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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jen Sorensen: Political Cartoonist!

Jen Sorensen is a darling of the political left with her acerbic observations on the cult figures, rhetoric, and flawed arguments of Republicans and Tea Partiers.  She also excels in wry commentary on cultural trends, particularly our technological obsessions and the impact of those obsessions on human relationships.  Sometimes she combines both interests into one genius poke in the eye, as we see in this strip from 2009, Terminatrix, which offers a completely improbable, yet strangely plausible explanation for Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize:

Sorensen embraces the comic strip as her preferred medium for political commentary, but that doesn’t prevent her from dipping into the occasional single-panel approach to making a point.  In Choose Your Own Health Insurance Adventure!, she invites readers to locate themselves in a flow chart.  Polls seem to indicate that health insurance reform is actually quite popular with the American public, and if you’re wondering why, Sorensen makes the American reality quite clear while needling the naysayers.  I’m sure each of us can find our spot on this chart!

Slowpoke debuted in 1998, and has steadily cultivated a devoted following.  It has been reprinted in publications as varied as the Village Voice, Ms. Magazine, LA Times, The Daily Beast,,and Daily Kos.  I first started reading Slowpoke in Funny Times, and many readers have enjoyed it through reprints in dozens of altweeklies around the country.  Sorensen has won six awards from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, and won Hunter College’s 2010 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.   Specifically, she is this year’s Grambs Aronson “Cartoonist With a Conscience.”  Well done, and well deserved!

Despite her very busy and productive schedule, Sorensen found a moment to sit down and answer a bunch of silly questions from ITCH!  I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

What was your first comic strip/cartoon/comic?

My first “professional” work consisted a few short stories I drew for Action Girl Comics in the mid-’90s, while I was in college. Action Girl was an anthology published by Slave Labor Graphics that featured mostly younger women cartoonists. I also drew a daily cartoon for a year in college called Li’l Gus. Of course, I drew plenty of cartoons as a kid, so it’s hard to pick a true first.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading the third book of The Tripods trilogy by John Christopher. I don’t normally read that much sci-fi, but my husband insisted I would enjoy these books that he read as a teenager, and he was right. Supposedly they’re making a Tripods movie, which will probably suck, but I’m still curious.

What is your guilty pleasure?  At least, the one that really answers an ITCH!

Just recently, we bought these chocolate cookies at Trader Joe’s that are shaped like cats. I literally cannot stop eating them once I start — they’re like potato chips.

Musically-speaking, I’d say my guilty pleasures are the Bee Gees and ABBA.

Who was the first cartoonist/animator you met?

You know, I can’t think of any that I met growing up. Early in my career, I met Jeff Smith of Bone through a mutual friend. He was probably one of the first.

Which dead cartoonist/animator would you most like to meet?

I would like to have met Edward Gorey.

What would you say?

I guess I’d ask him how he had the patience to do all that cross-hatching. And I’d discuss his story The Unstrung Harp, which I love.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

In the summer of 2008, I went to Denver to cover the Democratic National Convention for my local alternative newspaper. I had a press pass, and I blogged and drew cartoons about my experiences. I got to watch Obama’s acceptance speech in the stadium. It was such an intense week of work and fun, one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

Please tell us a little about your latest project.

I’ve just been working on my weekly cartoon and various illustration gigs. I recently drew a two-page comic for the BBC quiz show “QI.” It’s for their annual humor book. That was pretty cool.

Which old-time cartoon character do you most identify with?

One thing that comes to mind is an old Tom & Jerry knockoff called Herman and Katnip in which the cat, Katnip, would say the catchphrase “Hmmm… That sounds logical!”  I used to say that when I was a kid. Also, I have always been fond of Pepe Le Pew.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To stop time so I could get caught up on everything!

Four collections of Slowpoke have already been published, and I’m sure we can look forward to more.  You can also read the new Slowpoke — and plenty of archived strips — every Monday at Sorensen’s web siteSlowpoke also appears at Daryl Cagle’s Political Cartoonists Index.  Jen Sorensen is a wonderfully warm human being as well as a highly intelligent and entertaining observer of American political and cultural foibles.  Indulge!  You’re in for a treat!

And as always, thanks Jen!


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One Response to “Jen Sorensen: Political Cartoonist!”

  1. Tom Hart Says:

    Jen is brilliant- one of the funniest political cartoonists out there and as such. Really wry and smart!

I.T.C.H is looking forward to your thoughts. Please, no flame. Thanks!