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.
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.
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.
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.
comments to Paul Bachorz at PaulKB2T@aol.com.
Copyright © 1997 Niskayuna High School