Arts Desk

The State of the Union for D.C. Newspaper Cartoonists

comics_big comics_shrink

D.C. newspapers have devoted less space to comics in recent years.

Ladies and gentleman,

As we take stock of this great nation of ours, it is evident that one group is suffering—a surprising group given its mission. Cartoonists are under siege in this great capital of ours.

If we examine who was appearing in our newspapers in May 2007, the last date we have statistics for, we find a relatively thriving local market. A look at January 2010 shows a much-diminished field.

Using an unscientific scale of one point per cartoonist and one per syndicated page of comics, let's take a look at both dates.

MAY 2007

Washington Post (15 points)

  • Tom Toles: editorial cartoonist (semi-daily)
  • Richard Thompson: Richard’s Poor Almanac (Saturdays); Cul de Sac strip (Sunday’s Magazine), illustrations for Joel Achenbach’s "Rough Draft" column (Sunday’s Magazine) (three points)
  • Rob Shepperson, Tim Grajek: illustrations for Sunday's Business section (.5 points)
  • Nick Galifianakis: cartoons for Carolyn Hax's "Tell Me About It" advice column
  • Bob Staake: cartoons for "Style Invitational" contest (Sunday Saturday)
  • Patrick M. Reynolds: Flashback comic strip; unique Washington version (Sunday comics)
  • Eric Shansby: illustrations for Gene Weingarten’s "Below the Beltway" column (Sunday’s Magazine)
  • Christopher Gash, Christoph Niemann: spot illos, especially on Sunday
  • Michael Cavna: editorial cartoons in Arts section, extremely irregularly (.5 points)
  • Julie Zhu: Montgomery Blair High School student cartoonist for "Extra Credit" column in local Extra sections
  • Saturday box of syndicated editorial cartoons
  • Turkish cartoonist Selcuk Demirel illustrations in Book World, semi-regularly
  • Two pages of syndicated comic strips
  • Two Sunday sections of comic strips

Washington Times (four points)

  • Bill Garner: editorial cartoonist
  • Joseph Szadkowski: "Zadzooks" column on comic books (Saturday)
  • Large array of editorial cartoons and illustrations every day
  • One page of syndicated comic strips

Washington Examiner (daily, except Sundays) (one point; had already dropped three pages of comic strips by this date)

  • Nate Beeler: editorial cartoonist (semi-daily); alternates with syndicated cartoonists.

Washington City Paper (Friday-only paper) (seven points)

  • Shawn Belschwender: "News of the Weird" column illustrator, unique to WCP
  • Ben Claasen III: Dirtfarm comic strip, unique to WCP; advertising illustrations
  • Joe Sayers: thingpart comic strip
  • Slug Signorino: "The Straight Dope" syndicated column illustrator
  • Robert Ullman: "Savage Love" column illustrator, unique to WCP
  • Max Kornell, Josh Neufeld: article illustrations
  • Syndicated comic strips: The City by Derf, Red Meat by Max Cannon, Ernie Pook’s Comeek by Lynda Barry, and Lulu Eightball by Emily Flake. (Ted Rall was dropped earlier in 2007)

Express (two points)

  • Eric Reece: illustration for Baggage Check advice column (Tuesday)
  • Six syndicated comic strips

Washington Blade (two points—one for editorial and one for strips)

  • No regular cartoonist. Runs one syndicated editorial cartoon and six syndicated strips— Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, Jane’s World by Paige Braddock (2002 strips), Chelsea Boys by Glen Hanson and Allan Neuwirth, Troy by Michael Derry, Kyle’s Bed & Breakfast by Greg Fox, and Adam & Andy by James Asal.

The Hill (one point)

  • Chris Weyant: editorial cartoonist for Weyant’s World.

The Politico (two points—they run cartoons on the front page)

  • Matt Wuerker: editorial cartoons, column-heading caricatures, maps.

The Onion (national, not local content) (2 points)

  • Sean Kelly: fictional editorial cartoonist; actually by Ward Sutton;
  • Syndicated strips: Postage Stamp Funnies by Shannon Wheeler, The Leftersons by Colin T. Hayes, Wondermark by David Malki, The Spats, Cathy by Cathy Guisewhite (in Spanish) and Red Meat by Max Cannon

Total: 35 points

**

JANUARY 2010

Washington Post (12.66 points)

  • Ann Telnaes: animated editorial cartoons on Web site) (one point)
  • Tom Toles: editorial cartoonist (semi-daily) (one point)
  • Richard Thompson: Richard’s Poor Almanac (Saturdays); "Cul de Sac" strip (Sunday’s Style section, only in color sometimes) (down to 1.5 points from three—we've not seen RPA this year)
  • Rob Shepperson, Tim Grajek: Gone? (zero points)
  • Nick Galifianakis: cartoons for Carolyn Hax's "Tell Me About It" advice column (one point)
  • Bob Staake: cartoons for "Style Invitational" contest (Sunday Saturday) (one point)
  • Patrick M. Reynolds: Flashback comic strip; unique Washington version (Sunday comics) (one point)
  • Eric Shansby: illustrations for Gene Weingarten’s "Below the Beltway" column (Sunday Magazine) (one point)
  • Christopher Gash, Christopher Niemann: spot illos especially on Sunday (one point)
  • Michael Cavna: blogging at "Comics Riffs" (one point)
  • Julie Zhu: Montgomery Blair High School student cartoonist for "Extra Credit" column in local Extra sections (one point)
  • Saturday box of syndicated editorial cartoons (one point)
  • Cartoonists in Book World: section dropped (zero points)
  • Two pages of syndicated comic strips, drastically reduced in size (.66 points)
  • One Sunday sections of comic strips (.5 points)

