John Deering, Editorial Cartoonist and Creator of Strange Brew

22 March 2002

    John Deering has cartooned since he was a three year old boy. His childhood was spent in an inspired household, filled with unusual activity. The Deering family lived in an apartment, right in a Fire Station/Police Station in the northwest end of Little Rock, Arkansas. (His father was the Fire Chief/City Comptroller.) The excitement of fire emergencies, police business and politics helped sharpen the young man's eye for a good laugh.

   By the second grade, John's teacher was complaining to his parents about his lack of concentration in anything but drawing. When John reached junior high, he drew caricatures of school staff, including the principal. And he was getting paid for his efforts.

    Two years at the University of Arkansas provided John with skills in commercial and fine art. In 1981, he took a job in the advertising layout department of the Arkansas Democrat, the Little Rock newspaper. It was the perfect place to hone his training and cultivate his developing talents. John's first tasks were charts, maps and some editorial illustration work. His mentor was the Arkansas Democrat's own editorial cartoonist, Jon Kennedy.

    In just a few short months, John was asked to submit cartoons to the newspaper's Op-Ed page. He said he "quickly learned the power of editorial cartoons when the phones started ringing."*(1) He also earned ecognition for his creations.

    John received his first award for Best Editorial Cartoonist from the Arkansas Press Association in 1983 The award brought him to the attention of the Editorial Page editor and earned him a slot on Saturday and Monday pages along with his Op Ed work.

    In 1988, Jon Kennedy retired. John Deering was chosen as the Arkansas Democrat editorial cartoonist. With no shortage of funny local and national news to spoof, his career blossomed. John won the John Fischetti Cartoon Competition Award from Columbia College, Ohio, 1994. The Arkansas Press Association's Best Editorial Cartoonist Award was given to John six (yes, that is SIX) more times. In 1997, he won the distinguished Berryman Award from the National Press Foundation.

    Creators Syndicate member John Newcombe was in attendance at the Berryman Awards dinner. He asked John to submit his editorial cartoons for consideration. John Deering received a contract for syndication almost in a wink.

   Though the scope of his editorial cartooning is widely varied, John has more to say. He created a new cartoon panel, Strange Brew. It is an outlet for his humour that doesn't fit into the editorial cartoon scheme. "In Strange Brew, everything's fair game. I get to cut loose and draw anything," said Deering in the Creators Syndicate biography. *(2) He was offered, and accepted, a second syndication contract within months of receiving the first contract.

    John Deering is serious about his cartoon work, with a focus on the art in addition to the hilarious message. Of one of his favourite panels, he said, "... I try to use black areas, texture and line work to set the drawing off, and for me, a love of drawing is what it's all about."*(1)

Strange Brew


    To ease the pressure of creating two syndicated cartoons, John gets a little help from family and his co-worker. His wife Kathy provides ideas and colour-keys the Sundays and his daughter Liz does some inking. Vic Harville, of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, is his cartoon quality-control inspector and morale booster. (The Deering family also includes two sons.)

    Strange Brew is sparked by the antics of the Deerings, their pets (Suzie, the dog and Trixie, the cat), famous people, and even God. Deering is not alone in using religion as a playful springboard. Take a quick look at the comics pages. God inspires a lot of humour, doesn't he?

    John Deering has published two collections of his political cartoons: "Deering's State of Mind" (1990) and, "We Knew Bill Clinton ... Bill Clinton Was a Friend of Ours" (1993, Vic Harville). His political cartoons and the Strange Brew panel produce laughter daily with their publication in newspapers worldwide.

    This entertaining artist is not limited only to funny stuff on paper. Sculpture has been another creative line for John. He entered selections of his work in competitions, and landed a commission to do a life-size centre-piece sculpture for the Arkansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1987. He created a heart -rending sculpture of a tired and worn soldier.

*(1)   (No longer active)


© Susanna McLeod 2002  
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on