September 11, 2001, was a watershed moment for everybody. For us as cartoonists, it was a call to arms, a call to challenge complacency and inaction. That’s what we strive to do. – John Cox
Forkum: Sales have been slow but steady — not as good as we’d like, of course, but at this rate we’ll eventually profit from it. We self-published the book, so it was a risky venture from the start. The blog has definitely helped sales. Certainly more people know of us now than before.
Cox: For all the satisfaction the book has offered, our work on the Web site has been a huge adrenaline rush. Speed and responsiveness is rewarded in blogging, and it has given me a chance to do the kind of work that normally doesn’t thrive in conventional outlets. For all the quick reaction time and head-long thrill of instantaneous fan response, I swear there ought to be racing stripes and sponsor decals on my drawing board.
Forkum: As an example of what John means, we were able to post our “In The Dark” cartoon within hours after the blackout happened. Having that kind of freedom is fun.
John Little: “Why aren’t these guys syndicated?” is a question I hear a lot. Is syndication necessarily an indication of success for cartoonists and is it something you’re pursuing aggressively?
Forkum: We’d love to be syndicated, and we’re striving for it. With the blog we’re reaching a couple of thousand viewers a day on average. A syndicated cartoonist has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands. Not only would that much exposure be rewarding professionally, presumably the income would be better, too.
Cox: To me, syndication would be the limo ride of cartooning. Blogging is more like a Ferrari road trip, opened up and blasting through the country-side. So far, the bug parts on my sunglasses seem kind of cool.
John Little: In our two-party system there’s the assumption that we operate from a common pool of values. Is that attachment still there for the Democratic party or is the far-Left enveloping the mainstream Democrat?
Forkum: As far as the Democratic leadership and prominent politicians go, I think the Leftist ideology has taken over. I’m from Tennessee, and here rural Democrats are very different from urban Democrats. I think that’s why Gore couldn’t even carry his home state in 2000. He’d be president right now if he had, but he was too far left.
Cox: Oooooooooh……President Gore. That’s a case of Bombay Gin and four days in Vegas to a cartoonist.
John Little: The Left really appeared to be gaining momentum in the months leading up to the war in Iraq. The war took a lot of steam out of their movement but they’re slowly gaining traction again. Do you think they will be able to focus the diverse coalition they assembled to oppose the war into defeating George Bush or will they remain fractured by different priorities?
Forkum: I think the Democrats are too fractured right now, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t come together and pose a threat to Bush. It may simply depend on whether or not the Green Party fields a candidate and takes votes away votes away from the Democrat nominee. I imagine that they will because they won’t be able to resist the opportunity to bash Bush.
John Little: Are there any public figures on the Left that you can respect or that you believe would serve as proper role-models for a “rational Left” or am I dealing in oxymorons here?
Forkum: I don’t know of anyone today.
Cox: I think you’d have a better chance of seeing Schwarzenegger pass a diction course than witnessing a prominent Leftist spouting a rational approach to world leadership.
John Little: Your work is guided by the philosophy of Objectivism as opposed to a purely politically conservative viewpoint. Political differences aside, I often find myself most disturbed by the sheer lack of reason, of critical thought, that I find on the Left. Can you relate?
Forkum: Absolutely. As far as they’re concerned, their socialistic ends justify their means. Reason and critical thinking only get in their way.
John Little: What do you think drives a person to associate President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, or Dick Cheney with a monster like Hitler while simultaneously appearing to be unmoved by the atrocities of a Saddam, bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, or the like? Where does this homegrown assumption of American evil by default come from?
Forkum: From morality. Generally speaking, Leftists think it is morally wrong that America is rich and powerful while other countries are poor and weak. Their morality — altruism — dictates that the haves are morally obligated to sacrifice for the have-nots. Politically this leads to collectivism and socialism. America, on the other hand, is still basically individualistic and capitalistic. America is about being self-responsible, pursuing your own happiness and interests, making money and having the freedom to choose how you spend it — even if that means choosing not to give it away to the needy. What could be more evil by Leftist standards? To them America is propagating the “evil” of capitalism and economic freedom. By comparison, the crimes of Saddam, bin Laden and Kim Jong Il are considered lesser evils (if evil at all), crimes that are further mitigated by the socialistic/anti-American sentiments of the brutes who commit them. The Leftist moral evaluation of reality is the exact opposite of the truth because their morality is the exact opposite of the good.
John Little: Do you ever find yourselves at odds over creative or philosophical issues? How does the collaborative process work and how do you resolve differences if they arise?
Forkum: As the writer, I have the final say on philosophical and political issues, but it’s extremely rare that John and I find ourselves at odds. Our basic approach is that once we have an idea, whether it’s mine or John’s, whatever serves that idea becomes the standard — that is, whatever helps the cartoon communicate the intended message is good, whatever interferes is bad. Most often that approach is what resolves any differences of opinion in, say, how something looks or how something is written.
Cox: And I would add that having worked with Allen for about 14 years, I can safely say we know each other’s aesthetics. The only time we seem to differ in a cartoon’s direction is when my attempts at exaggeration become “over cooked.” I like prodding and poking the outer limits of what makes a cartoon visually arresting.
John Little: What are your thoughts on your peers at the opposite end of the political spectrum? Can you look at a Ted Rall, for example, and appreciate the work but despise the message?
Cox: Not in the case of Ted Rall. But there are a lot of excellent cartoonists with left-leaning politics — far more from the left than the right. Just to name a few, Ben Sargent, Pat Oliphant, and Don Wright are all great artists and masters at communicating their ideas with powerful visuals, and that’s true whether I agree with their opinions or not. And from the right there’s the wonderful Michael Ramirez. But far-Left cartoonists tend to merely write screeds with spot illustrations. It’s as if they are so caught up in the words of ideology they can’t even think of visual ways to communicate. I don’t appreciate that type of editorial cartooning no matter what politics it espouses.
Cox: Peers? We are the only two-headed, four-eyed, Objectivist visual commando this side of Pluto. We’re a new mutation. I think Allen’s take on the news coupled with my insatiable need for inky fingers make us unique.
John Little: How did the events of 9/11 shape or impact your work?
Forkum: We started editorial cartooning in mid-August 2001. I had written three cartoons but we hadn’t started drawing them yet. September 11 totally changed our approach. Rather than casually pursuing the work, I suddenly had burning desire to speak out. The large majority of our cartoons have since dealt directly or indirectly with what we think is the appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks.
Cox: It also triggered a dictum that Allen and I really treasure: Cartooning is pointless only if you make it pointless. September 11, 2001, was a watershed moment for everybody. For us as cartoonists, it was a call to arms, a call to challenge complacency and inaction. That’s what we strive to do.