Doug Marlette, editorial cartoonist for the Tulsa World newspaper, was killed in a car accident en route to a Mississippi high school Tuesday. In addition to his Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoons, Marlette also drew the syndicated cartoon strip Kudzu. Tulsa World highlights the cartoonist’s extensive talent and wide appeal:
Marlette’s editorial cartoons and comic strip ”Kudzu” are syndicated in hundreds of newspapers worldwide. His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Marlette has been drawing professionally full-time since 1972, and he wrote an award-winning novel recently purchased by Paramount Pictures for film adaptation. The novel, ”The Bridge,” was published in 2001 and voted Best Book of the Year for Fiction by the Southeast Booksellers Association in 2002.
As any good political cartoonist should, Marlette attracted controversy over his work. The News Observer reports his reaction to one of those incidents.
Marlette received national attention in 2002 with a Tallahassee Democrat cartoon depicting an Arab driving a Ryder truck with a nuclear bomb and the caption, “What Would Mohammed Drive?”
When readers protested, Marlette wrote, “We don’t need constitutional protection to run boring, inoffensive cartoons. We don’t need constitutional protection to make money from advertising. We don’t need constitutional protection to tell readers exactly what they want to hear. We need constitutional protection for our right to express unpopular views.”
Friends and coworkers contributed further insight into Marlette’s personal goals and efforts to make the world a better place.
“He liked to say he wanted his cartoons to hit people in the gut, not just in the brain, and I think he achieved that as frequently as any cartoonist,” said Jim Klurfeld, vice president and editor of the editorial section at Newsday.
Marlette took on religion and politics with equal fervor, pillorying evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and countless politicians. Cartoons about the Bakkers and their PTL ministry in Charlotte won Marlette the Pulitzer in 1988.
“He was a spiritual guy who read a great deal about religion and theology and sought to practice it in his daily life,” Observer writer Richard Maschal said. “He didn’t stand apart from the South and condemn it, but loved it. And anytime he criticized it, it was from the heart.”
Doug Marlette, 57, has been one of my favorite political cartoonists for years. Kudzu is one of the dozen strips I read regularly. This is a heartbreaking loss for many millions around the world, who did feel those cartoons in the gut and knew their brains were wiser for them. To his family, friends and coworkers, my condolences. To the unfortunate driver of the vehicle, may you find your own forgiveness knowing his fans forgive you, as Doug would want.
Marlette’s web site has his Pulitzer cartoons and more.