Susanna McLeod - The Cartoonists: Four Years of Smiling

March 18, 2005

Wow, time has flown! Four years ago I began the joyful mission of writing The Cartoonists on Suite 101. Cartoonists, illustrators, caricaturists and artists have been included in the column, along with scoops on how to become a cartoonist and where to find advice.

Though I’m no longer a youngster - my kids have grown and a grandbaby has arrived - I still love the comics. They are the first things I look for in my email every morning, to make me laugh and erase the wrinkles from the night. The comics are the last thing I read in the newspaper, so I can savour them after being engulfed in the hypocrisy and horrors in the news sections.

Cartooning will forever be captivating to me. How is it that with a circular shape, jaunty swoops of the pen, and a few strategically placed dots, the cartoonist creates an animated face and arms? The skilled hand of the cartoonist easily attains expressions of extreme pain, gales of laughter and utter confusion with only a pencil and piece of paper.

Even more enticing is the sense of humour each cartoonist brings to readers. While working in solitude in their studios or kitchens, they are able to find something funny about life, family or politics every day. It seems, to some readers, that the cartoonists must be watching in through their windows, they are that exact in their depictions of funny events.

Editorial/political cartoonists (and often now, those with regular comic strips) bring out the obvious shortcomings of government that others are afraid to state; sometimes they bring a more sympathetic view to the underdog or challenger. While getting a smile at the same time, cartoonists are able to emphasize their beliefs in animal rights, in protecting children, in helping others. We need that “radical” point of view, from those on the outside looking in at the chaos, to put everything in perspective.

I am never bored with the researching and writing about cartoonists; if anything perhaps I am a little overwhelmed. The more I investigate the cartooning world, the more talented, committed artists I find to write about. The history of cartooning is fascinating and the development of women cartoonists over the last century continues to be one of my favourite subjects. I am also intrigued at the number of cartooning men who capably and accurately draw the female point of view. Skilled indeed.

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Mind, writing the column has not been completely easy. Now and then, there is a dearth of information about a cartoonist – some are very private and have every right to be. Often the “big name” cartoonists are unreachable, and once in a while a bad source has caused a frightful dilemma. Lucky for me, enthusiastic comics fans are willing to share their memorabilia to make sure the story is right.

A big thank you to the dedicated cartoonists who make us giggle every day. Even on weekends. Thank you to the wonderful cartoonists who granted interviews to The Cartoonists over the last four years, who took time from their hectic schedules to speak about their lives and work. Thank you to sites such as Don Markstein's Toonopedia, the National Cartoonists Society, Lambiek, The Comics Project and so many more for having information with which to sculpt interesting biographies.

And mostly, a hearty, smiling Thanks to You, my treasured readers. Thanks for sharing my delight in cartoons and their creators over the last four years. I hope you’ll join me again soon for the next issue of The Cartoonists.

© Susanna McLeod 2005
TheCartoonists.ca  
 
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)