146 (September 26, 2004). This time, we review four
first issue comic books and Milo Manara's The Model and consider what's
wrong with museums of comics art and with the American newspaper. Then
we'll finish with a review of Murray Olderman's new tome of sports anecdotes
and his own lively sports cartoons. When we first posted this Opus in
September, we included, in connection with a notice about Mark Schwartz's
new magazine, Big Fun, vast quantities of persiflage and a bagatelle
or two to Leslie Turner and Noel Sickles. We examined how and why Sickles
developed the chiaroscuro style for which he is renowned, and we looked
at the career of Turner, who has been among the Great Neglected in comics
history. When we moved Opus 146 to this Archive, we moved the Sickles
and Turner articles to Harv's Hindsights, which you can reach by clicking
here. And now, the news--
(September 26, 2004). This time, we review four first issue comic books and Milo Manara's The Model and consider what's wrong with museums of comics art and with the American newspaper. Then we'll finish with a review of Murray Olderman's new tome of sports anecdotes and his own lively sports cartoons. When we first posted this Opus in September, we included, in connection with a notice about Mark Schwartz's new magazine, Big Fun, vast quantities of persiflage and a bagatelle or two to Leslie Turner and Noel Sickles. We examined how and why Sickles developed the chiaroscuro style for which he is renowned, and we looked at the career of Turner, who has been among the Great Neglected in comics history. When we moved Opus 146 to this Archive, we moved the Sickles and Turner articles to Harv's Hindsights, which you can reach by clicking here. And now, the news--
NOUS R US
All the News that Gives Us Fits (but that's not all the news there is, exactly)
FLASH! Stop the presses. Or, choke the ether-whatever we do here in cyberspace that is the equivalent of stopping those rollers from rolling. All is not lost. Hope springs eternal within the human breast. Sez so, right 'chere. Nicole Jantze, beauteous wife of Michael, tells us that her husband could be persuaded to continue producing new strips in The Norm ONLINE (not in the newspapers) if enough paying customers sign up for a subscription. She's got six weeks, she says, to persuade enough of us to pay at least $25 a year for The Norm (a fee that includes access to the entire Norm website and a 10% discount at the Norm Store). If we reach the desired (albeit unspecified) goal by October 31, Michael will start producing freshly minted strips on November 1st. Visit www.thenorm.com for all the details. Do it now. Click right there, just a couple verbals ago. And now, back to our regularly programmed schedule ...
Dilbert is getting a new home. No, not another venue for the comic strip: instead, a domicile for the strip's eponymous hero, "Dilbert's Ultimate House" (or DUH, an expression familiar to readers of the Dilbert online newsletter, which includes, in every issue, collections of particularly incomprehensible utterances by "induhviduals"). Cartoonist Scott Adams asked the strip's fans to suggest features for a house that Dilbert could call a home, and 3,000-plus responded. Said Adams: "We wanted him to have a house so impressive that some woman would overlook his personality just to live in it." I'm not sure that objective has been achieved. The most noticeable of the building's features is a tower in front that looks like Dilbert's head. Inside is a room devoted entirely to cat litter and a master bedroom with its own urinal, to mention a couple of the more outlandish aspects of the dwelling. But apparently a lot of the ideas given actuality in the building are pretty forward-looking. According to David Astor in Editor & Publisher, "Viewers will be able to take virtual tours of the energy-efficient, eco-friendly house starting September 28 at http://www.dilbert.com."
Fred Basset, the comic strip dog created in 1963 by England's Alex Graham (who died several years ago but his creation carries on in apparently endless rerun), may get his own tv show in Britain; the pilot is due in October. ... The Los Angeles Times passed a centennial this summer: it started publishing comics with Buster Brown on August 21, 1904; according to Dave Strickler, author of Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995. Richard Outcault's classic was followed in the Times by 940 other strips and panels.
