Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

January 6, 2014

CR Holiday Interview #16—Lucy Shelton Caswell

imageLucy Caswell is the founder and the former curator of The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, on the campus of the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. In November, the new Sullivant Hall facility for the institution was opened at the front of the 2013 iteration of the every-three-years Festival Of Cartoon Art.

Caswell is an accomplished author about comics, and has done significant work in bringing cartoon art to bear in the teaching of history. My favorite comics-related moment of 2013 was the long, deserved moment applause Caswell received during the Billy Ireland opening ceremony. The comics community owes her more than it can ever repay. She is a role-model for every non-creative to work in proximity to this great art form, and for everyone else besides.

I'm grateful Caswell took time out of her busy schedule to visit with me, and talk about the work ahead. I tweaked a bit for flow and for circumspection. -- Tom Spurgeon


TOM SPURGEON: We're talking not too long after the big opening weekend for the new Billy Ireland facility. I wondered during the weekend if you got any time to step back with all that was swirling around you and have a moment to reflect on all of that, to take it in on a personal level. In a way, that opening must have been a completion of a personal journey. Did you get a moment like that, Lucy?

LUCY CASWELL: I guess I don't feel like it's complete.


CASWELL: Whether or not I am involved to the extent that I have been in the past, I feel like we're just starting.

SPURGEON: What a great answer. Let's talk about your involvement now. Are you freed up now, are you a step away from the institutional weight of the place in a way that allows you to pursue projects that encompass specific interests that you may have?

CASWELL: Yes. I hope so. I would like to continue to curate exhibitions. I am on the campus and national committees of whatever we're calling the advisory groups for the library. I am going to continue my involvement in those ways. I also expect to continue my service on the Schulz museum board. I am member of the Swann Foundation board at the Library of Congress. I expect to be involved in assorted ways.

SPURGEON: Talk to me a bit about curating exhibits. That's something I don't know a ton about.

CASWELL: [laughs] That's sort of one of the in-jokes, that until you've done it, you won't understand exactly how much work that is and what it involves. I think that it's unfortunate that we as curators have not done a better job communicating exactly what is involved. I think, too, we are -- and this kind of keys into another discussion -- I don't think we have a critical mass of art critics who can talk about curation in any kind of meaningful way. I think until that happens, until that exchange happens, we're still on a journey to get to a certain level of understanding and appreciation.

SPURGEON: What's the biggest misapprehension that someone like me has about curation? Is it simply the amount of work involved? Is it in the nuances of the execution?

CASWELL: I think it's a variety of things. Partly it is coming up with a thesis for your exhibition. What is it going to be about? And what is it you want it to communicate to folks that come and visit? Then you have to figure out how best to do that. In order to answer that second question, you have to know what your resources are. This includes secondary means: if you have the technical capability to do video loops or QR code, do you want to do that? Do you want to have only framed pieces or two-dimensional pieces? Do you want to have three-dimensional pieces? All of these questions feed into what the final product will be and how your viewers will understand that.

SPURGEON: So are you on the exhibit schedule yet, Lucy? Do we have an idea on what we might expect to see from you?

CASWELL: I've suggested several things. Jenny [Robb] has still not firmed up the schedule.


SPURGEON: Can you talk about one that you would like to do?

CASWELL: One that I would like to do is a World War I show. We have very rich resources in that area, and it's an anniversary, as you know. I think we could have a lot of fun. We have very rich local work in the Passing Show pages that Billy Ireland did and the World War I cartoons that Edwina Dumm did as the first woman editorial cartoonist. She happened to be in Columbus.

It's particularly interesting because there was a committee on public information that sent out weekly suggestions for cartoonists to follow up on. The patriotic response to that war was fairly uniform. Whether or not these are propaganda is a very interesting question. What is propaganda? How does it work? It seems to me we can ask a whole bunch of very deep questions with this kind of exhibition... questions we need to be asking now.

