We're in “Another Golden Age of Comics”

Jules Feiffer is an award-winning cartoonist, playwright, screenwriter and children’s book author, and illustrator. From his Village Voice editorial cartoons to his plays and screenplays (including "Little Murders" and "Carnal Knowledge"), Feiffer has been one of America's most prominent satirists for over fifty years. The first cartoonist commissioned by The New York Times to create comic strips for their Op-Ed page, Feiffer has since shifted his focus towards writing and illustrating books for children and young adults.

He won a Pulitzer Prize and a George Polk Award for his cartoons; an Obie for his plays; an Academy Award for the animation of his cartoon satire, Munro; and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Writers Guild of America and the National Cartoonist Society. Feiffer has taught at the Yale School of Drama, Northwestern University, Dartmouth, and presently at Stony Brook Southampton College. He has been honored with major retrospectives at the New York Historical Society, the Library of Congress, and The School of Visual Arts. His memoir, "Backing into Forward," was published in March 2010,
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TRANSCRIPT

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


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