Illustrators articulate what a photograph cannot. Using an array of techniques and styles, illustrators evoke stories and meaning in a variety of mediums, from editorial illustration in magazines and newspapers, to comics books, to activist media. And as their tasks over the years have become less informational and more expressive, their individual voice as artists becomes all the more critical and beautiful, revealing an exciting and awe-inspiring age of illustration.
Steven Guarnaccia, Professor, Illustration Program at The New School
Yuko Shimisu, yukoart.com
Sean Murphy, seangordonmurphy.com
Molly Crabapple, mollycrabapple.com
Artist Featured in the First Section:
Founded to teach about human rights and the fight for equality during the days of racial segregation, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is introducing a new topic: Lesbian awareness in the South. (March 30)
This is a story I wrote about 7 or 8 months back for a class in creative writing, just felt I’d share it with the rest of LGF.
The Liberal Media
Melissa Skem was a steely eyed woman of indeterminate age. Her chocolate brown hair had a single white stripe running through it, which she wore proudly and told everyone was a birthmark. No one tended to question this story since Melissa hardly needed the plaque on her desk announcing “The bitch sits here” to let people know that the managing editor of the Daily Standard (one of the country’s most respected newspapers) was not a woman to be taken lightly. She heard a light rapping on her door, and nodded slowly remembering the phone call she’d received earlier.
“Come on in Tom Cat.” Some people did not so much acquire nicknames as were actually out and out born with them. Such was the case for Thomas Catowaski, who would probably end up with the words “Tom Cat” engraved upon his tomb stone. As a kid it had been because he’d had a cowlick of brown hair which always tended to stand up like a cat’s fur when faced with the prospect of a bath.
These days however he earned that particular “title” through his habit of being willing to hang around the seedy parts of town as one of the Standard’s top investigative journalists in order to bring a story back to the office with him, as he’d apparently done once again to judge by the folder he was triumphantly holding in his hands.
“So what’s the scoop this time?” Thomas placed the folder on Melissa’s desk with a wide smile, his blue eyes shining with delight.
“Are you familiar with a Mr. Bartholemew Stevens?” Melissa nodded slowly while taking a moment to examine her nails (perfectly clean as always) since she hardly wanted Thomas to think that he was indispensable.
“Yes, the name rings a bell, he is running for senate, and is currently about a bajllion points ahead in the polls. Hardly the kind of guy I’d like to see elected, but at this point it’d more or less take a few well placed bolts of lightning to keep him from winning.”
“Or this…” Thomas picked up the folder and began to wave it back and forth in front of her playfully. A drop of saliva began to form in Melissa’s mouth and she quickly swallowed it.
“Really Tom Cat, you’ve got something juicy on would be senator Stevens? Juicy enough for page one? Juicy enough to tank his campaign?” In response to each question Thomas gave a firm nod while he bounced up and down on the balls of his feet.
“What is it?”
“Guess!” In another situation Melissa might have right then and there simply ordered her employee to hand over the folder. But while she ran a tight ship, Thomas was one of those well known crazy journalists who got marginally more leeway from her because his eccentricity helped him fit in with the other “alley cats” he hung around with to get his scoops. Not to mention having a tantalizing story that her newspaper would get to break first always left Melissa in a good mood, thus making her more willing to engage in such a frivolous waste of time.
“Is he having an affair?”
“Nope not even close. Besides, think about it, affairs are so overdone right now.” Frankly Melissa had yet to come across the story of a man (or woman) in a position of power cheating on their spouse that she didn’t like enough to print, but she supposed that from Thomas’ perspective digging up the exact same kind of dirt day after day might get boring.
“Embezzling money from his campaign?” For the second time Thomas’ head shook back and forth.
“Overshot the mark a little there Melissa. Try to reign it in some.” Melissa however having used up both of the two main vices she expected of politicians found her willingness to play with Thomas’ game swiftly reaching its end.
“Why don’t you just tell me?” Thomas pranced forward and dropped the folder on her desk once more. Melissa took it, leafed through the pictures and then put it down.
“Yep he’s a cannibal! Okay not one of those ‘zombie’ cannibals, but well… you know what I mean right?” Thomas hesitantly hopped from what foot to the other as he awaited an answer.
“Of course I do. Besides if he’d been eating flesh somebody else probably would have noticed it sooner, that kind of thing causes disease which rot the brain. Of course its not the only thing humans can do which decay our mental facilities…” Melissa didn’t know if she should be disappointed or overjoyed by the news.
On one hand, there was no way that this story would lead to a trial that would generate even more news, possibly reaching a point where she’d have her own little perpetual story generating machine for a month or two. On the other hand, it was almost certainly going to be the death knell for any senatorial aspirations Bartholemew Stevens happened to have. She sorted through the pictures in the folder one last time, examining them from several different angles.
“Sure enough, there it is, all there in black and white, not to mention every other color that film is capable of capturing. With any luck he should be home right about now, I think I’ll give him a call and see if I can make our writers job even easier.” She got to work dialling, savoring the feeling of each and every button she pressed.
“Speaker?” Thomas was starring at Melissa with the widest most pleading set of eyes she had ever seen him produce. Tom Cat could be a bit “unconventional” when it came to how he enjoyed seeing the stories that came out of the material he gathered to the point that Melissa had heard he’d hang around the printing room in his spare time. But they said the difference between insanity and genius was measured only in success, and he’d just handed her a big old successful story.
