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Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Death of the Gag Cartooning Craft

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy drawing gag cartoons, but I'm not a masochist. There used to be a slew of markets, but they just are not there now. At one point, here in the UK, every national paper (and there was more of them) ran anything up to 6 cartoons a day, plus there was a variety of weekly, fortnightly, and monthly titles, from Weekend magazine to She, and , of course, Punch, publishing, literally, hundreds of cartoons every month. Now, Punch has gone the way of Weekend and only one daily runs cartoons.

In the US a lot of titles still use cartoons, but many have either closed-down, or just stopped using them.

If anyone asks my advice on gag cartooning today, I'm quite blunt and I advise them against even starting submitting cartoons. My advice is always, 'become an illustrator', even though the difference between an illustrator and a cartoonist is often simple semantics. Like most cartoonists of my generation I had a lot of avenues, bifurcations, that just aren't around today. I was an editorial cartoonist, an illustrator, a writer/illustrator for IPC, I drew and wrote a comic for IPC's Buster, I did a daily panel, a strip, adverts, paintings, books, and the odd cartoon. There just isn't the opportunity these days, as our publications either prefigured, or followed, the media trend of 'reality' over fiction and the predominance of the photograph over illustrations.

But that doesn't mean you can't draw for a living, it simply means that you might be better spending your apprenticeship (the time it takes to get published and then to earn a living) exploring other ways of making a name for yourself. In this respect I would suggest you draw mini-comics, attempt to get into indy anthologies, and develop a website to show of your goods. The portfolio you build up around this work, which you can take to Comic Conventions and the like, will almost certainly pay off better long term than gag cartooning, unless you are well connected, hugely talented, and incredibly lucky.

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