Thursday, 17 October 2013

Revisiting Tony Auth

 Reading “The Art of Tony Auth” (Camino Books Inc, P.O Box 52096, Philadelphia 19102, 2012) is a historic event for me, like meeting a favorite teacher, who turned you on to thinking as a profession. Tony turned me on to believing that the maturing of the editorial cartoon in America is a “sine qua non” if we are ever to mature as a civilized society.

Alas, it scared me at first to read here that 200 regular American newspaper cartoonists (when Tony began nationally in 1971) has shrunken to a piddling 80. As I bleakly thought the more, I remembered his sudden recent emergence as the digital cartoonist at WHYY-TV. Heh I suddenly realized it matters not what’s in the scabbard, as long as the blade is as sharp as Tony’s always is. “To Stir, Inform and Inflame” indeed.

I also enjoyed learning about his L.A. past. His passion for drawing seems to have been motivated by his having been bedridden young. And his UCLA education in medical illustration deepened this professionalism. He began as a teacher, period. And he sought cartoonish outlets in leftie and “alternative” media. (Shades of “Professor” Hazard peddling himself at the “Welcomat”.)

But Tony had to break into middle class newspapers like the Inky whose First Commandment was “Don’t meddle with the Muddle of our middle class readers”. To watch Tony maneuver with the Inky’s editor without compromising his leftish ideals is as salutary an episode of media courage as I have observed as an ornery leftie! It’s worth the price of the book itself.

But the memorable cartoons are the main course, especially his retelling the issues of the Presidencies between LBJ and Obama. I solemnly declare that any historians assessing those Leaders had better begin with Tony’s pen! I could list my faves, but why deny you a clean sheet to wallow in your own Auth.

I consider it historic that Tony’s gift of the catalog arrived the day The International Herald Tribune became the International New York Times! I started reading that paper daily as I entered graduate school in 1950. My fidelity to Tony began in 1971 and never wavered. 

Thanks for the Melodies, Tony. You gave eyes a life.

Another version of this essay is published by Broad Street Review.

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