“So long as you promise not to say anything.” Then before the phone stopped ringing Melissa deftly activated the phone’s speaker function just in time to hear the first words spoken into it from the other end of the line.
“Hello?” It was all Melissa could do not to lick her lips in anticipation. It might be unseemly for a managing editor to engage in what amounted to investigative journalism like this, but sometimes you just had to sit back, relax, and enjoy the little pleasures in life.
“Hello Mr. Stevens, this is Melissa Skem of the Daily Standard. I just heard a rumor going around, supported by a few pictures of course, that you’re a…” She paused for dramatic effect. “Christian.” Melissa couldn’t help but imagine that she could actually hear the sound of the man’s knuckles clenching over the phone.
“What of it?” Melissa leaned back in her chair, winding the phone’s chord around her fingers like a lover’s hair as she spoke.
“Well I just thought I should pass the information along, that’s why I got into the news business after all, incorrigible gossip and all that. I’m sure you’ve got nothing to really worry about of course, I mean even if it is true there’s nothing illegal about it. In our fine country people can believe whatever they want to believe. It’s like smoking in the privacy of your own home; it harms no one. That said, if you wish to represent the people of this state, they deserve to know the truth about where you stand and what you believe. Like for example, how it might be possible that you believe drinking people’s blood will let you live forever and that you don’t show up in mirrors.”
“That’s vampires!” Melissa knew the difference of course, but it was fun to hear the way Stevens’ voice rose a good two octaves as he shrieked his response back into the phone.
“Oh my mistake then. Anyway, like I was saying, the people of this state that you want to represent deserve to know the truth. I mean, isn’t Christianity conventionally known to less open minds as ‘The Cannibal Cult’ because it teaches its members to eat human flesh?” Thomas at this point was giving her an inspiring (if none to professional) thumbs up from the seat he had taken to watch the fireworks.
“It’s not like that and your truly bloodthirsty press types know it! A lot of our founding fathers were Christians! More to the point, only one particular branch of Christianity believes they’re actually eating the body of Christ!” Melissa leaned even further back in her chair, carefully hooking one of her legs under her desk so as to make sure she didn’t fall.
“Well just because we here at the Daily Standard want to keep people informed doesn’t mean that we can control what they think when it comes to derogatory and distasteful names for various faiths. As for your other comment, a lot of our founding fathers were slave owners. So do I have you on record that you believe it’s proper for one man to own another based purely on the pigment of his skin?” Melissa was mentally imagining herself handing the would be (make that could have been at this point) senator a length of rope and him happily tying the noose around his own neck. Meanwhile from his seat Thomas had the good sense to only vaguely mime a pair of hands being brought together in applause.
“Of course not!”
“Well then let me just put it this way Mr. Stevens since I am running low on time and I’m sure a man such as yourself has quite a lot on his plate, one of my reporters has pictures of you at a taking part in the traditional Christian ritual of communion while wearing a cross. Do you want our headline to be about you coming clean to your beliefs in the all powerful sky fairy who will evidently fix our budget deficit, clean up carbon dioxide and unmelt the polar icecaps with a wave of his wand as if you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, or do you want it to be that us revealing proof of your dirty little secret that you’re continuing to deny?” A defeated sigh was the only answer she got at first.
“I have nothing to hide when it comes to my views on the existence and power of God.” Melissa made sure that her voice was the very epitome of sweetness and light as she responded to her opponent running up the white flag.
“That’s wonderful, I’ll send one of my boys over in a few hours in order to get an interview with you so that everyone knows your side of the story. How does four PM sound?”
“Fine….” There was a quick “click” and Melissa hung up the phone and then returned her chair to its normal position, placing all four of its feet firmly on the ground.
“I trust I don’t need to tell you to be over at his place at three fifty with a pen and pencil Tom Cat?” Thomas looked momentarily bewildered at this request.
“Pen and pencil? I take all my notes on a laptop boss.” Melissa gave forth a rather resigned sigh, as she opened up a drawer of her desk and pulled out a cigar.
“Well I must say this is certainly going to make the upcoming elections a lot more interesting. Who knows, maybe he’ll still win. I hear that over on the west cost those Hollywood types actually elected a congressman who was sworn in on a copy of ‘The Bible’ instead of the US constitution. Makes a woman wonder what the nation is coming to.
Next thing you know they’ll be telling us that this country is not by its very nature indivisible, as if we didn’t already fight a war to prove that very fact, and it’s only thanks to whatever ‘god’ they care to believe in that we haven’t fallen apart again. Frankly I think that this state, and every state should be represented by people who only care about making it the best damn state it can possibly be in this world. So if they neglect to do their duties because they care about some nebulous ‘afterlife’ well we can toss the bums out come next election or make sure they never get into the office in the first place!” Melissa then fished a sparkling silver lighter forth from a different drawer of her desk. She kept the cigar case and the lighter separate so as to reduce the frequency with which she turned to her one major vice.
“But I guess I’m just getting on in years. You can leave Thomas, I know you’re not fond of my little hobby.” Thomas nodded and then departed while Melissa ignited her cigar.
“Now then, here’s to a job well done….” Melissa inhaled deeply and let loose with a long puff of smoke.