He had built him out of spaghetti. The great opera singer, Luciano Pavarottiwas nothing but a mass of noodles, long and stringy, oozing out of a classic black tuxedo. The cartoonist looked at his creation and almost smiled. He leaned back for a moment and glanced out the window of his studio in Clarence Square. The trees across the road reminded him of the east Texas woods and he thought of home. Papa hadn’t looked well when he’d left him a few weeks ago, after Mama’s funeral. He knew his father missed her. Then the phone rang. Papa was dying. He had to fly back as soon as possible. The cartoonist took one last look at the pile of pasta on the page. Yes, the Globe would print it. It was silly. And no newspaper really wanted anything more. He signed his name, Franklin.
“That man never had one good word to say about me,” Franklin talked about his father as we walked to his studio after lunch. “But it doesn’t. bother me now because he’s gone. ..You know, after my mother’s funeral in Texas, I looked for some of my old friends. It was strange. They were all dead.” He was quiet for a while. I tried to break the silence and bragged about my new little niece and upcoming wedding. I laughed nervously, stupidly. Franklin seemed far away. “It’s strange,” he said at last. “You talk in terms of life and I see everything in terms of death.”
For Edward Livingston Franklin, editorial cartooning is just one more thing he sees dying. It has been his work at The Globe and Mail for 16 years, and he believes that editorial policies, deadlines and interference are destroying his art. form in Toronto.
Now 62, Franklin was born in a logging camp in Chireno, Texas, near the Louisiana border and grew up to drive trucks, trailers and tractors in his father’s lumber and ..timber business. Self-taught in art, his flair launched him into newspaper cartooning when he returned home after serving in England during World War II. He began working for the Houston Press after winning a contest for drawing Lena the Hyena, a character in an Al Capp comic strip. From the Press, Franklin went to the Houston Post and then to New York to study illustration at the Pride Institute. He married and had two sons, and in 1959 moved his family to Toronto where he found work in the city’s engraving houses. He began to freelance for the Globe in 1966 following a phone call its then cartoonist Jim Reidford, but he wasn’t hired full-time until he’d spent 18 months at The Toronto Star filling in occasionally for Duncan Macpherson.
Franklin believes that neither his American background nor his age influence his work. The two other Globe cartoonists, Phil Mallette (a freelancer) and Tony Jenkins, are 28 and 32 respectively. “I think I might have a different point of view about some things but I don’t think that has to do with the fact that I was born in the States,” he said as we sat in his studio. “What lam is my Credo, that’s all.”
His Credo is a poem he wrote in 1970 for The Globe Magazine: “I like to draw/and my subject is people/more often political-always well known people/pompous people grown fat with privilege/or floundering in disparity between promise and production.” Unfortunately for Franklin, trying to live up to this and to his desire to “provoke and compel” his audience is becoming harder each day,
“When you make apolitical statement with an editorial cartoon, you’re supposed to be coming right down in a particular direction,” he said in a soft Texas accent, “But the newspaper business has changed so much over the past century that it may just be they don’t want anything that controversial anymore.” He stopped to light a Winston and put his feet, clad in dark leather boots, up on the wooden coffee table. “I really think editorial cartoonists are not as good as they used to.” He likened them to children in art classes whose unleashed originality is molded by those in charge until they lose their own point of view, their own sense of right and wrong. The free pen and paintbrush belong to past decades, not to today’s newspaper business. The Globe is respected in influential business and political circles because it revels in conservatism-its editorial policies, its choice of story coverage, even its good grey layout are confined to a traditional framework. Franklin admires the paper’s reputation, yet mourns the fate of cartooning placed in its hands.
“The Globe has an open mind about issues, and I think it is an excellent newspaper,” he said. “But to make political and social statements in cartoons, it would be better to have a completely free hand. And this you can’t have at the Globe,”
I could see the issue bothered him as he grappled with his opinions in silence. It was the simple irony that good editorial cartooning must shock and question, yet can survive financially only inside the newspaper establishment. “I’m not entirely happy with the cartoons I draw at The Globe and Mail,” he said finally, “I’m not entirely happy with any of the cartoons at The Globe and Mail. I really believe we are all too contained, too controlled,” Franklin suddenly let out a gut laugh, remembering one “think tank” held by Globe editors. At it he suggested that the cartoon space on page six be used by any illustrator who submitted an honest, fresh piece of work. “The publisher, Roy Megarry, just looked at me and said, ‘Why shouldn’t the cartoon be edited? Everything else is.” Franklin knows editing is unavoidable. “Sometimes, they edit the vitality right out of a cartoon,” He was simply suggesting the Globe print editorial cartoons that make valid statements even if they are not in line with the paper’s policies.
