Drawing FDR

The Art of Jerry Doyle and Fred O. Seibel

 

Jerry Doyle and Fred O. Seibel, two of the most interesting and prolific political cartoonists of the New Deal era, made names for themselves as poignant and influential FDR cartoonists. With their sardonic wit and apt metaphors, Doyle and Seibel continue to endear as intriguing, artistic commentators. Doyle, much more a Roosevelt supporter than was Seibel, particularly enjoyed heavy inks, athletic scenes , and layouts that included experiments with panel number and size, sometimes going against the common grain of political cartoons. Seibel was a more typical cartoonist, employing a lackadaisical "cartoony" style that was most favored at the time, and whenever possible keeping action within the frame of his cartoons to a minimum (a convenient way of conveying a more striking point). Essentially, Doyle and Seibel reflected the more popular trends in cartoons and comic books in the 1940s, but also drew cartoons that contained elements of trends to come. Seibel's non-realistic caricatures would become the norm of 1950s magazine art, and Doyle's more sophisticated renderings would take their place as the "big thing" of the 1960s. Several contemporary artists working today can also be found to have elements of Doyle and Seibel in their work. Quite simply, their work was as influential artistically as it was politically.

Doyle's cartoons often depict FDR as being larger than life. In some instances, Doyle will spell it out, and tag FDR with tittles such as "skipper." In some cases, FDR is simply portrayed as a pivotal role-player, such as a quarterback in a football game. In fact, Doyle takes FDR's power to an extreme by depicting him as a huge, mammoth being towering over his detractors, who no matter how great their caterwauls and complaints, are nothing in comparison to the President. In general, the President is always in command, taking charge, and smiling. Seibel, had some other ideas about how much the President was in control. Oftentimes, Seibel would paint a picture of a struggling man with little control , who would often initiate his own problems as easily as a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat (a popular theme in Seibel cartoons). Doyle's masterful President could avoid any and all disasters when dealing with the economy and other issues, but Seibel's President would set sail on a boat with masts much too high for an executive.

It is interesting to note the parallels that existed between Doyle and Seibel cartoons, such as Doyleís realistic and observant cartoon dealing with FDR meeting with Mexico's President Camacho concerning the "Good Neighbor Policy" and Seibel's more tongue-in-cheek, critical rendition of the same scene . Sometimes, the cartoonists would utilize the same metaphor, but in very different ways, such as Doyle's cartoon on FDR's discouragement of inflation and Seibel's criticism of FDR's executive power .

Both men demonstrated interesting nuances. Seibel's trademark crow was his means of signing his cartoons. Seibel crow can be spotted in most of his cartoons, sometimes actually getting involved in the events . Doyle sometimes ventured beyond the realm of simple metaphors, and continued to more challenging and thought-provoking images. One of his cartoons concerning unconditional surrender has FDR holding up a picture of Hitler with his arms in a position of surrender, but through elongation of the arms and a sharp angle between them, Doyle creates the "V" for victory. Such stark points were rare in Doyle cartoons, simply because he relied heavily on the typical metaphor to serve the purpose of making a point. Seibel, conversely, would place the President in situations that did not even justify metaphor, to make a quick and simple point.

Another important element of their cartoons was the actual way in which FDR was drawn. Seibel basically created a caricature: his FDR had a protruding chin, and an ample body that made FDR look somewhat like a penguin. In contrast, Doyle's FDR was a tall and imposing man who was much more realistic-looking than Seibel's FDR.

Scott McCloud, noted comic book artist and writer, created a reality scale when dealing with cartoon images, and determined that from realistic images to simple words describing an image, the viewer could ascertain different visions of the subject matter. Seibel's FDR is "iconic" and "simple" like most caricatures, and Doyle's FDR is "complex" and very much "realistic". Indeed, Fred O. Seibel was much more light-hearted when dealing with the image of the president.

The artistic style of the two men also warrants discussion. These contemporaries exhibited interesting aspects in their art. Curiously enough, their simple styles reflected many different styles and time periods in cartoon art. Obviously, both Doyle and Seibel employed the use of interdependent single-panel frames as their medium, as do most political cartoonists. During their time, most popular cartoons also utilized the single-panel, such as Brad Anderson's Marmaduke and Charles Schulz's endearing Peanuts cartoons. However, Doyle touched upon the more modern purview of political cartoons in his work. The most important element in this modern depiction of political cartoons was multi-paneling , which is now almost as visible in political cartoons as the single panel. A good example of this is Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury, one of the most widely recognized political cartoon series in existence today.