Bill Griffith has never been to Taiwan, but his Zippy strip runs there in the Taipei Times, whose Dan Bloom interviewed the cartoonist in early September. Although Griffith maintains, correctly, that explaining humor kills it, he nonetheless offered an insight into Zippy comedy that I hadn't seen as succinctly expressed before. Asked about the "surreal humor" of the strip, he said: "If you think Zippy is surreal now, you should have read him when he started out in the early 1970s in underground comix in San Francisco. [Then] Zippy's tendency to speak in random non-sequiturs was in full force. He rarely gave an answer or made a statement that related in any but the most oblique way to what other characters around him were saying. But I do not consider Zippy to be particularly surreal in his current incarnation. ... Off-center, maybe-unexpected, indirect, poetic-but not really surreal, if by surreal you mean nonsensical or random. Actually, Zippy is almost always trying to respond sensibly to any question posed to him; he just sees the world through a very personal distorted lens. My intent with many of Zippy's statements is to be satirical, and even political, but not surreal."
In a Chicago Sun Times review of an exhibition of comics art by Lynda Barry, Debbie Drechsler, Mary Fleener, and Mack White, Margaret Hawkins put her finger on a problem that comics face as museum art. To properly appreciate the comics on display, one must devote a considerable time to reading. "The primitivism of some of the drawing is charming," Hawkins writes, "but when it relies heavily on text, and when that text is not especially interesting or readable, we feel imposed upon. ... [The text] is wordy and boring. There's nothing wrong with rambling on in your diary but, in a format that is built on conciseness [my emphasis], this seems oddly self-indulgent. Because this show asks us to read a great deal of text, we expect it to have some literary qualities-plot, character, nuanced language and good editing among them-and, lacking that, feel frustrated and cheated." Moreover, if the comics are language laden, the language itself ought to have some inherent beauty, like poetry, for instance. Hawkins appreciates the unique character of comics: "Comics at their best visualize a weird world of high drama with a kind of naive conviction not available elsewhere." And that's the problem: the show doesn't body forth the uniqueness of the medium. "My complaint about this show is that it's a show at all, and one that takes three or four hours to see thoroughly because it must be read," she goes on. "No one going to an art exhibit expects to read this much, and standing to read for this long is both uncomfortable and too public."
What she says is related, surely, to the fate of various comics art museums over the years. Mostly, they fail for lack of traffic. I've long felt that the best way to make museums of comics succeed is to install living cartoonists. In one corner of the museum, a cartoonist's workplace could be set up-drawingboard, ink stand, and so forth. Every day, a cartoonist would show up to work there; visitors to the museum would watch him at work. It can be a rotating position so that one cartoonist doesn't have to be there every day (although if some cartoonist needs studio space, why not?). The "live" aspect of this maneuver would enhance the display situation and cut the dullness, somewhat, from walking galleries slowly enough to read everything in every comic strip on display.
Opus and the State of American Newspapers
Opus placed near the bottom of the comics survey that the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) conducted last summer, but the paper's editors stayed the execution-"at least for the time being"-and invited Opus's creator, Berk Breathed, who lived in nearby Iowa City during Bloom County's formative years, to say a few words in his (and the perpetual penguin's) defense. E-mailing from California, the cartoonist said he "missed the rolling cornfields ... here in California, we just get rolling Hummers." Then he went on to address some of the irks that have plagued his new strip since its debut. "I'm as frustrated as many fans are that it's only once a week. Four strips a month rather than 30 isn't anything resembling a true comic strip, and it's something less, no doubt. If I had a schedule that would allow it, I would clearly be back doing dailies. But it leaves one-as I've often said-looking like Keith Richards at 4 a.m. Scares the kids." He acknowledged that many erstwhile fans are annoyed that Opus isn't just Bloom County again. "I suspect that they are also peeved that it's not 1982 anymore, and they aren't living in a dorm and sex isn't flowing like beer. Nostalgic memory is flawed, I've learned." And then he turned to the present state of the newspaper game in regard to its only legitimate child, the comic strip. "The comics are skewing evermore toward older demographics-exactly those that answer comic surveys, oddly enough. Pleasing this group may feel good, but I submit that ignoring the very thing that upsets the oldsters-political, youthful tastes and attitude, especially in humor-is a slide toward the newspaper abyss. Papers need to figure out who will be reading them in the next 20 or 30 years. This generation simply does not think of picking up newspapers."