The smile that had been on his face a moment ago was gone and a disheartened look filled the rough creases. ‘1 don’t even know why they have a cartoonist,” Franklin said, looking out the window, “Maybe they just want something light and giggly to go on the editorial page.”
Franklin and the other Globe cartoonists don’t often join the daily editorial conferences. Franklin usually reads the front page for topical issues, then draws up one or two ideas for the next day. The artists take their rough sketches to whichever editorial board member (Norman Webster, Jean Howarth, AI Lawrie, Sheldon Gordon or Warren Clement) is in charge that day. But, says Joan Hollobon, assistant city editor and one-time member of the editorial board, “If Norman Webster, the editor-in-chief, doesn’t like their approach in the cartoon, well, they’ll just have to change it.”
Deadlines bother Franklin too. “I would like to be able to do something fine, finer than what I’m doing now. But at the Globe, you’re expected to knock it out fast. Sometimes, they dump something [a viewpoint] on you and expect you to produce it. I mean, it might be something that you could spend two or three days on and rightly should, but under the circumstances you can’t.”
Franklin wishes he could chose a subject, go to the library and research it fully. “I’d like to get all the information I thought I needed, come back and develop that particular subject, that idea, as far as I could to my own satisfaction. Then I’d go in and say without pomposity or arrogance, ‘This is what I’m doing tomorrow,’ rather than going in with half developed ideas saying, ‘This is what I’d like to do tomorrow. Please, Mr. Webster, may I?'”
Franklin is sure that if his cartoon angles were basé more often on well “researched judgments, there would be fewer criticisms of his work. “If I did a cartoon about Menachem Begin, the Jews would come down on me like crazy,” he said. “I have Jewish friends and they’re very sensitive. They’ll come to me and say, ‘You know, it’s not what you said, it’s that you really don’t understand what is going on.'” He agrees with such criticisms of himself and his profession. “An editorial cartoonist should be an original thinker in politics. He should study all kinds of politics, all kinds of governments, all points of view… I really don’t know much about anything, and maybe I don’t want to. I’m a child. I want some mystery,”
But Franklin has something more than mystery. He and other editorial cartoonists have power. According to Ben Kayfetz, executive director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress, they have a lot of power. “A man who has the skill can be powerful enough to influence public opinion,” he says. “One has only to look at the Jewish community and see that they have been stereotyped in caricatures for decades.” While the Congress as a whole does not actively complain about the work of Toronto’s cartoonists, Jewish individuals occasionally take offence, Kayfetz maintains. “It’s such a delicate issue, you understand. We want to be fair because cartoonists do need leeway. And we ‘realize that although they like to exaggerate and ridicule Israeli leaders by putting a skull cap on their heads or a Star of David on their clothing, editorial cartoonists do not mean to be anti-Semitic-it’s just the nature of their profession. They have to distort and they have to burlesque; otherwise, they are useless.”
There he was, Leonid Brezhnev. He was standing stark naked, with a dreamy look on on his face. And he was holding his genitals inside a hot dog bun while squeezing mustard out onto them. “O.K., America,” he was saying with his tongue still half out of his mouth. It was embarrassing. It was direct. It was penned by Terry Mosher (Aislin) of the Montreal Gazette. The caricature did not appear in the Gazette; it was published many months after it was drawn in Croc, a Montreal humor magazine. “It doesn’t upset me that
many of my cartoons are rejected by the Gazette because I can always have them published in my cartoon books,” says Mosher, The Montreal cartoonist is a great admirer of Franklin. “Ed doesn’t practice the sledge-hammer approach to drawing, but is very delicate. He adds a lyrical quality to his work, but is still a true cynic.”
Back at his studio, Franklin let out a hefty laugh when I reminded him of the Brezhnev cartoon. “Terry likes to draw the four-letter word, That’s not my bag. Even if I was working for the Gazette it wouldn’t be. But Terry got his reputation by being a radical. And even Andy Donato of the Toronto. Sun likes to shock.”
Yet shocking an audience can border on libel and civil defamation, 130b (;ale, a Toronto lawyer who advises several magazines explains that “under the laws, if a person is exposed to hatred, contempt, ridicule or has his reputation injured, he can sue for damages.” However, he says, while editorial cartoonists frequently defame their subjects, they are not charged because they did not actually libel them “Libel is a tort and you cannot commit a tort if you have a defence. In the case of political cartoonists, the saving defence is that of fair comment if the subject and situation are matters of public interest.”
Canadian politicians have launched many legal suits over cartoons, but because they place themselves in the public eye, they become fair game and have difficulty winning. A Gale points out, “The role of an editorial cartoonist in poking fun at politicians is regarded as almost a sacred tradition in Canada,” It dates back to 1849, when John Henry Walker’ political cartoons began in Punch in Canada. From 1873 John Wilson Bengough carried on the admired art as editor an illustrator of the political cartooning periodical Grip. Both attacked issues just then beginning to surface-east-west alienation, the French-English conflict, the America influence-and especially, the antics of politicians. Then see now, the favorite target was the prime minister.
