Upper Hutt Leader
Sir Bob Jones, who likes a quick jab to the nose of the pretentious, writes in the foreword of a new cartoon book that we have some world class heavyweights at poking fun at politicians and others.
A collection of the best New Zealand cartoons of 2012 was in shops just in time for Christmas.
With profits going to Rotary charities, the instigator of the New Zealand Political Cartoon Annual 2012, former New Zealand Herald cartoonist Malcolm Evans, says if this one goes well he wants to bring one out every year.
Other than Jones' foreword there is no text; the 100-pager chronicles the year's happenings through the cartoons of 16 of our best. Included is the work of the likes of Tom Scott, Chicane, Evans, Tremain, Hodgson, Klarc - and the Hutt's very own Paul Ekers.
Upper Hutt-based Ekers draws two cartoons a week for the Central Community Newspapers group of nine titles and is rapt that 17 of them feature in this inaugural annual.
When Hutt News interviewed Ekers in 1996 shortly after he started with us, we ran a photograph of him drawing a cartoon at his kitchen table with his 14-month-old triplets parked up around him in high-chairs. "Now you understand why my cartoons might have the occasional food marks on them," he explained at the time.
Those triplets recently turned 17 - the two boys are now taller than six-footer Ekers - and enjoyed their school ball at Upper Hutt College last month. That's a huge number of cartoons gone by, so many they've became a bit of a blur and Ekers struggles to name favourites.
He knows the ones that drew the most complaints - one about the Catholic church springs to mind - but says there was more feedback during the four to five years he was drawing daily cartoons for the Marlborough Express and the New Zealand Herald's weekend edition. That was quite a grind because he has always held down a fulltime job at the same time.
These days Ekers works in Human Resources at the TAB headquarters in Petone and drawing for community newspapers suits him fine.
"It's a hobby that provides me with a bit of an outlet.
"I can have a bit of a laugh, poke fun at some things and hopefully bring a smile to people's faces."
Common targets are the ups and downs of the Hurricanes and our cricketers, parking fees, corporate shenanigans, the propensity of petrol companies to put up charges at the merest hint of disturbance in the supply chain (faster than Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, as one memorable cartoon this year depicted).
Ekers says they're not heavy political cartoons. He tries to home in on what irks common folk.
"I don't like the holier than thou approach that some of our corporates take with the ordinary bloke."
Ekers is an admirer of the work of Tom Scott, who was encouraging to him when he was starting out.
But like all community newspaper journalists with longer deadlines than the dailies, he has to keep his fingers crossed that the daily doesn't beat him to the draw on an approach or idea.
While "not a strong caricaturist", some people just lend themselves to cartoons, he says.
"Helen Clark was easy."
Ekers skewers politicians but a number of them have bought originals from him. Helen Clark has two, Trevor Mallard has plenty.
"Sometimes politicians take themselves a bit too seriously so it's quite nice to see some of them can laugh at themselves."
Significantly, he feels, "Winston Peters has never bought one of mine".
A number of Ekers' cartoons have ended up in school textbooks and exam papers. Ekers enjoys recounting the time his daughter Lauren's teacher was expounding on one of his cartoons in the classroom.
"She was taking a different line on it and my daughter said 'that's not what he meant'."
'How would you know?' the teacher demanded.
She rather took the wind out of her sails when Lauren retorted "because he's my dad".
As Sir Bob Jones writes in the foreword: "I'm not given to flag-waving nationalism. The appalling anthem lyrics, the ghastly flag, the incessant bloody hakas; much of our New Zealandism I find cringingly embarrassing. But having spent 50 years travelling the world and as a newspaper addict, I honestly think we may well produce the world's best cartoonists. God only knows why."
As daily newspapers fade, Jones worries cartoonists might also disappear.
"Be grateful [for them] for there's no better start to the day than laughter, the cartoonist's prime weapon in deflating pomp and exposing silliness."
- Hutt News