Seibel's simple cartoons reflect a time in cartooning and comic books that was less than solid in nature. During the formative years of the comic book, Seibel's style of cartooning was employed by many underground artists, like Robert Crumb (creator of Mr. Natural ), who created strange looking characters that parodied specific types of people to emphasize the humor in individual situations. Of course, from early artists like Crumb, came the men who would eventually define the comics industry. To appeal to a wider and more mature audience, a more complex style of art was necessary, and Doyle reflected the art of such comic book innovators as John Romita Sr. and Jack Kirby. These men would eventually influence the popular artists of today, who work on some of America's most popular comic books. There's Andy Kubert (Ka-Zar ), Mark Bagley (Spider-Man ), and Astro City artist Brent Anderson. Actually, it's no stretch to find the similarities between Jerry Doyle and a contemporary artist such as Travis Charest, whose popular works include Batman and Wildcats. Without doubt, modern creators like these would not be around without the influence of artists like Doyle.

Jerry Doyle and Fred O. Seibel still continue to hold an important place in both political commentary and comic and cartooning history. While their differences may overshadow their similarities, both men, given the chance, would create some very interesting interpretations of both Superman and President Bill Clinton.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Books and Web Sites

Dyer, Jim. Peanuts Bibliography.

Http://www.fish.com/%7Ejym/peanuts-bibliography.html, June 2, 1997.

Jones, Gerard. The Comic Book Heroes. Prima Publishing, New York: 1996.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. Kitchen Sink Press, New York: 1994.

Ryan, Michael. Media Politico. Indiana University: 1988.

Trudeau, Garry. Doonesbury Town Hall.

Http://www.doonesbury.com/, June 2, 1997.


Cartoons

Doyle, Jerry. "10 Year Bookshelf." Philadelphia Record (January 30, 1943) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 46.

Doyle, Jerry. "A Great Pass, But It Has Already Been Intercepted." Camden Post (October 5, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 24.

Doyle, Jerry. "Do You Want to Swamp the Boat?" Philadelphia Record (April 13, 1943) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 46.

Doyle, Jerry. "Good Neighbor Goes Visiting". Philadelphia Record (April 21, 1943) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 46.

Doyle, Jerry. "Peace Only Through Unconditional Surrender." Philadelphia Record (January 27, 1943) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 46.

Doyle, Jerry. "Skipper Charts the Course." Philadelphia Record (January 8, 1943) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 46.

Doyle, Jerry. "They Still Look Mighty Small." New York Post (September 21, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 23.

Seibel, Fred O. "1937 Model" Richmond Times Dispatch (March 11, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 20.

Seibel, Fred O. "And the Smoke Goes Up the Chimney Just the Same" Richmond Times Dispatch (March 8, 1933) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 5.

Seibel, Fred O. "Genie and the Jar" Richmond Times Dispatch (March 7, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 20.

Seibel, Fred O. "Good Neighbuhs." Richmond Times Dispatch (March 22, 1943) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 21.

Seibel, Fred O. "Is it All Washed Up?" Richmond Times Dispatch (May 19, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 21.

Seibel, Fred O. "Mr. President, I Didnít Give A Mandate to Pack the Court" Richmond Times Dispatch (February 7, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 20.

Seibel, Fred O. "What! Again?" Richmond Times Dispatch (September 21, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 23.

 

Seibel, Fred O. "Will FDR Make Him Drink?" Richmond Times Dispatch (May 7, 1937) The Basil O'Connor Collection, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Box 21.

 

 

Project Evaluation
The FDR cartoon project was extremely valuable and useful in many ways. In addition to contributing to the web site, which in itself is an excellent historical and educational tool, students researching specific FDR topics are able to learn more about a specific period or event while creating a work that will be shared for the benefit of other students and web surfers.

In my personal experience, the research involved in the project was both exciting and informative. I was able to gain some knowledge of FDR history through the cartoon database, and read several books of interest. It was a worthwhile experience.

For future FDR projects taking place in the AP curriculum, I make the following suggestions. More precise deadlines are needed, involving specific components of the project. For example, specific dates for the progress reports and what should be included within them. Also, options for more creative projects (or projects that deviate from the norm) should be available. My project would not have been possible if the rubric was not in the stage it was for out class this year. In addition, Bibliographical examples should be available for each available source, including web sites. As is noted on the project sheet, students must make their work available for two other students to review and sign. Perhaps a few more students should be added to the process, creating more opportunities for important input and critique. This paper sharing should also be involved in every step of the project process, such as first copies, initial rough work, and researching (which is kept track of).

These are just a few suggestions to improve upon what is already an intriguing and important project. With some tinkering of with the rubric, the project should be the best it can be.


Send comments to Paul Bachorz at PaulKB2T@aol.com.


Copyright © 1997 Niskayuna High School
E-mail: baciewj@wizvax.net