Breathed's wit never falters; but the Sunday-only Opus, which Breathed insisted be allowed a full, uncut half-page in order to offer readers an visual extravaganza, has never reached that fond apotheosis: it hasn't progressed much beyond the traditional cadences of tiers of panels in routine row formation. Still, Breathed is right about the timidity of newspaper editors in an age when newspaper readership seems in a steady decline.
The issue, regardless of what newspaper editors say, is not, really, money. Newspapers are making money. They always have. (One wag said that newspapers were "money-making machines"; and that hasn't changed much.) The cost of newsprint is increasing, true; but with profit margins in excess of 20 percent, newspapers can afford to take the hit. The financial issue is not whether the newspaper is breaking even or making money. Since most newspapers in this country are owned by corporate chains, their real owners are the people who hold stock in the corporations. Stock holders demand greater and greater return on their investment. To satisfy this voracious appetite, newspapers are forced to cut costs. They can't increase profit by increasing sales in a cultural environment that no longer relies upon the daily print media; so they resort to the only alternative left to them. Cutting costs. One of the ways costs are being cut is by reducing staff. Corporate-owned papers aren't interested much in local news so they cut reporting staff and use wire service national news to pad out the pages between grocery ads (where the real newspaper revenue comes from). Editorial cartoonists are among the first to feel this sort of cutback: since so much editorial cartooning is syndicated and since cartoons on local issues only make readers mad enough to pester editors, financial as well as public-relations logic dictates letting the staff editoonist go. And it's happening all over, one way or another. Jeff McNelly died in 2000, but he's never been replaced at the Chicago Tribune. (The honchos there say they're still looking, but they pretty certainly aren't. That paper developed one of the most insidious strategies for dealing with comics readers complaints when dropping a favorite strip: in responding to phone calls, the paper execs claim they're still evaluating the dropped strip. Oh, the complainer thinks, then the decision to drop isn't final; and he/she hangs up, mollified somewhat by the belief that perhaps the strip will be returned to the comics page. Alas, this is a mistaken belief; the strip never comes back. But by the time the comics reader has figured that out, it's months later, and the heat of anger has died down. Surely the present mantra about McNelly is a species of the same dodge.) In just the last 18 months or so, Kirk Anderson was let out of his part-time position at the St. Paul Pioneer Press; Mike Lane, one of two editoonists at the Baltimore Sun, accepted a buy-out when the paper decided to cut back; John Sherffius left the St. Louis Post-Dispatch because (probably) he no longer agreed with the policies of the paper; and just in August, Gary Markstein left the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for unspecified reasons (probably like Sherffius's reasons).
The problem plaguing editorial cartooning isn't simply a paper's fiscal ambitions. It's also the timorousness of the editors. Desperate to maintain circulation, they cringe, apparently, at the thought of angering a reader enough to cause the reader to drop his/her subscription. Editorial cartoons do their most effective work on local issues, but that means riling up some of the readers. We can't do that-oh, no, heavens not. So editoonists learn not to hit local topics hard, to focus their best shots on national targets. And if that's all the editorial cartoons are about, why not use syndicated editoons?
The lame newspapers that emerge from this cauldron of timidity have not escaped notice. Last summer, Kathleen Parker, a columnist syndicated by Tribune Media Services (the Chicago Trib's syndicate arm), rolled out an attack on the champions of inoffensiveness. "People who read my column presumably want to hear my point of view not a bedtime story," she told Dave Astor at Editor & Publisher after producing a column that lambasted newspapers for being boring. In the column, she referred to the steady decline in newspaper circulation and advertising revenue and wondered if newspaper people, "the most self-analytical tribe around," wasn't "looking for love in all the wrong places." All those special youth-oriented sections, for example, "that lose money and insult the intelligence of would-be readers who happen to be young. All the while, numbers drop and jobs disappear, while the blogosphere explodes and cable news ratings soar." The problem was evident to her. "Let me be blunt," she continued. "Newspapers bite. The work isn't much fun anymore, thanks to the soul-snatching corporate culture that has euthanized newsroom personalities. Most papers reflect that numbers-crunching, cubicle-hunkering mentality. We're boring, predictable, staid and out of touch with the folks with quarters. Nobody rushes to the rack anymore to see what the paper's great voices have to say because there aren't many great voices left. Meanwhile, half the nation's editorial cartoonists-Doug Marlette's 'designated feelers'-have disappeared from editorial pages, leaving holes where hearts used to beat."
Recent so-called thinking on the matter has resulted, Parker continued, in theories about the liberal slant of the media (or the conservative slant), its racial and gender biases. So newspapers try to level the playing field. "Obviously," she says, "there's nothing wrong with trying to make newsrooms reflect the American community, though quotas by definition suggest a compromise of standards. But the racial parity mandate is symptomatic of what ails newspapers. It's the perfect bureaucratic band-aid, a cosmetic fix that looks good but is a superficial corrective. Parity does not equal quality. But hiring by the numbers makes us feel good and gives us bragging rights to public virtue. We may be dying, but at least we're diverse! We'll all go down together. As even Ordinary Americans know, adjusting the racial makeup of a newsroom doesn't begin to address why newspapers are losing readers. As with the Cosmo girl who can't find her man, it's not the makeup that's wrong; it's the soul that's gone missing." I'm not sure I agree with every jot and tittle of her harangue here-she seems more than a little dismissive of diversity, for instance (although I agree that it's scarcely a universal solvent)-but at least she's skewering newspapering for real, not imagined, sins. Lack of guts, both heart and stomach. I'm reminded of those historic days of newspapering glory when, at the Denver Post building in downtown Denver in the early years of the 20th century, Frederick G. Bonfils, one of the two owners, installed a fire siren on the roof. He could activate it by pressing a button on his desk, which he did, every once in a while when particularly excited about something. When he was asked why he did it, his response was perfect: "It shows enterprise," he intoned. It also showed that he wasn't afraid to make noise, which might, come to think of it, be the same thing.
Funnybook Fan Fare
A quartet of first issues is stacked up on the corner of my desk. Hawaiian Dick No. 1, by B. Clay Moore as pictured by Steven Griffin, is actually the second "mini-series" of that title. In this one, private investigator Byrd is hired by one of the local gangland kingpins to provoke antagonism in a rival gang so the truce between the two will be violated, thereby opening the possibility that Byrd's client can muscle the others out of the competition for monopoly of the casino trade in town. Eventually, spirits of Hawaiian dead will rise to complicate matters, but only one of them shows up in the first issue. The storytelling and staging here are nicely accomplished, but the coloring is highly distracting. Griffin applies color in a painterly manner but lays it on so splashily and in such dark and garish hues that the visuals are sometimes difficult to sort out. And that's too bad: the splashing color is the most distinction achieved by the artwork, which is thoroughly competent but without much detail in background and accouterment and no variation whatsoever in linear thickness, producing, without the wild coloring, a pretty flat and uninteresting visual.
