PORT SAINT LUCIE, FL — When Captain Cartoon draws a political cartoon, people usually notice — and his latest cartoon opinion is no exception! Measuring 37 feet by 10 feet, this full-color monstrosity can be seen in all its glory on US 1 in Port St. Lucie!
The political cartoon billboard ranks as the Captain’s biggest ever (size-wise) — and was drawn in support of the local police department in its ongoing layoffs dispute with the city council. It caricaturistically lampoons local pols over perceived city misspending, and comes on the heels of two other “major” political cartoons produced by the Captain as billboards, all targeting “spend-crazy” politicians in West Palm Beach and Alachua County, Florida.
All his billboard cartoons were produced in support of police unions. (Note: The Alachua County cartoon was drawn “billboard-ready,” and though it was circulated on a flyer, there’s no evidence any billboard version was ever created.)
No stranger to cartoon controversy, Captain Cartoon’s political sketches were first published in his 1969 high
school paper, and on December 25, 1969, they began appearing in his hometown weekly. The Captain’s oft-favored subject: the local police. This would earn him his first parking ticket in 1971.
In 1977, One of the cartoonist’s most infamous sketches “inadvertantly” targeted the local police department, showing officers “on an emergency run to a local donut shop.” Originally produced as part of a comic strip series in 1976, the strip was re-published in the Captain’s local newspaper following his election win as a city alderman.
Unaware “that” particular comic strip was published that week, the Captain became aware in a hurry after TV, radio, newspapers — and cops — began calling him.
“Everyone thought I was picking on police as an extension of my school newspaper days,” the Captain said. “And while this was accidental, the overwhelming notoriety opened my eyes as to the power of the political cartoon. I could have been elected Mayor that week, it was so popular,” he added. “People still talk about that today.”
The Captain eventually re-drew the strip and published it in Petersen Publishing’s famed CAR-toons Magazine 1n 1987.
Within months of the “Donut Debacle,” the Captain produced a series of cartoons targeting his city’s then-newly appointed police chief, whose financial and procedural dealings ran afoul of several city council members. After causing the local newspaper to do an “about face” from its initial support for the chief, these led to the appointment of a new chief nearly a year later. “Essentially, these cartoons ran the guy out of town,” he quips.
A second cartoon series was produced in defense of a police department’s removal of catalytic converters from police cruisers, an issue raised by the Federal EPA. In 1978 the Feds attempted to fine the city (Loves Park, Illinois) $18,800 for the alleged infraction, and the Captain was drafted by the Mayor to target the agency with a cartoon campaign by inverting the acronym EPA to “APE.” Copies of the cartoons were sent to U.S. Congressmen and Senators, and Sen. Adlai Stevenson III, citing that the government was being made to “look foolish,” finally prevailed upon the EPA to reduce the fine down to a paltry $1,200, (covering attorney’s fees.)
Cities very rarely — if ever — beat an EPA fine. This was a first.
Captain Cartoon would go on to produce “cartoon campaigns” for a variety of causes, culminating in two separate cartoon booklets, both of which generated headlines around the country in 1985 and 1986. One effort gained the endorsement of the then-Chairman of General Motors as well as the Governor of Illinois.
But this is 2010, the 21st Century. Are “cartoon campaigns” still viable in an era of digital media? “You betcha” says the Captain, “and this latest billboard cartoon proves it!”
“It’s an art unto itself,” he says, “one needs to know just how to do it. I’ve had forty years experience! Unfortunately, it’s an era of canned artwork and digital clip art. Access to newspapers, usually running syndicated national cartoonists, has been budgetarily sparse. BUT — the Internet provides a whole new opportunity for this kind of expression.”
In an effort to spark a renewed interest in the field of cartooning and cartoon promotion, the Captain has revamped his website’s “Fun Zone” as the Captain’s “Cartoon Chest,” featuring coloring pages, learn-to-draw lessons and his own intellectual property features, past, present and future.
“Part of teaching people how to draw lies in creating ‘purpose,’ ” the Captain says. “When people see what can be accomplished via cartoons and cartoon campaigns, they might jump into the fray. It’s never really enough just to learn ‘how,’ one needs to know ‘why.'”
“Had it not been for my school newspaper, I may never have chosen this field,” he says.”There’s much more to cartooning than comic books and national syndication. I’ll never win a Pulitzer, and you’ll probably never see my political cartoons in syndication (though he was syndicated three times with comic strips). “Localized political cartoons just don’t work that way.”
“Regardless, I’ve moved mountains with my work,” he asserts. “When a labor union nearly lynched me over a cartoon in 1980, that made it all worthwhile, because I knew I had made my point.”
Captain Cartoon is a caricature artist in South Florida. You can see his work here.