WHEN IT COMES TO squatting on fertile creative ground, Occupied cartoonists might just have the best seat in the tent.
“South Park” may have once sung “Blame Canada,” but cartoonists elsewhere could kiss the ground that the Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters sought to shake up when it helped to brand “Occupy Wall Street.”
That’s because the Occupy movement readily lends itself to covering with a handy mix of pen, ink and symbolism. Playing to the cartoonists’ hand are such factors as: The movement has global recognition, the access to demonstrators and authorities is easy, the storyline plays out somewhat differently in each city — and the overall months-long narrative lurches forward in fits and starts.
In Tuesday’s Post, for example, the Style section features several prominent examples of Occupy-inspired poster art. One of those posters (pictured above) is by syndicated “La Cucaracha” cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who invoked several ready symbols for his art. (Full disclosure: Alcaraz was one of the celebrity-pro judges last year for The Post’s ”America’s Next Great Cartoonist” contest.)
“I originally drew the image of the ‘Monopoly Guy’ — Rich Uncle Pennybags — as a symbol of Wall Street’s, and the 1-percenters’, monopoly on the wealth of American society,” Alcaraz tells Comic Riffs. “It was a call to ‘pull down’ the old system a la the way the old Saddam [Hussein] statue was pulled down in Iraq.
“It's not a call to destroy capitalism — just to make it equitable for everyone in the U.S., not just the superwealthy.”
Alcaraz first drew the image as an editorial cartoon, then he “posterized” it. “The image went viral,” he says, “and people were printing it out and even adding their own location in the ‘name line’ in the poster” — from Zuccotti Park to Portland to the “guy who printed it with ‘Occupy Everywhere.’ “
Besides providing the emblematic symbols of fists and fiscal bulls, statues and moneyed characters, the Occupy movement has offered prime real-estate to comics journalists, as well. “Now it feels like comics journalism is expected out of any big news event,” author/artist Josh Neufeld told Comic Riffs last week — citing, among other such events, Occupy Wall Street.
Over at the site Cartoon Movement, for instance, Stephanie McMillan shares her second installment Monday from “The Beginning of the American Fall.” What her deft reportage spotlights this time around, in part, is how peaceful Round One proved to be while McMillan was at Occupy D.C. (This past weekend, by contrast, felt like a distinct bell that rung in McPherson Square’s Round Two, as 31 protesters were arrested.)
McMillan’s take-away from Washington proved very different from that of Washington Examiner political cartoonist Nate Beeler, who cast a jaundiced eye and poisoned pen-nib toward the D.C. protesters he can see and hear from his newsroom. Some of Beeler’s cartoons reflect the sentiments he told Comic Riffs about the movement: ““There’s so much naivete. ... It’s hard to take it seriously.”
From cities across the United States, meanwhile, such comics journalists as Shannon Wheeler (New York), Sharon Rozensweig (Chicago) and Susie Cagle (Oakland) have contributed to Cartoon Movement’s composite Occupy Sketchbook, and fellow visual reporter Sarah Glidden delivered her Occupy Miami.
Amid the backdrop of all this graphical reportage, of course, comics legend Frank Miller has ranted against the protesters — or as he dubs them, “louts, thieves and rapists” — in last month’s much-trafficked acidic soliloquy. That drew fire from fellow comics titan Alan Moore, who retorted: “I’m sure if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman make-up on their faces, he’d be more in favor of it.”
An intriguing twist in all this from a graphic-novel standpoint, naturally, is the degree to which the Occupy movement has adopted the symbolic Guy Fawkes mask from “V for Vendetta” — co-created by Moore and artist David Lloyd, who told Comic Riffs: “I'm happy it's being used as a multi-purpose banner of protest. ... It just represents opposition to any perceived tyranny, which is why it fits easily into being Everyman's tool of protest against oppression.”
[CLICK BELOW TO CONTINUE READING:]
And after weeks of such images, one cartoon co-opted by the Occupy movement particularly retains a dewy, rose-colored charm. When Freedom Plaza’s Occupy D.C. protestors sought a comic for their “official” newspaper, titled The Occupied Washington Post , they chose a work that spoke to them in timeless fashion.
The Depression-era cartoon is signed “A.R.,” as in A. Redfield — the sometime nom-de-toon of New Yorker cartoonist Syd Hoff. — who believed that society was divided into the oppressed and the bourgeoisie.
Carol Edmonston shared with Comic Riffs one especially memorable quote from her Uncle Syd:
“It takes not only courage, but also a special kind of skill to become a political cartoonist. The courage is needed because there are always some readers who will be offended by the point of view of an editorial cartoon and will demand the job and maybe the hide of the artist.
“ The skill is demanded because it takes a superior craftsman to portray the likeness of the heroes and villains who strut their stuff on the events of the day.”