SPURGEON: We know a bit about cartooning in subsequent wars, or I think it's fair to say that knowledge of cartooning in World War II or in Vietnam is a little more immediate to people. Other than the work of committee, can you talk about some of the general differences in cartooning in that period? Were there cultural differences that found their way into that work? Was the milieu for cartoonists so profoundly different then in a way that would have an impact on any work they might do about war?

CASWELL: Oh, yes. We need to remember how important print was. Many communities had multiple newspapers, and while in most communities everybody was supporting the war by the time we got in -- that's another interesting thing. In central Ohio, in '14 and '15, we were a lot more concerned with the border war with Mexico and Pancho Villa than we were with what was going on in Europe. There were Ohio troops down in Texas involved in that conflict. That's not something we're taught in history classes. It's something we need to remember as we look at so-called American Isolationism, what Wilson was doing, and what was going in Western Europe. It's just really to me a fascinating period to me in editorial cartoons -- and in comic strips! Mutt and Jeff went to war. We can really talk about a lot of issues that have resonance today.

imageSPURGEON: You know, Lucy, I think of that orientation as a specialty of yours, that you've done an outstanding job with the collection in terms of using editorial cartoons and comics more generally as a window into history, or as history itself.

CASWELL: Oh, yes. That is how I've approached it.

SPURGEON: Is that a notion you always had, or is that something you had to develop? Were you always aware of editorial cartoons? Or is that something you developed as you grew to work with the collection?

CASWELL: No, no, I've always read them. I've always read comic strips, too.

SPURGEON: You've always had an eye on them.

CASWELL: I've come to this with a background in history. A serious background in history. The idea of what happened in the 20th Century -- and there are a number of historians now, that argue, for example, that it was one long war that occurred from 1914 to 1945. There was more or less fighting at different points during the conflict, but that we really need to see this as one arc of history instead of World War I and World War II.

SPURGEON: You've talked in terms that there might have been government influence --

CASWELL: No, no, no. I don't think there's any "might." It's very clear that there was government influence.

SPURGEON: So how do you process that as history? Do you just take that into account? Do you look for a populist surge that pushes back against this influence?

CASWELL: I would argue from a very specific definition of propaganda. Editorial cartoonists in this country were not forced to draw anything. What we saw was I believe genuine patriotic fervor, love of country if you will, that caused them to embrace these suggestions. That's very different than being in a totalitarian state and being told you must produce a cartoon on this topic on this day. That is not what we had.

SPURGEON: Now I'm guess this is something that would be very translatable to now, a cultural context that involves different mechanism of coercion. The pressure to get on board, to support the troops or however it's presented.

CASWELL: It's totally different now because we can say starting with the Vietnam War -- and maybe even with Korea, but definitely with Vietnam -- there was no longer this patriotic, widespread patriotic support of the effort. I think it's interesting to look at the range of opinions in editorial cartoons across society, and how we accept that. Versus in Syria where cartoonists are killed or have their hands smashed. I think we forget that there are places in the world where drawing critical pictures of the leadership or criticizing those in power is simply not allowed. China being another case in point.

SPURGEON: So this is the kind of take that may be missing when people engage with a curated exhibit.

CASWELL: I think that many people hadn't even thought about this. And that's okay. But our jobs as curators is to make them look anew, or in an enhanced way at something they might not have thought about before. I think that's what [creator, comics historian and curator] Brian [Walker] was trying to do with the Substance And Shadow show. "Let's take something you are familiar with and kind of recast it and maybe look at it anew."

I was showing some people the Mother Goose Goes To Hollywood drawing. We were talking about the fact that these folks recognized Edward G. Robinson but they didn't recognize some of the other caricatures in the four that were show. In order for caricature to work as a device, the viewer has to know who it is, has to recognize who it is. I remember teaching... my students didn't know what Nikita Kruschev looked like. They were clueless about those cartoons.

SPURGEON: I would guess there are even instances where the caricature outlasts the historical person.

CASWELL: I think Boss Tweed could be an example of that.

SPURGEON: I always wondered how much we process Hitler through caricature, too.

CASWELL: Yeah. Yes.


SPURGEON: So do you think people have thus far engaged with Brian's exhibit with the nuance and complexity that it deserves?

