Editorial cartoonist and satirist Daryl Cagle spoke to a packed room Wednesday morning on the importance of expression through cartooning and on the inner workings of the cartooning business.
Cagle originally did art for “The Muppets” before eventually founding his own cartoon syndicate, Cagle Cartoons. As his works appeared on the room’s projector screen, Cagle said it is a difficult time for cartoonists, especially after the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
On Jan. 5, two gunmen stormed the satirical publication’s office, murdered 11 staff members and went on a rampage across Paris before French police stopped them.
“Cartooning shouldn’t be a dangerous business, it should be a provocative thing to do,” Cagle said. “We should make people mad but it shouldn’t make people want to kill us. The world is a different and scary place for us now and I regret that.”
Cagle said editors also make cartoonists’ jobs more frustrating today because American newspaper editors are too timid compared to editors in other countries. Because of this, editors pick what Cagle called “timid cartoons” to appear in their newspapers.
“They don’t want to get angry letters to the editor, they don’t want to do things in the newspaper that people might threaten to cancel their subscription. It’s a difference between American cartoons and cartoons around the world, which tend to be much more provocative than ours,” he said.
The editorial cartoon business is competitive enough without this added stress, said Cagle.
Newspapers subscribe to multiple syndicates, or “packages,” like Cagle Cartoons. Cagle’s syndicate alone has 850 newspaper subscribers. A package is the name for the cartoonists who all work in one syndicate.
From there, a newspaper picks which individual cartoons it’s going to run from its various subscriptions.
“An editor will have his assistant pick maybe 20 cartoons for the day and spread them out on a table. The editor will say ‘I like that one and I like that one,’ so I have to compete with all the other cartoonists to be in the newspaper every day. I don’t know if a newspaper is going to print my cartoons and neither do any other editorial cartoonists,” said Cagle.
Despite the challenges and competition of the business, Cagle said cartoons remain a way for people to express their views in not so many words.
“Cartoons are a kind of poetry,” he said. “If you can put across your idea effectively without using words or using as few words as possible, that’s the goal.”