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We Are Family -- Sage, J.P. and Me

September 26, 2004|Joel Pett | Joel Pett is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist of the Lexington Herald-Leader. His work also appears in USA Today.

From the time I started reading newspapers, the whimsical squiggles of editorial cartoons spoke to me.

In fact, they pulled me aside, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and hissed urgently in my ear: "Hey, fool! Wake up! Don't you get it?" I loved their playfulness, starkness, their power to amuse, annoy, even anger, and especially their disrespect for authority.

If I'd never been lucky enough to work in this field, I'd be editorial cartooning's biggest fan. So it's no surprise that I loved "Attack of the Political Cartoonists: Insights & Assaults from Today's Editorial Pages."

An illustrated guide to 150 of today's editorial cartoonists, the paperback book isn't just a snapshot of the craft, it's a portal into the whole family album.

The book is also a window onto a startling range of styles and political positions on display in dailies, weeklies and online -- 50 years after an article in the Saturday Review chronicled "the rise and fall of the political cartoon."

"Attack of the Political Cartoonists" is the pet project of illustrator and cartoonist J.P. Trostle and freelancer John Kovalic, whose Dork Storm Press published the book, and all the cartoonists represented are members of the Assn. of American Editorial Cartoonists, to which I also belong. So obviously I'm a biased reviewer.

But to be fair and balanced, I'll admit that the variety that is this lively collection's strength contains the seeds of its limitations. Conceived to be pondered individually, editorial cartoons can be a lot to digest when presented by the hundreds. Many of the works are displayed smaller than they deserve to be seen, and some are dated or parochial. The alphabetical format prohibits thematic or chronological searches, and there's no guarantee that you'll find your favorite cartoonist here. (Among the missing are Borgman, Conrad, Oliphant, Marlette and Ramirez.)

Still, for anyone who loves politics or cartooning, it's both welcome and fascinating.

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