The machine-making, cartoon-drawing Pulitzer prize-winner is the focus of a new exhibition, which also shines a light on the relevance of his political art

Theres a cartoon hanging in the Queens Museum in New York a drawing of a man with a shovel, digging through piles of paper.

The papers symbolize government corruption, but they wind up in the dump. The caption explains: Senate investigating committee digs up huge mass of evidence which passes before startled eyes of indignant but apathetic public, and then slides into obscurity, making room for next investigation.

From Donald Trumps tax returns to the Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry, this has never felt more relevant. But the cartoon is from the 1940s, by the New York cartoonist Rube Goldberg, and its on view as part of The Art of Rube Goldberg, a survey which opened this weekend and runs until 9 February.

The pioneering 20th-century artist created more than 50,000 cartoons in a career that spanned seven decades. This is the first retrospective in 49 years to look at Goldbergs work. It also highlights his overlooked career as a Pulitzer prize-winning political satirist.

Political cartoons were not his main output, but some of his work remains so relevant, said the museums assistant curator, Sophia Marisa Lucas. He was seeking to find humor in some things, as a clever opportunity for relief.

A traveling exhibition organized by Art & Artists the retrospective features Goldbergs views on society in the 1930s and 1940s, skewering Adolf Hitler, commenting on the inflation of the US dollar and addressing the dire effects of war.

Goldberg wasnt primarily a satirist but made a significant impact with his political cartoons. He received a Pulitzer prize in 1948 for a drawing called Peace Today, showing an atomic bomb teetering towards the brink of destruction.

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Rube Goldberg, Foolish Questions postcards, 1910. Illustration: Rube Goldberg

Goldberg was born in San Francisco in 1883, moved to New York City in 1907 and got a job at the Evening Mail in 1908 with a cartoon series called Foolish Questions. It was based on the premise: Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

In one cartoon, a woman asks her husband, who just came in from the rain: Why, dearie, did you get wet? He answers: Of course not the rain is dry today. The series was so popular, readers started mailing in their own foolish questions for Goldberg to answer in the series, which ended up in a book and merchandise such as a deck of cards.

The exhibition follows progression of his hand, said Lucas. From the cartoons he did at the beginning of his career, it segues into his social commentary. Goldberg commented primarily on human nature.

Throughout the 1910s, Goldberg was a standup comedian in New York, toured with a troupe of comics for a vaudeville show and used slapstick in his cartoons. A new section in this particular exhibition is devoted to vaudeville one of his biggest influences.

What we did differently here, for this exhibition, was pull out another section on the influence of vaudeville on his work, said Lucas. Its history that felt buried but had a significant influence.

As Goldbergs cartoons became syndicated by national newspapers in 1922, he started to earn $200,000 a year and reached an audience of millions.

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Rube Goldberg, Professor Butts invention drawing (postage stamps), 1929. Ink on paper. Illustration: Rube Goldberg

From 1914 to 1964, he ran a series called The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Before becoming a cartoonist, Goldberg studied engineering, and here put his knowledge to work. He turned seemingly useless tasks into complicated chain reaction invention machines (in one, a car gets a windshield wiper from a dogs wagging tail; in another, theres a 20-step way to brush your teeth).

It didnt stop on paper, either. Goldbergs invention machines made it to Hollywood. He created a feeding machine that allowed Charlie Chaplin to sip on soup without raising his arms in the 1936 film Modern Times.

Much later, his breakfast machines were featured in blockbuster films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, where a toy train pushes plates along a kitchen, while in Pee-wees Big Adventure, a statue of Abraham Lincoln flips pancakes (which end up stuck to the ceiling).

Goldberg didnt get into political cartoons until the 1930s. You see signs of his political cartoons in his early work, but its more about personality, bureaucracy, the human condition, said Lucas.

In 1938, when Goldberg was 55, he became the New York Suns political cartoonist, producing three cartoons a week on topics including corruption, poverty and crime. They werent the latest news; it was reflections on tax cuts, the war, broad issues, said Lucas. Not urgent daily news.

Through the 1940s and 1950s, he commented on government austerity throughout the second world war, primary elections, lying presidents and the Middle Eastern conflict. He showed an American taxpayer getting bonked on the head and compared vote counting to a carnival game. When all clerks are unconscious, the election is over, Goldberg wrote.

One cartoon from the 1940s, called The Numbers Blues, shows a man standing sheepishly under rows of numbers hovering above his head from his phone number to social security and bank account imagining himself as a jailbird.

Political cartoons were easier for me than the inventions because they were almost pure idea and the draftsmanship was relatively simple, Goldberg once said, I could do two political cartoons a day, but an invention sometimes required a week.

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Rube Goldberg. Photograph: Oscar White/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

His creative process might have been easier, but the world around him became complicated. During the second world war, Goldberg faced intense criticism for his political cartoons and received a lot of hate mail. Since he was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Germany, he advised his two sons who lived with him in New York, George and Thomas, to change their surname from Goldberg to George.

In the last chapter of his newspaper career, Goldberg left the Sunin 1949 to become a cartoonist for the New York Journal, staying until his last cartoon was published in 1964, when he was 80.

Once drawing became too difficult in old age, he turned to sculpture. Along the way, he also made books and hosted his own radio and TV shows.

Three weeks before he passed away in 1970, Goldberg had a retrospective at the National Museum of American History in Washington. Photos from the opening show the artist, aged 87, in a sharp suit and bow tie, white-haired and in black-rimmed glasses, chatting with guests alongside his wife. The exhibition was calledDo It the Hard Way, and as one of his last masterpieces, he created a cartoon foretelling the future in 2070, he predicted women would still be fighting for equal rights.

