Editorial cartoonist Ron Hill releases political retrospective ‘The Usual Suspects’

Sat 7/20 @ noon-6:30pm

Among the many hats worn by Ron Hill, which include cartoonist, illustrator, caricaturist, creative director, author and business manager, it’s perhaps his role as editorial cartoonist that is the most important.

For 20 years the Solon resident has resided at the intersection of political and social commentary. Today, his role is to cut through the onslaught of social media and fake news posts.

Now the Cleveland native, who also provides caricature entertainment for private and corporate events, is looking back with his new book The Usual Suspects. The 164-page collection features Hill’s editorial cartoons related to national politics.

CoolCleveland talked to Hill about The Usual Suspects and his upcoming book-signing event at Pekar Park Comic Book Fest, which takes place Sat 7/20 at the Coventry Park and Heights Libraries’ Coventry branch in Cleveland Heights.

CoolCleveland: Congratulations regarding The Usual Suspects. What was the impetus for the new book?

Ron Hill: This is my 20th year of doing political cartoons for the Solon Times and Chagrin Valley Times. And in that time, I added Geauga Times Courier, The (Avon) Press, North Ridgeville Press and West Life. I just wanted to commemorate it. I did a book three years ago on Ohio education cartoons called Edutoons. This was kind of a 20-year collection of more of the national issues that I’ve commented on.

CC: We’re guessing a book about politics that has a title of The Usual Suspects will pretty much feature exactly the leaders we’d expect.

RH: Yes, there’s George W., McCain, Trump, Bin Laden, and both Bill and Hillary Clinton. I wanted to make this book a little more reaching.

CC: It seems like in today’s climate with newspapers dwindling in numbers nationwide the notion of the editorial cartoonist is quickly fading. This makes your existence at the local paper level that much more unique.

RH: I think it’s very unique. In fact, I won a Cleveland Press Club award in 2008 for best editorial cartoon for the circulation that we serve. And now I’m told they don’t even do cartoon categories anymore because most of the local newspapers don’t have a cartoonist.

CC: How exactly did you become an editorial cartoonist?

RH: I live in Solon. In 1999 I read an article in the Solon Times that seemed kind of silly to me. It was about the council people arguing about the new Borders (bookstore) that was going in. They spent time arguing if the cupola on top of Borders should in fact be taller than city hall, which is two miles away. So I just drew a cartoon how to make city hall taller. It was just a guy pointing to a board, which had “Viagra” written down. I sent it in hoping the editor would print it in the “Letters to the Editor” section, but he ended up putting it on the op-ed page. So the following week I sent him another one and he called me up and said he wanted to publish that one too. I said, “That’s great, but can you pay me this time?” He said, “Yes.” I guess as they say, the rest is history. I became a regular contributor after that. Eventually I was doing six cartoons a week. Last winter that dropped back down to four newspapers a week.

CC: In your opinion, how important are editorial cartoons in our society?

RH: I think they’re really important. What they do is engage the public and give them something to agree with, cheer for or hate and write a letter or pick up the phone or whatever. So it’s all about what a free press is — public discourse.

CC: Finally, how apropos is it you’ll be hosting a book signing event at the Pekar Park Comic Book Fest. Do you think your work relates to the work of the famous underground comic book writer?

RH: It’s not exactly what Harvey was doing, but the media is the same. It’s pictures and words. Harvey was trying to say something about the everyday struggles. I suppose I’m trying to say something about everyday society’s struggles. I didn’t know him, but I knew a number of the artists he worked with, so I feel like I get a little more insight than the average person. Really, if you just read Pekar you get everything he was trying to do.

[Written by John Benson]

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