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In Memoriam 2021

It was hard to keep mortality too far from your thoughts in 2021. For all the pitiable anonymous deaths this miserable year brought us there seemed to be a surfeit of big-name passings as well. I culled through my digital files and found several applicable illustrations. This is not a selection of those I'd like to celebrate –– these are drawings I did over time for a variety of newsworthy reasons. I do greatly admire several of these men (sadly no Joan Didion, bel hooks, Cloris Leachman, etc. in the archives) and sort of detest a couple. Hope you can tell the difference.

The Bob Dole as a gnarled tree stump was from 1988 when his age (65, young today in the upper reaches of the Federal government with the likes of Biden, Pelosi, Sanders, Warren, etc.) was a bit of an issue when he ran and lost in the Republican presidential primary. Larry Flynt is from a panel of a comic strip I created for a class I taught on Creating Political Action Comics which highlighted the relative lowlife's contribution to Freedom of Expression. I presume we've all heard enough about the clown that follows.

Then Secretary of State Colin Powell is shown with his version of the perennial failed Middle East Peace Plan in 2002. Then House Majority Leader Harry Reid is seen trying to right the Affordable Care Act cart in 2009, a year before it eventually got through. The sketch of Stephen Sondheim was for a piece in the Wall Street Journal that was killed on the renaming of Broadway's Henry Miller's Theatre to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in 2009.

The last two represent very different orders of accomplishment, but both extraordinary in their own way. The departure of the great champion against apartheid leaves us with a sense of triumph, the brilliant actor, just regret.

Silver Linings Plague Book

Now What Media has just published its first ebook by L.K. Peterson and myself, a guide to being upbeat about Lockdown and fearless about Reopening. It's over 100 pages of fully-illustrated and very funny advice, reviews and comics in full color, perfect for your desktop, laptop, tablet or iPhone. It's available on Apple Books –– I'd suggest downloading the App first. Order Here

For more about the book, click here.

2020 Vision

One of the few Silver Linings of this Plague has been the relative lack of coverage of the Presidential race. The process is maddeninghly protracted and typically filled with endless clips of two candidates repeating the same lame lines in a deadening loop. And debates with all the intellectual heft of a steelcage match.

I know they provide economic stimulus –– would button makers, bunting manufacturers, or printers even exist without political contests? And I guess they're a boon to us lazy political cartoonists who get to trot out the shabby used scenery from previous productions. The truth is the decision could and should be made in a fortnight. Including ones as scarily consequential as the one coming up this November 3rd.

So vote early and often and enjoy these campaign poseurs.
Vice President Joe Biden like a worker in the 1930s in the style of a WPA painting.Vice President Joe Bideon with his foot in his mouth.Joe Biden placcing his finger into the enormous barrel of a gun.Candidate Joe Biden in a face mask blindly leading four Democratic donkeys with face masks over their eyes.President Trump's head as a giant stone being tipped over to reveal White Supremacy symbols like worms in dirt below.President Trump as small petulant child in suit with shorts having a fit surrounded by adult advisors.Donald Trump as the Man of Steel trying unsuccessfully to lift a girder, satirizing his tariff policy.In a spoof of The Witcher entitled The Twitterer, Trump is dressed like the main character wielding a sword with a smart phone at its end. The message emananting from it reads 'Witch Hunt!'

In Memoriam 2019

As the year and the decade both come to an end I'm looking back through my files for portraits of some of the famous and infamous who passed on in 2019. I turned up several high-profile figures in and around the world of politics that have legacies ranging from the mixed to the murderous.

The Supreme Court's former left-leaning Justice John Paul Stevens is the most admirable of the bunch, but I chose an editorial illustation in which he's seen grappling with his ideological opposite, the lightly-lamented Antonin Scalia. I was often entertained by shock-jock Don Imus in his heyday, but he hung on too long and what had been edgy un-PC satire soured into ugly prejudice. And how can any caricaturist be too mad at crackpot H. Ross Perot who was a walking, talking cartoon? Biographer Edmund Morris helped mythologize Ronald Reagan's life and presidency which is unfortunate, and, possibly, unforgiveable.

The foreign trio peaks with France's conservative Chirac whose dependably haughty demeanor masked less-than-formidable political skills that only seemed palatable when compared to the right-wing lunacy of Jean-Marie Le Pen who he narrowly beat when running for President in 2002. At least he didn't face chages while in the Élysée Palace –– his two-year suspended prison sentence for corruption related to his earlier stint as Paris mayor.

