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Question: What changes has the cartooning business undergone during your career?

Jules Feiffer: Well for one thing, commercially, it’s undergone vast change and not all of it to the good.  I mean, when I was a kid, the newspaper comic strip was dominant and sexy and glamorous, and cartoonists made a lot of money, and they were famous.  Milton Caniff who did Terry and the Pirates, Al Capp, who did “Li’l Abner,”  I mean, there were – Chester Gould who did Dick Tracy, these then had household names.  And the newspaper strips got smaller and smaller and smaller for newspapers to misguidedly save space, and the quality went out of the work, the quality went out of the art, and certainly out of the writing.  And whatever quality there was disappeared for a long period of time until underground comics, Crumb and company, and Spiegelman and company, gave birth to something new which was alternative comics, and suddenly we have Chris Ware, and Dan Klaus, and Craig Thompson, and a whole new variety of artists, many of them every bit as good as the best during the golden age of the newspaper comic strip.  But here doing work wildly original, very different from one another and impossible to conceive of in mainstream public press. 

So, this is very exciting now.  It ain’t a living.  I mean, these guys work very, very hard and put in the sort of work and hours that I would never try to do.  And I don’t know how they feed their families, if they do.  But it’s a fascinating form and so I think that after a long period of nothing happening and work, nothing very impressive, we are into another golden age of comics.  Unfortunately, it’s not a golden age for the artists themselves economically.  I don’t know how they get along.

Recorded on February 22, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

More from the Big Idea for Tuesday, March 23 2010

 

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