Marty Two Bulls, editorial cartoonist for Indian Country Today Media Network, has won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his work in the category “Editorial Cartooning (Newspaper Circulation 1-100,000, Regional Magazine, Non-Daily Publication or Online Independent).”
Two Bulls, Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, is a talented artist with a deep connection to his people and his past who is studying for a bachelor of fine arts degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “My father is Rev. Robert Two Bulls and my Grand father was Peter Two Bulls Sr.,” he says. “I hail from the Red Shirt Table area of our reservation. Our enemies call us the Sioux.” One of his great strengths as an observer and humorist is his ability to treat issues all over Indian country — the five cartoons that won him the award, all of which appear on this page, address Diane Sawyer’s visit to Two Bulls’ own home reservation as well as the death of woodcarver John T. Williams, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Two Bulls has enjoyed a long career in the commercial design sector in television, print technologies, daily newspapers and new media, serving as graphic editor for two daily newspapers, the Rapid City Journal and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. He resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where in addition to creating cartoons for this publication he is finishing a degree in art. He also tends to his professional website, m2bulls.com, which just re-launched today.
On the occasion of this great professional honor, Two Bulls took a few moments out of his busy schedule to tell us a little more about himself.
When and how did you first start creating art?
As long as I can remember, I have always created art in some form or medium. I had won a citywide art contest when I was ten years old. I had sold my first painting when I was twelve.
What are the mediums you’ve worked in during your artistic development, and how did you come to cartooning?
I have had the opportunity to work in all the art mediums. I want my work to be seen by as many people as possible and mass-produced publishing seems like a good vehicle for that purpose. So I did some editorial cartoons for my high school newspaper, Rapid City Central high school’s Pine Needle, from 1979 to 1981. I had to take a journalism class to do this so I went along with anything to get published. I never would have thought, back then, that newspapers would become such a big part of my career.
You’re currently pursuing a degree in art, correct?
I will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio arts.
What is the nature of the work you’re creating?
My area of study includes all the mediums available to me from sterling silver to ancient cedar. I have been doing a number of paintings for my senior art show on a loose series of themes, but based on an overriding theme of traditionalism. This project uses traditional designs and modern materials to say, basically, that we as Native peoples are an ancient race caught up in a modern society, a world we have little or no control over, a world that puts our future in question. The answer to a lot of our questions lies in our past and is something that we left behind. The only real way to find it is to retrace our steps. It is my hope that this generation will find the answer to their questions along this path of rediscovery and pave the way for the future members of out Native Nation.
Who are your favorite cartoonists? Whose work do you find inspiring?
The late Wally Wood and John Severin were probably the greatest influence on my work. As a kid growing up Wood and Severin’s work was published in comic books, so there was a ready supply of it available to me even with my modest means. Of course I studied the great masters, but I still gravitated to fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta and Richard Corben.
What do you have to be mindful of when you’re drawing cartoons for a specialized audience — in this case American Indians?
I don’t really. I am who I am and this is the way I am. I guess it is sort of a Popeye philosophy on life. But really I’m Native and my humor follows suit.
And are there advantages for you in that your readership shares a certain viewpoint?
Well, I don’t have to explain a lot of things … I just try to point out flaws.
Are there some subjects that are off-limits for you as a cartoonist?
Objectifying women. I believe that women are equal and that the failing of the dominant culture was to subjugate their women. This control that the men had over their society also gave birth to their greed and eventual warfare.
Do you have a favorite cartoon of your own, or a favorite topic you’ve covered?
I was once asked if I had a favorite color … I said I love them all.
What’s next for you — after you get your degree do you have any projects in mind? Any professional goals you haven’t realized yet?
I worked in daily newspapers for thirteen years as a graphics editor and after my children grew up my wife (of 28 years) and I decided to return to college to finish our degrees. So with graduation it seems I’m at a crossroads in my career. If the opportunity arose I could be persuaded to return to newspapers. Or maybe I’d go on to grad school and afterward teach on a college level. I’ve been a professional artist for 29 years and I will probably die with a brush in my hands, so that will never change. I’m currently doing a couple of pages for a comic book and dabbling in the jewelry business.
I’m writing a graphic novel and plan on starting the art production soon. But I need to keep a regular income flowing in to support my earthly needs.