The Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Doug Marlette died yesterday in a car accident. I didn’t know Doug well enough to call him a friend, but I had met him several times back when I was an excited, idealistic editorial cartoonist. He was always very supportive and encouraging to the younger guys who would love to have had his job.
Doug’s cartoons were powerful and to the point. There was not a lot of superfluous detail in either the drawing or the writing. In fact, he did what he did so well that it was easy for a young aspiring cartoonist to mistake what Doug did as being effortless. That’s the sign of someone hitting on all cylinders: When you can make someone who has no idea how you do it think “I could do that”.
The editorial cartoonist is quickly becoming as common as the blacksmith, with about as much importance and relevance. With his passing, Marlette leaves open a spot that may not be filled.
it was a tough day yesterday learning of the death of not one, but two, friends.
i was trying to remember when doug and i first met and i think i pinned it down to 1979. he was a wonderful guy -- always quick with a smile and a laugh.
it's always tough when someone leaves before their time (57) -- it's doubly tough when the person who leaves is not only a colleague but a friend.
Alex MurawskiJuly 11, 2007
Dale, It is a terrific loss. He was a great voice. The only thing I disagree about is that of relevence. I think these guys are the canaries in the coal mine. The first thing I look at in any paper is the editorial cartoon. The only reason I open Newsweek is the review of cartoons. Don't think I'm alone in my appreciation. Doug will be missed.
Steve BrodnerJuly 11, 2007
Hanoch PivenJuly 11, 2007
When I was a student I had a book of Marlette's cartoons which was one of the places I kept going to, to learn and be inspired. Loved the simple humanity with which he described his life and work.
I still often open this book.
Stephen KroningerJuly 11, 2007
"The editorial cartoonist is quickly becoming as common as the blacksmith, with about as much importance and relevance."
Alex----Dale is referring to editorial cartoonists being among the first to get fired when newspapers make "austerity cuts." It's a nationwide trend that's been going on for a few years. The ranks are thinning.
ZimmJuly 11, 2007
Between 1973 and 1975 I would ride my bike or get a lift down to the Charlotte Observer after school where I was the official "coffee kid" for the paper and the now defunct Charlotte News. My unpaid position was basically to bring coffee to whoever wanted it. Jim Childress was the staff artist at the News and Doug was the editorial cartoonist for the Observer. Both of these great guys were kind enough to let me hang out for hours on end with them, occassionallly bringing coffee, but mostly picking up tips on penmanship. Doug introduced me to my favorite nib of all times, the Gillott 170 and often saved me scraps of Strathmore coldpress board to practice on. He will be missed dearly by many.
J.D. KingJuly 11, 2007
Sad and unexpected news for sure.
GREAT story, Zimm! The Coffee Boy to the Greats! And look at you today! Fat on noodles!
Dale StephanosJuly 11, 2007
Great story Zimm.
Alex, what Stephen said, but I'll add this: I think the high profile spots like the page in Newsweek, the Sunday NY Times opinion section, USA Today's Friday cartoon roundup have really damaged editorial cartooning while showcasing it. They pick the cute, funny, and usually shallow work and avoid the really meaty stuff. I guess I don't really blame them, they're just looking for laughs. But what happens is that all the cartoonists want their work to be seen there because it's nice to get the attention, but it also makes them relevant at their own paper. The term "dumbed down" is used over and over, but ask any good editorial cartoonist and they'll tell you they agree that this is what's happened. And as a result, the cartoons themselves have less to say, are more disposable as content, and less relevant.
That and the fact that the internet has opened up so many more avenues for expressing opinions with drawings, photoshop, etc.
But you know all this. Hey, I like cartoons too. I'm just sayin'.
Mark PJuly 12, 2007
I was saddened to learn of his death. I own a book by him...it's somewhere in my bookshelf...in it he describes his life as a cartoonist. Years ago when I taught cartooning to kids I'd always bring it along and read them passages...
Robert SaundersJuly 12, 2007
I'd like to chime in with my RIP to Doug Marlette. A brilliant, funny, and gentle spirit, an uncommon combination among satirists.