Steve Stegelin has doodled for CP 2004-present
Hard to believe, but there was once a time when Donald Trump didn't dominate the news cycle. Over the past 13+ years as the editorial cartoonist at Charleston City Paper, I've captured a multitude of characters and issues — from local to global — with my doodles, like an overly cynical Neanderthal finger-painting on a cave wall. To help commemorate the City Paper's 20th anniversary, I sat down for a deep dive into the archive of newsprint and digital files to find the 20 cartoons with the most relevance — topical and personal — and chart the evolution of my art and career.
De-evolution of John Graham Altman III, 3/3/04 Best of Issue
My first City Paper work was a series of illustrations for 2004's monkey-themed 'Best Of' issue, including this proto-editorial cartoon of the winner of 'Best Homophobe'. The late John Graham Altman III was a state legislator and former CCSD school board member known for racist and misogynistic comments and — as his 'Best Of' "win" suggests — a personal mission against what he called "a militant homosexual agenda." A South Windermere-area resident, his Folly Road yard was easily identifiable by its phalanx of pink flamingos, often dressed for the holidays. JGAIII helped kick off my career at the City Paper and, as a reward, would be a frequent player in my strips until his retirement years later.
Hunley funeral, 4/14/04
It only took me a few short weeks to piss off the masses. This strip — about the ceremonial funeral for the Confederate soldiers who perished on the recently recovered H.L. Hunley submarine — saw print while Charleston was overrun with a couple thousand Civil War fanatics and re-enactors, and they were none too pleased. The City Paper received a deluge of angry letters and emails citing the cartoon's "lack of class" and its example that "the South should have won." In short, I'd arrived.
George W Bush vs. Kim Jong-il, 2/16/05
Another frequent player in my early strips was President George W. Bush, particularly as the country was continually mired in conflict in the Middle East. Having established forces in Iraq under the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), Dubya seemed more interested in the area's oil fields and finishing his father's Operation: Desert Storm efforts to topple Saddam Hussein. When Kim Jong-il started acting up with the provocative threat of nuclear arms, Bush didn't bite, presumably because North Korea didn't advance either of those interests.
Cheney's public image, 2/22/06
Bush brought with him a cadre of characters, including Donald Rumsfield, Condoleezza Rice, and Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney, often seen as the evil Emperor Palpatine-esque puppet-master behind the administration, was an ideal target to poke fun of, especially when he (inadvertently, we assume) shot a Texas attorney in the face while on a quail hunt — and received an apology from his victim.
Wando HS Peanuts, 9/13/06
Mt. Pleasant stores and restaurants saw a string of armed robberies, and while public opinion suspected a criminal element crossing the bridge from North Charleston, the culprits proved to be a handful of football players from Wando High School. A lifelong Charles Schulz fan, I riffed on the classic Peanuts football gag as commentary, and angry Wando parents called the City Paper in protest. While the fact the robberies was fodder for a cartoon at all was upsetting, their ire was largely due to an unintended interpretation of the strip, in that the principal at the time was — unbeknownst to me — named Lucy.
Andre Bauer 'I Believe' license plates, 6/25/06
When SC legislators proposed an "I Believe" license plate featuring a cross superimposed on a stained-glass window, the effort quickly met a lawsuit over the separation of church and state. To bypass the legality issue (or pander to voters, take your pick), Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer offered to fund the design himself and take reimbursement from its sales to comply with state law allowing specialty plates funded by private groups. Bauer would fume again when a federal judge later ruled the plates indeed violated the First Amendment, and ultimately a private group funded similar Christian-themed plates. On the artistic front, the City Paper's move to color enabled a welcome new layer of depth and polish to my artwork.
Combustible Henry Brown, 10/15/08
SC Representative Henry Brown was likely best known for torching 20 acres of Francis Marion National Forest in 2004, when a not-so-controlled burn on his property spread to the neighboring park. During the 2008 election, he faced stiff competition in philanthropist Linda Ketner, leading to a string of negative attack ads and a particularly fiery debate performance. Ketner would win Charleston voters, but Berkeley and Dorchester counties would send Brown on for a fifth (and final) term.
Obama vs. Sanford/Hope vs. Nope, 3/18/09
President Barack Obama kicked off his first term by offering much-needed economic recovery aid to the states, but Gov. Mark Sanford wasn't eager to put partisan politics aside. Sanford rejected Obama's offer of stimulus funds for a month — in the name of the national debt — before eventually agreeing to accept the money, the final governor to do so. Charleston-native Shepard Fairey designed the popular 'Hope' image for Obama's presidential campaign, and it was a fun exercise to mimic its aesthetic for this strip.
Sanford booty call, 7/1/2009
Sanford would again make headlines when he mysteriously went MIA. Reports of him hiking the Appalachian Trail were undone when he instead wound up in Buenos Aires in the love nest of an Argentine mistress. The newly-minted 'Luv Guv' endured a divorce and tell-all from First Lady Jenny Sanford, and state Republicans later forgave his not-so-family-friendly exploits and elected him to the House of Representatives. Sanford — and a cover illustration of him as Evita — would help my City Paper cartoons win their first award from the SC Press Association.
'Bipartisan-curious' Lindsey Graham, 11/25/09
My cartoon-addled brain has long viewed Senator Lindsey Graham — with his cheeky jowls, heavy eyelids, and slight lisp — as the illegitimate love child of Droopy Dog and Elmer Fudd, and this worked its way into my caricatures of him. Graham's pushing against the Republican grain has long made headlines. A lifelong bachelor, his political leaning wasn't the "orientation" to raise questions, leading to this bit of wordplay and bait-and-switch.
Patriots Point/Veterans Affairs, 11/17/10
An aircraft carrier built in WWII, the USS Yorktown saw plenty of battles, and 2010 was no different as it fought to stay afloat, at least in terms of its finances. With $100M in projected repairs and its Patriots Point Development Authority unable to repay a $9M loan, things were looking bleak — and a ripe analogy for this Veterans Day-themed strip.
Haley vs. ETV, 1/26/11
On the surface, electing Tea Party-favorite Nikki Haley as Governor was a break from the usual Good Ol' Boy network of SC politics. Despite her ethnicity, youth, and gender, she was largely Mark Sanford 2.0, and this was most evident at budget time, when the arts — and ETV particularly — were routinely on the chopping block.
Trump throws his wig in the ring, 4/27/11
As the 2012 Presidential election approached, a slew of Republicans threw their hat in the ring to run against incumbent Obama. For a moment, even Donald Trump — reality TV personality and vocal 'birther' — expressed short-lived interest. However, surely Republicans wouldn't nominate someone so inexperienced and controversial to the highest office in the land, right? Right!? [Cue alternate reality dream sequence]
Uncle Scrooge Mitt Duck, 8/22/12
In the end, Republicans nominated a different billionaire with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. However, Romney was plagued with issues — from stumbles during international visits to simply being out-of-touch with blue collar realities — and failed to resonate with voters, sending Obama back for a second term. I enjoyed this opportunity to channel the classic Duck artist Carl Barks to poke fun of Romney's public image with a Scrooge McDuck parody.
C of C Fun Home controversy, 7/31/13
When the College of Charleston included Alison Bechdel's Fun Home in its optional 'College Reads!' program for incoming freshmen, Oran Smith's Palmetto Family Council decried it as porn. The College's decision to defend the autobiographical graphic novel — which details Bechdel's childhood with a closeted gay father and coming to terms with her own lesbianism — would face retribution from state legislators the following year with a proposed budget cut of $52K — the cost of 'College Reads!'. In a case of artistic one-upmanship, the original off-Broadway cast of the Fun Home play adaptation responded to the budget cut with a free performance at the College.
Spoleto vs Fairey, 5/28/14
In 2014, the annual Spoleto Festival was overshadowed by a concurrent Shepard Fairey exhibit at the Halsey Institute. In addition to a gallery showing, the Obey Giant street artist painted downtown red — and black, and white — with a series of installations, weaving himself into the Spoleto festivities. In commenting on this, I inadvertently tapped into some politics bubbling beneath the local art scene, making this strip even more resonant.
Gun control, 12/9/15
The debate over gun rights vs. gun control has always been a hot button topic, but 2015 thrust its partisan divide to the forefront. A year already marked by Dylann Roof's attack on parishioners at Emanuel AME closed with a trifecta of mass shootings across the nation within the span of a week. While Democrats called for sensible gun control, Republicans claimed it was too soon to politicize the issue and time to instead pay respects for the dead. The rub, of course, was that by the time 'thoughts and prayers' for one shooting had passed, we were already on to the next.
Personhood bill, 5/25/16
In 2016, Governor Nikki Haley passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, making abortions illegal after 19 weeks of pregnancy based on the claim fetuses feel pain by 20 weeks — despite scientific studies to the contrary. Following a spate of bathroom bills requiring individuals — including the transgendered — to use restrooms based on the gender on their birth certificates, this concern over human rights of the unborn seemed ironic in the face of recent the LGBTQ discrimination.
Tinderella, 4/9/17 Best Of
Over the years, I've realized that while I consume a lot of news media (too much, probably) week in and week out, not everyone else does. So, it should be no surprise when some of the most popular response comes when I take the politics out of my political cartoons. Case in point, the resonance and positive reaction expressed at this look at online dating and Tinder culture, for the recent fairy tale-themed 'Best Of' issue.