny little pictures are often worth more than a thousand words.

Editorial cartoons were movies in newspapers before there were movies in theaters. Even today, an editorial cartoon plays in the minds of readers with an artist-supplied image and a reader-supplied soundtrack. “These accursed pictures”, as Boss Tweed called Thomas Nast’s offerings in the 1870s, have provided humorous, edgy, irreverent, often outrageously offensive windows into issues large and small for nearly two centuries, delivering a punch instant and visceral through newspaper readers. eyeballs. It is at its best expressing a public mood, a cultural ripple, visually taking the pulse of the American moment.

A good one cannot be invisible: the Copperhead press’s portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a lanky 6-foot-3 ape; Nast’s pear-shaped Boss Tweed in prison stripes; Resolute Churchill by David Low; Herblock’s frantic man shouting “Fire!” climb a ladder to extinguish Liberty’s torch with a bucket of hysteria; the Bill Mauldin statue of Lincoln mourning the death of John F. Kennedy; Pat Oliphant’s Lyndon Johnson hanging a “Soul Brother” sign on the door of the White House; Nixon relentlessly records Paul Conrad’s indictments, etched in every permutation imaginable.

Some people say the first American political cartoon was Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” snake, a cartoon that succinctly summed up the revolutionary cause in 1775. The proud tradition of making graphic friends, outrage readers and influencing people with ink streaks continued. , with more or less success since.

A well-executed editorial cartoon marries ideas and images seamlessly, often with an emotional impact that words and photos alone cannot match. Where language and photography in a newspaper are traditionally employed to provide the reader with facts about the day’s events, political cartoons serve to provide insight, attitude and perspective. The goal of a political cartoonist is to evoke in the public “how” to feel and think about an issue, memorably expressing not only the point of view of the artist but also that of the organization publishing the work. A well-done comic can arm the reader with an opinion or a clever joke. In the past, when newspapers wore the opinions of their editors on their sleeves, editorial cartoons were often displayed on the front page like heavy artillery in the arsenal of crusading editors.

For the Washington Times at its inception in 1982, the bad guys and the good guys on the world stage were clearly defined: Soviet Communism and its American nemesis, President Reagan. Moreover, another kind of American political revolution was in the works: the disco era was dead, replaced by the hair and fashion of the 1980s. targets”.


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Gib Crockett, revered star of the recently closed Washington Star, had the honor of producing the Washington Times’ first editorial cartoon, published May 17. .

Subsequently, the quietly gifted and award-winning Bill Garner was persuaded to return from the commercial call of Memphis to bring his sharp, witty line, enormous artistry and straightforward decency to the post of editorial cartoonist for the Times, a position he proudly held for the next three decades. His “Saddam Happens” bumper sticker on the back of an Abrams tank, his portrayal of the Clintons as “Bonny and Clod”, his brilliant, economic caricatures, and much more captured the spirit of the times. seen from a Washington ground zero seat.

During those early days, editor Smith Hempstone enlisted the sophisticated contributions of Peter Steiner, whose easy drawing had graced the pages of The New Yorker. Mr. Steiner’s sometimes cold statements about social failings have also graced the pages of The Times for decades.

For a few years, a varied stable of unionized cartoonists with a conservative political bent filled the void left by Mr. Garner’s retirement. More recently, the cartoon rantings of Alexander Hunter, whose companion (albeit award-winning) work falls somewhere between Thomas Paine and Jay Ward, have taken up the space opposite each day’s editorial.

The Times hopes its readers enjoy these selected hand-drawn glimpses of history, which are just the tip of a much larger iceberg, the size of four decades, of shrewd artistry.

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