Mohamed Morsi of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood rose to the Presidency of Egypt by democratic means and, in the process, really rankled the generals who actually rule. They outrankled him and tossed him in prison after a year in office. His health declined and he expired. Sad, but vaguely inspirational in terms of elected lawbreakers.

And then there's Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi of the uniquely brutal ISIS regime who, we are told by a very unreliable source, went to his nasty death at the hands of U.S. troops "whimpering, screaming and crying." Kind of like the twenty-teens.

Here's to a better decade to come.

Critic's Corner Podcast

I've been illustrating the short, but sour film reviews of E. Basil St. Blaise since 2008 in Now What Media's The Critic's Corner (along with Randy Jones up until 2016.) Now the curmudgeonly critic has begun podcasting his poison capsule reviews in the imaginatively entitled The Critic's Corner Podcast.

St. Blaise describes himself as 'your Cassandra of film criticism, providing early warnings for the Cinematic calamities to come.' His nasty notices can be dark, but he certainly makes me laugh. Check out the podcast and buy the two collections of his reviews with the widgets in the column to the right.

And here are a few of my takes on recent movies.
Renee Zellweger in a spoof of the film Judy with the Tin Man with his fingers in his ears

Cate Blanchett in a spoof of Where'd You Go, Bernadette boring a penguin about to commit seppuku

Chris Hewsworth & Tessa Thompson & Pawny neuralyzing themselves in a spoof of Men In Black International
Will Smith as the Genie in a spoof of Aladdin emerging from the lava lamp of the animated Genie from the original

Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton & Eva Green huddle under an unbrella as the little elphant takes flight in a spoof of Dumbo

Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell appear as Batman and the Joker in a spoof of Vice

Create Political Comics

My course Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Comics runs on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 beginning September 18 at the School of Visual Arts Continuing Education. The class will feature short lectures on political cartoons and Freedom of Expression, before guiding students through the process of creating their own comics. Here's SVA's listing.
Caricature of Boss Tweed from a promotion for the SVA Continuing Ed course Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Action Comics

POV Comics

We're living in politically fractious times when everyone's struggling to get their opinions heard. How about getting them seen and read by visualizing your point of view in compelling comics?

My course Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Comics is again being offered this fall by the School of Visual Arts Continuing Education. It begins on Wednesday, September 18th at 6:30 pm –– here's the listing. The class will highlight some great political cartoons and intense controversies, before guiding students through the creation of their own pointed comics.

Here are two panels from the accompanying strip that I created for the class (see more in previous posts) –– it deals with the fallout from religious satire, one of the hot topics we'll be exploring.


With the 75th Anniversary of D-Day getting the media attention it richly deserves, I dug up these illustrations of the two great Allied leaders that I did for the Wall Street Journal. The first was about the cottage publishing industry that had grown up to praise, and lightly pillory, Winston Churchill. The second was a drawing of FDR for an editorial by Peggy Noonan. She tended to be fond of invoking Roosevelt to compare him with modern leaders, usually to their disadvantage. In this case, it was Obama in his shadow. I suppose it worked as a metaphor because Ms. Noonan won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2017, a year that included some columns that I was fortunate enough to illustrate.

My father served in the army during WWII, and was lucky enough to avoid combat as a Technical Sergeant who followed the troops, working on early calculators to provide payroll. These rudimentary business machines were the forerunners of the modern computer, and his experience led directly to a career as a programmer in cyber prehistory. It was one of countless ways that this conflict remade the world. They also serve who only sit and tabulate. A sincere salute to all who sacrificed what they could.

Dead Parody Joke

My course Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Comics at the School of Visual Arts begins on Wednesday, June 25th at 7pm –– here's the listing. The first half of the class will highlight some great political cartoons and their attendant controversies, before guiding students through the creation of their own pointed political comics.

Here's another page from the accompanying strip that I created for the class (see more in previous posts) –– it illustrates the differences between parody and satire in the eyes of the law. Both brands of humor are frequent targets in the culture wars.

In Like Flynt

My course Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Comics will be offered again at the School of Visual Arts this Summer beginning June 5 on Wednesdays at 7pm –– here's the listing. In conjunction with the curriculum that's designed to guide students through creating comics that reflect their own unique political perspectives, I put together a comic strip that touches on some of the subjects that are unavoidable when you're depicting contoversial topics. Here's another page that highlights some of the key First Amendment court battles, and the likely and unlikely heroes of that struggle.

I'll be at SVA's table H250 at MoCCA on Sunday, April 7 from 12 noon to 1 pm to discuss my course. Please stop by.

