Herblock Prize Recipient on Political Cartoons and Free Speech

Political cartoonist, self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” and recipient of the 2016 Herblock Prize, Mark Fiore recently sat down with The Washington Post to talk about the award as well as how he is using his craft to push the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Fiore is best known for his unique animated political cartoons. From NPR to Mother Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist based out of San Francisco, California, has had work appear on numerous major news sites around the world, led discussions on the art of satire, and been called the “undisputed guru of the form” by the Wall Street Journal. In quick one- to two-minute shorts, Fiore’s cartoons cover topics ranging from millennials and Islamaphobia to the recent presidential campaign and more, with the intent of getting audiences to think critically and open dialogues about many of the social issues and events happening today.

“My goal is to shape the conversation and speak more to the people than to the politicians,” says Fiore regarding the work that he does as a cartoonist. “With something new and different like political animation, having independence created space to push the envelope.”

It is his unique approach to political cartooning that has garnered Fiore not only domestic, but also international attention, and led him to become the 2016 Herblock Prize winner. “From the numerous high quality entries to this year’s Herblock Foundation award, Mark Fiore’s animation entry rose to the top,” said alternative cartoonist and Herblock judge Peter Kuper. “Fiore produced a powerful body of work that addresses a range of current events and brilliantly serves them up with a smile and a kick in the gut, heart, and other body parts. His work honors the legacy of Herblock and expands the form.”

Although Fiore recognizes that there are numerous challenges that cartoonists and journalists face, especially when it comes to free speech, he is determined to continuing developing his craft so that he can establish a voice in a world full of media noise. “The audience is incredibly fragmented,” notes Fiore. “I think the most important thing is to create great work and get it in front of as many people as possible… Even though I’ve been doing this for a while, I still feel that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with my cartoons.”

Through trial-and-error, Foire has found an audience for his work. That said, more than just speaking out about issues, he reminds us that cartoons represent a vehicle of free speech to talk about those issues in a productive and non-violent way. “If a cartoonist, author or just general idiot, wants to draw or speak ill of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha or Senator Nutballs, go for it… If [Iran] wants to hold a Holocaust-denying cartoon contest, go for it! Let’s have a war with cartoons instead of bullets.”

To read Fiore’s full interview with The Washington Post, click here. You can also watch his Herblock Prize acceptance speech here.

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2015 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!