Not So Funny In China

Not so Funny in China

I just got back from a speaking tour in China as part of a cultural exchange through the U.S. State Department, talking to college audiences about my political cartoons and what it’s like to be an editorial cartoonist in America.

The best measure of political freedom is political cartoons and whether cartoonists are allowed to draw their own leaders. Chinese cartoonists almost never draw their leaders, and my Bush-bashing cartoons seemed very foreign to Chinese audiences, who seemed genuinely concerned for my safety; they thought I was in danger from the politicians I lampooned. The questions were the same, wherever I went:

Q: Do your cartoons hurt your personal relationships with the politicians you draw?

A: No, I don’t have personal relationships with the people I draw.

Q: Do you worry that your drawings will hurt the reputation of someone you have drawn?

A: No, if one of my cartoons hurts the reputation of a politician that I am criticizing, then I am pleased. (Sometimes the crowd murmurs when I say this. It doesn’t seem to be what they expect me to say.)

Q: Do you ever apologize for your cartoons?

A: Sometimes, but only if I make an error or if the cartoon is misunderstood. Usually the people who are angry about a cartoon are the people I intend to make angry, and I am happy to make them angry. (The crowd murmurs at this answer, too.)

Q: Do you ever draw cartoons that are supportive of China?

A: No, I don’t draw cartoons that support anything. I just criticize. In America we have a special term for positive, supportive cartoons, we call them: “greeting cards.”

Q: Now that you have visited China, and have learned more about China, will you be drawing cartoons that support China?

A: Probably not.

Q: What do you think about the terrible things that Jack Cafferty from CNN said about China? What can be done to make CNN apologize for these remarks?

A: Most Americans don’t know Jack Cafferty and haven’t read about his remarks, but most Americans have a negative view of China and would probably agree with Jack Cafferty’s remarks. I wouldn’t expect CNN to apologize. (The students murmur.)

It’s interesting that CNN’s Jack Cafferty is a big, continuing issue in China; the students all seem to know about the guy and seem personally insulted by him.

The students ask whether I am excited about the Olympics (no, I’m not) and what I think about the earthquake (it was terrible, but I wish President Bush had responded to Hurricane Katrina as quickly as the Chinese government responded to the earthquake).

I learned what the Chinese think are funny — pigs and homosexuals. If I ever give a speech in China again, I’ll be sure to show all of my cartoons that feature pigs and homosexuals.

I didn’t show cartoons about China. I just wanted to show how I draw disrespectful cartoons about American leaders. That was enough to shock these audiences and show how different our press freedoms are. I was always asked how China is depicted in cartoons, and I answered that there are four symbols of China in international editorial cartoons: a panda bear, a Chinese dragon, the Great Wall, or the guy standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square –- the audience gasps –- many of the students have never seen the famous photo, and the subject of the Tiananmen Square “incident” is rarely discussed. At one speech, I mentioned the four symbols, the audience gasped, and one student jumped up, saying, “Oh! Oh! What kind of dragon?!”

I explained to the college kids about “censorship” in America, and that the government never censors cartoonists, but that freedom of the press belongs to the guy who owns the press and cartoonists often complain about their editors. This seemed to be a difficult distinction for them to grasp, in a country where the government owns or controls the press.

The Chinese have embraced capitalism; the country is booming, but the Chinese are eager to prove that economic freedom and political freedom are separate matters that don’t go together. The willingness of the Chinese to accept the restrictions on their press is shocking to my American sensibilities – just as my cartoons were shocking to the Chinese.

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 850 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. Daryl runs the most popular cartoon site on the Web at His book “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2008 Edition,” is available in bookstores now, and he has a new book coming out this fall, “The BIG Book of Campaign 2008 Cartoons.” See Daryl’s cartoons and columns at


What’s In One Name?

What’s in One Name?

