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Puck Magazine and the Birth of Modern Political Cartooning

puckIn the late 19th Century, long before Mad Magazine and the Daily Show, there was Puck. The magazine helped to change the very nature of political cartooning, was at the forefront of printing technology and agitating for progressive causes during the Gilded Age — and is even credited with helping to put Grover Cleveland in the White House in the election of 1884! In their new book What Fools These Mortals Be: The Story of Puck, America’s First and Most Influential Magazine of Color Political Cartoons writers Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard West look at the history and the influence of the magazine. Richard West has written extensively about political cartooning in books like Iconoclast in Ink and Satire on Stone. He was the founder and editor of Target: The Political Cartoon Quarterly and the political cartoon editor of Inks: The Magazine of Cartooning. He is also the owner of Periodyssey in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

After more than a century, many of the cartoons are dated and confusing to the contemporary reader, but what remains striking even after more than a century is the artwork. The artists clearly took advantage of the opportunities that the new printing technology offered them to produce beautiful work that was also astute, sharp witted and often laugh out loud funny. As Bill Watterson writes in his forward to the book,

their cartoons are lavishly drawn. Some are bold and graphic, some are exaggerated and cartoony, and others are richly illustrative. The Commentary is equally varied, ranging from silly, to satiric, to outraged. In these early days of cartooning, the weekly humor magazine gave cartoons real prominence, and cartoonists immediately began pushing every limit of the art form.

I talked to Richard West about Puck and the history of political cartooning. READ MORE

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Talking to Cartoonist Rich Stevens About His Comic Strip, 'Diesel Sweeties'

Rich Stevens’s comic strip Diesel Sweeties is an odd creation. An online strip with pixelated artwork, it features a strange cast of characters including an emotional robot, an ex-pornstar, and various humans, cats, and mechanical devices. He’s also the man behind merchandise including a “Fuck This” ice scraper and a mug “What Do We Want? Coffee. When Do We Want It? I’ll Fucking Cut You!”

Since 2000, he’s been making daily comics for the web about veganism, music, technology, and celebrating and eviscerating hipsters before the term was widely used. He has a new book just out, Bacon is a Vegetable; Coffee is a Vitamin, and I caught up with him recently about what exactly it is that he does. READ MORE