TCJ 300 Conversations: Ted Rall & Matt Bors

Posted by on December 23rd, 2009 at 3:55 AM

 


Cartoon from Generalissimo el Busho, ©2004 Ted Rall.


Bors:
You’re notorious for post-9/11 stuff like “Terror Cunts” but you did a lot of random stuff in the ’90s like relationships and off the wall surreal strips. It was hard to cartoon about anything else under Bush except the daily atrocities he was committing. Are you going to be doing more social commentary now?

Rall:
Actually, I prefer “Terror Twats.” Alliteration rocks. (It’s called “Terror Widows,” for those who were living in a cave in March of 2002.) I had seriously hoped to be doing more social commentary stuff in the age of Obama. But the economic collapse, coupled with Obama’s apparent determination to continue Bush’s policies on detainees and permanent war have made it difficult. Why can’t these fucking politicians give a cartoonist a break? Every day there are at least six cartoons one could draw about their insanity. And the social-commentary stuff is one of the big things that separates a good editorial cartoonist from the mainstream hacks who wind up in Newsweek.

Bors:
A lot of cartoonists have laid off of Obama. It’s as if the Bush shock was so intense they can’t be outraged by the things he’s doing. We mentioned people quitting earlier. I think we’ll see more lefty cartoonists drop out as the raison d’être for cartooning has vanished.

Rall:
It’s pathetic, in my opinion. It’s not like Americans are living in paradise. Obama is doing nothing to help the victims of the economic collapse. And he’s disastrous for progressives. If Bush were expanding the war against Afghanistan as Obama is, lefties would be marching in the streets. Or at least grumbling softly about it.

Bors:
And writing really, really mean blog posts.

Rall:
The Bush era was the time of kindergarten cartooning — torture is bad, pre-emptive warfare is wrong, etc. It’s always more interesting to go after a Democratic regime than a Republican one, especially if you’re a progressive. But how are you finding it? Bush was your first “president.” Is Obama harder for you? Do you miss that shooting-fish-in-a-barrel quality of the last eight years?

Bors:
In a way, it forces you to try harder. You have to write better to criticize someone with intellectual abilities above a small child. Bush practically faxed us cartoon scripts. I’d like to get to more social commentary, as well, but I’m also feeling like there needs to be more criticism of this guy from the left because the guys slamming him are people like Glenn McCoy, who seems to think he’s a Marxist Abortion Doctor or something. He’s completely neutered liberal outrage. I like it more. I grew so tired of Bush, I only drew him on a few occasions during his last year and a half. Part of that was so many other interesting things going on, like the marathon election.

Rall:
We should talk about artistic and political objectives when one is composing and drawing a cartoon. For you, what comes first — the words or the pictures? Editors sometimes say that the perfect cartoon is wordless (and, obviously, single-panel).

Bors:
Words. Or ideas rather — what I want to do, what angle I want to take. Only occasionally do I work on a cartoon where the main focus is an image standing alone. I do a lot of scripting for my comics. Sometimes they come in one fell swoop and others I tinker with endlessly. But they all start out as pure text.

Rall:
Anyone who reads my work knows I care about writing more than artwork. I’m also better at it. Which is why I work harder on the art. But any monkey can learn to draw well. Cro-Mags did it in caves. When I was looking at submissions at United Media I quickly saw that great artists are a dime a dozen. Great writers are rare. You see great comics that have less than great art: Life In Hell, The Far Side, James Thurber, etc. There are no great comics that have bad writing. People try, like Hal Foster did in Prince Valiant and now there’s Mutts… but they fail. Of course, you have both.

Do you get negative feedback from the mainstream liberal crowd?


Cartoon ©2008 Matt Bors.


Bors:
I’ve drawn cartoons for the ACLU and been told to tone down my criticism of Obama so I don’t offend his followers at the same time that they are suing him. I’m flattered they think my cartoons will throw a wrench in the delicate relations they have with Washington, but it’s kind of annoying. They are admirably unyielding in their legal pursuits, but start criticizing people with cartoons and it suddenly becomes sensitive.

I’ve done cartoons blasting Code Pink, PETA, new age bullshit, Democrats — all sorts of stuff. There are always people complaining. The worst is when I made fun of the so-called 9/11 truth movement. They were posting my personal information, urging readers to harass me and called me a “liberal gatekeeper” of the media. People always assume things about you based on nothing — like thinking you buy into bullshit about 9/11 simply because you hate Bush. It’s always a surprise to them that you don’t, so they feel betrayed. People hate having their views challenged. Most want only to read news and cartoons that conforms with their world view.

Rall:
In my more cynical moments I theorize that every editorial cartoonist’s career, at least the ones that do good work, is doomed the day they begin. Every cartoon they draw alienates people. Over the years, if they’re contrarian and smart, eventually everyone hates them. It ends with alcohol and poverty and belated postmortem acclaim.

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3 Responses to “TCJ 300 Conversations: Ted Rall & Matt Bors”

  1. scott says:

    I am struggling to see why this had to take up 8 pages? There is a lot of un-required waffling in this, which should have been edited out before posting.

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by pvponline: Anyway, here’s a link to an article where Ted Rall and Matt Bors boo-hoo about editorial cartooning and me apparently. http://bit.ly/8MIbwZ