I’ve often thought that it would be great to have only one name, like cowboy gunslingers Paladin and Shane. Rock singers can be such superstars that they only require one name, like Madonna, Cher, Sting or Bono. One name is cool. My personal heroes are Lassie, Flipper, Shamu, Snoopy and Spartacus.

Great artists and composers are referred to by one name. Most people would be hard pressed to think of the full names of Michelangelo, Raphael, Monet, Degas, Rembrandt, Brahms, Bach or Beethoven – we think of them all by one name.

To be known by only one name implies success or infamy. We talk about “Hitler” more often than “Adolph Hitler.” “Walt Disney” became only “Disney.” After a slow start with “Mickey Mouse,” Disney went on to name more than 90 percent of his characters with a single name, from each of the seven dwarfs to Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, Cinderella, Simba, Ariel and Aladdin. One name is so cool.

It’s not just the cartoon characters; the cartoonists themselves often go by single names. The top three editorial cartoonists in Canada are Cameron Cardow (“Cam” of the Ottawa Citizen), Thomas Boldt (“Tab” of the Calgary Sun) and Terry Mosher (“Aislin” of the Montreal Gazette). Around the globe cartoonists are expected to choose a single name. Usually the single name is the cartoonist’s last name; sometimes it is a combination of the artist’s names, like Mexico’s Antonio Neril Licon (“Nerilicon”). Thailand’s Stephane Peray is “Stephff.” Cuba’s top cartoonist is Aristedes Esteban Hernandez Guerrero, but his pen name is simply “Ares,” which is much easier to digest. Other top international cartoonists go by their first names only: Antonio, Pancho, Arcadio, Christo, Dario, Tayo, Petar, Olle – the list goes on and on.

Single names are less common among American cartoonists. The late, great Virgil Partch was known as “Vip.” Kevin Kallaugher, the former cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun, is “Kal.” Many American cartoonists sign their cartoons with their last name only, but we don’t call each other by our last names and we would expect attributions with our cartoons to list our full names. Many cartoonists, like me, put both their first name and last name into their signatures on their cartoons.

Going by one name is not always a matter of choice for a cartoonist. Newsweek magazine is known as a showcase for editorial cartoonists, and it is their policy never to mention a cartoonist’s first name. Newsweek takes the cartoonist’s signature out of his cartoon and prints the cartoonist’s last name in tiny type under the cartoon. In Newsweek, political cartoonists Larry Wright, Dick Wright and Don Wright would each be called, “Wright.” Editorial cartoonists Kirk Anderson and Nick Anderson are both “Anderson.”

Going by one name is cool, when it is a nickname, or when it is a name that someone chooses for himself. When somebody else chooses to call me by one name it shows disrespect, much in the way that a drill sergeant talks down to his troops in boot camp. I can’t imagine Newsweek referring to George Will’s column as being written by “Will.” Photographers and illustrators also get two names in Newsweek credits; only lowly cartoonists are limited to one name by Newsweek’s longstanding policy.

I suppose it is the nature of the profession for cartoonists. One name will have to suffice. We get no respect. (But what we do is cool.)

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2006 Edition,” are available in bookstores now. Copyright 2006 Cagle Cartoons Inc. Please contact Sales at [email protected] for reproduction rights.


Stealing Cartoons and Pension Plans No Problem

Stealing Cartoons and Pension Plans? No Problem.

One of the perks of being a syndicated editorial cartoonist is that I get to sign my name, in big clear lettering, in the corner of every cartoon. Sometimes I draw cartoons that make so many people angry that I might have been better off leaving my name out, but usually it is fun to have my name there. Often my clients will alter my artwork without my permission and remove my signature, as Newsweek magazine did last week.

I had a long career as a cartoon illustrator before turning to newspaper cartooning. When I drew cartoons for advertising, the clients almost always insisted on taking my signature out of the artwork; they knew what they wanted to advertise, and it wasn’t me. I wasn’t happy about it, but the demand was so common that I had to agree. I had to make a living.

