His and Hers

Today on the site: A classic Gary Groth interview with one the great post-WWII illustrators, Ed Sorel. How I love Ed Sorel's work. What a great talker. Reading this interview is a perfect demonstration of why understanding the aesthetic history and context of your chosen medium is so important.

GROTH:Let me ask you about a few cartoonists, and ask you what you think of them. Pat Oliphant?

SOREL: The best political/editorial cartoonist around, and I envy him because he has more imitators than I do.


SOREL: The most miraculous of all. What he does is the most amazing to me. I have his Da Vinci book, which I’m sure you’ve seen. Now, how he did that, I don’t know. Just absolutely gorgeous. I mean, if we were living in any other age except this one he would be internationally celebrated, I think. I can’t speak too highly of him. And he writes well, too.

GROTH:And as you know he speaks well. He’s funny. Do you know Gerald Scarfe’s work?

SOREL: Yeah. Scarfe interests me less than Steadman. I’ve seen stuff by him that I admire. It just doesn’t interest me that much.

GROTH:How about an old-timer like Herb Block?

SOREL: Well, I certainly admire his thinking, his ideas are simply grand. Many of his cartoons are like icons now. He had one drawing during the ’50s, when Eisenhower was avoiding any confrontation with Joe McCarthy, and he had Eisenhower wearing a scabbard and pulling a feather out, instead of a sword, and Eisenhower is stating, “Have a care, sir!” That is such a brilliant concept. But his drawing doesn’t interest me as much as Oliphant’s.

GROTH:Or Feiffer.

SOREL: Just brilliant, just brilliant. He’s doing it every week. I do the Nation thing once every three weeks, and I feel like I’m running dry all the time.

GROTH:What about old newspaper cartoonists, like Winsor McCay?

SOREL: Winsor McCay. It’s like liking movies that everybody else likes. Everybody loves Winsor McCay and recognizes his genius. It’s more fun liking Cliff Sterrett. There are some examples of his work in theSmithsonian Collection of Comic Strips. Those were the best art deco strips I’ve ever seen, and nobody writes monographs about Cliff Sterrett, although I might. Incidentally, I write monographs on cartoonists for American Heritage — I’ve done one on Claire Briggs and one on Auerbach-Levy. Of course, Billy DeBeck is just incredible. Just incredible.

GROTH:What about Walt Kelly?

SOREL: No. [Laughs.] Aesthetically, to me, he’s ugly. This has nothing to do with the thinking which is very witty, but I don’t understand how somebody that witty can do drawings that ugly. [Laughter.] Overworked. I guess we get back to the spontaneity of it. Billy De Beck, of course, had to trace, because there is almost no way to do a comic strip without tracing, but Billy De Beck’s stuff has marvelous spontaneity, as does Claire Briggs. But not Walt Kelly. Who else?


Jonny Negron, who I published, has been shamelessly ripped-off by a group of animators for a French band. It is not a tribute (as they say), but rather blatant theft perpetuated by a well-funded organization. Shameful and illegal behavior.

A short talk with Eddie Campbell.

Steve Heller looks at an early booklet for commercial design education. There are numerous such things for illustration and cartooning.

Finally, spend your weekend gazing at these Richard Powers covers.

6 Responses to His and Hers

  1. Phil Larrabee says:

    The Negron thing is gone. (This has been happening a lot lately. For example Spurgeon posted a link in one of his recent “Random Comics News Story Round-Up” sections: “I’ve had three different groups of Facebook friends comment on this…” with the link embedded in the “this” leading to a tumblr dead-end. And…?)

    As for the Sorel saying “Scarfe interests me less than Steadman” I was reminded of an interview with… was it Sienckiewicz?… who sort of inverted that, mentioning something about Steadman drawing cheeks that looked like bombs, while Scarfe would instead go all the way and draw actual bombs in place of cheeks.

    Also had to do a spit-take when Sorel says Kelly’s drawing is “overdone.” Both use a hell of a lot of lines.

  2. patrick ford says:

    It’s likely Sorel is put off by the slick Disney Studio style of drawing used by Kelly.

  3. Phil Larrabee says:

    He didn’t say “slick,” my automonymus friend. He said “overdone,” which implies too much or too busy or maybe undisciplined. As I said, they both use a hell of a lot of linework; for different purposes perhaps, but eaqually well in my opinion. Sorel is more gestural, textural, linear; Kelly more modeled, decorative.

    Glad to see that Negron post was updated, uhhhhhhhhhhh or not

  4. Scott Grammel says:

    No, he said “overworked.” And complains that Kelly’s drawings have no “spontaneity.”

    My problem with his stuff is it’s all too Disneyfied. Everything is just so Goddamned cute.

  5. Oliver says:

    Scott Grammel, are you Buddy Bradley? ;-)

  6. If you have ever had the opportunity to examine a Kelly original (I own two), you would be surprised at how loose the blue pencil work is and the lack of white-out. People may not like Kelly’s style, but it was anything but overworked and lacking in spontaneity. It looks like Kelly loosely blocked in his poses and compositions in blue and then proceeded to draw the strip with his brush without needing corrections.

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