CASWELL: I don't know, because I haven't talked to very many people about it. [Spurgeon laughs] I felt that over the weekend people liked it very much. But that's a subset of people that bring a lot of prior knowledge to their viewing of the exhibit. I think they were also not prepared for the kind of gallery presentation we can now give.

SPURGEON: It was very overwhelming for a lot of people. I remember talking to someone -- I don't remember who it was -- who told me straight-up they weren't able to handle looking at a whole bunch of it at a time. They would actually walk outside for a while, sit a spell, and return.

CASWELL: Brian and I talked about it. I think the show's a bit too big. I think that's something we're going to have to figure out. Either this needed to be a multi-trip visitation experience, or we need to make smaller shows. Because in my experience, people kind of experience exhibit fatigue after about 60 or 80 pieces. This is not like looking at paintings on a wall. Some of them you can take in fairly quickly, but others... like the Krazy Kat, or the Cliff Sterrett, you do really need to read frame by frame and that takes a while.

SPURGEON: That Sterrett you guys had up was the belle of the ball, I thought.

CASWELL: Isn't that a gorgeous piece?

SPURGEON: That was an incredibly gorgeous piece. I don't know if that was because of those thick blacks or what, but that looked so freaking good as a stand-alone on a wall.

CASWELL: That was Brian's favorite wall. He was hilarious talking about how stunningly fabulous that group was, with the Nemo -- and it is a pretty fabulous wall.

SPURGEON: It is! Hey, I have a question about the original contribution. I'm hoping you'll indulge me. I read once where the original donation came to you in parts. It didn't come in all at once. I was wondering why that was.

CASWELL: Are you talking about Caniff?

SPURGEON: Yes, the foundational donation from Milton Caniff. Was the incremental nature of the donation a reflection of his uncertainty over whether it would be taken?

CASWELL: Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. It was all circumstance. The first shipment happened in 1974 because his mother died in Dayton. They had a house they needed to clear out. It was purely circumstantial. The second large shipment of Caniff came in 1983 because he closed his studio in Palm Springs. The third big Caniff shipment came when we closed his studio in New York City after his death in '88.

I think pretty much 100 percent of the time this kind of gift is in one way or another circumstantial. People move, they divorce, they get sick... we are by nature, human beings, sedentary and comfortable [laughs]. Change and giving away stuff and making this kind of life decision is hard for us.

SPURGEON: One thing that's impressive to me from an administration standpoint with what you've done over your career, and this speaks to that, is how flexible you have to be about taking these opportunities as they come to you.

CASWELL: Absolutely. And I credit William J. Studer, who was director of libraries. I don't remember when Bill retired. During the first 15 to 20 critical years -- and in fact he was still director when [the collection of Bill] Blackbeard came, so that would have been '98 -- Bill always was willing to look and listen. There were collections we said no thank you to. But not of cartoon art. They were of film material and other kinds of things. As I look back, that was the right choice for us. He was always open to why this matters and then figuring out how we could make it happen. I think an awful lot of library directors would not have been willing to do that.

I think this is public knowledge: Blackbeard is a case in point. We negotiated for about a year back and forth. Bill at one point wanted us to buy his house in San Francisco with the understanding that he could live there and the academy could stay there throughout his lifetime and upon his death the university would still own the house and all of the contents would come to us. I give Bill Studer so much credit. He went to the appropriate administrators for property and said, "Can we do this?" instead of immediately saying, "That is the craziest thing I ever heard of." [Spurgeon laughs] He went to them and they said, "No, that's really not going to be possible." I could go back to Bill and say, quite truthfully, "Bill, this isn't something we can do. The university is not able to do that. Is there another way we can talk about making sure your holdings stay intact?"

It was about a year we went back and forth until we figured out how we were going to do this. A lot of administrators would have said to this guy. "No. Why bother?"

SPURGEON: Did the Blackbeard donation change the whole nature of what you were doing here, just the size of that collection, the scope of it?