In Memoriam 2018

The ubiquitous self-congratulatory awards show celebrating the artistic achievements of the previous year always seems to come with an In Memoriam tribute. Reflecting on the notable deaths of 2018 had me rummaging through my files for some appropriate work. I'd already posted images below for the passing of Kofi Annan, John McCain and George HW Bush, but found additional, more elaborate, illustrations and include them here. There's also a George and Barbara twofer from when they left the White House after the loss to Bill Clinton in 1992 –– it's valedictory nature seemed particularly apt. Along with a Tom Wolfe and an Anthony Bourdain excerpted from larger groupings with peers both real and idealized. Plus a straightforward portrait of Stan the Man who departed for the furthest reaches of the MCU.

I was a little surprised that I coudn't find an Aretha Franklin or a Burt Reynolds –– it feels like I must have drawn a face that I'd seen so many times. So imagine Yo Yo Ma solemnly backing Josh Groban as he warbles Tears in Heaven and shed a tear.

Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Action Comics

My new course for the School of Visual Arts entitled Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Action Comics is scheduled to begin January 30, 2019. Here's a link.

The aim of the course is to guide students through the process of expressing their strongest political views in sequential form. Class time will include concise lectures on the history of political illustration and some of the controveries artists have had to face. The bulk of the schedule will be filled with sketching and sharing smart ideas that will culminate in a final project of a multi-page comic strip. Learning to translate concepts into visual metaphors will be the ultimate goal, a skill essential to all forms of illustration and cartooning.

The book Inx: Battle Lines will serve as a source of inspiration for the kind of creative thinking that makes graphic satire pop. There's more about the course in a post below.

Follow my work in the New Year at Cheers!

A Thousand Pointless Lights

The laudatory tone of the reporting in the wake of the death of George HW Bush is probably due in equal measure to his long and mostly graceful post-Presidency as it is to the sorry example set by the current occupant of that office. It's increasingly easy to portray pre-2016 American history nostalgically when contrasted with the meanness and chaos of the day. Bush displayed a well-earned self-effacement when he regularly showed up in the news portrayed as a devoted husband and patriarch, but any examination of his political legacy would reveal a record of mediocrity at best, mendacity at worst.

He was the quintessential Country Club Republican straight outta' New Haven whose wildcatting days in the Texas oilfields did little to scuff his well-polished Oxfords or provide much empathy for those less prosperous. He had an illustrious war record and a dedication to public service, but his strategic embrace of Ronald Reagan exposed his ideological emptiness. Reagnism was the first full flowering of the rightwing war on the New Deal and those less fortunate who were felt to have unfairly benefited from…well, fairness.

As the Gipper's successor he seemed to stand for absolutely nothing except a fading status quo and the repeal of the inheritance tax. Meanwhile, simmering racism was exploited to cultivate the non-millionaires his shrinking party would need to extend their power. His 1988 campaign featured the infamous Willy Horton ad and he made a mockery of affirmative action by giving the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. Of course he would have been horrified by Trump's crudeness and ill manners, but the Reaganism he championed laid the foundation for virtualy every brutal idea that animates the so-called base today. And then there was his son.

Here are three drawings I did of Poppy during his reign. In the first he's putting away some of the toys in his war chest after helpfully signing the second of two disarmament pacts with Moscow. It features a controlled toothbrush splatter technique which creates a texture I still like. The second sends up his ambition to be known as the 'education president.' Finally the Invisible Man reveals his insubstantiality as a leader. I believe we should honor those who have served in the White House when they pass away out of a sense of institutional respect, but the judgment of history is one burden of the office that sadly survives them.

Battle Lines Drawn

I've put together a class at the School of Visual Arts called Battle Lines Drawn: Creating Political Action Comics, a title that is hopefully both a bit clever and self-explanantory. Here's a link to the Spring 2019 Class.

Crafting the curriculum for this has been a fascinating exercise as I'm combining concise lectures on the history of political cartooning and the societal pressures that have been brought to bear on it, along with instruction that will guide students through the creation of their own political comics. I've learned a lot by revisiting the masters and the controversies that have surrounded the form, and feel fired up about promoting this pure, but challenging expression of our First Amendment rights. Following a promo below are the first two pages from a strip I've done that encapsulates some of the origin story and the emerging themes that current day practitioners still grapple with.

Village Voice RIP

One of the first art directors I showed my portfolio to after graduating Parsons School of Design was George Delmerico at The Village Voice. My stuff was raw and angry and a
good fit for the ugly mood in New York in the 80s with a plague spreading through the city and Reagan in the White House. I was a regular throughout the decade contributing illustrations on politics, culture and entertainment. It was a time when even the frugal Voice would buy me two tickets to a Broadway musical (the eccentric, but compelling The Gospel at Colonnus) as research for a job. Subsequent supportive and smart art directors included Michael Grossman and Wes Anderson along with committed assistants like Melanie Pitts and Jennifer Gilman.

