Duffy Inspired by Colleagues’ Courageous Cartoons1/14/2015
Veteran Iowa cartoonist Brian Duffy — whose creative works are digested by readers regularly in this newspaper — says corporate control and an ethos of commercialism have largely watered down American newspaper cartoons to the point where they offer only glimmers of what his peers at a now high-profile French satirical newspaper are producing.
“We really have stepped back from what we should be,” Duffy said in an interview following the terrorist attack last week on the publication Charlie Hebdo, which left several prominent cartoonists dead.
He watched the news of the terrorism in Paris unfold on television.
“This comes back to our basic, fundamental right of freedom,” Duffy said.
Duffy’s response is one using the tools of his trade: a cartoon depicting two armed terrorists surrounded by the business ends of ink pens.
Prior to the slaughter in Paris last week, Duffy said he was familiar with Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists as he’s followed their work through the Internet.
European cartoonists seem to have “a lot more leeway in doing things” when it comes to pushing boundaries with messages, he said, noting that the Enlightenment started in Europe.
“It’s amazing what they do,” he said.
It’s both inspiring and instructional, said Duffy, who sees the Paris attack as a motivating moment, one that should guide American cartoonists back to their roots and away from the easy, politically palatable gag cartoons that he thinks spring up too often.
“You have to be inspired by the people who have been threatened,” Duffy said.
Duffy, who lives in West Des Moines, is syndicated in about 40 Iowa newspapers and 400 nationally. A former Des Moines Register cartoonist who is now a freelancer, Duffy’s work appears on television as well. He produces about eight cartoons a week from his Iowa studio.
Cartoons are a powerful medium in which to define and diminish with lampooning insights, Duffy said.
“We can make you think very quickly,” Duffy said. “It’s supposed to hit you right between the eyes.” CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.