Even with the typical, harsh contracts, my clients would usually only be concerned about their one job. They would give my art back to me when the job was done, leaving me as the owner of the copyright to my own art – which is important to illustrators. Having “second rights” to sell through internet databases and “stock houses” is a second income for underpaid artists and, like an annuity, the value of an artist’s artwork increases over time as an artist collects a larger and larger number of works that he can resell through his career. Artists, cartoonists and illustrators may not have health insurance but we have the “pension plan” of our own lifetime of reproductions rights to resell – that is, until now.

Congress is now poised to wreck the “pension plans” of America’s artists in a scheme bigger than Enron. The “Orphan Works Act of 2006” (H.R. 5439) is now before the House Judiciary Committee; the bill would strip artists of the practical ability to defend the copyrights to their lifetime of works. The bill was proposed to deal with the problem of “orphan works” which are copyrighted works whose authors are difficult to identify or locate. Companies have complained that it is too hard for them to find the creators of art that they want to reproduce, so they want to change the law to allow them to reproduce the artwork without permission. The bill would legalize the commercial or non-commercial infringement of any work of art – past, present and future – regardless of age, country of origin, published or unpublished, whenever the rights holder cannot be identified or located.

The bill changes the law to allow any company to reprint whatever art they want – all that is necessary is that the company itself determines that it has done a “reasonably diligent search” for the artist. Beyond that, the bill removes any significant penalties for copyright infringement. Of course, if a company wants to steal artwork, it is in their interest that their “reasonably diligent search” should fail to find the artist. The bill is a broad-based license to infringe artists’ copyrights – or, rather, to steal their “pensions.”

Current law already allows non-profit organizations, such as libraries and museums, great latitude in the usage of “orphaned works.” If a for-profit company is just dying to use an “orphaned work” I’d like to see them hire an artist to make something new – of course, that would be more expensive than just taking the “orphaned” artwork and paying nothing.

Most of my life’s work, and most of the life’s work of most illustrators, will become “orphaned” and worthless under this bill. The Illustrator’s Partnership, a trade group representing artists, has listed changes the bill needs to protect artists. These are:

1.) Precisely define an orphan work as a copyright no longer managed by a rightsholder;

2.) Precisely define the steps a user must take before infringing the work;

3.) Eliminate the unrestricted use of a copyrighted work in a “transformative” work;

4.) Restrict the use of orphan works to not-for-profit uses;

5.) Restore full remedies for infringement as the only means rightsholders have for protecting their intellectual property.

For more information on the “Orphan Works Act of 2006” (H.R. 5439), visit

Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 800 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His books “The BIG Book of Bush Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005 Edition,” are available in bookstores now.


Cartoonist Comments on those Muhammad Cartoons

Since the worldwide furor began over the Danish caricatures of Muhammad, the talk among political cartoonists has been about new and unwelcome attention that the fuss has brought to their profession. Editors now view editorial cartoonists as potential problems and gossip is circulating among American cartoonists about their cartoons that are being killed by timid editors and publishers who would have printed the same cartoons a couple of months ago.

I asked a number of the world’s top, syndicated political cartoonists what they think about the ‘toon turmoil and how they see it affecting political cartoonists.

Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant, Connecticut:

“European newspaper cartoonists have always enjoyed more freedom of expression than we cartoonists in America. All you have to do is check them out on the Internet, and that’s the real chill, the fatal chill. The newspaper business in America is caught in a downward spiral of declining circulation. The cartoon controversy shows why. Most all American papers declined to run the Danish cartoons, thus again proving that newspapers are becoming irrelevant to the news/information process. You, the curious informed public, need to have a computer and Internet service to learn what all the fuss is about. … Editors have decided for you that you can’t handle it. … Young people see right through this. They’ll look at the cartoons on the Internet (as I had to do) and make up their own minds, without the help of newspapers.”

Sandy Huffaker, Nationally Syndicated:

”When a chain buys a newspaper, that paper loses courage. The money guys take over for the journalists, leading to the firing of reporters, investigative reporters and cartoonists – those people who might upset advertisers. It seems like one letter-to-the-editor can cow an editor already afraid for his job. No better example of this is the Muhammad cartoons. Only a handful of our papers had the guts to run them, so no one had any idea how offensive they were or weren’t (they were quite tame). I never thought I’d see the day that France, who had a number of papers run the cartoons, had more courage than we did. It is a sad day for democracy.”

Mike Lester, The Rome News-Tribune, Georgia:

”Methinks the temptation for timidity in the opinions of editors and cartoonists has never seen greater justification. For cartoonists, the previous desire to appear in major papers and newsstand glossies seems to have been replaced with the desire to maintain their current height. I’m not sure who the last brave editor will be, but he/she’s out there. I once drew a cartoon of Jesus turning regular into decaf and was deluged with mail from Christians requesting t-shirt reprints. It would appear that, even though the West has been watching ‘Skating with Celebrities’ and smoking Sudafed we’ve somehow developed a sense of irony leaving the Dark Aged Islamo-fascists still working on indoor plumbing and a sense of humor.”

Rainer Hachfeld, Neues Deutschland, Germany:

“Editors are and were always timid, particularly in the USA. Nothing will change in the behavior of editors. On the other hand, I hate the ridiculous self-pity of cartoonists which is shown in many cartoons about the so-called Muhammad cartoon controversy.”

Monte Wolverton, Nationally Syndicated:

”It’s understandable that editors wish to avoid offending readers and advertisers. At a time when economic safety nets are unraveling, what editor — or cartoonist in their right mind — wants to endanger their career, mortgage, retirement, savings and health insurance, much less provoke riots and evoke death-fatwas? The recent unrest will only reinforce that cautious mindset. But public discourse is not for the cautious, faint-hearted or easily offended. It is best served when issues are confronted boldly and head-on. Cartoonists facilitate that process by offering provocative metaphors to prime the pump of productive argument. Reasonable people understand how this works, but extremists and religious fundamentalists don’t.”

Yaakov Kirschen, The Jerusalem Post, Israel:

“Timid editors do indeed avoid ‘hard-hitting’ cartoons. Timid editors are also partially responsible for falling newspaper sales, because when newspapers choose to be ‘safe’ rather than exciting, provocative and thought-provoking they lose their appeal. And nothing is more exciting, provocative, and thought-provoking than a good political cartoon.”

Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah:

“The Muhammad brouhaha has probably strengthened my hand when it comes to arguing for printing a cartoon that the editors might find a little too edgy, especially those dealing with religion. The episode has opened the door on why religion is somehow exempt from criticism. Wasn’t that the whole point of The Enlightenment; that folks could speak back to religious authority?”

Mike Lane, Baltimore, Nationally Syndicated:

“Newspaper people I’ve known, editors included, were generally divided unevenly into two groups: pro and anti-cartoon. So why should we expect editors to even consider (printing) foreign cartoons of an inflammatory nature when many could not care less about comparatively benign, domestic cartoons, is a mystery to me. And if the Muslims are going to get worked up over cartoons of a guy who’s been dead for 1500 years when we’ve been drawing images of Jesus who preceded Muhammad by 600 or so years, I say, OK, it’s your way, not mine. So let’s have a separation of church/temple/mosque and the Fourth Estate. If we’re going to get exercised about what pictures our free press doesn’t print, I say it be over the photos of our dead and maimed young people returning from Iraq.”

Petar Pismetrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria:

“I have no idea why anyone needed such cartoons. I think the goal of cartoons is not to insult but to criticize, ape or comment on politics, society, etc. As if there weren’t enough sinners walking the earth (politicians, military leaders, etc.) that saints and religious idols needed to be attacked in cartoons. My only wish is that cartoons stop being misused by extremist organizations and elements, and that they are appreciated for what they should be: critical comment and a good joke.”

