The Lowe Down

Category: Cartoon Rejects (15)

Reject Corner!!!...Not


Just when I think I've seen everything in 27 years of dealing with editors at this paper, I am freshly astounded.

In response to the story about Alabama's newly-enacted anti-illegal immigrant law, which is even more draconian than Arizona's, I submitted the above cartoon as a sketch to my opinion page editor, Antonio Fins. Tony responded by saying, "It seems flat. What about something having to do with a New Yorker and his accent?" Naturally, I bridled at this, since it wasn't my idea. Working at cross-purposes with my initial response was that I respect Tony as a second set of eyes (this is what editors are for). I always understand my work because I'm the one who thought it up. If it doesn't hit home with him, it could mean that it is, in fact, less than effective.

I sent him an explanation, which was that Alabamans are known for having one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, and I wanted to turn the tables on them so that our readers could better understand how visual profiling, as a technique, is bigoted and hurtful.

Continue reading "Reject Corner!!!...Not" »

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Chan Lowe: Reject Corner!!!


It is fitting that The Lowe-Down should ring in the new year by revisiting a popular feature, "Reject Corner!!!," wherein the sketch of a cartoon I thought was pretty good gets spiked by my editor before ever reaching print.

As for this one, it was the first idea I submitted yesterday, ultimately replaced by the cartoon you now see in my previous posting about Gov. Rick Scott's inauguration.

Editor of the Opinion Pages Antonio Fins (my boss), felt that this effort was too "mean spirited," and suggested that I have the governor wearing sponsorship labels on his clothing, rather than use his baldness as a vehicle to make my point. He thought the overall thrust of the idea was valid; he just felt the execution was overly harsh.

I argued that Rick Scott's baldness is the only thing many Floridians know about the man, since he was intentionally vague during press conferences, and refused to meet with newspaper editorial boards during his campaign. As I said to Tony, I felt that a lot of the power of the cartoon would be lost if I did not exploit Scott's most unusual feature. In fact, I'm looking forward to making use of Scott's physical characteristic for the next four years, which I believe is entirely within the purview of an editorial cartoonist (just like George Bush's ears, or Ronald Reagan's wrinkles, for example).

What do you think? Had you seen the above sketch in its completed form in print or in this blog, would you have found it too "mean spirited?"

For Antonio Fins' extended comments about the cartoon, please click below.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Reject Corner!!!" »

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Chan Lowe: Reject Corner!!!!


I ran the above past my editor, Antonio Fins, last week. His response:

"This one got canned because you needed to see the original one to really
understand it.

The original draft of this cartoon was one Chan sent as a joke. He knew
it would be too offensive to run. This is the cleaner,
made-for-a-family-newspaper version.

But it's too subtle. The only way you'd really get it is if you had seen
the original.

So, it's a no go. Sometimes, when you clean up a joke, it loses its

That's what happens to this one."

What do you think? Do you get it? Let me know.

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Chan Lowe: Reject Corner!!!


Deep down in the nether regions of my brain, I knew this cartoon wasn't going to pass muster with my editor. I've worked on editorial pages long enough to know when I've crossed the line.

"Oh, come on," Mrs. Lowe-Down said when I told her the idea over breakfast.
"Your older readers will love it!"

"Yeah, but this is the editorial page, not a Mae West movie," I replied.

Nevertheless, I thought the idea was so clever that I sketched it up anyway and
showed it, tongue-in-cheek, to my editor, Antonio Fins. What did I have to
lose? It's his job, not mine, to determine taste issues in our section of
the paper.

Tony did not disappoint. Herewith, his response:

"Chan, Chan, Chan. How long have you been at this paper? By now, you know that cartoons with overtly sexual references, or double-meanings, don't get into print. Yes, values have changed and edgier content is getting into newsprint, but we still have to uphold certain standards.

"But, look, I get it. You need to push the envelope. And I need to stop the envelope and take all the fun out of your job.

"So, no."

What do you think? Was Tony right?

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contesttoon2a.gifToday marks the end of the two-week caption submission period for The Lowe-Down's third blockbuster contest. Any entries submitted after this posting will not be accepted.

My thanks to all of you readers who stretched your imaginations to make the contest a success--we've received somewhere around 500 entries. I'll give you a more precise count later.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the week-long VOTE OF THE PEOPLE, in the form of an online poll where readers can vote on their favorite of the three finalists yet to be chosen. We'll post a link within the next few days.

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We haven't had one of these for a while. My editor and I have been seeing more or less eye-to-eye lately, which makes me worry for his sanity.

This time, he took one look and shook his head. Among others, the words, "cheap shot" were uttered.

I begged to differ. I wanted to point out the irony that in a supposedly stand-up democracy like ours (unlike the Iranians' corrupt excuse for one), leaders could still be chosen by arcane means that defied the real numbers.

He didn't buy it. It looked to him like a gratuitous slap at our ex-President.

To me, that was just the icing on the cake, not the main thrust of the cartoon.

What do you think? Should it have run?

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Evolution of a cartoon

This cartoon should be pretty self-explanatory whether or not you read the Sun Sentinel story over the weekend. When asked to explain why customer rates continue to rise in spite of dramatically lower fuel costs, some FPL flack said that they could not release fuel price information for competitive reasons.

They're a monopoly, for crying out loud. Where are we going to go if we don't like their brand of electricity? Florida Flower and Blight? They have a non-answer for everything.

Anyway, I thought it would be instructive, and give you a behind-the-curtains view of the editing process, to show you how this cartoon evolved from the moment it sprang to life inside my twisted brain.

The color cartoon you see above is the final version, which will appear in black and white on the February 17 Sun Sentinel Opinion Page. Below is a sketch of the original idea, which I discarded out of hand without even drawing (I drew it afterward for the purposes of this discussion).

I tossed it because, while the Abu Ghraib image is powerful, it introduces an element that is not germane to the central idea.

"What's Abu Ghraib got to do with my FPL bill?" I can hear somebody saying. Also, by using such a shocking image, which could be thought of as overkill, I run the risk of actually turning my target, FPL, into a sympathetic figure. This is no mean feat, I assure you, but I didn't want to run the risk of my cartoon backfiring.

Which brings us to the sketch below. I showed this one, which I felt captured the atmosphere I wanted to create without all the extra baggage, to my editor, the estimable
Antonio Fins. Tony looked at it and said, "Ooh! That's harsh!"


This cartoon, ironically, reminded Tony of Abu Ghraib. He once toured our "facility" at Guantanamo Bay, and is particularly sensitive to the whole issue in a way one cannot be unless one has actually seen one of our prison camps firsthand. In his opinion, the sketch trivialized the suffering of the Abu Ghraib prisoners.

Tony asked if I could put clothes on the victim, and make the interrogator look less like an executioner and more like a mad scientist. I acquiesced, because in my mind, the essential idea had not been sacrificed, although I ultimately decided to use the image of an interrogation cop rather than a mad scientist in the final version.

Now that we've been through all that, I would be interested in knowing from readers which version they would have preferred to see as the final, finished product: the color one that ran, the Abu Ghraib image, or the regular, garden variety "harsh interrogation" scene? We'll call them "A," "B," and "C."

Feel free to tell us why you think so.

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The cartoon you'll never see in the newspaper


On Election Day, I had to be ready with several alternative cartoons, just in case. The deadline for the Opinion Pages was 1 a.m. Wednesday, and there were three contingencies.
No.1: Obama wins. No.2: McCain wins. No.3: They're still counting, and we don't know by deadline.

What you see here is the sketch I had ready for an eleventh-hour McCain upset. Obviously, I never had to bother to ink it because they called the election for Obama relatively early on, so we ran that cartoon instead.

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Reject corner redux


A note from Opinion Page Editor Tony Fins:

Following our Reject Corner posting this week, Chan took issue with my version of events. He points out, rightly so, that his comment about Obama and not seeing anything to criticize referred to the previous few days worth of news leading up to the drawing of the cartoon and not the entire campaign. That's true. Chan has drawn critical cartoons of the Democratic nominee throughout this election.

The larger point I was trying to make is that, as editor of the Opinion pages, one of my duties is to look at the broad menu of viewpoints and topics that we offer day-to-day. It's my role to make sure that the paper offers as comprehensive a take on political commentary as possible.

