It all started with an email soon after the Pulitzer announcement. I began receiving loads of very kind emails with the subject line "Congratulations!" or "CONGRATULATIONS!!!" Those emails were very nice, but they made me a complete sucker for spam emails that also tend say "Congratulations" or "You Won An Award!" After uncharacteristically falling for a few spam emails, I ignored emails that kept arriving in my inbox with congratulatory subject lines and Chinese characters.
Update #2: Clearly Hong Kong is made for cartoonists:
With all the talk of insta-animation, I took a stab at it myself. I finished next week's animation a week early after about 45 minutes of easy clicking. Satire-bots are on the way!
The latest Little Suzie Newsykins episode is up and running!
While Little Suzie is resolving to get more done this year, just like the new Republican crew in Congress, I am resolving to blog more. (Or much at all, for that matter.) I've been a terrible/nonexistent blogger, mainly because I've become accustomed to speaking through my cartoons and characters rather than in text. It's also taken me quite a while to use words like "I" and "me," since those have generally been no-no words in the world of journalism. Of course that was before the world of the Interwires (unless you were Andy Rooney, that is).
Here are a few of the stand-out articles I came across while researching this week's animation. As you can probably tell, the stories of Darrell Issa's past held a particular attraction for me, although there is plenty of fishy business in the present as well.
Little Suzie is going to stick to her New Year's Resolution and I'll do the same. More soon . . .
This week's animation is up and running here. Harkening back to the honky-tonks of John Boehner's youth.
Now, I love his personal story just as much as the next beer-drinking son in a large family, but he seems to be working mostly for the selfish corporations who don't have to mop the floor of a bar. The little guy is working for the big guys. Here's a nice stomach-turning article for you. Ugh. You'll need a beer after reading it.
Obama's "Self-Defense" animation is now embeddable! You can nab it here or on my youtube channel (the embed feature is a little hidden on youtube, trying to make that more obvious).
This was a really fun animation to create, nothin' like some good cartoon violence to move things along.
The full transcript and video is finally in (see below, begins around the 52-minute mark), and you can now judge for yourself. Did Steve Jobs call me a liar?
It's those pesky live blogs and paraphrased "transcripts" that fanned the flames of this story. My read on this is that, besides calling me a "nice enough guy," Steve Jobs was a little peeved that I didn't try to resubmit before the Pulitzer win. (As I stated before, the reason I didn't resubmit was because Apple said the NewsToons app would only be approved if it didn't "ridicule public figures.")
I'm hopeful that the "ridicules public figures" edict is no longer in force, but Apple hasn't come out and said one way or another. Jobs uses the "95% of apps are approved" line of response quite a bit--- which I hope means satire and political cartoons are welcome and will contribute to a bright future of journalism for Apple and for cartoonists!
At the risk of joining the ranks of Steve Jobs-ologists, his one comment I take issue with is that political cartoons, by their very nature, defame people. As far as I know, defamation is a legal description that goes above and beyond clever satire. You can get sued for defamation, it's very rare for a political cartoon to defame. Tweak, needle, anger, yes. Defame, no.
Let me know what you think or if you legal scholars out there can enlighten me.
Even though I should be finishing the latest animation right now, I just wanted to give you an update about the latest Jobs/Apple/app dustup. I'm still trying to make sense of what Steve Jobs actually said, but here's an excerpt from his appearance last night at the WSJ's D8 conference:
7:18PM Walt: So what happened with this candidate?
Steve: We had a rule that said you can't defame other people.
Kara: Determined by your app people.
Steve: Yes... and political cartoons got caught in that. We didn't think of that. So this guy submits his app and he gets rejected. We didn't see that coming. So we changed the rule, but this guy never resubmitted... then he wins a Pulitzer Prize, and he says we rejected him. So, we are guilty of making mistakes. We're doing the best we can, we're learning as fast as we can -- but we thought this rule made sense.
Right after that, Jobs apparently said this:
7:19PM Steve: We're doing the best we can, we're fixing mistakes. But what happens is -- people lie. And then they run to the press and tell people about this oppression, and they get their 15 minutes of fame. We don't run to the press and say "this guy is a son of a bitch liar!" -- we don't do that.