In Forsaken No. 1 by Carmen Treffiletti with Kristian Donaldson's pictures inked by Nick Zagami, we encounter one of those angular drawing styles, part manga and part Mignola, in which it is difficult to tell the humans from the architecture: buildings and doorways loom, defined by their unlit shadow-sides, and so do the people. It's all very crisp and clean-and stiff and wooden. And cryptic. The style is more design than illustration, but it's a very attractive despite an inherent inhibition that prevents rendering anything approaching lively movement. We meet agent Apollo Delk in several mysterious settings-once, getting his brains blown out at Russian roulette-but we can't tell what he's up to, exactly, except that it's all taking place in some sort of future. Instead of story, we have somber atmosphere-a lot of mysterious menace, dramatic staging, suspense-building timing, but, withal, somewhat pretentious. At the end of the issue, several provocative personages, including Delk, have apparently been collected for the purpose of being given an assignment, which we'll find out about in the next issue.
Mike Hawthorne pencilled and inked Gabriel Benson's Ballad of Sleeping Beauty, a copy of No. 1 of which I picked up on Free Comic Book Day. It's a Western setting for a re-telling of the classic fairy tale. The principals here, Cole and Red, spend the entire issue on the gallows with ropes around their necks, standing there, all night long, in the rain, and telling each other their life stories. Cole's is about coming home to find that Indians have raided the place and set fire to his house. He tries to save his wife, but is wounded; and his wife is killed and her body left lying on him. Red's story is the story of Sleeping Beauty. Where Red figures in it, we don't know yet: he tells the tale up to the point that she falls asleep under the curse of an old Indian woman whom the townspeople refused to help when she needed it. Hawthorne's artwork is a good deal more flexible than Donaldson's-his line varies and people appear to be capable of bending-but Mike Atiyeh's coloring rescues many a scene from otherwise being just a mechanical drawing (like the diagram of the inner workings of, say, a vacuum cleaner).
The Milkman Murders No. 1 is the most interesting of this quartet-in both drawing and story. There's more of both, and much less of atmospherics, than in the preceding trio. Stephen Parkhouse deploys an unvarying line to render the pictures, but he does some feathering and adds wrinkles to clothing and achieves a loose and lively look, which gives the drawings a graphic energy and, therefore, visual interest. Joe Casey's story is a "modern suburban nightmare": we meet the Vale family, an abusive brute of a father, a plump and uncomplaining mother who escapes the misery of her daily life by watching tv and day-dreaming, and two savage kids-the son, who kills dogs and eviscerates them, and the daughter, who is sexually involved with her physical education teacher. The first issue is devoted to introducing us to these wholly unattractive personages. Then on the last page, into the Vale house comes-the Milkman, who is physically as great a slob as the husband. So what is his mission? Can't wait to find out.
In NBM's Eurotica series, here's Milo Manara again, this time with a paen in paint to The Model (80 9x12-inch pages, in color; hardback, $24.95, www.nbmpublishing.com ). Celebrated as a limner of the curvaceous gender, Manara here wants "to show not just that [artists' models] were more than just bodies but also to what extent they were an authentic inspiration for artists." After all, he notes, "the history of models is inextricably linked to the history of art, and their role is of immense importance in our civilization. We owe so many masterpieces to them! And yet, while we're ready to reward artists with honors and recognition, nobody seems to remember the models." A nice, even noble, idea, but the project is just an excuse, of course, for Manara to produce another parade of barenekidwimmin, and he does. But in these pages, the nudes are portrayed with the artists who made them famous (albeit still anonymous)-Filippo Lipi and his nun model, Lucrezia Buti; Raphael and Fornarina, Titian and Violante, and a dozen or so more. Each full-page portrait is accompanied by a narrow column of type in which Manara playfully describes the relationship between the artist depicted and his model. Manara deploys a variety of media-oil, watercolor, chalk on textured paper-and while I like his linework better, this is an exquisite array. At the end of the book, he describes (and paints) generic models-The New Goddesses, The Commercial Model, An Extraordinary Model (photographed unbeknownst to her and, later, painted by the artist), The Deceptive Model, and The Model Underneath the Clothing. In this last, Manara applauds Luchino Visconti who demanded, during the filming of "The Leopard," that even the extras wear period underwear although they knew they'd never be in the scene. Manara admits the story may be fiction, but says Visconti "deserves our applause. I'm convinced that every woman chooses her underwear for herself, all the while knowing that nobody will see it, and I think she does so for esthetic reasons. It's the model in her coming out." The penultimate image in the book, a leggy blonde in a mini-skirt bent forward over a piano and looking back at us, Manara describes under the heading The Gaze: "One of the most fascinating aspects about the painter-model relationship is that the relationship is strictly a visual one. Before and afterwards the two may be lovers, but during the pose, only a light beam links them. ... stronger than a steel cable. The gaze, in its consistency, can engender pleasure or ennui. I remember back in school that Suzy, our model, spent hours in the nude, every day, before our eyes. But, if by chance, the principal came into the classroom, she would hurriedly cover herself." Which reminds me of a probably famous story about an artist and his model, whom he usually painted in the nude. One morning before beginning the day's work, the two sat down to have a cup of coffee together and a conversation. All at once, they heard the artist's wife coming up the stairs to the studio. "Quick," hissed the artist to the model, "get undressed."
