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The Future of Political Cartooning
So newspapers are dying. So what? Good riddance, I say. The quality of reproduction on newsprint has always been lousy. The cartoons have been too small, the registration has been sloppy, and they’ve been routinely under-inked. I won’t say all those trees died in vain, but to go on using them when we have a better alternative is crazy. Paper used to be the place to store knowledge, but it’s now been pre-empted by The Cloud. It’s had a great run, but the printed page is no longer needed.

On the bright side, editors will also be obsolete. They were bound for extinction anyway, since writing is no longer offered in our public schools. The demise of newspapers will finish off these word people once and for all, and they will finally go the way of the Doodoo bird. I hope I’ve spelled that correctly.

(Let me explain right here that any observations I have about editors are given with love. I count a number of these people among my dearest friends — although, come to think of it, I’ve never had one to my house for dinner.)

In fact, we should see the demise of newspapers and books as a golden opportunity for us picture people. To capitalize, however, we will need the help of the very folk who put us in this fix in the first place. Silicon Valley is responsible for our peril; it is up to them to give us with a way out. They should begin immediately on this modest list of projects:

A pithiness algorithm. With those tiresome word people out of the way, we will still need some mechanism to sort out the wheat from the cartooning chaff. We need to develop an algorithm that will screen drawings for meatiness and for their capacity to separate readers from preconceived notions, however briefly. Humor (or searing emotional pain, if humor is not available) would also need to be measured by the formula. As to artistic merit… well, we are talking about cartoons here.

Here’s another one: how about a 9 by 12, high-resolution panel that hangs on your wall and connects wirelessly to an endless stream of large, vivid political cartoons? I already want it!

I call on Google to move beyond Google Glass to Google Glass Bubble (or “Gubble”). With a Gubble, wearers could live virtually in an environment of their choice, including universes populated entirely by political cartoon characters. Welcome to our world.

Eventually, we will see life-sized holograms of caricatured public figures mingling with flesh and blood humans in Times Square (or Twitter Square, as it will come to be called). Enormous, iridescent word balloons frolic among clouds tinted and shaped to our specifications. Students, fresh from their classes in Ironic Studies, look skyward and smile at our cross-cultural double entendres and amusing renderings of abnormally large noses.

Yes, it will be a beautiful world, but do I think that cartoonists themselves will need move forward as well. Many of the go-to standards of cartoon iconography will have to be abandoned. Pinocchio, Frankenstein, King Kong and other timeworn references should all be off the drawing table. Any depiction of large, ugly monsters labeled as Recession, Inflation, or The National Debt will be forbidden, although creatures identified as Unhealthy Eating Habits or Continued Resistance to the Obvious will be allowed. One famous-dead-person-at-the-Pearly-Gates cartoon will be permitted each year, but it must be generic — somebody lived, somebody got famous, and then they died. Never mind who or what they did.

Furthermore, I want to make it clear that I don’t think all forms of printed material should go away. Paper is still the best delivery system for images, particularly cartoons. You can recycle that Gutenberg Bible, in other words, but hang onto your tattered copy of Mad Strikes Back!

I am so certain of the value of cartoons on paper that I predict someday the top eight cartoons of each day (as determined by the pithiness algorithm) will be printed in large format on archival paper. Line work will be reproduced in the densest black, color will be lush and true, and copies of this broadsheet will be delivered each morning to everyone in the country — all at public expense.

Newspapers, at last, will have found their true destiny.

Please Note: Tim Eagan will read your comments but he is currently not publishing them.

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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon