UTNE Reader Cover

October 24th, 2011 | Posted in General

Click to embiggen

This illustration appears on the cover of The UTNE Reader this month, or at least all but the background. I was very unhappy with the way the printed cover looked, and it was all my own fault. I did the color with this vignetted background, and the art department of UTNE decided to lose the background for the final print.

Click to embiggen

I should have then gone back and reworked the color, because without the intensity of the reds and darkness of the background, the color fell apart. The yellow cast to the facial colors, that were meant to create the torchlight feel, just made everyone look sickly and the illustration was washed out without enough contrast in the face. That’s a drag, but that kind of thing sometimes happens.


  1. Pancho says:

    would give a nice fighting game to XBLA. XD.

  2. Thats the main reason why i like to work on opaque backgrounds, gradients sometimes sucks. Nice piece Tom!

  3. simeon says:

    Who is the orthodox Jew supposed to represent? I recognize all of the other people.

    • Tom says:

      That is the only subject that is not supposed to be someone specific. I’m not entirely sure how he fits in with the feature story, but I was directed to do a generic subject of that description.

      • simeon says:

        Would you mind posting what they specifically asked for on the Jewish subject.

        • Tom says:

          I’m not sure what your point is, but I sense you are looking for something to be offended by.

          • simeon says:

            I wasn’t trying to make a point. I was trying to understand how this image came into being, which is why I asked specifically what they wanted the graphic to contain. I want to believe that you had no intention of stereotyping and vilifying an entire religious group, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt on this. I hate to break the news to you, but this image is extremely offensive and not just too orthodox Jews.

            I have two major issues with the content and message of this image. First, the image compares two very different groups of people. On one hand you have dictators that murder their own citizens, violently suppress freedom in their own country, and openly threaten other nations with annihilation and war on a regular basis. Those same dictators actively work to acquire and stockpile nuclear weapons, and have no compunction about using them (with the exception of Muammar Gaddafi, and we see what giving up his nukes got him) . The other group contains people that have strongly held and sometimes controversial views. I don’t recall any of the other subjects murdering anyone, or violently suppressing anyone’s rights, or openly calling for the death or destruction of specific people, religions, or countries. These two groups are not in the same sport let alone the same ball park. People may object to the views of television commentators, ex-politicians, and the Pope, but their views barely register on the spectrum of extremes as the likes of Ahmadinejad, Gaddafi, and Kim Jung Il. I may not agree with some of the views of the commentators you illustrated here, but to associate them like this for expressing those views is in my opinion, extremely unfair, and illogical.

            The other aspect I find offensive and utterly inappropriate, is to stereotype an entire religious group as extremist, and in this case without any justifiable basis. Every other character in the image is a specific person. Right or wrong you can try and make a case for holding them personally accountable for their actions, but now you’re holding an entire community of people accountable for the actions of no one in particular. You merely stereotype an entire group and then associate them with murder, suppression of freedom, war mongering, and controversial points of view. The fact that you were not given a specific orthodox Jew in the first place should have been a clue.

            I don’t think I need to remind you that this type of graphic vilification of orthodox Jews has happened before in history. I doubt you would take kindly to being graphically associated with those illustrators.

            This brings me back to my original question, which you’re obviously free to answer or not answer. I am just trying to understand how it is that its 2011 and America and this kind of thing is still happening. On what basis did Utne decide to include an image of orthodox Jews in this illustration of extremists?

            I know this is a pretty harsh post, and I am sorry if this comes across the wrong way. I think you are an amazingly talented illustrator, and honestly this graphic was nicely executed, but when it comes to the content of this image you seriously missed the mark. My $.02 for what it’s worth, which isn’t much.

          • Tom says:

            Have you read the article in question? I think that would be a must, since it’s not possible to discern the editor’s meaning from the image taken out-of-context. Here it is: http://www.utne.com/Politics/How-To-Cure-A-Fanatic-Amos-Oz.aspx

            I would agree it is odd that the Jewish figure is the only ‘generic” one in the bunch, but if you read the article you’d see that each person depicted is meant to represent fanaticism in a particular category (faith, political viewpoint/party/power), and not as individuals. It’s not the best way to convey this message, I agree, but I suppose they either couldn’t or didn’t come up with a specific individual to represent extremism within the Jewish faith that would be recognizable enough to the use. That is interesting considering the author of the article is an Israeli journalist and novelist.

            This was the type of job where the exact content of the image was dictated by the client, and I had nothing to do with the concept and its effectiveness or lack thereof. Your question is one for the editors of UTNE. You can contact them and ask at editor@utne.com

  4. Mark says:

    >This was the type of job where the exact content of the image was dictated by the client, and I had nothing to do with the concept and its effectiveness or lack thereof. Your question is one for the editors of UTNE. You can contact them and ask at editor@utne.com

    Actually, they bear the responsibility for printing it. You bear the responsibility for having created it, even though it bears a clearly offensive stereotype. I am not sure why you did not refuse to draw it.

    • Tom says:

      I fail to find where there is an offensive stereotype here. Are you saying that many Orthodox Jewish people do NOT look like this? Google “Orthodox Jew” and then get back to me. That’s what i did, and I didn’t draw the image based on someone in a Halloween costume. In fact, it’s based on an amalgamation of several recent pictures of real people. The clothes, the beard, the curls… these are real vestments that are part of the ultra-traditional practice of the religion. What part do you think is stereotyping?

  5. Tom says:

    I’m shutting down the comments here because it’s obvious a few people have soapboxes and no where to set them up, so they are looking for something to be offended by when there is nothing there.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: