Pencils for Peace: Craig Yoe, 'The Great Anti-War Cartoons'

April 14, 2010

CRAIG YOE MAY seem like a typical hippie: He printed underground newspapers in the thick of the antiwar 1960s and readily admits he “never grew up.” And the toy designer, comics historian and author is making his political opinions public with his latest book, “The Great Anti-War Cartoons,” which combines his passion for cartoons with his own liberal leanings.

“I used to find … radical cartoonists of World War I and publish their cartoons in my hippie underground newspapers and pass them out on the streets of the antiwar rallies I organized,” Yoe said.

Some of those cartoons, and many others, appear in “The Great Anti-War Cartoons,” which came out in December and which Yoe hopes will radicalize antiwar activists. But before Yoe — whose lengthy resume includes time with Mattel, Hasbro, the Jim Henson Company, Nickelodon and Disney before he created his own company, YOE! Studio — appears at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., Friday, he spoke with Express about the book.

» EXPRESS: How did you find the cartoons you wanted to include in the book? Were they all from your personal collection, or did you branch out?
» YOE: The cartoons are probably from three major collections: My own collections, and Warren Bernard’s collection — he’s a great comic and historian and collector, so he lent me a lot of cartoons — and he turned me onto another fellow, Peter van Amelsfoort, from Europe, so he was able to dig up a lot of great stuff, too, that neither Warren or I had known about.

» EXPRESS: The book isn’t meant to just be entertainment, though — what else do you hope readers will get out of it?
» YOE: It’s very exciting for me to put together, but also very sad, because it’s a very serious subject. These cartoonists, not only was their artwork amazing, but I also had little bios in the back for each one of them, and many of them were persecuted or jailed or beaten or even killed for drawing these cartoons. And, ironically, that’s happening again today, the death threats on cartoonists.

So the need for antiwar cartoons and the fact that cartoonists are again being persecuted around the world — history comes alive, with some of its unfortunate aspects.

» EXPRESS: Do you think daily cartoons will stay relevant?
» YOE: I think it’s shameful, the relationship between newspapers and cartoonists these days. … Political cartoonists today are jesters instead of prophets; newspapers need to get their act together with their cartoonist friends. Newspapers should get back to comics: They’re wonderful entertainment, they’ll draw in young people. The world needs them, and the newspapers need these comics and cartoons.

» Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave.; Fri. April 16, 7 p.m., free; 202-364-1919.

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photo courtesy Fantagraphics

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Ryan Little · April 14, 2010