Washington Times (one point)

Washington Examiner (daily, except Saturdays) (one point)

Washington City Paper (Friday-only paper) (3.5 points)

  • Slug Signorino – "The Straight Dope" column illustrator
  • Ben Claasen III – "Dirtfarm" comic strip, unique to WCP; advertising illustrations
  • Occasional illustrators such as Robert Ullman for articles
  • Rhode’s comics articles (one point)

Express (1.33 points)

  • Ben Claasen III: illustration for "Baggage Check" advice column (Tuesday)
  • Two syndicated comic strips (Pearls Before Swine, Pooch Cafe).

Washington Blade (zero points): out of business

The Hill (one point)

The Politico (two points— they still run him on the front page)

The Onion (national, not local content) (.166 points)

  • "Sean Kelly” editorial cartoonist (missing for all of January 2010);
  • Syndicated strips: Red Meat by Max Cannon (loss of five other strips).

Total: 22.656 points

We are only 65 percent as good as 2007. In just two short years, we have lost an astounding 35 percent of our weekly comics content. While we have gained the regular cartoons of Ms. Telnaes and the blog of Mr. Cavna, that has not been enough to offset the drastic losses we have suffered. This cannot stand, and this shall not stand. I am immediately proposing a Works Progress Administration-type stimulus package to keep our nation's cartoonists dutifully employed in keeping our citizens entertained. Thank you and good night.

Above: Photoshop wizardry by William Atwood Mitchell

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  • Mike Rhode

    And I apologize to anyone I may have inadvertently left out. Let me know if I did.

  • Cathy

    Considering the size of comic strips in the Post, perhaps they really don't want us to read them. I do not always have a magnifying glass handy.

  • Mike Rhode

    Nate Beeler's written in with corrections:

    "I just wanted to point out that The Examiner has been running a full page of editorial cartoons on Sundays for a while now — maybe two years. It’s the page that includes my pick of the week with the little paragraph accompaniment.

    Also — I don’t know if you saw this — we’re going to be running some cartoonists from Creators now. For sure Mike Ramirez, but I’m not sure about who else. I just know that we’re going to have access to a bunch of syndicated content starting in February."

    And actually, they've already been running syndicated material from Daryl Cagle's syndicate too, on days when Nate's not doing his cartoon - I should have allocated them another 2 points - 1 for the Sunday page and 1 for using syndicate material when original cartoons weren't available. And actually for 1/2 of 2009, they ran a full-color caricature by Nate as the cover of their Sunday tabloid - another .5 point for trying!

  • Mike Rhode

    Another correction! From Pat M: The Style Invitational runs Saturdays in The Post, not Sundays.

    I still don't know how to edit posts, but perhaps editor Jon will correct this for me?

  • http://richardspooralmanac.blogspot.com/ Richard Thompson

    It's enough to make a grown man blubber like an infant.

  • Pingback: Rhode: D.C. comics 65 percent as good as 2007 » The Daily Cartoonist

  • Derf Backderf

    Is this a joke?

    Exactly two years ago, almost to the day, the DC City Paper issued an ultimatum that all ten or so strips, including mine, that ran in the paper would be dumped, unless City Paper could run them for free. This under orders from the beancounters at Creative Loafing Inc. And just like that the City Paper went from one of the best comics papers to one of the worst.

    If cartoonists are indeed "under siege", your paper is the one that fired the first volley!

  • http://washingtonpost.com/comicriffs Michael Cavna

    And what of these papers' Web sites [where relevant]? I've said it before, but O, how I'd love to see DC papers pick up more syndicated online comics *and* webcomics.

  • http://washingtonpost.com/comicriffs Michael Cavna

    ** [MORE] and i of course meant: "And what of these papers'..." [plural possessive] Typos like that are enough to make me blubber. (Perhaps "editor Jon" can fix my flying-fingers typo, too?)

  • http://comicsdc.blogspot.com Mike Rhode

    To Derf, you are absolutely correct. That's why the WCP had 7 points 2 years ago and barely 3.5 now (really 2.5 if you take away the point I gave them for hiring me). If you click on my first posting at http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/books/2010/01/19/in-the-esophagus-of-the-beast-introducing-comics-blogger-mike-rhode/, you can see that I was surprised to be writing for them since I gave the WCP a hard time back then when they dumped all their strips.

    To Michael, the problem with including website comic strips is well... who cares if they're on the Post's site or the Express' site? If you can get them anywhere on the Internet, why go to the Post and struggle through its crappy interface? I only listed webcontent when it was unique to a site, like Ann Telnaes' webcartoons for the Post and your blog.

  • http://comicsdc.blogspot.com Mike Rhode

    BTW, Derf's strip is called The City and is excellent. He attends the Small Press Expo every few years.

  • http://comicsdc.blogspot.com Mike Rhode

    "Arrrgh!" as Charlie Brown would say. I also forgot the Sunday Post Magazine's Our Town. Of course, the Post appears to as well as it's almost impossible to find on their website. Here's the most recent example - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/magazine/our-town/013110/

    We won't change the score though because we'll add 1 point for Our Town and deduct 1 point for their shameful treatment of Cul de Sac, including running it in b&w this past weekend.

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