Stay Calm and Keep Cartooning

January 8th, 2015 | Posted in News

My Workout Secret

Yesterday’s horrific events at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo threw the world’s cartooning community into simultaneous disbelief, mourning, and anger. As president of the National Cartoonists Society, I spent the day fielding phone calls, emails, posting responses and comments on behalf of the NCS, and doing radio interviews for ABC in Australia and a station in Seattle. For a while I was scheduled to do a live TV interview on “FOX and Friends” this morning but they ended up booking an editorial cartoonist instead (not sure who but I bet they had one of those overrated Pulitzer prizes). Too bad, I was going to try and get one of the FOX anchors to say it was Obama’s fault. My day was so derailed that I had to beg for an extension on my current MAD job, which was due tomorrow but is now getting turned in on Monday. So, I guess the terrorists won that one.

I was asked two questions over and over again amid all these interviews and calls for comment: Do I think this attack will cause cartoonists to think twice about doing cartoons criticizing Islam, and do I think the work Charlie Hebdo was doing was really free speech or just senseless provocation?

Taking the second question first: Was the work they did at Charlie Hebdo really worth the risks? I have had a chance to see some of the cartoons that are being singled out as ones that probably angered Muslims most, particularly several showing the Prophet in sexual positions. Frankly I don’t see any point or commentary in them other than “look, we can do this just to make you angry”, but I saw only a small sampling of probably the worst of the cartoons the magazine did. It had a reputation of ridiculing all religions, not just Islam, and I’d give them the benefit of the doubt that many of their cartoons and articles had more salient points to make. That said, it really does not matter. Free speech is free speech. If you believe in it, you have to allow people to say things you may not agree with… or even think are despicable. That’s the price of freedom. What these cartoons said does not matter, only the rights of the cartoonists to say them. Were some of these cartoons bordering on racism and hate speech? Maybe… that’s debatable depending on your point of view. Did the cartoonists who penned them deserve to be gunned down like animals in a cage by a bunch of cowards? Absolutely not, and that is not debatable.

Do I think this attack will cause cartoonists to think twice about doing cartoons criticizing Islam? Absolutely not. Cartoonists are a fearless lot. Most that I have talked with are incensed about this and determined NOT to let a bunch of terrorists silence their pens. If they find they have something to say about Islam, or any religion or topic for that matter, they are going to say it. They make take a few more precautions for their personal safety, but I don’t think anyone is going to stop doing what they do, or more accurately, let someone else stop them from doing what they do. Most of the cartoonists I know aren’t about senseless provocation… they have points to make and they will continue to make them, and no one is going to stop them from doing that.

The cartooning world is hurting today but far from cowed. If anything, they are more determined than ever not to let their voices be silenced by the acts of a few hate-filled zealots. The ink will flow and the pens will speak.


  1. Grapho says:

    Merci, Tom.

  2. Joe says:

    Hey, Tom. Not to get too far off subject here but I don’t remember seeing that pen on your inking tutorial…

  3. jailerjoe says:

    Great job articulating and representing the NCS in this crazy time, Tom. Your thoughts are right on and appreciated by us fellow tooners…thanks!

  4. David Lubin says:

    Nicely stated, Tom. I wonder what The Usual Gang of Idiots will have to say about the matter.

  5. oddnogginz says:

    and the prophet may or may not have said,
    ‘for every pencil that fell broken, two more were taken up and sharpened for use in caricature, satire and cartooning…’
    Odd 12:42

  6. James says:

    Hahaha. Hi Tom, my friend Entera sent me the link to your latest great article. Well said as always and super funny pic. Now I’m extra motivated to hit the gym and be visually creative with a message. Thanks for being you! Happy 2015 to you and your family!

  7. Teresa says:

    Spoken with a lot of thought and wisdom. Well said Tom. Thank you for being such a great spokesman.

  8. emily says:

    Thank you, Tom.

    • Greg Sumbardo says:

      I completey agree with Tom. For a long time I have seen this prevasive fear that whatever you do dont upset the muslims. You see it in our culture that while its okay to attack Christianty ( and rightfully so! ) we cant attack Islam! While hollywood types requently attack Western religions for,thier sexism and homophobia, they rarely attatck muslims whose human rights abuses are frequently way more extreme. This is not the time to cower away but to stand up! We can no longer not speak out against these attacks anymore,than we can allow North Korea to dictate what type of movies we make! And if this is just the action of a few rogue terrorists, than the rest of the Muslim world needs to speak out and stand in solidarity with those who have been victims of such intolerance! It is not time to sit down and merely say that what,has happened is merely an isolated events It is time to stand up let our voices be heard. One can never cowar in the face of tyranny!

      • Tom says:

        Well said. Did you see the photos of the crowds of Muslims in France standing is solidarity with others in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre?

  9. […] Cartoonist Society’s President Tom Richmond suggests “Stay Calm and Keep Cartooning”. He also makes the case why comparing Charlie Hebdo (which I have done) is […]

  10. Paul Thayer says:

    While any cartoon may offend somebody, the proper response stops with burning a copy of the offending gag in public. Generally, the best response to a cartoon is an even better one.

  11. His mechanical pencil is covered by what material? why you put this material on your mechanical pencils?

  12. Tony Meurs says:

    What about digital drawing … no workout then?

  13. trazos kreativos says:

    Jajajaja me gusta, muy buen montaje, saludos cordiales


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

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