CASWELL: I don't think it changed the nature. I think it changed the extent. Because it is so huge. We were so fortunate again... I don't like the world "luck" but the fact that the Getty Foundation gave us the money to jump start the creation of the finding aid was critical, because we never would have had the resources to devote to that kind of intensive work to have it started. And once you get that kind of thing established, it's going to take quite a few more years to finish up. But we know where we're going and we know how to get there. We know how to invest modest resources we do have in terms of the biggest payoff in terms of making it available. The Getty grant made that possible for us. Apparently, when I wrote my initial inquiry the grants officer kind of wandered around the halls and said, "Does anybody know anyone we can talk to about this proposal to make sure it's legit?" And [laughs] I think that's a fair response on their part.

SPURGEON: When you get an opportunity like that... I guess there's nothing of the Blackbeard collection's size that makes a comparison possible, so let's say something like the Jay Kennedy collection or the Edwina Dumm material you were given. When you get something in the library like that, does that ever involve a mini-pivot on your part to redefine the collection as something that now includes this material -- or is your mission big enough that it encompasses all of these various opportunities no matter when they come along?

CASWELL: We've always said we wanted to be comprehensive. That distinguishes us from pretty much everyone else that's collecting. I think... if you read our collection development policies, I hope we've done a pretty good job of saying there are things... we truly mean comprehensive, all of everything. There are other people whose work we value but we cannot take all of everything because of space and financial limitations in the commitment. When we accept the collection, we say we're going to keep it and care for it in perpetuity. That's a pretty serious commitment.

SPURGEON: You guys have a bunch of Bud Blake. You have a bunch of his editorial cartoon work and a lot of Tiger as I recall.


SPURGEON: Now, does having all that Bud Blake work bring with it a desire to find specific things to do with it?

CASWELL: Of course. Of course! I think that's one of the interesting things... back to curation. When Jim Borgman did his speech for the IMCA [International Museum of Cartoon Art] celebration, he talked about reading cartoon art in a very eloquent way. He used Bud Blake as an example: someone whose name is not well known, but for Borgman had been a seminal figure in his own artistic development.

SPURGEON: Blake to Borgman actually makes a bunch of sense.

CASWELL: That's an interesting thing to think about. I think that could be a fun show: talk to a half-dozen people like Borgman and say, "Who really mattered to you?" And we know that Sparky would be one. And probably MAD Magazine. Bud Blake was unexpected for me. That's the kind of thing... we look at people like Picasso or other so-called fine artists, and we can talk about how they were trained and how they were influenced. I think we can do the same with cartoonists but we just haven't thought very seriously about this.

SPURGEON: I wanted to touch on the OSU Festival Of Cartoon Art. That was a very nice weekend. It was the first one of those I was able to attend, but I talked to a number of people who had been to all of them, or close to all of them, anyway.

CASWELL: Yes, yes.

SPURGEON: I have to imagine every time you do one it triggers a bunch of memories of past events. What was the initial impetus behind those? Are there specific memories you kind of hold near where the Festival is concerned?

CASWELL: Both yes and no. They all kind of mush together. [Spurgeon laughs]

The first one in 1983 was prompted by our interest in the Philip Sills collection. He was a very wealthy New York collector who had made his money in the garment industry. He got connected with Caniff and Toni Mendez. He had a very nice collection. It was ironic that that show occurred in the Hoyt Sherman gallery at Sullivant Hall in the Fall of 1983.

We decided if we were going to do this show, we might as well have some cartoonists in to speak. So that we did. And people came and enjoyed it. We were surprised by the reaction of the cartoonists. There were people whose studios were 20 blocks apart in Manhattan, people who hadn't seen each other in years. They were so thrilled to see each other, and to be at a university campus where it was sort of neutral territory. There weren't syndicate agendas or association agendas. Everybody was here celebrating cartoon art. It was a festival of cartoon art.

It was so successful... I can remember the assistant director at the time saying, "You know what? That worked really well. Maybe we should think about doing it again." I looked at him and said, "There's no way we can do it every year. We can't." He said, "What about every other year?" And I said, "Huh... maybe every three years?" That was literally how best to shepherd resources and keep doing this.

