For more than half a century, artist Jim Lange has let a caricature named Mr. Voter speak on behalf of the public in the editorial cartoons of the Oklahoman. This session Lange and his creation will be in the spotlight at the State Capitol as lawmakers decide on a bill to make Mr. Voter, also known as John Q. Public, the state’s official editorial cartoon. State Sen. Todd Lamb is author of the legislation.
“Since 1950, Jim Lange has been the editorial cartoonist for the Oklahoman. Through the years, countless Oklahomans have been entertained and informed by Mr. Voter, in good times and bad,” said Lamb, R-Edmond. “He’s part of our state’s identity.”
Lange said he started cartooning at a very early age—his parents would give him a pencil and paper to keep him quiet in church.
“It was very easy to draw because the people you’d draw would be either praying or asleep—they wouldn’t move,” laughed Lange.
He continued to draw throughout his childhood, often winning poster contests, and in high school he drew cartoons for the school newspaper and the yearbook. After serving in the Army Air Corps, Lange attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts on the G.I. Bill. It was there that he honed his skills as an editorial cartoonist. His first job out of school was with the Oklahoman where he’s remained since.
Lange said the idea of an editorial cartoon is to quickly state a view or opinion on an issue or event.
“A lot of cases people won’t delve into an issue and do a lot of reading on a particular subject…if it’s a good cartoon it should get the message across real quick and you don’t have to read a lengthy editorial to find out what somebody’s trying to say,” Lange explained.
When it comes to Mr. Voter, Lange says the character always stays neutral.
“He won’t come out in a cartoon and tell you who he’s for in an election until the day after an election. You don’t put words in his mouth—you keep him strictly honest,” Lange said.
Lange’s creation is not simply limited to commenting on political events. In 1986, Lange, who had had a mutual friend with the space shuttle Challenger’s commander, Dick Scobee, drew a special cartoon to be taken onboard the ill-fated Challenger flight.
“I drew a picture of John Q. Public…sitting in a shuttle, holding his arm out waving his hat at the public,” said Lange.
Lange said that was the last he heard of it until after the Challenger went down, claiming the lives of the entire crew. A few months later, Lange received a phone call from Scobee’s widow. Lange learned that as NASA was recovering shuttle debris from the ocean, a small baggy containing his cartoon was found. Amazingly, the drawing was in perfect condition, without even a water spot on it. That cartoon is now on display at the Omniplex Science Museum’s Aviation Wing in Oklahoma City.
“Clearly, Jim Lange’s creation has a unique place in Oklahoma history in so many ways. I think it is very appropriate that we name Mr. Voter as our official editorial cartoon,” said Lamb.
Senate Bill 1613 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.