Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Impeachment Funnies.

My portrait of Nixon as Pinocchio. A natural, right? 

By Rick Marschall.

Well, the word of the month is impeachment. Rather, the Subsection D, category 17, folder T-1, is “Phone Call.” Oh, just stick in there somewhere between Collusion, Stormy Daniels, Emolument, Tweets, and Weird Hair.

Back in my early days of cartooning, Impeachment likewise was in the air – taken further than this flavor-of-the-day is likely to go. But who knows. I am talking about the Nixon Years, of course (whoops, not “of course” – you might have thought I meant the Clinton Years).

One of a multitude of differences with the Nixon impeachment furor that, as inviting as Trump is to caricature, no president was more inviting to draw. Well, except for Theodore Roosevelt. And maybe Abraham Lincoln. But Nixon preternaturally looked shifty and guilty, possibly from his first baby picture onward. A cartoonist’s dream.

Jules Feiffer drew Nixon as Banquo’s ghost. Certainly not a MacArthur reference. This was actually from my sketchbook, drawn after the resignation. The following caricatures are all from before the impeachment.

Here is a little gallery of Nixon caricatures drawn for me in those years. If I asked a fellow cartoonist for a sketch, I never requested a Nixon. But the political cartoonists had the jones for low-hanging fruit.

So did I. When a was a college student I drew for New Guard magazine, the monthly journal of Young Americans for Freedom, the campus youth group launched by William F Buckley; and for other outlets like Battle Line of the American Conservative Union. In an early taste of 2019’s definition of freedom of the press, I was good enough for those national publications but my own school paper, The Eagle at American University, Washington DC, would not run my submissions because I was conservative. Something dies in darkness, I heard somewhere...

Movement conservatives early were disenchanted with Nixon, of course, and many of the cartoons in my old files are less than kind to him. The “Pinocchio” concept was a natural, with his nose that put Bob Hope’s to shame; yet I always was surprised more cartoons did not use it.

As the Watergate pot began to boil, other obvious concepts presented themselves. Hardly a tiny fraction of his face shows, but I think I captured Nixon well.

A few years later I was political cartoonist for a chain of papers owned by William Loeb of the Manchester (NH) Union Leader. Bill’s father had been Theodore Roosevelt’s private secretary; and Bill himself was a delightfully crusty traditional publisher – editorials on the front page; sticking it to liberals; we got along fine. His papers were the first major chain, left or right, to call for Nixon’s resignation or impeachment. The second cartoon here is from my tenure on his Connecticut Sunday Herald.
Art Wood, cartoonist, collector, and founder of the National Foundation and Gallery of Caricature and Cartoon Art (whose name was longer than the life of the institutions), of which I was to become president.

The other drawings here are by cartoonists who stuck with it longer than I did. I turned to editing and writing. As I say, cartoonists skewered Nixon virtually whenever a blank piece of paper was in front of them.

Donald Trump to the contrary notwithstanding, cartoonists are among the only people in America who are not happy that, in Nixon’s famous rant in 1962, they “don’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more.”

Joe Papin was a staff artist on the New York Daily News, doing news portraits and editorial art. More talented than the paper allowed him to show. For a while I lived on the Jersey shore, in Rumson, and sometimes wound up on the same buses and trains, Manhattan-bound with Joe. He was as light-hearted and insouciant as his portrait of President Nixon suggests…

Jim Berry

Bill Crawford


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