Monday, March 23, 2009
My Lunch with Cartoonist John Branch
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a fan of newspaper comics. They were always the first section I flipped to when the paper came in the door and was opened on a Sunday morning. That was the highlight of my weekend.
As I've gotten older my attention has switched from the funny pages to the editorial pages and the political cartoons showcased there. So when I first moved here to San Antonio in December of 2005 I immediately became a fan of John Branch.
John Branch, who was one of the last two remaining editorial page cartoonists in the state of Texas, was recently let go in the last round of layoffs at the San Antonio Express News and it broke my heart. He along with 74 others in the Express News newsroom had their final day at the paper last Friday. Many other fine journalists at television stations in the San Antonio market have also been laid off along with many of my friends who work in media outlets around the nation. It's a tough time to be in the news business or any business for that matter.
Today many of my friends and colleagues held a "Flacks and Sacked" networking luncheon for the 100+ people who'd been recently laid off here in San Antonio. I chose to sponsor John Branch, a man who didn't know me very well but who had always made my day a little brighter with his sharp wit and political humor and I'm so glad he accepted.
What I learned about John Branch is that he is more than just a man who makes great comics for the editorial pages. He is a traditionalist and still likes to put ink to paper not just draw his sketches on a computer. He loves the music scene here is San Antonio and you can often find him listening to jazz music in small clubs about town. I learned that he is a family man, who cares deeply about his son and daughter, deeply enough to make tough choices as a parent. I learned that he cares about his readers, their feedback and that some of them have continued to contact him year after year about a comic past that has somehow touched their lives.
I also learned that my lunch with John Branch was far too short to truly get to know him. But what I do know is that his impact on this community has been felt and wont soon diminish. How many times have we opened up the editorial pages and went "owwwww" or laughed out loud. How many times has some political slip up been immortalized in ink on the pages of the San Antonio Express News, posted on mysa.com or printed out and passed around the office for all to see.
I don't know what the future holds for John Branch - maybe a book? maybe a website where we can all get our daily fix? I'm not sure. But what I am sure of is that we haven't seen the last of this creative cartoonist.
For more of Branch's work click here