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CugelTheClueless's avatar

Is cartooning going downhill in the US?

Asked by CugelTheClueless (1534points) December 11th, 2014

What’s up with cartooning in the US these days? Cartoonists are putting captions on old-timey public domain art, drawing stick figures, and doing stuff with computers instead of learning how to draw. Sometimes they don’t even bother to master their computer art programs. And the venues for their work are disappearing: newspapers are going under, those free entertainment guides at the coffeeshop are buying fewer comics or none at all, and that manga crap is taking over the “graphic novel” shelf space at the bookstore. Lots of self-published stuff online, some of it good, but while putting cartoons online may be easier than publishing a ‘zine was back in the day, it’s also that much harder to get ahead of the pack.

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11 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

There’s a healthy network of cartoonists in Seattle that I know of, but artists are running into the same problem as all content providers in this day of expectations of free content.

Check this out.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, everyone wants something for free and the best of the best get lost in the teeming masses of mediocrity.
No cartoonist and I mean NO cartoonist can ever top the great Gary Larsen. haha

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I can’t speak for the US, but there are still fabulous cartoonists in Australia. This is a selection from 2014. The Behind the Lines exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy is one of my favourite places to visit in Canberra.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think so. Look at this excellent cartoon by my friend Bill Day.

jerv's avatar

”...that manga crap is taking over the “graphic novel” shelf space at the bookstore”

Wow! That is one of the most culturally insensitive things I’ve seen in a while! I get that you may not like manga, but that statement right there pretty much negates any arguments about “cartooning going downhill” since it indicates that you don’t consider anything other than old-school American-style cartooning valid. Styles other than what you like are bad!

As for being harder to get ahead of the pack with online comics, that’s what happens when you allow competition in a worldwide market like the one that the Internet allows. The more selection in the market, the more you have to stand out to rise.

@Coloma I can think of two. Stephan Pastis and Berke Breathed.

@zenvelo Yes, one of my favorite musicians (a Seattle area artist, no less) was complaining that his latest album was hitting torrent sites the first day of it’s release. Considering that his art is how he pays his bills and feeds his kids (as opposed to megastars who use that money for sports cars and piles of cocaine), that “expectation of free content” is causing actual casualties.

Coloma's avatar

@jerv Nope, Gary Larsen trumps those guys by miles and miles of brilliance. haha

talljasperman's avatar

Thank god that Scott Adams is still alive and making some new material with an auto drawer. I think he had a number of strokes and can’t draw anything original anymore.

talljasperman's avatar

@talljasperman Edit Scott Adams suffers from Focal dystonia.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

@jerv I would have guessed your favorite cartoon was Non Sequitur from that statement. My question indicates nothing of the sort. I don’t even know what “old school American-style cartooning” is. Is it the style of Windsor McCay? Bill Elder? Steve Kirby? Charles Schulz? Robert Crumb? Lynda Barry? Peter Bagge? Tony Millionaire? Or any of the other cartoonists mentioned in the posts above?

Just from that short list alone you might guess what I most dislike about manga: the tedious conformity of style. You can find a greater variety of successful styles in a single anthology from the “Best American Comics of the Year” series than you can in the entire manga section at Barnes & Noble. The content of manga is even more tiresome—I’ve never been able to get through more than a few pages without getting turned off.

I don’t care where cartoons come from. I’ve seen some excellent work from the French and the Dutch. I asked about cartooning specifically in the US because I have no idea if the signs of decline I’ve observed here are observable elsewhere also.

And the Australians! Oglaf is obscene, but it is imaginative, well-executed, and frequently funny.

@marinelife Day does good work, but he has been around for decades, so I don’t think he represents recent trends.

@talljasperman sorry to hear that about Adams!

CugelTheClueless's avatar

Edit: no “d” in Winsor McCay.

jerv's avatar

@CugelTheClueless Yes, it does indicate that, so maybe you ought to pay a little more attention when you use strong language like calling thing “crap”. Opinions are fine, but trust me when I say that you have to be careful about how you word things unless yo want to start a fight; take it from someone who unintentionally starts fights all the time.

Tedious conformity of style? I respectfully disagree, unless you are willing to concede that every comic book in the US also looks the same. To my eye, there is quite a lot of variation between artists in manga, though admittedly not as huge as the difference between Jim Davis and Garry Trudeau. The average manga definitely has better artwork than just about anything you’ll find in most newspaper strips though. Pastis and Larson are definitely not great illustrators, but got/get by on sheer cleverness.

As for the content, well, manga tends to go for long story arcs with many interwoven threads, so I would guess that your distaste for that style of story-telling means that you would also find the way Neal Stephenson writes sci-fi tiresome as well. I guess it boils down to whether you prefer sit-com/daily strip “one-shots”, soap opera continuity, or something in between.

Note; I am not a big anime/manga person. It’s just that you came out swinging, whether you are willing to acknowledge it or not, and did so in a way that I personally found offensive enough that I nearly flagged this question.

Comics are changing in the face of the decline of prit media in general though. They pretty much have to. One of those evolutions is moving online. However, that move is generally like “small fish in a big pond” leaving the pond and going to the ocean. The internet is a huge place, even if you totally disregard the “Deepnet”, the 99.98% of the internet that most people see (“Surface Web”). Not all artists have what it takes to remain even moderately successful in the face of such competition.

@Coloma It’s an opinion thing, but I find Pastis to be more clever, and like the way he gets a little meta and sometimes busts through the fourth wall. The occasional shots at Family Circus are also funny. Pastis is good friends with Jeff Keane, and it’s not like there hasn’t been some return fire. Have you actually read any Pearls before Swine?
As for Breathed, I just like the way he could address serious issues without being as dry as Trudeau, while at the same time being able to get nearly as surreal as Larson often was. I guess it depends on what you’re into

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