We syndicate editorial cartoonists from around the world and we get a constant flow of unsolicited submissions from international cartoonists who would like to be syndicated and would like to be included on our site. The most respected world cartoons are wordless; the cartoonists believe cartoons are a universal language, understandable by all. In fact, there is quite a wide culture gap – most world cartoons look strange to an American eye and we have a hard time finding world cartoonists to syndicate, whose work can be understood by our audience.
In much of the world, the cartooning profession is all about contests, festivals and juries. Cartoonists submit to a steady string of contests and tally up their wins on their “CV’s”. The cartoonists get to know each other by traveling to serve on juries, judging these competitions (and cartoonists are the best judges, since they keep up to date on who drew what, which cartoons are trite and which are plagiarized). The jurors get to know each other over the years and there is a nice comradely among the world cartoonists. The American cartoonists’ idea of actually making a living from our work, and judging our success by the size of our audiences, or our wallets, seems strange to the obscure foreign cartoonists, who are busy building their CV’s and planning their travel schedules.
Unfortunately, American cartoonists rarely participate in international competitions, giving many of the cartoonists around the world the idea that we are aloof elitists. When we look at these contests, American cartoonists see a foreign style that doesn’t fit with our taste. The world cartoons typically are paintings – nice illustrations of ironic scenes, contrasting the rich vs. the poor, the violent vs. the peaceful, the powerful vs. the powerless, and the suffering vs. their oppressors. We call these “daisies in the gun barrels” cartoons. In recent years the international cartoons also focus on illustrations of technology vs. people who are not technologically advanced, and environmental sensitivity vs. insensitivity.
In the USA we draw wordy, joke cartoons about Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears with no underwear, Obama, elephants and donkeys. If Americans were to enter the foreign contests, our cartoons would be ignored as out-of-step with the world aesthetic. It isn’t hard to understand why we don’t enter these strange contests.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I got an e-mail from Portocartoon, one of the big competitions, in Portugal. They are having an online vote of the public for the most popular cartoons among the winners and honorable mentions from their last competition. Above and below are a winner and the two runners up from the most recent Portocartoon competition, which had an “aviation” theme. To vote for your favorite, visit the Portocartoon site here.