The Art of War: Editorial Cartooning

Never having served in the military, I at first thought it odd when I received an invitation to speak on the “Weapons” of War as part of the George C. Marshall Legacy Series. After it was explained to me that my specific topic would be “Paper Bullets”–editorial cartooning as it relates to conflict and public opinion–I became a bit more comfortable with that task.

Join or DieThe fact is, one can argue that American editorial cartooning had its birth in wartime, with Benjamin Franklin’s famous 1754 Join or Die drawing inspired by the French and Indian War. Since that origin, editorial cartoonists have been an integral contributor to national debate when armies march. From Franklin, to James Montgomery Flagg’s I Want You recruiting poster, through Bill Mauldin’s WWII GI’s Willie and Joe, to the anti-war cartoonists of the Vietnam era and our contemporary commentary on Iraq and Afghanistan, editorial cartoonists have attempted to sway policy and opinion through the strokes of our pens.

My daily task is to offer an informed opinion charged with my own emotions and perspectives, distilling all that down into a simple visual image. Sometimes the cartoon falls into place like an easy spring shower. Other days, there is intense drought. No matter the process, one thing I do keep in mind when drawing about the awful reality of war is this: all I ever spill is ink, while other, much braver souls are spilling their blood.

Note: Award-winning cartoonist Bob Gorrell opened the “Weapons” of War sequence last night with a captivating talk on cartooning and the process of creating thought-provoking images.

This Week’s Guest Blogger: Bob Gorrell

Gorrell Gorrell’s work has appeared through syndication in hundreds of daily and weekly newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal, The Portland Oregonian, The Providence Journal, USA Today, The New York Post, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. His commentary has been featured in Time, Newsweek, National Review, and other prominent periodicals, and college papers have receive his drawings through the U.S.I.C. Educational Foundation. Gorrell cartoons have been used on CBS television’s Face the Nation and on C-Span, and he himself has guested on CNN’s Crossfire as well as other television and radio broadcasts.