Olle Johansson, Norra Vasterbotten, Sweden:

“The upside to the incident with the Danish Muhammad cartoons is that I believe many editors will open their eyes to the immense power that is within the political cartoon. The downside is that at the same time many of them may unfortunately choose a more careful approach especially when it comes to international cartoons concerning people and/or cultures they don’t fully understand. But I choose to believe that this will strengthen the cartoon as journalistic instrument. And it has certainly brought back the nerve to this form of art.”

Riber Hansson, Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden:

”In Swedish children’s books you can find ‘the world’s strongest girl,’ Pippi Longstocking. She used to say: ‘If you are very, very strong you have to be very, very kind.’ A political cartoonist, supported by (a free press), will be very, very strong. You can immediately see the dilemma for an artist trying to follow Pippi’s advice; the political satirist’s basic tool is not exactly kindness … My personal policy as an editorial cartoonist is to (strike only at) power. Belief belongs to the private sphere, and I try to avoid religious subjects for that reason. I can’t guess what my reaction would have been if my courage as a cartoonist had been challenged, as it was with the Danish cartoonists by editors asking (them to) dare draw the Prophet Mohammad. Self-censorship is an emotive and provoking term for a political cartoonist, maybe for all artists. I hope I would have had the courage to say “no.” The political cartoon needs to be free, without any editorial finger over the cartoonists shoulder, pointing out the subject (matter).”

Patrick Chappatte, The International Herald-Tribune, Geneva:

“I’m bothered by the fact that in the Danish approach, Muhammad was not merely a cartoon character, but he was the very purpose of the cartoons. The idea was to represent him because he’s a forbidden figure. On the other side, those images have been misused by extremists to stir up anger and misunderstanding (by) the same extremists who take delight in anti-Semitic caricatures. The aim of political cartooning is not – should not be – in itself to hurt; it is to make a point. It can be a political, or a moral point. It can be funny or serious. In the process, it can hurt your feelings, your political beliefs or your religious principles – but this is a collateral damage. Muhammad is not a subject. Violent radical Islamists are a subject. Humiliation of the Palestinian people is a subject”.

Stephane Peray, The Nation, Thailand:

”I see several reactions in the newspapers that I regularly work with. … Emotions are running high and you have the feeling that the readers are not even taking time to understand the cartoon that they have already burst into some kind of irrational anger ( or is it fear? ) … So in this kind of atmosphere, I can understand editors not taking risks … the biggest hypocrisy is to keep defending ‘Freedom of Press’ like it was the latest highest value the West has invented when in reality – the Power of Money is higher than the ‘Freedom of the Press,’ so how can we really defend it as ‘value?’”

Vince O’Farrell, The Illawarra Mercury, Australia:

“… to deliberately antagonize the Muslim community especially in the context of broader world events was an irresponsible exercise in abuse of freedom of the press. The response from the rampaging fanatical zealots was just as stupid and pathetic. Who’d want to be the head of the Islamic Public Relations Bureau? Now there’s a 24/7 job. In almost 30 years of newspaper cartooning I could probably count the number of times I’ve had a definite ‘NO’ from an editor to a cartoon on one hand. … As newspaper publishing the world over is increasingly driven by the bottom line, cartoonists in general will have to expect that those ‘hard-hitting’ cartoons, especially the ones that go after the corporate juggernauts etc. will more and more be assigned to the waste paper or ‘too hard basket.’”

Note to editors:

This column is a great opportunity to show a round-up of cartoons about the Muhammad cartoons, with comments by each of the cartoonists. Cartoons by all of the cartoonists in this column are available on our download site at or you can contact cartoonist Brian Fairrington at [email protected] or (800) 983 7054 and Brian will help you find appropriate cartoons and e-mail the cartoons to you.