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No laughing matter

"No laughing matter" Continued...

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

Most of the time Varvel is more subtle about a Christian perspective, though he clearly gives views right-of-center and finds ways to defend traditional values and poke fun at cultural relativism: "You want to shine a light, but you don't want to stick a flashlight in their face," he says of the mixed audience of a metropolitan newspaper.

Varvel credits the old Mad magazine for inspiration for drawing at a young age. "Dad used to buy it for us," he recalled. "I don't think I ever read it. I learned how to draw caricatures from it." At a high school in Danville, Ind., he won a cartooning contest in ninth grade and started drawing for the school newspaper. He was surprised to learn that someone could earn a living by actually drawing pictures.: "I thought someone drew the cartoons for fun and had a real job on the side."

When he started in 1978 there were 200 full-time newspaper cartoonists: Now Varvel estimates there are less than 50. When young people ask him about such a career, he has some cautions: "I have to give them the grim reality-a lot of cartoonists have been laid off." But artists can find other ways to draw: "There are a lot of forms of cartooning-animation for a movie studio, for example. The opportunities to do what I'm doing were never very good, even when there were 200 of us."

Russ Pulliam
Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.

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