That’s the artwork that’ll grace the Dec. 8 cover of the New Yorker. The illustrator, Bob Staake, describes his inspiration in the pages of the magazine:
“I wanted to comment on the tragic rift that we’re witnessing. I lived in St. Louis for seventeen years before moving to Massachusetts, so watching the news right now breaks my heart. At first glance, one might see a representation of the Gateway Arch as split and divided, but my hope is that the events in Ferguson will provide a bridge and an opportunity for the city, and also for the country, to learn and come together.”
There’s no question about the illustration’s simplicity and power. But how original is the concept? In August, just after the Ferguson protests swelled, cartoonist R.J. Matson executed this illustration. The fine points aren’t as fine as those on the New Yorker cover; it’s not as pretty. The concept, however, is identical.
Daryl Cagle, owner of the cartoon distributor that carries Matson’s work, tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “I can tell you that this is typical and I would say in the case of many political New Yorker covers that they’ve been drawn before by political cartoonists.” The people in this business, says Cagle, “sometimes draw the same thing and they like to complain about other people stealing their things.” Asked whether he’ll make a stink about the overlap between Matson and Staake, Cagle responds, “No.”
Staake, for his part, has posted his reaction on Facebook:
It’s the first time I’m seeing an editorial cartoon by my colleague RJ Matson that also references a broken Gateway Arch to symbolize Saint Louis. When I thought up my idea, I recalled all those famous black and white photos of the incomplete arch being built. To the extent that we both came up with similar ideas, I’m reaching out to him, hoping we can join forces to spread the message of repairing what’s so badly broken in Ferguson.
At some level, this makes a lot of sense, in light of the arch’s iconic status vis-a-vis St. Louis.
Updated at 2:53 p.m. to include Cagle’s comments, and again at 3:07 p.m. to include Staake’s comments.