The Sportin' Life
I'm not what you'd call a big sports fan. In fact, I'm not even a tiny sports fan. If I seem vaguely aware of the Olympics every four years or so, it's because my wife watches these historic events, and I see 'em out of the corner of my eye when I walk through the livingroom. I've never tuned in to Monday Night Football either. Or Sunday Football or Saturday Baseball. I watched the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan was at the height of his fame, but as a general rule, I don't watch sporting events. I've never understood the appeal of contests the culminating event of which is people showering together.
But I did watch Willard Mullin. I doted on his sports cartoons. And he was the dean of the lot, the all-time champion renderer of athleticism. (And if you missed the Mullin biographical appreciation we put up in Hindsight last week, here's your chance to review his achievement; click here.) Failing that, you'll have to take my word for it: Mullin was the all-time champ of sports cartoonists. He set the pace-and the fashion-for sports cartoonists, coast-to-coast. After Mullin hit his stride, all other sports cartoonists drew with Mullin as their inspiration. Three of the best at it were Lou Darvas, Karl Hubenthal and Murray Olderman. And so when I heard about a new book by Olderman, I dashed to the keyboard and ordered it- Mingling with Lions (290 7x10-inch pages; paperback, $19.95), but it isn't what I thought it would be. I was looking forward to reading about Olderman's life drawing sports cartoons. I was hoping for something like Mullin's A Hand in Sport, which was mostly his cartoons with a little commentary accompanying each of them. (Poor reproduction of many of the drawings, alas.) But Lions isn't like that. It contains scores of Olderman's crisp and muscular renderings-some cartoons, lots of juicy bold-lined caricatures and some full-bore portraits of nearly photographic intensity (on coquille or ross board, a special grained paper that yields a varying gray tone when rubbed with a grease crayon)-but the book is mostly text, stories about the athletes. Olderman spent 35 years working for NEA as a sports cartoonist and writer, and during that time, he met the legends-Mickey Mantle, Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio, Casey Stengel, Rocky Marciano, Johnny Unitas, Jack Dempsey, Branch Rickey, Fran Tarkenton, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Pete Rose and on and on. Olderman knew them all. And in this book, he tells stories about them. The title of the book comes from one of the stories. The story involves Harry Grayson, an old-time sports writer who gained a reputation writing about boxers. One day in the mid-1920s, it seems, he went down to the old boxing arena, Madison Square Garden (in those days, it was on Eighth Avenue between 48th and 49th streets), when a circus was moving in. Seeing nothing going on in boxing, Grayson wandered into the basement where he found a young man in a cage full of lions, defending himself with only a whip and a chair. Grayson was astounded by this feat, and when he discovered that the young man (whose name, he learned, was Clyde Beattie, destined for greater fame than Siegfried and Roy) earned just fifty bucks a week in this death-defying performance, Grayson grabbed the kid and took him to the office of an agent and promoter who, Grayson told the kid, could get him more money. The agent, as astonished as Grayson by Beattie's pittance, promised to get him five times that amount. Beattie was flabbergasted and agreed to the deal. The contract was drawn up, but just as he was about to sign, the young lion tamer paused. And then he put down the pen. "First, you gotta understand one thing, mister," Beattie said, looking up at the promoter. "I ain't worth shit without them lions." Olderman's book is full of anecdotes like this, most of them with punchline conclusions, all of them revealing the clay feet and warm hearts of the legends. And Olderman's pictures are stunning. Even if, like me, you aren't a big sports fan, you'll love the book. (And if you are a big sports fan, why, you'll be ecstatic.)