Frankly one of our biggest challenges was to convince people that they need to come to Columbus, Ohio. The bi-coastal prejudice at that point was still pretty severe. Ohio was something you flew over. I remember a speaker saying, "Do you have taxicabs in Columbus?" [laughter]


CASWELL: Just bringing people to campus, showing them we did know how to do serious exhibitions, we did know how to do quality programming and we did know how to be hospitable, and to value them as creators, I think has been very important to us. The other segment of this is the collectors and scholars who have participated in this since the beginning also found value in being a setting where it wasn't so ginormous, where they couldn't really talk with and connect to one another. That's the reason we've tried to keep the scale manageable.

SPURGEON: You mention scholars and collectors... there are bookmakers, too, that attend.

CASWELL: Yes, yes.

SPURGEON: You have always maintained an admirable policy of working openly and directly with people that want to do publication work with your holdings.

CASWELL: I think it's an important part of our mission. That's one way we can talk to donors about continuing the life of the work. Interesting, I was with a friend over the weekend, whose uncle was Art Poinier, the editorial cartoonist for the Detroit News. They had a summer family enclave at Little Point Sable on Lake Michigan, way north on the lower peninsula. We were there one week and Art came over and was quoting Kipling about art and the power of art communicate. Art Poinier speaking about art -- it could get confusing here. [Spurgeon laughs] We were around a fire and it was very moving. He talked about editorial cartooning giving him a bully pulpit to communicate on issues he felt strongly about. Justice issues. It is because of that connection that I was able to meet Julianne Warren, who was the archivist of the editorial cartoonist association [AAEC]. The rest is really history, because we got their archives and made connections with all of that group.

The point here is I was talking to Art's niece, and she wanted to know if his collection here was still being used. I said yes because we have it in the database and book publishers and text writers now who want cartoons about a certain topic can go in and Art Poinier's works are among the editorial cartoons they have to choose from. That's something important we can say long after this person is gone. We can put this work out there so that this whole range of users can see what we have and decide this cartoon is the exact one they need for their text on labor movements in the United States -- whatever it is. I think that's a real obligation we have.

SPURGEON: Universities don't always have the best reputations in terms of continuity and in terms of staying open to scholars and publishers.

CASWELL: I think that's correct.

SPURGEON: That's a fear that's expressed to me by a lot of my writer friends when it comes to university holdings generally.

CASWELL: We don't want to fall into that category. That's really important to us. When I was responsible, I think that was a key, driving motivation. We've always tried to make finding aids and keep things available. This goes back far enough that the first ones were done not on an electric typewriter but on a manual typewriter.

SPURGEON: Oh my goodness.


CASWELL: The fact we can use an on-line finding aid, and have the art database and the image database, it's just incredible to me. Christina Meyer, who is from Germany, can use our Yellow Kid digitized pages in her classroom in German because of the Internet. That is so wonderful.

SPURGEON: You co-edit with Jared Gardner the current press wing of the... I'm not even sure how that's set up.

CASWELL: The Ohio State University Press is a separate entity.

SPURGEON: So you have... an imprint at the Press?

CASWELL: We have a journal series -- it's a book series, not a journal series. The first one was on francophone comics, and we have two or three others in the pipeline. We are proposing we do a collection of the papers from the scholarly symposium at this year's festival. The Press can't say they'll do it or won't do it until we have papers in hand and they go through a review.

SPURGEON: Is having a strong press presence to go along with the museum and library efforts an ongoing challenge? I seem to remember that the Jeff Smith exhibit book was done by the Wexner Center but that it might have bounced around first.

CASWELL: "Bounced around" is not the right term. They did that book because they did the show.


CASWELL: I think for somebody not in the university it might not make any sense at all. [laughter] I'm very sympathetic to your question.

SPURGEON: I feel much better then.

CASWELL: We have published a number of books, the most recent a monograph on Ding Darling by Rich West. I feel like our challenge now is to attract the brightest and best so that our series can be important and make the kind of contribution we want it to.

