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Stars of Political Cartooning – Doug Marlette

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at an award-winning cartoonist who was no stranger to controversy before his life was tragically cut short just last year.


Doug Marlette was born in North Carolina in 1949.

While in college, he began doing political cartoons, and went to work doing political cartoons at the Charlotte Observer in 1972.

In 1981, he debuted the syndicated comic strip, Kudzu, about life in a small town in the South…

Kudzu was a big hit, even having a musical version done in 1998.

As a political cartoonist, Marlette’s first majorly famous moment was his cartoon reaction to the Challenger tragedy in 1986.

This classic image was reproduced all over the country.

In 1987, Marlette left the Charlotte Observer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In 1988, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning for his work in 1987 at the Observer and the Journal-Constitution.

Here is a sampling of his work from that year…

In 1989, Marlette left to work for New York Newsday, which is where he stayed until 2002.

That same year produced perhaps his most controversial cartoon ever….

As you might imagine, Marlette drew quite a lot of criticism for this cartoon, and to be honest, I can’t say that I like the cartoon all that much myself.

When the Danish Mohammed cartoons became a big deal, they actually called Marlette to ask him for advice for handling the situation (this was early on, before it turned into a MUCH bigger deal than Marlette’s controversy).

A year or so later, Marlette drew this excellent cartoon (Marlette drew for the Tallahassee Democrat from 2002-2006) directing his ire at a controversy in Chicago involving some firemen saying some racist statements over the official airwaves.

The Mayor of Chicago himself denounced Marlette’s cartoon.

A decade earlier, Marlette had also come under fire for a Kudzu cartoon where he shows someone reading a magazine titled “Modern Depression,” which featured “Suicide notes to the editor.”

In July of 2007, Marlette was killed in a car accident.

Here is his last editorial cartoon…

And here is a tribute cartoon to Marlette, which ran in the spot where his regular cartoon would go (by 2007, he was working for the Tulsa World)…

All images courtesy of Doug Marlette’s website, dougmarlette.com.


Tom Fitzpatrick

October 21, 2008 at 3:20 am

Damn. He was good.

A decade earlier, Marlette had also come under fire for a Kudzu cartoon where he shows someone reading a magazine titled “Modern Depression,” which featured “Suicide notes to the editor.”

How come you didn’t show the cartoon for this one?

[…] Randall Munroe at Yale Schulz Museum Profiled Go See Frenchy Lunning History On Sam Milai On Doug Marlette Trends In War Comics Mark Evanier Lectures On Kirby Industry Generic Title-Making Machine Go! […]

David Wallis wrote a book called “Killed Cartoons” that discusses Marlette’s “What would Mohammed Drive” cartoon in the introduction. The gist of the book is that it contains cartoons drawn by cartoonists that editors rejected because of their content.
Brian, I like the Mohammed cartoon because it is exactly what Mohammed would not drive. Only the fanatics would drive that truck. It would be like showing a map of Iraq and asking, “What would Jesus invade?”

[…] karakter van dit groene monster uit de oriënt in al haar desastreuze schoonheid wordt beschreven. Doug Marlette maakte een strip over het zuiden die de passende naam Kudzu kreeg, in Birmingham Alabama werd een […]

poor doug marlette he was a really good cartoonist in my own personal opinion,,,,

[…] y para criticarlo; o Arthur Szyc para criticar el nazismo y apoyar la reelección de Roosevelt; o Doug Marlette fue importante para criticar a George H. Bush a finales de los […]

Odette Horton

June 24, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Very sad, it seems that Mr. Marlette’s website has been taken over by a weight loss concern. Please, Marlette family, get it back. His work deserves to live on.

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