The Political Cartoon: When Satire Misses a Twist
In Sunday's Style&Arts section of The Washington Post, we discuss the art of the political caricature with three Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonists: Steve Breen, Signe Wilkinson and Mike Luckovich. In the course of our interviewing Luckovich, he shared his thoughts on the recent New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazine covers on Obama and McCain, respectively, as an object lesson in how satire works -- or not-so-much:
MIKE LUCKOVICH:"The New Yorker cover didn't work to me. They took the untruths about the Obamas without the twist -- it missed a step. In order for satire to work, there's got to be a twist. I've talked about this with my cartoonist friends and we're all in agreement over this. That's why it generated so much controversy.
"Now, if they had drawn the 'hand' of a Republican elephant in the corner, as if a Republican were the cartoonist, there [would have been a twist]. Maybe they tried that or something else and it was too klunky, so they said, 'Well, let's just go with this.'
"Now the Vanity Fair cover doesn't work, too. McCain is [drawn as] sort of old and Cindy has the pills, but there's no twist there, either.
"The Obama cover wasn't over-the-top enough. It just took those untruths and depicted them. Part of the problem they had was that so many of those rumors are so over-the-top. How do you make something absurd even more absurd?"
Based on interviews with Luckovich and others, Comic Riffs will spend part of the week discussing the state of the American political cartoon, as newspapers cut back and there are fewer staff jobs to be found. What does the future look like for the art form that people from Thomas Nast to Herblock practiced with such profound influence? Will the Web prove a saving grace or 21st-century curse?
We invite your comments and questions about cartoon satire, the art of political caricature and your favorite editorial cartoonists, past or present.
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