Luckovich's Lament: Cartooning Obama Is Gonna Be Tough

The more editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich sees of Barack Obama, the more he likes the President-elect. Oddly enough, this turn of events has the Pulitzer Prize winning artist very, very worried.
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The more editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich sees of Barack Obama, the more he likes the President-elect. Oddly enough, this turn of events has the Pulitzer Prize winning artist very, very worried.

Is it true you read Huffington Post every day?

Mike Luckovich: I like reading the bloggers as I'm coming up with new ideas. I go to the site to see what people are talking about, because sometimes I miss things that are right in front of my face.

Is it easy or challenging to draw a caricature of "No Drama Obama?"

At this point it's hard because for eight years we've had George W. Bush, a president who doesn't like dissension, who's sort of arrogant, and who feels God is talking through him. Obama seems like a completely different personality. That's good news for the country, but for cartoonists it's going to be tough not having Bush around.

In your most recent cartoons, Bush's ears have become so large they look like airplane wings.

I don't draw Bush as a human being any more. He's become a cartoon character who also has a beak-like nose and circles for feet -- just two simple black circles. I draw Bush smaller and smaller as his incompetence grows larger and larger.

Will cartoon Obama have more stature than cartoon Bush?

And as long as Obama does well, he'll maintain his current height in cartoons. But this brings up another problem. Obama moves in such a smooth way -- he's so physically comfortable with himself -- that it's difficult to lampoon the guy. Bush always looked awkward and phony to me. I often drew Bush with his arms out, like he's going for his guns at high noon.

Is it difficult to remain non-partisan?

A good cartoonist is partisan. We have our beliefs, and we try to get them across. I like Obama because he's willing to reach out to the other side, and he seems smart. Bush is always so wrong about everything, and always in that bubble. The President-elect is trying hard to avoid the bubble. But as a cartoonist, I can only hope Obama slips into the bubble.

Presidential caricatures seem to evolve unflatteringly. Do all presidents eventually disappoint us?

Whether you agree with a president or not, the longer they're out there, the more likely it is you'll have a cynical view of them. I'm worried about Obama, though, because the more I see him, the more I like him. For me, that's scary. I watched the Barbara Walters Special last week and the Obamas seemed so real. They were joking around, and they appeared to really like each other. This is miserable news if you're an editorial cartoonist.

Was it easier to draw Bill Clinton?

He was always a fun character to do. I found it easier to draw Clinton cartoons than Bush cartoons, especially after the Monica Lewinsky thing happened. After that, I drew Clinton in boxer shorts with his pants down.

If President Obama becomes unpopular, how would that change the way you draw him?

I'd make his ears bigger and more rounded, like the ears on a Mickey Mouse hat. I'd make his neck really skinny, so he has a lot of shirt collar left over to fill, and I'd furrow his eyebrows to make him look bewildered. Finally, I'd deepen the nasolabial folds on his face, so it looks like he's aging rapidly.

He looks like a mouse who's been tasered.

Yes, but if instead of becoming unpopular, Obama comes up with a great economic stimulus package and everyone gets back to work, I promise to draw him with black hair even though his real hair is turning gray.




Editorial cartoons provided by Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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