The walls were covered with Goldbergs drawings. Large cutouts of speech bubbles hovered above them, as if life itself were a cartoon.

He was a commercial cartoonist for major publications, maximizing the opportunity in the golden age of newspapers, said Lucas. But his main goal is that he was a humorist.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/oct/09/rube-goldberg-cartoons-pulitzer-queens-museum-new-york

One of Andy Kubert's sketches from 'The Dark Knight III: Master Race' hardcover edition, released this week.
Image: DC Entertainment

Like him or not, you have to admit Frank Miller is a comics legend.  

Though he’s faced criticism over the years for his controversial, conservative stances and his attitude toward female characters, Miller wrote books such as the groundbreaking Dark Knight Returns and its sort-of-prequel Batman: Year One, which comics fans the world over now consider sacred texts. 

But Miller, who usually illustrates his own stories, stumbled with the forgettable, critically panned, sketchily drawn sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again in 2002.

Miller knew he wanted to continue the series after that, so why did it take so long to do so? 

“The material had to come together,” he says. “You don’t jump in on the job until you have enough material and a good enough idea … It needed some new wrinkles, some new places to go.”

Returning 15 years later for Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race, which is published in graphic novel form this week, Miller assembled what he calls “the best talent out there:” co-writer Brian Azzarello and artists Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, and Brad Anderson.

Frankly, they made all the difference.

One of Andy Kubert’s sketches from ‘The Dark Knight III: Master Race’ hardcover edition

Image: dc entertainment

Miller’s women 

There are some neat touches that only Miller could bring to this comic — such as the character of Carrie Kelley (the best of all the Robins — fight me). She absolutely shines opposite the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, Lara Kent.

“Carrie Kelley was a real breakthrough for me because she was such a fresh character,” Miller says. “Her perfect contrast was Lara … I loved the fact that the dark guy (Batman) had the bright daughter and the bright guy (Superman) had the dark daughter.”

The fact that these two (and many more) well-written women exist in the book is testament to a fact Miller admits: he’s grown up.  

“Over the years, I had to listen to criticism,” he says — and he actually listened: “My female characters have gone from kind of an adolescent fantasy about women into much more fully formed characters.” 

These women are more than just their relationships to their fathers. Carrie and Lara are young women developing their own personalities and powers. They’re a delight to read and they keep you turning the page.

Miller’s other accomplishment is political satire. With writing partner Azzarello, Miller brought the kind of commentary that we saw him introduce with his take on Ronald Reagan — who he remembers as “quite funny in a terrifying way” — in The Dark Knight Returns. But this time, he’s showcasing both the media and now-President, then-candidate Donald Trump.

Miller says that Trump and his administration are is “a cartoonist’s dream” and that there hasn’t been this kind of political figure that so lends himself to that craft “since Nixon.”

These moments will make you laugh uncomfortably, which is something Miller’s work tends to do.

One of Andy Kubert’s sketches from ‘The Dark Knight III: Master Race’ hardcover edition

Image: dc entertainment

The team that makes it shine

If nothing else, this book looks awesome. From Kubert’s pencils, to Janson’s inks, to Anderson’s colors, this book really finds it feet in the art.

Kubert especially, who Miller himself calls “remarkable,” pulls off something really impressive in this project, marrying his own drawing style with echoes of Miller’s own art. He found that balance while creating the original sketches Mashable is exclusively debuting here. 

Kubert’s family is prominent in the industry and he’s worked with many notable creators, but he found this project to be “daunting.” Kubert considers Miller to be “god-like” in the comic world, and he says he was under a lot of pressure to measure up. 

“I idolized Frank big-time growing up.” He laughs and remembers, “I was scared shitless.”

Kubery says the key to the book was two pieces of advice Miller gave him after he sent his first roughs (11×17 conceptual versions of a page.) Kubert was told to “be more experimental,” and warned not to “forget about negative space.” 

One of Andy Kubert’s sketches from ‘The Dark Knight III: Master Race’ hardcover edition

Image: dc entertaiment

Kubert collaborated a lot with Azzarello and Miller through the process, working with ample feedback. For him, that made this one of his favorite scripts to work on.

The other members of the art team more than carry their weight here, adding depth and character to the art.

Kubert and Janson had been close for years, but this was their first project together. 

“I always knew this guy was good,” Kubert says of the inker, “but you don’t really know how good he is until he works on top of your pencils … the guy is so freaking good.”

It was a similar story with colorist Anderson. Kubert says that Anderson has a way of just getting what Kubert is trying to do in a piece. “He kind of finished my sentences … (but) he brought his own distinctive voice to it.”

The art team worked so well together that they’re partnering on a book called New Challengers with yet another legendary Batman writer — Scott Snyder. 

Image: dc Entertainment

Another chapter to come?

Miller won’t say exactly what the next chapter in his Batman story will look like, but he does hint that it would involve the next generation — Lara and Carrie, and perhaps even Jonathan Kent, too!

And he says he definitely has the drive to do more: “Every project makes you want to do more projects.”

As for Kubert, he’s just extremely proud of the work he’s done here. 

“I hope I can do this again sometime … how am I gonna top this?” With the kind of talent he, Anderson, and Janson put on the page, there’s no doubt there are incredible things to come.  

Check out more of Andy Kubert’s sketches below. You can also find them in the hardcover edition of Batman: The Dark Knight: The Master Race, which hit shelves last week.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/25/frank-miller-dark-kinght-iii-master-race-interview/

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