The numbers don’t seem to add up. Twelve hours of work scribbling 2,000 names yielded only three alphabetic letters and one question for editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich.
One could question how this is possible, but he would be better served inquiring why.
At least, that’s what Luckovich asked the nation in his brow-raising cartoon. Using the names of the 2,000 soldiers who were killed in Iraq, the satirist made one of 2005’s boldest statements.
“The ‘Why?’ cartoon was a powerful statement — so powerful that we ran the cartoon more than twice its normal size so readers could see every name,” said Julia Wallace, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Response to the half-page illustration was fast and furious — 11 letters in the next day’s paper alone.”
The reaction to the illustration by the judges in the competition was just as strong.
“While this portfolio represents a winning combination of artist’s skill and observer’s eye, we would’ve awarded first place to “WHY?” even if it were entered alone. The power of that single statement left us breathless,” said the judges.
Luckovich’s body of work consisted of several other cartoons, most about the war or Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, that captivated a national audience. When Newsweek ran its year-end feature, 12 of the 24 drawings were Luckovich’s.
“When we look back at our era in journalism, I think Mike will be seen as the Herblock of the age, which is to say the best of the best,” said Jon Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek.
Living in a country rife with political controversy, Luckovich’s simple observations have taken on additional weight. As the cartoonist wages his war on war, his pencil resembles the sharpest of swords.
Even though his pointed cartoons often enlighten others, when Luckovich starts drafting his creations, he concerns himself only with an audience of one.
“The most difficult (part) is looking at a blank sheet of paper and hoping by the end of the day, I will have pushed myself hard enough to have come up with a cartoon I’m satisfied with,” Luckovich said.