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Stars of Political Cartooning – Jeff MacNelly

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 a three-time Pulitizer Prize-winning cartoonist who is one of the most (if not THE most) emulated political cartoonist today (and that’s not even mentioning his award-winning humor comic strip!).

Enjoy!

Jeff MacNelly was born in New York City in 1947.

MacNelly went to the University of North Carolina beginning in 1965, where he began doing illustration work for the college paper. His work was popular enough that MacNelly dropped out of school in 1969 to begin working full-time as a cartoonist.

MacNelly worked first at the Chapel Hill Weekly, where his editor was Jim “Shu” Shumaker. MacNelly quickly gained prominence in the region and in 1970 he was hired by the Richmond News Leader to be their top cartoonist.

Jeff MacNelly and another fairly young cartoonist, Pat Oliphant (who had begun working in America in the mid-60s) were massively influential with their sense of cartoon design and humor.

In 1972, MacNelly, only 24 years old, won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning for his overall work in the previous year.

MacNelly would win the award a second time in 1978, mostly for this hilarious IRS parody…

By the late 70s, MacNelly’s work was beginning to be syndicated nationally by the Chicago Tribune, and in the early 80s, he moved to Chicago to work for the paper directly, and in 1982, he won his third Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

In 1977, MacNelly launched a comic strip called Shoe, based on his editor and mentor, Jim “Shu” Shumaker.

The strip is one of the most popular comic strips in the country.

MacNelly also drew the cartoons for Dave Berry’s syndicated humor column.

Over the years, MacNelly picked up a number of other awards (here’s a bio he did for one of the awards he won)

And his cartoons spanned the decades.

Sadly, in 1999, MacNelly was diagnosed with Lymphoma. By this time, MacNelly had already decided to more or less quit cartooning to focus on fine art and sculpting, and a lot of the work on Shoe was being done by his assistant, Chris Cassatt and his friend and fellow artist, Gary Brookins, anyways.

MacNelly was taken at the too young age of 52 in 2000.

The influence of his work upon current political cartoonists is stunning, with Michael Ramirez being probably the most notable example of a current cartoonist emulating MacNelly, and Ramirez is one of the most successful American political cartoonists today (he already has two Pulitzers).

Here is the website for Shoe. Oddly enough, they no longer have a political cartoon archive on the site, which is really odd. Here is a site featuring MacNelly’s painting work.

6 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

October 31, 2008 at 3:19 am

I loved SHOE.
That was a great comic strip.

May MacNelly rest in peace.

I was wondering if you were going to do MacNelly. I loved his cartoons for Dave Barry’s column.

Words cannot express how sad I am that MacNelly is eligible for this series.

MacNelly is one of the most prolific cartoonists to ever draw. And the quality of his work never suffered despite the vast quantity.

Just a sidelight, Chris Cassatt (one of the current artists working on “Shoe”) is a descendant of one of the two notable women impressionist artists out of the 19th century movement: Mary Cassatt. It’s funny what you find out when you just ask.

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