Matt Bors
Comics, Politics & Ridicule

Bors Blog

Feiffer, cartoonist

I finished reading Jules Feiffer's memoir, Backing Into Forward, last week. He talks about running with New York literary types as he gained popularity with his Voice strip and dipped his toes into theater. They always insisted his comic was so much more: "It's an essay, it's a little play, that's what it is, it's a play on paper!"
Intellectuals could not admit that the work they attached significance to was a mere comic strip. It was degrading for them to admire a work in so unserious a form. So to permit themselves to appreciate me, they social-worked me into a profession they respected: hence, I was redefined into a playwright. So, okay, I wrote a real play. To me, it had different rules and different rhythms and developed in an entirely different way from my strip. But two years earlier, when Little Murders had its original opening on Broadway, one of the complaints from almost every critic was: "This isn't a play, it's a Feiffer cartoon!" Writing a flop play was how I came to be validated as a cartoonist. That's not what I had in mind. No one flatters you when they refer to you as a cartoonist, even a great cartoonist. An ordinary screenwriter occupies a higher status than a great cartoonist. Illustrators, who aren't expected to come up with their own ideas, enjoy a higher status. I know too many colleagues who are flattered, who are pleased when they are labeled illustrators instead of cartoonists. I'm offended. I know what it means. It means that I'm not good enough.
02.15.2011 |



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