Mike Luckovich, Award-winning Editorial Cartoonist

June 23, 2006

    Editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich is the big name of the day. He has earned the prestigious awards for his work - Pulitzer Prizes, a Sigma Delta Chi and now the Reuben, just for starters. Just how did a "goofy kid" from Seattle, Washington make it to the top of the Editorial Cartooning heap?

    Hard work, plain hard work.

    His cartoons have bite. They make a sharp point. Mike Luckovich has no fear of drawing the President of the United States dressed in a clown costume. He freely jabs at politicians, authorities, and big companies. In a 1995 interview for the University of Washington, he stated his purpose: "I feel a responsibility to people who don't have voices in this world - the poor, the disadvantaged. I can make a difference for them. *(1)

   And make a difference he does. His work is adored, hated and paid attention to, from his base at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, Georgia. He gets the fan mail and hate mail to prove it. Including death threats. (Mike's exciting work appears in 350 newspapers and magazines through Creators Syndicate.)

Mike Luckovitch book

    Born in 1960 in Seattle, Washington, the Luckovich family was transferred often with their father's work. Mike learned early that he could make friends quickly with his impressive drawing skills. Passing around a caricature of his new teacher did the trick. *(2) He drew cartoons for the school newspaper while in high school (He drew his first editorial cartoon when he was 14 years old.) and made use of that same sharp wit for the University of Washington newspaper while he studied. He graduated in with a degree in Political Science in 1982.

    Mike honed his self-taught skills, practicing and using as guides the work of Jeff MacNelly, editorial cartoonist and creator of "Shoe", and Mort Drucker, of Mad Magazine. Mike admired their styles, being "very detailed and really good with caricature and expression and hands and clothing and getting the wringles in clothing just right." *(3)

    For two years after graduation, Mike slogged away at a job he did not like, selling life insurance to make a living. Desperately wanting a job as a political cartoonist, he had to wait until a rare opening came up. (There are only about 300 editorial cartoonists in the USA.) The Greenville News in South Caroline was his first toe-hold in cartooning in 1984, then he was on to the New Orleans Times-Picayune for four years. Mike has been a staple with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper since 1989.

    Because of his excellent drawing skills, his sharp wit, and, according to the Journal-Constitution's editorial page editor in 1995, his ability to be "wickedly funny to deeply poignant to decidedly irreverent", Mike has earned several highly respected honours. Starting with a Pulitzer in 1995 for Editorial Cartooning, he received a second Pulitzer in 2006. In 2005, he won the Sigma Delta Chi Editorial Cartoonist Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

    But he's not finished yet...

    Mike earned nominations in 1998 and 2002 from the National Cartoonists Society for his work, winning the Editorial Cartoonist section in 2001. He was the big winner this year, receiving the NCS Reuben for Best Cartoonist of the Year. Such awards are proof that his work is important, hilarious and enlightening to many.

   He has earned the respect of fans and politicians alike, even if they have been skewered by his pen. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has several original Luckovich cartoons.


    Enjoying his work, Mike has a schedule all his own. He studies newspapers and websites to get ideas for his cartoons - no six weeks in advance for editorial cartoonists - makes sketches, gets approval from his editor and creates the chosen comic. He prefers to be motivated by working close to his 5:30 pm deadline.

    To complete the cartoon, this cartoonist skips the pencil lines and goes directly to ink. "I just think how I want it to look and ink it right on the drawing board. I screw up a lot - I can't erase - so I use a lot of white-out. I can draw quicker that way." *(3)

His advice to aspiring editorial cartoonists can be boiled down to hard work: Practice. Have a sense of humour. Practice more. Be ready with a current portfolio. "Join your school newspaper and start thinking like an editorial cartoonist. It's very difficult to get into this profession."

    But the effort to get there was worth it for Mike Luckovich. "I feel so fortunate to do this," he said on JournalismJobs.com, "I sometimes feel guilty. This is my favorite hobby and they're paying me to do it." The Luckovich family, Mike, his wife Margo and three teenage children live in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Congratulations, Mr. Luckovich. You are one hard-working, fortunate fellow.

Sources and interviews with Mike Luckovich:
*(1) http://www.washington.edu/alumni/columns/sept95/luckovich.html
*(2) http://www.newsweekeducation.com/online_activities/cartoons2.php
*(3) http://www.journalismjobs.com/interview_luckovich.cfm

© Susanna McLeod 2006