This is why I shot down the Palin cartoon. I felt that we needed more diversity of topics and themes that week. For the record, I thought the cartoon was effective and funny. Just ill timed, considering what we had printed the few days leading up to this one.

My comments:

I think Tony’s statement provides an effective response to those who feel that the Sun Sentinel rushes headlong into so-called doctrinaire editorial positions. Our Opinion staff and I, personally, have been accused of holding irrational viewpoints at all ends of the ideological spectrum. In fact, we arrive at the Sun Sentinel’s institutional positions through a collegial process that reflects the varied backgrounds of the members of our staff. Tony, as he has mentioned, maintains a sense of our overall balance and direction as our editor.

In my particular case, since I sign my work, my cartoons reflect my own point of view rather than that of the institution for which I work. I am not so irrational as to dismiss out of hand the viewpoints of those who disagree with me. In fact, a commentator’s maturity derives from his ability to incorporate new thinking and opinion into his worldview when it appears to make sense. This is essential to maintaining one’s credibility as a provider of meaningful opinion. I do not dispute that I have leaned more heavily, of late, on the candidacy of John McCain. This is because he has done such an effective job of executing the news-grabbing turn of strategy that begs for an editorial response (the choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate being one of them).

As a testament to Tony’s remark about timing, the cartoon presented here--which was the subject of the aforementioned Reject Corner--will be running, appropriately, on the Sun Sentinel’s Opinion Page on Thursday, the day of the Vice-presidential debate.

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Reject corner!!!!


I showed this specimen last week to my editor, Antonio Fins, thinking it was going to be a shoo-in. I was wrong. Herewith, Tony's justification for spiking it:

"This one I axed cause it is time to come up with a new topic in presidential politics. We've run dozens of Hillary-themed cartoons this year. Not just Chan's but also ones we picked up from the wires for secondary art. (Today we even have Bill on the page.) After I nixed this one, Chan drew the one about Obama and campaign finance reform, which ended up in the New York Times. He can thank me for that.

Hillary's campaign is over. It's time to focus on Obama and McCain. That is, if you ever recover from seeing today's artist's rendition of Bill's ass."

The "ass" Tony refers to appears in the posting below this one, which was approved by Editor Earl Maucker (to my amazement). As for the Hillary cartoon, I beg to differ on Tony's take that her campaign is over. The whole point is that some of her more fervent supporters refuse to let it die. To me, their disgruntlement is part of the aftermath of a tough campaign that is worthy of comment. My guess is that Tony is just as tired of this extended political season as everyone else, and wishes it would end, like our eight-month Florida summers.

Tell me what you think.

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Reject corner...split decision!!!


So I said to myself, "Now that the caption contest is over, it's time to get another cartoon axed so I can post it in the Reject Corner." With that goal in mind, I deliberately set out to draw a toon that would fail what the front-office cheeses like to call the "Breakfast Test," meaning a piece so tasteless that it might cause some readers to gag over their Cap'n Crunch.

What you see here are the fruits of that effort. I first showed the sketch to my opinion page editor, Tony Fins. To my horror, he said, "That's fine. Go with it." I wondered if Tony still carried bruises from previous Reject Corner reader comments.

"I was kinda hoping you'd reject it," I said, glumly. "I need a reject for the blog."

"Why don't you kick it upstairs to Earl (that being Earl Maucker, il capo de tutti capi)?" Tony said. "Maybe he'll reject it."

Earl did not disappoint. Sure enough, he had problems with the cartoon. The word "sexist" was thrown on the table. He suggested less offensive visual alternatives, which I declined as not being germane. Earl also indicated that it was about time he made an appearance on my blog, in a "please don't throw me in that briar patch," kind of way. I owed him one, so I was happy to comply.

Which of my bosses do you agree with? Let me know.

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Reject corner!!!


Political junkies will remember way back last year, when it looked like Hillary had a clear road to an inevitable Democratic coronation. The Clintons quickly locked up commitments from party poo-bahs who wanted to snag the plum spots on the gravy train.

Several weeks ago, I submitted this effort to Opinion Page Editor Antonio Fins, a.k.a. Maximum Leader. It was spiked.

