East County native and SDSU alumnus Lalo Alcaraz joins San Diego Comic Fest panels to discuss editorial art in the world of news and global politics

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When Lalo Alcaraz was a Helix High School student, he was in a summer work program administered by coach Rick Ash.  Ash needed a student worker to paint the Helix mascot in the boys and girls gymnasiums and chose Alcaraz.

That was the start of an art career for Alcaraz, who followed his 1982 Helix graduation with cartoons for the Daily Aztec at San Diego State University and now draws the La Cucaracha comic strip as well as single-panel editorial cartoons. 

When Lalo Alcaraz was a Helix High School student, he was in a summer work program administered by coach Rick Ash.  Ash needed a student worker to paint the Helix mascot in the boys and girls gymnasiums and chose Alcaraz.

That was the start of an art career for Alcaraz, who followed his 1982 Helix graduation with cartoons for the Daily Aztec at San Diego State University and now draws the La Cucaracha comic strip as well as single-panel editorial cartoons. 

Alcaraz was also a cultural advisor to the 2017 Pixar animated feature film Coco. San Diego Comic Fest took advantage of Alcaraz’s availability for this year’s convention, April 20-22, at the Town and Country Hotel in San Diego, and he appeared at three panel sessions.

One April 20 session was titled Spotlight on Lalo Alcaraz in which Alcaraz spoke about himself and his cartoons. 

An April 20 session called Cultural Appropriation in Comics, Films, and Games had a panel consisting of Alcaraz, Mexican video game developer Daniel Gutierrez, and former Disney and Hanna-Barbera animator Floyd Norman (who in 1956 became Disney’s first black animator).

Alcaraz and Los Angeles Sentinel editorial cartoonist David G. Brown comprised an April 21 panel for the Political Cartooning in the Age of Trump session.

“Editorial cartooning is in a state of transition,” Alcaraz said. “It’s become more diverse as opportunities diminish for editorial cartoonists to appear in print.”

Because of President Trump’s policy on immigration issues, he has been a frequent target of Alcaraz since he announced his candidacy for the office of President.  One of the cartoons Alcaraz showed during Political Cartooning in the Age of Trump included the Twitter logo and another had President Trump using a mobile communications device. Because Donald Trump has come under fire for his demeanor as well as his views the issue of whether Twitter’s 140-character limit precludes Trump from providing more rational discourse was compared to editorial cartoonists who minimize their words and rely on their sketches.

“I’m not a fan of the trend of the super wordy cartoons,” Alcaraz said. “If you’re doing an art form, exploit the beauty of that art form which is drawing an image.”

In addition to Trump, Alcaraz’s cartoons have targeted Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is a registered Democrat, and Pete Wilson, who was considered a moderate when he held statewide office.  Satirists such as Gary Trudeau (Doonesbury), Berke Breathed (Bloom County), Art Buchwald, Tom Lehrer, Mark Russell, Mad Magazine, the Capitol Steps, and Saturday Night Live (and former East County Californian staff member Greg Eichelberger) lampoon whoever is in the news regardless of political party or ideology, so many of the targets of satirists do not take the jabs personally. 

“Mostly, the offense is with LA Times, people who write in and shred me directly and try to get me fired,” Alcaraz said. “It’s happened so much that I’m oblivious and immune to it now.”

The Los Angeles Times is Los Angeles County’s only English-language metropolitan daily newspaper and the San Diego Union-Tribune is San Diego County’s only metropolitan daily, so those papers’ editorial staffs must seek to appeal to readers of all political persuasions. Multiple daily newspapers exist in many Mexican cities so the PAN-leaning paper can appeal to right-of-center readers and the PRI-leaning publication has a base of left-of-center readers. 

Alcaraz noted that Mexican political cartoonists are less restrained than their American counterparts.

“It would be nice if we had more newspapers,” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz noted that those who criticize him pay attention to his work. 

“My biggest haters are my best readers,” he said.

The Catholic Church is politically incorrect but white, Hispanic, and Filipino Catholics attend the same church and many Hispanics are practicing Catholics. 

Alcaraz has included the clergy sex scandal among his targets but does not challenge Catholic doctrine in his cartoons. 

“I try not to trample on people’s sincere religious beliefs,” he said.

Alcaraz noted that he will not compromise on immigration and was asked what he would have done in the scenario that Rand Paul, whose libertarian-leaning views extend to immigration, had won the Republican primary and then defeated the Democrat nominee.

“I’d trade it all for a little peace and quiet,” Alcaraz said.

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