You may not believe this, but there once was a time when every daily newspaper in the land employed their very own in-house editorial cartoonist. This was not a lowly post. Nay. It was one of the most highly respected positions at a paper. In fact, editorial cartoonists were no less than the rock gods of the black-and-white world. But today, there's scarcely a daily in the biz that has their own editorial cartoonist anymore. Instead, most newspapers run other papers' cartoons.
Now the powers that be may say they've eliminated cartoonists from their staff boxes in order to cut costs, but that's a lie. The truth of the matter is most papers these days are staffed by cowardly men and women who wet their britches anytime a reader takes issue with anything in their papers. Fortunately, we here at the City Paper aren't like that. We've got the balls of Kong. And perhaps no staffer has bigger ones than our fearless — and award-winning — cartoonist Steve Stegelin. Check out a few of Stegelin's choicest cuts from 2013 and judge for yourself.
The year started in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Connecticut. In response, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey decided to position armed guards inside all North Charleston elementary schools. However, the more imminent threat to our schools was a potential strike by school bus drivers. The drivers, employees of Durham Bus Services, cited concerns over low pay and the safety and condition of the aging bus fleet. The looming potential influx of car riders to the already congested morning commute led to daily news coverage, frequent updates from the school board, and debate over why such a vital part of the public school system was farmed out to a third party at all. Luckily, Durham and their drivers were able to come to an agreement, and the impending buspocalypse was avoided.
An overarching theme of 2013 was the ethics — or lack thereof — of the state's politicians. While Gov. Nikki Haley improbably touted ethics reform, Republican Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell faced allegations of misusing his campaign funds. Harrell would eventually escape any dire consequence for his actions, but the State Gods of Ethics would find their sacrificial lamb later in the year.
The 2013 special election to fill the vacated 1st Congressional District seat of Tim Scott, who assumed Jim DeMint's Senate post in January, was packed with candidates, including Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of late-night satirist and local boy-done-good Stephen Colbert. While several Republicans had eyes on the spot, the subsequent run-off came down to former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic and former Gov. Mark Sanford. Despite Sanford's standing as a national punchline, the Luv Guv won the run-off and then the special election against Colbert Busch, extending the lifespan of Appalachian Trail-Argentinian Tail jokes for a few more years.
With the U.S. Supreme Court deliberating the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, the Human Rights Campaign promoted a red-and-pink variant of its blue-and-yellow logo in support of the LGBT community. Soon, social media was awash in red-and-pink equal signs, with many using the logo as their profile pic to voice their opinion on the issue. It was also a good time to determine which of your online friends and followers vote Democrat, as the topic took predictably partisan sides. In one of the hazards of editorial cartooning, one commenter on the City Paper website took the strip at face value, overlooking the satirical tone and chastising me for my Republican stance on "socialized marriage."
Following multiple accolades from Condé Nast readers, the City of Charleston continued to make decisions that seemed to benefit tourists and the tourism industry more than Holy City residents and taxpayers. In 2013, the City sought to calm the rowdy party atmosphere along Upper King by requiring bars — rather than local police — to patrol the parking lots and sidewalks of King Street. While the public debated the effectiveness and legality of the plan and whether bars could afford the cost of added security detail, it seemed like a good opportunity to suggest an equally sensible alternative: Kick-Ass-style urban vigilantes.
No stranger to ethics charges, state Democrat Sen. Robert Ford met his political fate amid accusations that he misused campaign funds. Particularly noteworthy were expenses for male-enhancement drugs and sex toys. While Ford would attempt to justify the expenses as "gag gifts" for campaign workers, he would eventually resign from his position citing health issues, giving Gov. Haley and the State Ethics Committee "evidence" that Ethics Reform was working.
The conflict between gay rights and religious homophobia flared up locally when the College of Charleston selected Alison Bechdel's Fun Home for its optional College Reads! program. An autobiographical graphic novel detailing Bechdel's struggles with sexual identity and her closeted father's suicide, Fun Home was meant to spark dialogue with incoming students. However, its themes drew the ire of the Palmetto Family Council and its mission to "transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model, and sexual purity." By the end of the year, the back-and-forth debate sparked by scripture-based homophobic commentary — be it from Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy, Palmetto Family's Oran Smith, or Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson — was all too familiar a dance.
If you're looking for a local news poster child for 2013, then Baby Veronica was it. The bitter fight between James Island's Matt and Melanie Capobianco and Veronica's Cherokee birth father Dusten Brown of Oklahoma garnered national attention. Brown used the Indian Child Welfare Act to regain custody of his child, while the Capobiancos invited reality TV mediator Troy Dunn to help get her back. Locally, the Baby Veronica story made frequent headlines in The Post & Courier and the City Paper and received daily updates on the evening news. Eventually, Veronica was returned to the Capobiancos thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, but not before this strip about the media circus surrounding what should've been a quiet adoption dispute was published.
President Barack Obama threatened to attack the nation of Syria in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own civilians. While political pundits were quick to take to their usual partisan corners to debate the merits of military involvement, most Americans thought this was just one Middle Eastern conflict too many and turned their attention to more pressing issues, like Miley Cyrus' twerking session with Robin Thicke. The horror!
South Carolina school superintendent Mick Zais has had a long run of pushing questionable plans, but the former Army general outdid himself in 2013 when he presented a plan to remove restrictions on class sizes and teacher workloads. The plan was quickly derided by politicians and educators alike, and Zais would later decide not to run for re-election, opening the door for the possibility of a superintendent who works with educators rather than just works them over.
After years of partisan debate and an ineffective, last-minute Tea Party effort to shut down the federal government, President Obama's signature Affordable Care Act rolled out to a less-than-positive reception. While some state Republicans spoke of nullifying the law, supporters of healthcare reform were stymied by the glitchy Healthcare.gov website. Even worse, Obama seemed to work against himself, treating the ACA as a living document by continuing to amend the law in response to criticism.
The year ended much like it began with talk about strike-ready workers, this time of the fast food variety. While fry cooks and counter jockeys took to the streets in protest for a day in December, the dispute allowed political pundits to debate whether $7.25 an hour is a livable wage. For me, it was a good opportunity to use the workplace relationship between Santa and his elves to explore the topic in this strip.