FOR POLITICAL cartoonists, it was only a matter of time.
Nearly a decade after the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning was awarded to an animation-only portfolio for the first time, the Pulitzer committee on Monday marked another first: It gave the award to an “electronic comic book.”
“Welcome to the New World,” a long-form visual narrative by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan, appeared in the opinion pages of the New York Times throughout last year, across many installments and 20 parts.
Their collaborative comic, about a Syrian refugee family, also marks the first time that more than a single contributor received the Pulitzer for the same editorial-cartooning entry, signaling a potentially seismic shift in the category going forward.
For nearly a century, the cartooning prize has typically gone to a single-panel cartoon format or a brief visual narrative, generally representing an array of viewpoints from a single creator.
Halpern is believed to be the first non-artist to win the cartooning award — a change that could encourage more reporters to team with cartoonists.
Halpern wrote in an introduction to “Welcome to the New World” that he reported the stories of two brothers, Jamil and Ammar, who “fled Syria in 2012, with their wives and children. After four years waiting in Jordan, they finally received a visa and traveled to the United States as refugees,” arriving on Nov. 8, 2016.
Halpern teamed with Sloan, the illustrator, to create what he terms a “true comic” about Jamil and Ammar’s lives in America.
“I think ‘Welcome to the New World’ expresses values that are important to me: understanding, compassion, and tolerance,” Sloan tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “I feel that this prize that we have received is a resounding vote in support of these values. And there is never enough understanding, compassion, and tolerance in the world.”
Both Halpern and Sloan are freelancers. Halpern is the author of “Bad Paper: Inside the Secret World of Debt Collectors,” and Sloan’s works include “My Extraordinary Dream” and “Zen of Nimbus.”
The 2018 cartooning finalists were: 2017 RFK Award winner Mike Thompson of the Detroit Free Press, for “a series of editorial cartoons about pertinent social issues,” and freelancer Mark Fiore, for “cartoons delivered via innovative video and digital means.”
In 2010, Fiore, a Bay Area-based political animator, became the first self-syndicated cartoonist to win the Pulitzer.
Elsewhere, The Washington Post won two Pulitzers, for reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 election and for coverage of sexual-misconduct allegations against Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.
The Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered by Columbia University, are awarded annually for newspaper, magazine and online journalism, plus literature, drama and musical composition.
This post has been updated.