SPURGEON: I wanted to ask you about a piece of writing you did. You did a short introduction to the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday Pages book. Am I right in remembering that was you?


SPURGEON: One thing you talked about in there I thought fascinating was the notion that at the moment of that book's publication there hadn't been enough time for a fair judgment on what Bill Watterson had accomplished with the strip. You and Bill even talked about whether you could call a book like that a retrospective or not, whether enough time had passed so that it could be properly termed a look back. It had only been a couple of years since he ended syndication.

CASWELL: It had been ten.

SPURGEON: More time has passed since. One of the things I've tracked this year is it seems like there's more of an interest in Watterson now than even there was at the time of the book you did -- you're doing a show, of course, in 2014. But just in general it seems that people may love the strip more now.

CASWELL: I think that's true. I think it's a real -- it's a wonderful example of the power of the art form, that Calvin and Hobbes continues to communicate to a new generation of readers as well as those that remember reading it in their paper every day when he was doing it.


SPURGEON: Do you have any insight as to why that is? I talked to the cartoonist Dave Kellett for an earlier installment of this interview series -- he had contact with Watterson for the documentary film he's doing -- and he suggested that there was as purposeful timelessness to what Watterson did.

CASWELL: I think he's right. In some ways... everyone makes the analogy to Peanuts and Schulz. It's the same kind of timeless creation of characters that readers care about. The writing is so superior. The humor and the pathos... it really is so excellent. We can look at art, the lithographs of Goya, for example, or we can talk about Charlotte's Web or other types of literature, and they're timeless.

SPURGEON: We talked about Jim Borgman and his relationship to Bud Blake, this influence that's a bit off the beaten path now -- even though it was reasonably well syndicated back in its day. Is there someone for you like that? Is there someone you have a specific interest in, someone on whose behalf you might proselytize given the chance, someone you wish more people knew about? You have a bunch of Edwina Dumm... You have a number of Anne Mergen pieces here, too. Is there anybody you'd love to spotlight by grabbing our collective sleeve and kind of tugging us in their direction.


CASWELL: We do this all the time. Barbara Shermund is the latest one we're sort of in love with. She's not very well known. There are a lot of people... Eldon Dedini.

SPURGEON: That's a wonderful choice.

CASWELL: His work is gorgeous. Knock-your-socks-off gorgeous and funny, funny, funny. We'll be doing a Dedini show at some point. [laughs] We will have to say it has mature content, because we can't possibly do a Dedini show without the Playboy work, which is color and boy he was good at it.

SPURGEON: There's an intense physicality to his work that I don't know that anyone approaches... maybe VT Hamlin... it looked like Dedini was carving shapes out of the air.

CASWELL: Lee Lorenz is another person whose work -- Lee's still publishing! He's still active! I would put Arnold Roth into this category as well. These are people whose technical expertise is just stunning. We really need to look closely at what they have done. I would argue for all of these folks. There is a timeless quality. It still communicates. Humor, sarcasm, political commentary... it runs the gamut.

SPURGEON: Comics expressions change and develop. You've done a great job bringing in the undergrounds through something like the Jay Kennedy collection, and now the mini-comics have a focus with the Dylan Williams collection... the unanswered question is what about comics created for digital publication? Webcomics... this may include some comics that may not have a physical component at all. Do you have any sense at all of how that stuff may eventually be curated and stored? Or is that just an ongoing question for all librarians everywhere.

CASWELL: I think it's an ongoing question. I've been raising this question for eight to ten years.

For us it's a resource question. Because when we get these things, they're going to take up a lot of digital storage space. We're going to need to be able to say what we've said about our print and physical comics collections: that we're going to make these accessible over time. So when a certain program or a machine is no longer commonly used, we are either going to upgrade whatever this is or we're going to keep the old thing -- like a 35mm projector -- so that we can show it, see it, study it, whatever. That's one part of the equation.

The other part is convincing the creators that they need to be saving these things and placing them in institutional repositories. I just don't think we're there yet on either side of this.

SPURGEON: Digital material is almost more at risk than comics on paper, despite its newness. It seems more at risk of near-instantaneous redundancy.