Roughly a year after suspending the paper's print edition, and sixty-three years after its debut, the publishers have finally pulled the plug. In its day it was an essential journal particularly for fringe downtown populations that have increasingly moved into the mainstream. Nostalgia is cheap, but it was a time that saw an embrace of expressionism and a punkish attitude in illustration which definitely shaped my work, so allow me a philosophical sigh.

Below are a few pieces I did over the years. The first is about terrorists manipulating their hostages, and was done in pen and ink with fairly dense washes that were suitably noirish when printed on the pulpy page. The third one was done in a similar technique and accompanied a review of Warehouse: Songs and Stories, an album by Husker Dü.

The other two are pen and ink drawings –– the first a phallic bust of French philosopher Michel Foucault (with some Zipatone leaves), the last a nuclear scarecrow in the stick-like form of Nancy Reagan (with some gouache and grease pencil.)

Lowering McCain

In salute to John McCain, here's an image from Despite his many flaws, McCain easily towered over the current crop of legislators crawling around the Capitol. He obviously tried to embody his own best notion of what it was to be a patriot and he had both an awareness of history and a biting sense of humor. One could, and did, disagree with his political views, but it wasn't hard to grant him a sense of respect.

Until 2008, that is, when his choice of a profoundly unqualified running mate in the presidential race severely dinked his reputation. The other two illustrations below date from that campaign, and respectfully avoid depicting she-who-must-not-be-named. His magnificent thumbs-down on the Senate Obamacare vote last year went a long way to restoring his image as a principled maverick. The notion rarely crossed my mind during his thirty-five years in Congress, but he will be sorely missed.

Oh, and this parody 2008 Campaign Ad.

Kofi Break

The death of Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations on August 18, had me looking back through the numerous strips I did for the Earth Times during his tenure. Entitled Kozmology, it focused on global development and the machinations of the typically well-intentioned, but often inept UN, and ran for more than ten years with the kind support of publisher and editor Pranay Gupte.

Despite the organization's noble aims, my focus was on satirizing the bloat, naivete and cynicism endemic to such an unwieldy bureaucracy. Annan was appointed at a time of regional conflicts that saw the expansion of peace-keeping operations to unprecedented levels. Genocidal failures in places like Kosovo and Rwanda dogged his reputation after he was elected in 1997. His predecessor, the dour Boutros Boutros-Ghali (the diplomat so nice they named him twice), failed to win reelection, and the charming Annan was greeted as a reformer. He was the last high-profile Secretary General –– a low-key, but charismatic leader who served a decade.

The catastrophe of 9/11 combined with the disaster that was the Bush Administration and its response to the attack had the effect of ultimately marginalizing the UN. Despite Annan's best efforts, he could not dissuade Cheney, Wolfowitz et al. from invading Iraq –– which he acknowledged as his biggest regret. Ban Ki-moon, who followed him in office, left far less of an impression, and I doubt few Americans could name the current boss, António Guterres.

I've included a few panels below from 2001. The first was published a month after 9/11 when it was difficult to know what tone to strike as many insisted the tragedy would mark the death of irony. Irony rose like a Phoenix. Shashi Tharoor was Annan's Director of Communications and an Indian politician whose post-UN career has been marked by a bizarre scandal involving his wife's death.

The second three-panel sequence introduced a two-pager about Annan's winning the Nobel Prize that same year. Here he is informed by spokesman Fred Eckhardt that he would have to share the honor with the whole, big messy family. The third is a single-panel strip on a scandal in 2005 that involved unaccounted funds and a payout to his son.

Despite the bite of these drawings, I did admire Kofi Annan, and I believe the recent dimunition of the institution he tried to remake is not a good thing for the US or the world. I was lucky enough to meet him at a UN function and was pleased that he was aware of the strip and took the ribbing good-naturedly. His only request was that I make him 'more pretty.' Another reasonable appeal from a decent man that would go unheeded.

Nast Appeal

It's fun to do an out-and-out parody at times, and who better to most sincerely flatter through imitation than the Granddaddy of Political Cartoons, Thomas Nast. His devastating series of takedowns of Tammany Hall's Boss Tweed was widely credited with aiding in that crook's ouster in 1870s New York City. One can only dream…

We're using these as promotional images for the funny new book Trump Tweets Alt-American History that L.K. Peterson and I collaborated on. Buy it on Amazon.


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