Chester Gould’s iconic character Dick Tracy made one big tip of the yellow fedora when his nine-foot, one-ton bronze likeness was installed on Naperville’s Riverwalk, 26 miles southwest of Chicago, on April 11.
The idea for the sculpture was born from the strip’s artist of more than 30 years and now its current writer, Dick Locher, and Naperville Century Walk Corp. president W. Brand Bobosky.
Locher, a 40-year Naperville resident, sculpted a Tracy maquette that Bobosky thought would make a beautiful life-size statue, joining the more than 30 public art pieces the Naperville organization has installed in the last 15 years. Locher is also a direct link to Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould, having served as Gould’s assistant for several years.
For more than 78 years, the square-jawed detective has graced the comics pages of newspapers around the world, as well as books, television, film and a multitude of licensed products. Tracy has become an indelible part of American culture.
Wisconsin sculptor Don Reed transformed the maquette created by Locher into the larger-than-life sculpture. Reed, a loyal follower of the Dick Tracy comic strip, was intrigued with capturing the structure of Tracy’s angular face, the flow of his hallmark trench coat and the sense of energy and motion Locher conveys of the detective in the strip. He said that “thinking of the character as fully round, while creating strong lines and paying close attention to detail were essential to accurately depicting Tracy’s likeness. “My goal has been to create a lifelike, positive impression that viewers will take away with them.”
Reed combines state-of-the-art technology with Old-World techniques, traditional craftsmanship and careful attention to the smallest details to produce his unique sculptural portraits.
Beyond Dick Tracy, Locher is a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist who has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. His work has appeared in Life, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Forbes, Playboy, The Congressional Record and hundreds of newspapers throughout the world.
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From David Horsey comes this announcement: “Hey, gang, I wanted to let you know about my latest online endeavor. I am producing a series of photofilms for Hearst and msnbc.com. It’s my latest attempt to diversify just in case this cartooning gig doesn’t work out. Here’s the link to the third one (the first two pop up right after this one, if you care to see them): www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35920663/ns/us_news-life/#36319642
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Some good new from John Auchter: “In March I began providing editorial cartoons to the Grand Rapids Press, the local daily paper for Grand Rapids, Michigan. “The reason for this is both admirable and maybe a little bit startling: They are trying something different. The Press is trying to play up its strength of covering local/state issues by providing readers with a local/state editorial cartoon in its Saturday editions. As a reader (and especially as the cartoonist), I admire that. It’s startling because, over the past decade as newspaper readership has accelerated into decline, most newspapers have made a point of not trying something different, hoping against hope for better times. But the Press’s editor, Paul Keep, has a pretty clear vision for moving forward, and I’m enthused to be part of that vision.
“For the previous 14 years I have drawn editorial cartoons for the weekly Grand Rapids Business Journal. I will no longer be doing those cartoons, which was somewhat disappointing. It seemed a little archaic in this post-apocalyptic newspaper world that they would insist on a non-compete, but so it goes. Of course this was a blow to my plans for complete domination of all publications “Grand Rapids.” (I don’t know what they have going on in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, but they were next on my list.)”
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In April, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist and blogger Jay Bookman provided a funny story about how on the day that Georgia House Speaker David Ralston was to be the guest speaker at a dinner to honor Mike Luckovich, Mike’s cartoon that morning depicted the speaker as a stripper.
Ralston admitted later to being a bit taken aback. “What a coincidence,” he thought, that his first starring role in a Luckovich cartoon would occur that very day. But to his credit he never thought about withdrawing from the event, which was sponsored by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.
That evening, however, sponsors of the dinner were a little nervous, worried that hard feelings might mar the event. As it turned out, the concern was groundless.
When Luckovich showed up at the Woodruff Arts Center to receive the foundation’s highest award, the 2010 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award, he brought with him the original version of the cartoon to present as a gift to Ralston.
In the margins of the cartoon, he left a note pointing out that he had once drawn Ralston’s famous predecessor, the late Speaker Tom Murphy, wearing nothing but a diaper. In other words, nothing personal. A grinning Ralston gladly accepted the cartoon.
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In April, Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher was the final guest cartoonist to speak at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, N.C., as part of the “Lines of Attack: Conflicts in Caricature” exhibit. Earlier speakers included cartoonist Peter Kuper and cartoon historian Chris Lamb.
Kal joined Dr. Geoffrey D. Baym for a panel discussing “Satire and New Media”. Dr. Baym, the author of “From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News” and a professor at UNC, studies the media and pop culture — and actually gets paid to watch The Daily Show.
Both panelists have spent the last couple of years studying and exploring the impact of technology on news and commentary, and what it might mean to cartoonists in particular, and satire in general.
Baym said he sees satire as a point of intersection between old media and new media. “The internet is democratizing satire … similar but different [from what we’re used to], an emergent form of satire” that allows anyone to contribute their take on an event or situation.
“Irony has become a generational language,” added Baym, not limited just to comedians and cartoonists.
Case in point: Baym showed a slick commercial parody by a real company satirizing the recent supreme court decision allowing corporations to give unlimited political donations. The commercial, which got hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube, suggested we “just cut out the middle man” — the politician — and simply elect the corporation to congress so they can write the laws that are going to get written anyway. The company has since tried to get on the ballot in Virginia (they were rejected), but is now hoping to use this satirical ‘candidacy’ to challenge the real law in court.
Kal, for his part, wondered if we were seeing a closing chapter of visual satire.
Referring to the shrinking newspaper industry and the staff cuts of the last few years, he said “It’s a time of sadness — these jobs are not coming back.”
While he thought nothing will ever replace “the magic of the line,” cartoonists, he said, are going need to “find a whole set of skills and prospects in the coming years.”
“There will be platforms for the satirist that we’re not even aware of yet,” said Kal, citing the recent Pulitzer Prize win by animator Mark Fiore, who uses Flash, a program that didn’t even exist a decade ago.
“[Cartoonists] are going to go where the most powerful tools are,” he added.
During the Q&A, an audience member asked, “What is the future going to be then? Swamps of animation?”
Admitting that printed cartoons’ power to affect has been greatly reduced, Kal said you have to think of editorial cartoons as a spec of sand. Small, sure, but “sometimes it will get in the eye of your target and REALLY bother them.”
The question of making a living came up several times.
“Prices are coming down, pipelines are getting wider, and the barrier to entry is getting lower,” said Kal. “As long as you have a committed audience, you can — maybe — find a profitable model.”
—Sources: The Daily Cartoonist, NPR, Rob Tornoe, Comics Riffs, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. JP Trostle contributed to this article