At the end of the book, Olderman devotes its shortest chapter (just 16 pages) to his own career, with an emphasis on the writing rather than the drawing part of it. Writing he apparently did almost effortlessly (and his rattling conversational prose here speaks highly of his skill), but drawing he mastered laboriously, through diligent application and practice year after year. When he was growing up in the 1930s, he remembers, Manhattan sported twelve daily newspapers, and ten of them (not The New York Times or the Herald-Tribune) had a staff sports cartoonist "whose work was prominently displayed on the first page of the sports section." At the World-Telegram where Mullin demonstrated his genius day after day, six days a week, the sports section's front page was designed around his cartoon. And Mullin exploited the situation, varying his configurations repeatedly; he felt the purpose of a sports cartoon was to "dress up the page," and he made it don its most extravagant finery. Sports cartooning flourished through the 1950s, but it was, even then, a dying craft. Olderman landed his job at NEA in 1952 because the "nabobs" there wanted a daily comic strip with a sports theme-but not a single-panel sports cartoon, which, Olderman says, they already felt was passe. The World-Telegram collapsed in 1967, one of the casualties of a disastrous succession of printers' strikes in the city. Mullin lost his perch. He continued to draw occasionally, as I remember (maybe even regularly; my memory isn't that good), but he was retirement age, 65, and he died just eleven years later. Sports cartooning lost its colossus. But by then, sports cartoonists were pretty hard to find.
Hubenthal had been converted to political cartooning sometime in the 1940s by his boss, William Randolph Hearst. Darvas had retired by then, and Olderman retired in about 1987, taking refuge in sunny California from whence he's written eleven books. Today, as Olderman observes, there are only two sports cartoonists left in regular practice: Bill Gallo, Olderman's exact contemporary, still writing a weekly column and drawing at the New York Daily News; and Drew Litton at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, where he's been treating his subject as a political cartoonist treats his-with an eye more askance than awed (the usual sports cartoonist posture). "What happened?" asks Olderman. Part of what happened, he says, is that the afternoon metropolitan newspaper disappeared; newspapers went to morning editions. And with that, "the logical display case for sports cartoons," reporting on the day's sporting contests, disappeared. And news holes shrank as newsprint got more expensive. Editors were less inclined to devote any space to such frivolous enterprises as "cartoons." The sports cartoonists themselves retired or died and no one came along to take their places. A new generation of editor turned to the action sports photograph to "dress up" the sports page. And another change involved the very nature of sports coverage. In the days of yore, sports writers lauded sports and the athletes who displayed their considerable skills. But the modern sports writer is a wannabe investigative reporter, a habitual skeptic whose chief motive is to find chinks in the armor of yesteryear, to find fault, to unearth abuses, to reveal drug usage, to question. In this environment of antagonism between athlete and writer, there is scarcely room for laudatory cartooning. Strange, then, that the fate of the political cartoonist is so precarious these days: the editoonist is as skeptical as the political reporter, and throws more doubt upon the politicians, so why is he (and she) an endangered species? You'd think the reverse would be the case-that political cartoonists as a breed would be on the increase.
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