Dangle Off Deadline

After 22 years of speaking satire to power, the creator of Troubletown moves on.

Dangle Off Deadline
Self-portrait of the cartoonist.

In the third panel of last week’s Troubletown, a week before the comic was to end, Lloyd Dangle finally showed us his penis. There it was, as the cartoonist, in his second-to-last cartoon, ranted naked in an Abu Ghraib-ish cell of his own drawing.

It was a fitting way to send off a comic strip that has been waving its junk at those in power from the pages of alt-weeklies and left-leaning mags for 22 years, since the dawn of the Bush (the Elder) years.

Dangle grew up in the Rust Belt and attended University of Michigan, spending his time writing cartoons for U of M’s humor pub the Gargoyle while he pursued a fine arts degree.

He moved to Oakland in the mid-’80s, after his New York apartment building literally crumbled to the ground. In ’88, he landed Troubletown in the pages of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The rest, as they say, is 1,140-plus weeks of brain-bending deadlines. Dangle’s tone has been a good fit for the disaffected progressive, and it still is. He classifies president Obama as “a moderate Republican,” recently comparing his policies to the second Bush’s.

His final Troubletown runs on page 7 of this week’s Inlander. We chatted with Dangle by phone last week, while he geared up for his last deadline ever.

INLANDER: You call yourself a satirical cartoonist, do you also consider yourself a political cartoonist?

DANGLE: Yeah, although I always tell people my political cartoons are screwball comedy, as opposed to serious editorial cartoons.

More and more political cartoonists are getting nixed from papers. What’s the state of cartooning?

They’re getting squeezed out. There aren’t as many opportunities for younger cartoonists to get their stuff out to a large audience — through print. For me, spending all these years in free newspapers was just the greatest platform. People picked up free newspapers. I’d go around to cafes and see people reading my comics and it felt great.

What’s the purpose of a satirical cartoonist in a democratic society?

The Daily Show and Colbert Report are examples of the way a lot of people are educated in their politics. I’ve been doing that for a long time, too. Helping people look at the information they get very critically and [helping them] question it. Satire has a great value because it shines a light on things from a screwy perspective, so that people can take a look at it from a different angle. Criticism of what’s going on is really important in a democratic society.

In a recent cartoon you depicted many Obama policies as being indistinguishable from George W. Bush’s. Do you think these are his true leanings, or is he being swayed by the circumstances?

He’s moderate, but the whole discussion has moved to the right, so he’s gotten pretty far to the right. But really, he’s so conciliatory and interested in compromising with anybody he can find, that this is where he wants to be.

Are you a little sad to be retiring now, just as Donald Trump becomes a birther?

I did a nice drawing of Donald Trump the other day, which I’m going to put up on my blog. Just a nice caricature ... with that crazy hair and stuff.

What was the ripest time for cartooning?

I’ve always felt really engaged because I’ve always allowed myself the freedom to do whatever was important to me at the time. I sort of feel like there’s always funny stuff to work with, so no time really stands out as being particularly more fun than other times.

But, come on…

Bush was definitely a big gift to us cartoonists. He was a silly, clown-like president. That made it fun to make fun of him.

So what’s next?

I’m starting this new career [where I] go out to businesses when they’re having meetings and universities and conferences and different types of things, and I draw live on big sheets of paper and capture the essence of what’s going on at the event. It’s pretty popular with innovative companies. I’m exposed to all sorts of interesting information I’ve never thought of before. It’s pretty cool. And it pays.

Better than cartooning for alt-weeklies?

Yeah, but most anything does.

Death Cafe with Samantha Potter @ Hillyard Library

Sun., April 14, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
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Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.