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Posted at 1:10 PM ET, 04/17/2010

Fischetti-winning Steve Breen: Awards 'mean more than ever' in tough times

By Michael Cavna


It's been a busy week for cartooning awards -- and not just because Mark Fiore won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning; two other comic-strip writers also garned Pulitzers; and Politico's Mark Wuerker picked up the Herblock Prize.

Also in recent days, the San Diego Union-Tribune's STEVE BREEN won the John Fischetti Award for his cartoon about the use of Twitter during last year's controversial Iranian elections.

Steve Breen.

"It's really nice, especially in this day and age," Breen, a two-time Pulitzer winner, tells Comic Riffs. "They mean more than ever with the way the business is going."

"I don't believe they provide the security they once did, but I certainly think they are a measure in an employer's eyes of the value of someone. Not THE measure of someone -- nor should they be -- but they are A measure," continues Breen, who has been with the Union-Tribune for about a decade. New owner Platinum Equity acquired the Union-Tribune a year ago from the Copley Press; and the Union-Tribune named its new editor, Jeff Light, in February.

Despite disappearing staff positions for newspaper political cartoonists, Breen believes in the enduring power of the political cartoon. "It's not the force it once was, but it's still part of the mix," says Breen, who won his second Pulitzer last year. "It still contributes to the general discussion. Now it's just a 600-pound gorilla instead an 800-pound one."

Speaking of changes in editorial cartooning, Breen was pleased to see Fiore -- a self-syndicated political animator who submitted exclusively online content -- get the Pulitzer this week. "I was very happy to see him win. He spoke one year at the AAEC [Association of American Editorial Cartoonists] convention and showed how he did his animations. I remember thinking: There's no way I can do one of those, in terms of the technical demands and the writing. I still feel that way."

As for whether the Pulitzers should judge animated work and print cartoons separately, Breen said: "I still want there to be one category that includes both static cartoons and animations. Whoever does the best work that year, no matter the format, should get the award."

Breen also creates the comic strip "Grand Avenue" for United Media.

The Fischetti editorial cartoon competition is held by Columbia College Chicago and is named in honor of the Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist John Fischetti (1916-1980), who drew for the New York Herald Tribune, the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times.


Jen Sorensen

Alt-political cartoonist JEN SORENSEN this month won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism, as given by Hunter College.

Sorensen, whose cartoon is titled "Slowpoke Comics," tells Comic Riffs: "Winning the Aronson has been a thrill. Not only because good news has become something of a rare commodity for us cartoonists lately, but also because the past winners include so many talented people -- Jules Feiffer, Tom Tomorrow, Steve Brodner, Ted Rall, Kirk Anderson, Mark Fiore -- plus some of my favorite non-cartoonists, Molly Ivins and Paul Krugman.

"That's some humbling company!"


For 'Riffs, one of the best reasons to hand out awards hardware is to direct attention to newer, often below-the-radar creations. And one webcomic 'Riffs had honestly forgotten all about is "But You're Like Really Pretty: A Hump Day Treat."

The Ryan Casey webcomic comes to our renewed attention because "BYLRP" has just been nominated for a 2010 Webby Award for Personal Blog/Website. The single-panel comic is an oft-off-color take on celebrity culture. Think: If Perez Hilton could draw instead of just scribble over photos.

By Michael Cavna  | April 17, 2010; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists, The Political Cartoon, The Webcomic  | Tags:  James Aronson Award, Jen Sorensen, John Fischetti Award, Mark Fiore, Ryan Casey, Steve Breen, Webby awards, butyourelikerealllypretty  
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