His Excellency speaks:

"Initially, when Chan emailed this cartoon for his Rejects Corner, asking for my take on it, my first thought was, I thought we ran it. But, obviously, no. And I can't exactly remember why I said no.

"There's nothing objectionable. Thinking back now, I am pretty sure I rejected this one because, at the time Chan proposed it, we had run a string of cartoons on the presidential race, both by Chan and from the syndicates.

"As editor, I'm not just making decisions about topics Chan draws, but also the ones that appear on our Op-Ed page. It's a lot of cartoons to juggle, and we try to shoot for variety.

"Anyway, I'm open to hearing what you Chanistas have to say...Yes? No? What think ye?"

I was delighted to see that in the interim period while this sketch was gathering dust, it proved to be prophetic. Politicians are, to quote Ernest Hemingway, "dependable within the gravity of the situation."

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Reject Corner!!!



Talk about causing a stir. Remember that Malibu traffic stop, when Mel Gibson let loose on the sheriff's deputy with a drunken anti-Semitic diatribe? I'll let my top kick, Opinion Page Editor Tony Fins, do the 'splainin':

"I admit it. I laughed when Chan handed me this one. I'm laughing again now seeing it once more. It really is one of the funnier ones he's sketched, and easily the most biting. And I couldn't resist a bit of mischief myself.

"So, the day Chan drew it, must have been the fall of '06, I walked it down to Earl Maucker, our editor, and said, with a straight, determined face, 'How about this one?' Earl looked incredulous. 'Geez,' he said. 'You can't be serious. This is so over the top.'

"No, I confessed, I wasn't serious about using it. But Earl got a laugh out of it, too, and asked for the sketch so he could show it to others.

"But forget it. Don't even bother. It's not getting into print. Simply stated, its graphic sexual nature goes against our 'community' standard, so to speak. And Chan knows it. He knew it didn't have a prayer.

"I will say this much. It was this particular cartoon that gave me the idea of this feature for Chan's blog -- and yes, I came up with the concept that is now known as Rejects Corner. I figured this cartoon would be a hit on the Net, which isn't as prudish, and at least it's going to get some play now."

My two cents: I was getting so many requests from editors around the paper for copies of this cartoon that, once I was able to pry the sketch back from Earl, I actually finished it so that it would reproduce better. For added impact today, I added color.


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Back by popular demand...Reject Corner!!!

When Rush Limbaugh's prescription drug list became public, it turned out there was one in there for what the TV ads euphemistically call an ED medication. This led me, naturally, to the question:


So here's another masterwork, spiked because of-- well, I can't pretend to read the mind of an editor. Editorial Page Editor Tony Fins provides us with a window into his thinking with the following observation:

"Ok, I'd rather not speculate about what Rush Limbaugh is doing in front of that Ann Coulter poster. So, I'll pretend that he's simply in line to buy Coulter's book. Or in line to buy Viagra. Or in line to buy both.

After I saw this cartoon, I thought about issuing a decree requiring Chan to draw folks' hands where we can see them. But that would have made this cartoon even more unbearable."

Frankly, I hadn't even thought about the hand issue until Tony brought it to my attention. I offered to draw the hands exposed, but the psychological damage had already been done. It got published in the circular file. What do you think? Does it flunk the "family values" test?

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Each week, I will try to show you an example of a brilliant idea that never ran in the paper due to narrow thinking or lack of imagination on the part of some editor.

In this particular case, I showed the above sketch to Editorial Page Editor Tony Fins, who said, "I don't get it."

I explained that Bush had indicated that he wanted the Guantanamo military tribunals to be conducted like the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II. I looked up the counts upon which the Nuremberg charges were based, and lo and behold, Count One was "Conspiracy To Wage Aggressive War."

I thought this was rather ironic in light of the moral bankruptcy of our pretenses for going to war in Iraq, and felt that what was sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.

Editorial Page Editor Tony Fins' take:

"Unlike Chan, I'm not as well-versed on the language in the Nuremberg counts
and indictments. But I do know this much, we're not Nazis. It's not an
appropriate comparison, even if it's a joke."

Why don't you let us know if you think this cartoon was legitimate commentary, and should have run in the paper, or whether it was over the top and a cheap shot? If you're one of the few people left who still admire President Bush, please try to keep it clean.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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