The Village Voice released its Comics Issue this week, with an inventive and eye-catching cover done by longtime alt-cartoonist Ward Sutton.
The cover illustration is an homage featuring iconic characters in the style of some top cartoonists, and Sutton says the project evolved over many months.
“Our main hope for this was for it to be a celebration of cartooning,” Sutton tells the Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs blog. “I wanted to create juxtapositions of artists and characters that would hopefully surprise and delight the viewer, while also being recognizable — at least by comics fans. And I also wanted to create mash-ups that would be fun to draw and see realized for myself.”
As far as the inside of the Voice‘s Comics Issue, it includes the latest in a line of stories written in recent years about the dismal economics of cartooning, with several prominent Voice cartoonists telling Roy Edroso that cartooning was never all that profitable.
“Cartooning never made me a living,” says Jules Feiffer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his cartoon work at the Voice. “It was as a screenwriter that I made a living.”
Feiffer says it was easier when he was coming up in the 1960s to get by on meager earnings because nothing cost that much. “Now [cartoonists] still don’t get paid much, and everything’s very expensive,” he says.
Adding to the woes, of course, is the one-two punch of the rise of web culture and the fall of print page counts, particularly in the alternative press.
Dan Perkins, better known to comic lovers as Tom Tomorrow, points out that the Voice parent company’s 2009 decision to “suspend” comics “dealt a serious blow to the struggling subgenre of alt-weekly cartoons.”
Syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall tells Edroso that his paper count has fallen by over a third, from about 140 print publications to “in the 90s.”
Rall, like many others in the Edroso piece, says he had to diversify to stay afloat; he has begun writing books and a syndicated column as well.
“Writing prose started out as a purely cynical cash grab,” he says. “Only in the world of cartooning could freelance writing be considered a cash grab.”