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.
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.