CASWELL: I think we know that, and I think we're working really hard to capture it. Part of it what I was saying earlier about inertia. Comics work on deadline, and that deadline is always more important than what I did a week ago. Sending what I did a week ago to a URL that's going to be dark storage at an institutional repository, we're just not there yet in terms of having that partnership established with people.

SPURGEON: My last major question concerns the paradigm shift of newspaper cartoons and editorial cartoons more directly -- the shudder and near-collapse of newspapers generally in 2008-2009, and the fact that editorial cartoonists have seen this tremendous decline in reach and influence over the last generation; certainly the staffed cartoonist positions have largely disappeared relative to what they used to be. There's not the kind of support for cartoonists on an industry level the way there used to be. I wondered about your perspective, if that has any impact on your mission. Does this wobbly quality to editorial cartooning make it maybe more important to nail down the importance of this work historically, or does the relative lack of staffed positions put you in a greater position to proselytize about everything that these artists have been able to accomplish over the years.

CASWELL: My perspective on this is that a free press is a vital factor in a democracy. The exploration of opinion in order to help voters understand what the issues are and how to cast their ballots is the primary mission of a free press. Editorial cartoons are a way that can happen that really, historically, has been important. You can read and understand an editorial cartoon in a way that might take five columns of print. You may not have the time to read that much print. The idea of educating voters no matter how we do it, digitally or on paper or whatever, to me that function is what we ought to be talking about.

I would like to make the distinction between people who simply put their opinion out on a blog and people for whom this is their primary job. These are not people who think casually about news. These are people that 24/7 take in the news, filter what's important according to their own political views, their own education, their own life experience, and then make an opinion about this issue in order to make voters/readers, the political constituency, come to their own conclusions about the issues.

You can tell I feel really strongly about this. We need not to lose this. Whether that's in digital or print or some other medium we don't know about yet. We still as a democracy need to be very careful don't lose this. The fact that leaders in totalitarian countries are threatened by this, would indicate that it still has power.

SPURGEON: We certainly learned that with the Muhammed cartoons, and you mentioned Syria earlier, where the importance of cartooning has come into focus. Are there practical concerns as well, Lucy? You had Matt Bors come in and speak at this latest festival. Matt is probably the leading light among cartoonists age 35 and under. Does it become more important to get Matt there, to support Matt, because there's no longer 15 people like him? Do the practicalities of where that industry seems to be heading provided an accelerated sense of mission?

CASWELL: I think we've always tried to support editorial cartoonists, through the AAEC and the John Locher Award for student cartoonists. I worked with the Lochers, and that has been a way to try to foster editorial cartooning -- a new generation of editorial cartoonists. I've also judged the Pulitzers six times and I'm very happy to say I was on the committee the first year we awared animated political cartoons as part of the Pulitzer [to Mark Fiore]. The fact that the Pulitzer could take the step to say, "This is fantastic commentary" and it doesn't have to be in print, it's a digital platform. To me, that was one of the most exciting times. I really felt we had moved forward to a new place of thinking.

SPURGEON: Which award is heavier? The Segar or the Silver T-Square?

CASWELL: The T-Square. [Spurgeon laughs] I couldn't believe it when Jeff [Keane] put it into my hands because it was so heavy. We were lucky that year we were driving because I don't know how we would have gotten that thing through airport security. It's big. You could use that as a weapon! Not that I wanted to. [laughter]


* The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
* 2013 Festival Of Cartoon Art


* photo of Caswell provided by The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum
* a WWI-era episode of The Passing Show, by Billy Ireland
* a famous Edwina Dumm image from WWI
* Bud Blake's Tiger
* a Yellow Kid cartoon
* Ding Darling examined
* a Calvin & Hobbes Sunday
* Barbara Shermund
* Eldon Dedini as published
* substance and shadow image from Punch -- the Brian Walker show's title was taken from here
* photo of Caswell with Silver T-Square provided by The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (below)



posted 5:00 pm PST | Permalink

Daily Blog Archives
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
Full Archives