Now, before you freak out and lose sleep like I did, this was taken from a live blog, and other live blogs from the same event are a little mellower. I'm trying to track down the full transcript or video (the event was filmed, but they're only releasing excerpts) and will update when I've found it.
If I'm hearing Steve Jobs correctly, he's essentially calling me a liar who is just seeking 15 minutes of fame (which, as a cartoonist, is a very funny thing to hear from someone who speaks in front of 30-foot screens projecting his image).
What I am seeking is a clarification from Apple on their policy regarding satire and "ridiculing public figures," and a response to the
I meant to do this sooner, but here are the 15 cartoons that I submitted for my Pulitzer Prize entry. These were all done in 2009 and are now all embeddable youtube videos.
Like my other animation, these are all drawn with a brush dipped in ink, on paper first, then scanned into the computer and animated in Flash.
I know I promised to go into more detail about my recent Pulitzer win (still amazed and floating on air), but it seems that story has been eclipsed by interest in the fact that Steve Jobs and Apple reject apps that “ridicule public figures.” For more back-story, you can look here, here and here.
While I’ve been a fan of Apple and use their gadgets and gizmos to help create my cartoons, it’s good to see Apple’s anti-satire bent is getting some attention. I’m still amazed a company that created this ad is now so hostile to political content:
Satire and “ridiculing public figures” are not only good for our Democracy, they can be good for business—for Apple and for independent creators. (Once Apple accepted my previously-rejected app, NewsToons, it shot to the top spot for paid news apps, beating out CNN and the Drudge Report.) While the iPhone and iPad won’t solve all of the problems facing cartoon journalism today, they do represent a life preserver in a sea of closing newspapers and hugely profitable websites that refuse to pay creators.
In short, satire and ridicule good, Apple policy of rejecting political content, bad.
While mine is not the first political satire app to be rejected by Apple, it seems to have received the most attention thanks to the recent Pulitzer win. (And thanks to Laura McGann’s Columbo-like questioning that broke the story. “Just one last question . . .”)
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (where I am a board member) has called on Steve Jobs to see the light and do what’s right for journalism and free speech in the good ol’ US of A.
“While the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists realizes that Apple is a private sector company, Apple is also becoming one of the primary ways people publish news and information. With that innovation comes new responsibility.
A vigorous public discourse, opinion, satire and, yes, ridiculing public figures, are essential to journalism and our Democracy. Our nation would be a very different place if early technological innovators like Benjamin Franklin and those who followed him, forbade their presses from being used to ridicule public figures.”
Now, to answer a couple of questions people have been asking.
1.) Did you change the app’s content in any way before resubmitting it to Apple, in order to get approved?
No, I definitely did not. When you ask a political cartoonist to change something about the political content of their work, their usual impulse is to do the exact opposite. For example, back when I worked for a newspaper I was told by the new publisher to go easier on George W. Bush, which promptly caused me to go harder on Bush.
Which, um, led me out the door where I happily returned to working for myself.
2.) Why didn’t you tell Apple to go to hell and instead create an app with one of their competitors?
The reason I decided to continue working with Apple is that I want to see them put satire and independent political voices into their mix of apps. My NewsToons app is now one of those voices, and by the way, is still in violation of their Ye Shall Have No Ridicule policy.
Had I walked away in protest, there would still be no political animation in Apple’s app store. My goal is to show the inconsistency and subjectivity of their approval process. You shouldn’t have to win a Pulitzer or get on teevee just to get your political app approved. With the help of others, I’ll continue to push for Apple to open their doors to a wide range of satire, news and politics. If you have had an app rejected because it ridicules public figures, email me. (And, yes, I may create an app with one of their competitors.)
3.) Will you continue to update your app and add improvements? (Also sometimes phrased as, “Why does your sucky app take so long to load?”)
Yes, I will continue to add improvements to the app and it’s functionality. The first version is very simple and had a tiny development budget. (Unfortunately, I’m too dumb when it comes to programming to do these things myself.) The massive response to this app has made loading take longer than it should, but we’ll change that soon. I’m also really looking forward to making new apps that are more game-like.
Long story short, I’m really hoping this is just temporary confusion at Apple HQ as they change from a fortress-like computer company to more of a media company.
The Fourth Estate is becoming Estate 4.0.