The only time that a Canadian politician successful sued an editorial cartoonist and newspaper publisher was the William Vander Zalm suit against the Victoria Times. (June 22, 1978, the paper ran an editorial cartoon by Robe Biermarn depicting the then provincial minister of Hum; Resources gleefully pulling the wings off flies. But although Vander Zalm won his case in 1979, the verdict was overturned on appeal in 1980.
Franklin shook his head when we discussed the B.C. cartoonist. “It’s terrible what they did to Bierman.” Defantion laws should not be applied to editorial cartooning, said. “That’s what cartooning is all about-it is to ridicule Take a guy who is operating in a place that affects us or law-making procedures, Well, there he is and he’s bumbling. So you try to show him he’s a bumbling idiot. A cartoon is I made to say nice things about people. The very idea of a cartoon is to make a guy look bad, to ridicule him, to show the quickest, simplest way you can that the guy is do something wrong or that he is out of his element in that job.
Franklin glanced at the large framed cartoon lean against the wall, the color cartoon that had run after patriation of the Constitution. “Just look at those guys,” he says with a smile. “What a bunch of kids.” The premiers shorts and knee socks and with bandages across their faces, arms and legs, stand in a line looking humiliated while beaming Trudeau kneels, arms outstretched, in front of Queen holding the Constitution. “You know, at the Globe automatically hated Trudeau. They would support anyone but Trudeau,” he said, laughing. “And when we support a candidate for an election, we wait about six months and then rip the hell out of him.”
January 28, 1983, is a day Franklin will never forget. Norwill Joe Clark. In Winnipeg’s convention centre, the Conservatives were meeting to decide whether Clark’s leadership would be challenged. And in Toronto staunch Clark supporters were phoning the Globe to complain about Franklin’s cartoon strip depicting Clark as a decisive leader coolly preparing for an important day-and arriving at the elevator with no pants on. “Some people at the convention called and said the guys who were after Joe had made copies of the cartoon when the paper arrived and posted it around the centre,” said Franklin, laughing heartily. Later that day, the Tories voted to hold a leadership convention. Clark was on his way out.
“You know, he’s probably a really nice guy, but I just didn’t think he was right to be prime minister,” said Franklin, adding quickly that he still didn’t believe his cartoon had any influence on the outcome of the Tory vote. “They were going to do that to him anyway. I don’t think I brought Joe Clark down, that’s ridiculous.” The cartoonist laughs whenever he thinks about the Tories. “What a vicious bunch of guys. They’ve got their knives out all the time.”
Knives are sharp but pens are slaughterous, argues Denis Massicotte, until recently press secretary to Ontario Premier Bill Davis. While maintaining that Davis has a good sense of humor and is seldom affected by political cartoons, Massicotte firmly believes that “editorial cartoonists can certainly damage a politician’s credibility. Joe Clark is a classic example. The man was always unjustly portrayed as a weak leader-with simple eyes, a droopy chin, a flabby face, and, yes, even with mittens. How can you take a man like that seriously? And what’s worse is that the public is so vulnerable to what they see in the newspapers. They will quickly pass judgment on a politician according to the way he is presented in the press, whether it. is in a photograph or .”
caricature. While Franklin doesn’t enjoy ridiculing a person’s physical appearance, if a subject is fat or short or crippled he must honestly show him that way. “Sometimes, I’ve done caricatures of people and maybe they didn’t even see them, but I still .felt lousy for having done them.” But, he maintains, a politician’s fate is largely in his own hands and editorial cartoonists don’t have the power to ruin a career solely by ridiculing someone’s appearance.
Franklin stood up and lit another cigarette. “I’ve never really stopped and figured out what I’m all about in cartoons. To me, it’s just like having ajob and going to work every day. I don’t believe that I’m going to move anything or shake anything up. But Mosher would, though. Donato would. Maybe even Macpherson would think he’s doing something. I’m really not sure I do.”
He touched the stack of editorial cartoons on the table and looked at them pensively. “No, I don’t believe I have any power, but I do know some cartoonists who think they have some kind of power, which is really nothing more than having a big ego. I think the editorial cartoonist is. Largely ineffective and the newspaper industry could just do without him altogether.”
Franklin walked over to the window and looked out at the trees in the park. He seemed to be quietly searching, and then he found the statement he wanted to make.. “A lot of us now are just trying to be funny, just going through the motions,”
“Sometimes, I think cartooning is dead.”
About the author
Mickey Trigiani was the Photo Editor for the Spring 1984 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.