A story’s wit and wonder sketched in a single image

How challenging is it to work as a cartoonist at a newspaper today? What does the future hold for those who wish to launch such a career? These were some of the questions that four acclaimed Greek cartoonists – Costas Mitropoulos, Yiannis Kyriakopoulos (KYR), Vassilis Mitropoulos (VAS) and Kathimerini’s own Andreas Petroulakis – were asked to answer in a public discussion held at the Moraitis School last Friday. The cartoonists’ witty answers provided colorful flow to the discussion, which was followed by the opening of an exhibition that will be displayed on the school’s second floor until November 3. «We try to avoid bumping into politicians,» joked Petroulakis when asked about the reactions of those made fun of in cartoons. «Once I saw [former prime minister] Constantine Mitsotakis at a reception. Wanting to play it cool, he told me, ‘I laugh a lot with what you do.’ I just answered, ‘So do I!’» added Kyriakopoulos. All four cartoonists are highly distinguished in their field. Veteran Kyriakopoulos, the eldest, is now working with the Eleftherotypia daily after previously collaborating with numerous publications. Costas Mitropoulos’s sketches appear every day on the front page of Ta Nea, while his brother, Vassilis Mitropoulos, is collaborating with publications abroad. Petroulakis, who works for Kathimerini, is the youngest of the four. Not much is known about Greek cartoons because, as discussion coordinator and journalist Constantinos Zoulas pointed out in his introduction, little has been written about them. He explained that until the 1950s cartoons were mostly used as illustrations; newspaper political cartoons, as we know them today, started appearing in Greece after the groundbreaking work of Fokion Dimitriadis, who is now considered the father of Greek political cartoons. We often tend to disregard the difficulties that newspaper cartoonists have to face on a daily basis: As Zoulas, from his journalist perspective, described, not only do they have to come up with original ideas, but they also have to condense them into one image and very few words and in a way that will make them accessible to everyone, even on the dullest of days. What is even more challenging, given that news is usually unpleasant rather than pleasant, is that they have to come up with ways to make a gloomy event seem funny. The situation is not too rosy for anyone about to embark on a career as a political cartoonist, although things have definitely come a long way over the past few decades. «It used to be impossible to make fun of the party that the newspaper you worked for officially supported,» said Costas Mitropoulos. «It was only after Fokion [Dimitriadis] that things started to change.» «Although no one would censor us, because we are, by now, established cartoonists, things are different for young people starting out. In a way they start off with a handicap: They have to prove themselves in a very limited time and, being new, they do not have the ease to criticize the party their employer supports,» said Petroulakis. «When starting off, a cartoonist has yet to perfect his style; he has a long way to go. Today it is very difficult to be given the time required to do that. It is hard to be good, because there is not enough time,» he added. «You also have to be lucky, because positions at newspapers are very limited.» «I think humor is more important than the actual sketch. You either have it or you don’t,» said Costas Mitropoulos, rounding off the discussion. The exhibition features a selection of cartoons by all four artists throughout the years, commenting on different aspects of Greek society, as well as programs they have illustrated for the school’s annual panigiri (a three-day celebration with lots of fun activities, proceeds of which go to charity). It is open 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Both the discussion and the exhibition are part of a series of events celebrating the 70-year anniversary of the foundation of the Moraitis School. Moraitis School, Papanastassiou & Aghiou Dimitriou, Palaio Psychico, tel 210.679.5000.