Wandering Blindly Where No Man’s Gone Before…

Daryl Cagle, American editorial cartoonist and founder of the popular Daryl Cagle’s Professional Cartoonist Index writes some rather harsh truths about newspapers and cartoonists in his blog entry of 25.april.

Under the headline Newspapers and Cartoonists Wandering Blindly, he sets out a rather depressing assessment of what he sees as editors fanciful belief in the future newspapers online. No less naive are the cartoonists apparently, who desperately scramble to make animations in an attempt to make their product fit the new medium. Touché, perhaps…

Essentially I suggest you read the article. Daryl Cagle is no small-timer in the world of cartoon publishing. He himself runs a syndicate representing many of the artists featured on his page. So when he speaks, we should all listen, because he does speak with great authority when it comes to cartoons, internet and the combination of the two. It’s worth pointing out of course, that the situation specially with political cartooning is very different in America than it is here. This is particularly the case in relation to how work is sold and distributed through syndicates. But the arguments are still worth noting.

He’s correct about the differences in the way advertising revenue is distributed online, compared to traditional media. I’m not going to argue (much) with his assessment of how the Web audience works either, because I believe he probably has got a great deal more knowledge and hard numbers than me on that subject. As is the case on the subject of what he calls journalism 2.0; Circulating content that is created in other media while paying little or nothing for the content.

Indeed most of what Daryl Cagle puts forward is probably correct…
…right now!
But what he fails to do, it seems to me, is look ahead. He claims the cartoonist community is in a tizzy about the whole idea of animated editorial cartoons, but that it essentially is a futile exercise as there is no way it can be financially viable. Maybe so…
He doesn’t however mention Mark Fiore – a one-man syndication who sells his animation to a range of clients for a few hundred dollars a film (it was $300 in 2005 I think…). Then again, Fiore – as far as I know – is the only one who solely work in animation, so I guess that fact rather supports Cagle’s point

But as I said, Cagle fails to go look beyond the current.
Yes of course the cartoonist community is in a tizzy. And of course the newspapers are too! Just like radio broadcasters were when TV was introduced. Anything else would be abnormal when faced with the potential of the internet.
Cartoonists such as myself, are trying to get our heads around animation not because ink cartoons will cease to exist within the next few years. We are doing it because the opportunity is there, and it represents and exciting possibility to develop the artform.

He’s quite right that the money on offer at the moment never can justify a cartoonist working the amount of hours it takes to do a 45 sec cartoon. This shoudn’t nevertheless deter cartoonists from moving in that direction, I think.
The fact of the matter is that we are in the very early days of online newspapers. And as it has changed enormously in the last five years, it will probably change just as radically in the next five. The same is the case for the way advertising revenue online is made. It is quite possibly also the case for the web audience! It is certainly the case for the way newspapers will operate, with a greater link with online TV f.ex.
AND not least, the change also happens with the animation itself. Changes in computer software is making the production process quicker, easier and more efficient by the year.

At the moment we’re all rather pathetically testing the water, looking amateurish and borderline undignified in the process. What Daryl Cagle seems to be proposing though, is that we somehow turn back and don’t swim. It’s a sensible, but frightfully dull argument.

On an only mildly separate note, last weekend here in England, saw the launch of the Professional Cartoonists Organisation, the PCO.
Whilst most cartoonist associations are little more than dinner clubs (enjoyable no less) this one is meant to take an active role in promoting the use of cartoons in media and elsewhere. It’s an interesting idea, and when it all gets up and running it’ll be very interesting indeed to see what if anything it can achieve.
What would be useful would be if the coming together of cartoonists like this could lead to some kind of pressure on media organisations, for higher pay. As with illustration, the prices have been largely unchanged in the last 20 years. I somehow feel though, that with the aim of the organisation being to promote more use of cartoons, this will not be a huge priority.
The website will soon feature members’ portfolios as well as guidance, news and views.
Worth a visit again and again I’m sure, so note the name!

Hat-tip: Matt ‘Hack’ Buck and Alex Hughes.

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2 Responses to “Wandering Blindly Where No Man’s Gone Before…”

  1. Matt Davies joins the animating ranks... « poldraw Says:

    […] Davies joins the animating ranks… Despite Daryl Cagle’s doubts about animated political cartoons, he’s still made room on his page for a couple Matt […]

  2. The State of the (Political Cartoon) art... « poldraw Says:

    […] stumbled over a gem that should and must be shared. Particularly in light of recent discussions on this blog and elsewhere. Matt ‘Hack’ Buck has just added to the argument on his blog by the way, […]

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