Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Nate Beeler
Nate Beeler is an editorial cartoonist with amazing chops. His cartoons appear five times a week in the right-leaning Examiner chain of free newspapers, for whom he's worked since its launch in 2005. Prior to that, he worked for the Journal chain that the Examiner took over. His work could be seen in D.C. before that, though—he was the editorial cartoonist for American University's Eagle from 1998 to 2002. In 2008, the National Press Foundation gave Beeler the Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning, and he's also won the Charles M. Schulz Award and the John Locher Award. He's currently syndicated by the Cagle Cartoon Syndicate.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Nate Beeler: I’m the editorial cartoonist for the Washington Examiner.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
NB: July 30, 1980, in Columbus, Ohio.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
NB: I went to college at American University and just happened to find a newspaper job in the D.C. area after graduating in 2002, though, I was out of work and living with the 'rents in Columbus for nine months before returning. I submitted my resume and portfolio to nearly 50 newspapers across the country, looking for a cartooning, copy-editing, or page-design positions. The Journal newspapers hired me as a copy editor, and almost two years later the newspaper transformed into the Examiner with me as its editorial cartoonist.
We recently moved to Reston from being in Alexandria, just outside Old Town.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
NB: Reading comic books and newspapers, mostly. Of course, I had art classes from elementary school through high school, and I took some life-drawing electives at AU.
WCP: Who are your influences?
NB: Comic artists, like the original Image Comics creators. I was a big Marc Silvestri fan beginning his stint on Wolverine. And frankly, I have to give credit to Bart Sears, although isn’t that really giving credit to Burne Hogarth? I religiously read his feature in Wizard magazine on how to draw superheroes during the early- to mid-’90s. I also read comic strips, and my favorites there were Calvin and Hobbes, Outland, which was Berkeley Breathed's strip after Bloom County had ended, The Far Side, FoxTrot, and Sherman’s Lagoon. Granted, I was limited by what the Columbus Dispatch printed.
My first editorial cartooning influences were Pat Oliphant, Jeff MacNelly, and Tom Toles. As I delved more into editorial cartoons, I became enamored with Jim Borgman, Mike Ramirez, Matt Davies, Scott Stantis, Don Wright, and others. To this day, Oliphant and Borgman are my biggest influences.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
NB: Nothing. I’ve been incredibly lucky so far. All along the way I’ve had editors that believed in me and gave me chances to show that I could be a professional editorial cartoonist. While other newspapers have been canning cartoonists at the first sign of economic distress, the Examiner has given me more responsibility and real estate, both online and in print.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
NB: I wouldn’t say I’m best known for anything other than having a job as a cartoonist.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
NB: Probably my cartoons critical of President Obama from the past year. I was trained to be a journalist, not an ideologue, so I do believe in the notion that truth is best found by listening to a diverse array of viewpoints. Since Obama took office, it seems like a lot of editorial cartoonists forgot they were members of the Fourth Estate. It’s our job to go after the people in power, but I still saw cartoon after cartoon bashing Republicans when the Democrats had the White House and a supermajority in Congress. Cartoonists are supposed to be the class clowns, not the teacher’s pets.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
NB: It’s hard for me to look too far into the future when I still have so much to learn about editorial cartooning. I think it would be nice to publish a collection of cartoons eventually. I drew a couple comic strips during college, but the itch to do that again isn’t there for me right now.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
NB: I trace Tom Toles’ or Matt Wuerker’s cartoons.
Seriously, I usually just read more news stories and walk around the block a few hundred times until something somewhat resembling a decent idea hits me.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
NB: Everyone will be doing color cartoons, and if the technology makes it less time-intensive, animation will likely be more prevalent.
WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?
NB: The atmosphere that makes you feel that what you’re doing is important.
WCP: Least favorite?
NB: Also the atmosphere that makes you feel that what you’re doing is important. It’s a double-edged sword. It breeds the self-righteousness that people outside the Beltway despise.
Oh, and traffic.
WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?
NB: I love the National Portrait Gallery. It frustrated me to no end that it closed for six years shortly after when I first arrived in D.C. My favorite monument is probably the Korean War Veteran Memorial . It’s such a beautiful and haunting sight after dark when the statues’ faces are lit from below. Of all the monuments in D.C., I think its design is the most creative and dynamic.
WCP: Do you have a Web site or blog?