Interviewed by Jane Everham
(Supplemental information from The Herb Block Foundation)
Ward Sutton has been named the winner of the 2018 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning. The Herblock Prize is awarded annually by The Herb Block Foundation for “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock.” Ward Sutton will receive the Prize on May 9th in a ceremony held at the Library of Congress. Scott Simon, Peabody Award-winning correspondent and host of Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, will deliver the annual Herblock Lecture at the awards ceremony.
The judges said:
“We were greatly impressed by the quality and breadth of submissions, with so much outstanding work being done in all types of political cartooning. But we felt that Ward Sutton’s combination of strong artwork and sharp satirical writing stood out. Ward’s art style has an appealing comic book look that includes a mastery of caricature within that context. He juxtaposes these attractive drawings with strong, urgent writing, setting up creative premises and wringing out of them cutting humor and provocative commentary that rise to the historical importance of today’s issues.”
I recently had the opportunity to interview Ward Sutton about his career path and what brought him to Fort Collins and Foothills Unitarian Church.
Ward, where is your home of origin?
I grew up mainly in Edina, Minnesota – a suburb of Minneapolis. I also stayed in Minnesota to attend St. Olaf College, which is where my wife and I first met.
Sutton got his start cartooning for the Edina Sun community newspaper when he was in middle school. He continued at Edina High School’s Zephyrus and St. Olaf College Manitou Messenger before launching his first professional political strip, “Ward’s Cleaver,” in the Minneapolis alt-weekly, The Twin Cities Reader. Since then, he has lived in Seattle, New York City, and Costa Rica before finding his current home with his family in Fort Collins, Colorado.
What brought you to Fort Collins?
My wife Sue and I had been living in New York City for nearly 20 years when we decided we needed a change. So, we found an amazing bilingual school and moved our family to Costa Rica for 2 years. After that we were ready to move back to the US but did not want to return to NYC. By chance we met a lot of people from Colorado in Costa Rica, and that inspired us to visit the front range. After what my wife calls “speed dating” the different towns in the area we all agreed that Fort Collins was our favorite.
We have a daughter named Yineth (15, attends Rocky Mountain High School) and a son Tavio (11, attends Lesher Middle School).
Sue’s parents recently bought a small house in town and are using it as a second home. They spend a good amount of time in FoCo and have been enjoying Foothills as well.
We also have two dogs, Bisbee and Lobo, whom we rescued in Costa Rica and brought to FoCo. They are definitely part of the family, too!
How did you find Foothills UU Church?
We had been part of a UCC church in NYC, and when we arrived in Fort Collins we really wanted to find a progressive church community. We’ve always been interested in learning more about UU; Sue and I both took part in some of the “beginner” programs that were offered during our first year in town and we were sold: we became members of Foothills after about 3 and a half months.
How did you become an editorial cartoonist?
I won an art contest in 1st grade and never looked back. I had my first cartoons published in a community paper when I was in grade school and Junior High, then I worked for my school papers in high school and college. I began my professional career working for “Alt Weeklies” – the weekly urban newspapers that were so common in the 1990s. I began in Minneapolis, then moved to Seattle, then finally arrived in NYC in 1995. In 1998, The Village Voice picked up my weekly strip. In 2008, I began creating cartoons for the Boston Globe.
Ward Sutton has been creating biting editorial cartoons for The Boston Globe since 2008. He experiments with size and format, often producing multi-panel cartoons that can read like a graphic novel. In 2010, his full-page “Tea Party Comics” won a gold medal from the Society of Publication Designers.
Alarmed by the incoming Trump administration, Sutton drew a “RESIST” poster image and distributed it for free online in 2017. It was downloaded, printed, carried in marches all over the world, and later chosen by American Illustration in its annual competition.
Stephen Colbert has said: “Ward Sutton’s satire doesn’t just bite, it maims. He’s the perfect cartoonist for our discordant times.’’
Are you still creating cartoons? For whom?
My main client for editorial cartooning is the Boston Globe, and the Herblock Award I recently won is for my Globe cartoons from 2017. But I am a freelancer and create cartoons for other places such as The New Yorker, The Nation, The Nib (website) and In These Times magazine. I also work as an illustrator, creating drawings that accompany articles in publications such as GQ, Entertainment Weekly and MAD Magazine.
In addition to cartooning, Sutton has created posters for Broadway, the Sundance Film Festival, and musicians such as Beck, Radiohead, Phish, and Pearl Jam. He has designed, directed and/or produced animation for HBO, Noggin and Comedy Central. His work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, The Society of Publication Designers, The Society for News Design, The Minnesota Page One Awards and The Art Directors Club.
What else keeps you out of trouble?
I have a semi-secret alter-ego: In 2006, I created Stan Kelly, the (fake) editorial cartoonist for the (fake) newspaper, The Onion. That project is an ongoing parody of editorial cartoons, and in 2016 a book of Kelly’s cartoons was published. I’ll add some links about Kelly below:
What kind of involvement if any do you hope to have at Foothills?
I served on the Committee on Shared Ministry (COSM) for a while but different events going on in my life made it necessary for me to limit my commitments and step down from the Committee. My wife Sue has been leading the 5th grade RE class on Sundays, and I’m happy just to be getting to know Foothills and the community better for the time being.
Finally, I asked Ward: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ward, it is an honored to have you among us. Congratulations on this award! So grateful that you continue to unleash your imagination!