Just a quick post before I get into more detail. It looks like the AAEC (of which I am a member) is calling for Apple to support free speech. You know, so you can get your satire-filled app approved BEFORE winning the Pulitzer and having Steve Jobs say Apple made a mistake. More detail soon, but in the meantime, there's this:
A Call to Apple to Support Free Speech, from the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
3899 North Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17110
April 22, 2010
Mr. Steve Jobs
Holy-moley, what a 24 hours! I've been meaning to do a quick blog post about receiving the Pulitzer but have been way too swamped with the whole whirlwind. Stay tuned for a full update and some inside tidbits that aren't reported. (Or at least things you wouldn't think of, like how I am now a complete sucker for those spam emails with the subject line "congratulations!".)
Thanks to all of you who have written or called, and to everyone who has supported me over the years.
After a bit of popular demand, I’ve decided to release some death threat snippets that came in following this cartoon. Most of the “popular demand” was from Tea (ahem) Partiers who accused me of fabricating the whole nasty death-related emails thing. So, without further ado . . .
Then there was a “Tea Bagger” who apparently didn’t mind being called one, though he was still angry.
Most were considerate enough to keep their language clean, although this one slipped a bit. (Edited for family viewing.)
Now, to prove I’m not hated in all the conservative locales of the United States, here is a gratuitous shot of me last September in Walt Disney’s hometown Marceline, Missouri.
The death threats keep coming this fine morning. I guess the Tea Party crew is determined to have “death panels” one way or another. The dustup started because of this cartoon:
“Learn to Speak Tea Bag” ran on my usual client sites, including NPR, which really set off the guys over here, here (note Condi giving child flowers down by "donate" button), here, here and here. Before you could say, “due to a pre-existing condition, your health coverage has been denied,” there was a full-fledged viral campaign by right-wing media outlets and blogs to jump, scream and shout about this animation. Which, to me, is just great!
I say that not because I get some thrill out of receiving emails that are in all capital letters or have more exclamation points than letters in the alphabet, I say that because one of the most important functions of a political cartoon, or political animation, is to foster a discussion. With thousands of comments posted, loads of emails and tweets, discussion was definitely fostered, and then some. It’s the “then some” that worries me.
Of course discussion on the web is not known for its civility, but it finally dawned on me the strangeness of receiving death threats at the same time a crazed Somali extremist tried to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.
Muslim extremist, meet Tea Party extremist. Tea Party extremist, meet Muslim extremist.
That is not to say all people who associate with the Tea Party movement are killers, just as not all Muslims from Somalia are killers. I have very good friends from Somalia, and I have wonderful relatives in Idaho who are pro-gun, anti-government conservatives.
People in this world, my dear Tea Baggers, are not always categorized into easy boxes of Left vs. Right, Socialist vs. Patriot.
As a matter of fact, I myself am a left-leaning, pro-gay-marriage San Franciscan, Catholic, anti-Bush, anti-Nader guy who guts his own fish, has cut down trees with a chain saw and took political science classes with Mary Cheney. Is your head imploding yet?
Surprisingly, one of the aspects of the animation that seems to really enrage the Tea Party set is the term “Tea Bag.” Their claim is that the cartoon uses “bag” instead of “party” in order to take a cheap sexual shot at the Tea Party patriots. You can do your own research on the alternative meaning of “tea bag,” I won’t link to anything here. Oh, except maybe I should link to some Tea Whatever sites that use the very term that appalls them so. Here a bag, there a bag, everywhere a bag bag! (Too bad the sexual angle eliminates any discussion of why the Tea Party crew thinks attempting to reform a disastrous health care system amounts to Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, etc.)
Another aspect of the rabid criticism is that NPR, an organization living high on the hog thanks to the mother’s milk of government (animal metaphors, all around!), should not be funding my anti-Tea Bagger cartoons with taxpayer money. But alas, NPR does most of its villainous work using sponsorship, pledge drives and good ol’ fashioned Capitalism! According to the NPR site, a tiny one to two percent of their yearly funding comes via grants from crazed Socialist organizations like the National Science Foundation, CPB and (gasp!) the NEA. After all is said and done, the amount of taxpayer money that changed hands because NPR posted “Learn to Speak Tea Bag” was about, um . . . two-dollars and twenty-five cents. If you want to dig deeper into NPR’s financial statements, they are publicly available here.
If that sort of taxpayer funding bothers you, you definitely should avoid any taxpayer-funded city streets, return your government-sponsored digital converter box and avoid doing business with any bank that owes its existence to a taxpayer bailout.
To all of you who have written emails and comments, I really wish I could respond to every one of you. I truly appreciate your taking the time to write, even if we may be on different sides of the political fence. If there is one thing that my politically mixed San Francisco/Idaho background has taught me, it is benefit of continuing a discussion even if you don’t agree. Too often these days, the Left and the Right immediately shut down if you are deemed to be from the opposing camp. Here’s to good discussion even if we don’t agree.
Now please don’t kill me :-)
I know, I know, I’ve already been remiss in blog-posting. This is due, in part, to the bloody events of the weekend, events that don’t happen all that often in the City of Saint Francis. (Sorry, Francis, but there are certain city ordinances that must be upheld.)
Now that I can safely say I know something about killing (surprisingly cooperative) fowl, let’s move on to one of the most common questions asked at the Mark Fiore Industries Consumer Questions and Complaints Division. “How do you make these cartoons?”
In this installment, I’ll explain the idea phase of my process.
First up, Trolling-for-Topics. I begin by reading the newspaper (Paper!)-- although most of my research is done online-- until something jumps out at me that makes me angry, strikes me as wrong or is hypocritical. The best animation ideas usually have their beginnings in a news article that pisses me off. This part of the process can happen gradually over the week(s) as I listen to the news, read or watch a bit of cable news. (I generally avoid most television news because it tends to make me feel slimy after a while.)
Next, I crawl into my sketchbook, where I have been writing notes about various news topics. Words, or an event may draw my attention—anything from depressing/sad news that
Well, I fought it as long as I could. See, I’ve always thought that since I spout off as I do every week in my animation, it would be a bit excessive to add a blog where I spout off even further. I mean, look, I’ve only written three sentences and have already used the word “I” eight times. The journalism side of me resisted stepping out from behind the omnipotent opinionated curtain.
That said, it makes me feel a bit more human to be allowed to use the word “I,” and be able to talk more about my work, creative process or whatever comes up-- like this behind-the-scenes look at a recording session for last week's animation, for example:
The wild head-bobbling character you see in this video is none other than,
There's a boatload of political cartoonists coming to Seattle! Why is such a surly, unpredictable lot of ink-dribblers going to be in the same place? Why, the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, of course.
The main event open to the public is Cartoonapalooza, this Thursday, July 2nd at 7:30 at Town Hall in downtown Seattle. The two-hour show will be full of cartoons, laughter, biting satire, thrills and chills. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students. This is a must-see event with an amazing lineup of cartoonists including:
Mike Peters, a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and the creator of Mother Goose and Grimm. He is insane in person and will probably steal the show, he's also an all-around great guy. (Oh, and he has that cartoonist trait of looking about 25 years younger than he actually is.)
David Horsey, the Seattle hometown favorite who is renowned for drawing the most anatomically-correct females in the political cartooning world. Great guy, a cowboy of sorts and also won some silly prize called the Pulitzer. Twice, damn him.
Jack Ohman, famed Portland Oregonian political cartoonist who does outstanding work. If you attend the show and sit close enough, you will witness the amazing fact that he looks suprisingly like a Kennedy. (JFK or RFK, you decide.) Appropriately enough, he won the RFK Journalism Award this year for his beautiful work.
Matt Bors is one of the funniest cartoonists I know. He draws the cartoon "Idiot Box," has a great blog and also does that Twitter thing really well. His work is outstanding and he keeps all the other cartoonists honest. (Oh, and he has that other cartoonist trait where he actually is 25 years younger.)
Ted Rall is one of the best bastards in cartooning. (That is one of the highest compliments a fellow cartoonist can give.) His work is wonderfully hard-hitting and will never leave you guessing what he is trying to say. And don't worry, he's a much nicer guy in person than he is in his cartoons.
Signe Wilkinson is one of the world's best political cartoonists, period. Her style and take on events is refreshingly different and will leave you in awe and in fear for her safety. (She has a particular fondness for going after old, angry, male religious extremists, it seems.) Signe has also won a Pulitzer, but don't hold that against her.
There will also be many other political cartoonists in attendance, with a sale of original work and other goodies. (Sales will benefit the educational and professional activities of the AAEC.)
About Mark Fiore: