I don’t really remember the exact date, but at some point in late 1994 or early 1995, I met my editor from the SF Examiner, David Talbot, for lunch at the Rincon Center food court in San Francisco. Over some cheap take-out, he explained that he’d been working on some sort of new “web magazine” called Salon, in which he hoped to run my cartoon. Seemed like an interesting idea, and I threw out the names of various other cartoonists he might also want to run, including Ruben Bolling, Keith Knight, and Carol Lay. And for more than a decade, the four of us formed the core of what was effectively the internet’s first comics section.
Fast forward to the present day, and after a couple rough years of attrition and budget cuts, mine is the only cartoon left running in Salon — and today marks my last appearance there.
I’ve had an extraordinary run at Salon, and it has been a fantastic platform, which I have been privileged to share with many talented contributors over the years. But as Blinky notes in this week’s farewell cartoon, I’ve been there for about a million years in internet time. My contract was up for renewal at the end this month, and I was feeling vaguely ready for a change, when I was approached by Markos Moulitsas with an intriguing offer — the chance to not only publish my own work on the Daily Kos, but to serve as the site’s Comics Editor, to help create an entirely new space online for political cartoons.
I’ve been quietly agitating for something like this for quite a while. These are difficult times for cartoonists, particularly those of us working in the subgenre of altweekly cartooning. The papers are still vital to my survival, and I’m grateful beyond measure to the many editors who continue to run my work in print each week — but the larger trend over the past few years has not exactly been encouraging. Too many papers have decided that they no longer have any use for this art form which grew in their stead, adapting itself entirely to their rhythms, and as that market contracts, there’s been no simultaneous expansion online. The niche that editorial cartoons filled in newspapers is almost entirely occupied by Daily Show clips online. Why do so few political sites feature political cartoons? Why did the Huffington Post, with verticals devoted to almost any topic you can imagine, never launch a comics section?
I’ve got a chance to help counter that trend, in some small way, at a site I’ve been reading since 2002. (I believe I actually sent Markos some of his earliest traffic, back–as absurd as it sounds now–when my little vanity site had the higher readership.) It’s an experiment for both of us, I think, but an exciting one. My cartoon will start running there next Monday. Over the next few months we’ll be adding others, and, I hope, building up a go-to destination for progressive cartoon commentary.