For more than a quarter of a century, political cartoonist Jesse Springer has been parodying and highlighting the uniqueness of Oregon. His work has appeared in many regional newspapers across the country. Springer’s latest book, “Only in Oregon,” is a compilation of several hundred cartoons that cover everything from climate change to COVID-19 to gerrymandering.
Brian Bull of KLCC spoke to Springer and asked how he makes political cartoons in these polarized times.
jumper: When I’m drawing a cartoon and trying to come up with a concept for a cartoon, I definitely want to think of readers who aren’t necessarily inclined to agree with me. I really don’t want to overlook people with my political stance. That said, a political cartoon does have a political point. So I’m not going to back down from that. But I do want to try to do it that way. And I believe that humor is that kind of special sauce, which is that if I can, if I can make my point with some humor, hopefully it will, a person on the other side of the political fence might not kind of immediately lift their armor. . And the humor is kind of a way of accessing a little bit of people’s psyche that I wouldn’t get through otherwise.
Taurus: I imagine one thing that has changed since you started out in the early 90’s is the need to really market your work yourself, especially given the state of newspapers today.
jumper: Yeah, absolutely, that’s definitely the backstory here since 1995 to the present. In fact, the advent of people getting free news online has dealt a serious blow to traditional news sources, newspapers in particular. And a sign of that is that I haven’t increased the rates of my cartoons since I started in 1995. Because I can see newspapers cutting back. They look for excuses to cut corners in a certain way, so if I tell them, “Okay, you know, inflation, I’m going to raise my rates,” I worry that they’re going to drop me. So that’s a huge thing, there’s a lot of attrition among editors.
I was in the Salem paper for years and years and years. I got an email from a person in Nashville who said, “Yeah, we’re no longer running your cartoon and you know, this person’s title was “Senior Executive Vice President of Customer Experience” or something like that. the decisions made.It’s no longer a local situation and decisions about cost savings are made, you know, at the central locations.And so, that’s been a big thing for me.
And while we’re on the subject, I’ll mention that one thing I started a few years ago was a Patreon account. And that’s a way for creative people to monetize what they do. So it’s kind of a subscription model, as opposed to the classic model where I would sell my cartoons and newspapers, which I still do, but it’s becoming less and less of a reliable source of income in that regard.
Taurus: So tell us about your new book, please.
jumper: So the title is “Only in Oregon.” I wanted that title to really say that these are all Oregon cartoons in the first place. But I also wanted to say, these things, these events that I’m drawing cartoons about, could only have happened in Oregon, it’s a very unique state. There are so many things that are both politically and culturally unique. And so I wanted to kind of capture that fact, and on the back of my book it says, truth is stranger than fiction, and I do believe that some of the things that have happened to Oregon over the years are really kind of weird but true. .
The Bundy’s are taking over the wildlife sanctuary. The laws we have like The Kicker. Things we have like we have PRESS. We have votes by e-mail that we have pioneered. We have also pioneered death with dignity. So there are all these issues that are very unique to Oregon. And you know, we’re really weird too, right? We’re a little weird in traditional, we’re liberal and conservative, we’re urban and rural. So there are just so many different ways that we are drawn and we are also very passionate about political issues and not afraid to speak our minds.
So it’s really fertile ground for all these things, from the comical to the controversial. And so everything in between. That is what you will find in this book and over 26 years. I tell this story a little bit through this visual medium of political cartoons. So there are a lot of different ways to get to it, but I think in the end you get a sense of how that story has evolved over the years.
Taurus: It’s almost like a history lesson, just in comic format.
jumper: One thing I would like to mention is that in the book each cartoon is accompanied by a small true, but dramatized headline. And so it basically gives you all the context you need to understand the cartoon. So you have a cartoon from 2003, maybe you don’t remember exactly what happened in March 2003. Well, I’ve got that newspaper clipping right there for you so you can understand a little bit of everything. so one thing that’s cool about this book is that you can get that history and you don’t have to be a political junkie or pay attention to that particular issue at that particular moment to understand what’s going on here.
Taurus: Jesse Springer, thank you for your time. Be good.
jumper: Okay thanks! Be careful.
Note: Jesse Springer’s latest book, “Only in Oregon,” can be ordered online at: SpringerCreative.com.