Ron Hill’s Editorial Cartoons Spotlight “The Usual Suspects”
Solon resident Ron Hill’s career as a political cartoonist started with a Viagra joke.
A graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Hill originally thought he would pursue a career illustrating fantasy and science fiction books. Instead, he became a graphic artist and educator, but he never stopped drawing cartoons for fun.
In 1999, Hill read a story about a Solon City Council debate whether the cupola on a Borders bookstore should be permitted to be taller than city hall, two miles away. Finding the discussion silly, he drew a cartoon with Viagra as the punchline, which he submitted to The Solon Times.
“I was hoping that it might end up in the letters section. The publisher called me to say, ‘I want to print it.’ I was surprised to see it in the op-ed page,” Hill said.
That cartoon eventually led to Hill drawing for six area papers in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Geauga counties. “The Usual Suspects,” published by Act 3, features cartoons from two decades of his work. Hill is also now a managing partner at Act 3, a Cleveland design studio.
He still reads four newspapers each week looking for stories he thinks would be of interest to readers. The goal is for his cartoons to cause people to think about the issues he highlights.
“I hope people will look at it and say, ‘yes, that’s a point, I agree with it,’ or maybe they have another thought about it. I want the citizens and readers to realize what is going on. If I can take some hot point and put it out there, just for awareness,” Hill said.
Over the years, Hill has noticed that certain topics generate responses from particular areas in Northeast Ohio.
“Usually, if I do anything about reasonable gun laws or re-evaluation of concealed carry that will get calls from more rural areas like Lorain or Geauga counties. A lot of the ones I wrote about (President) Trump in the first couple of years of his presidency would get phone calls and letters. They would say things like, ‘tell your cartoonist to quit drawing with his left hand,” Hill said.
One particular cartoon in The Chagrin Valley Times stirred up quite a bit of controversy, raising the ire of one viewer in particular.
“We did one about six years ago that landed us in court. It was about a coal magnate and the fact that when Romney lost the election, he laid off a bunch of people in southern Ohio. He did not like it (the cartoon), “ Hill said.
Robert Murray, owner of Murray Energy, sued Hill, as well as the publisher and editor of the paper numerous times for defamation.
“We won in municipal court, I believe two appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear the case. This gentleman didn’t want to let it go, but under free speech we won every time,” Hill said.
When it comes to fairness in deciding what issues to tackle, Hill says he “needs to look at both sides of the coin, but ultimately the final opinion comes from me, that’s why I’m on the op-ed page,” Hill said.
One of Hill’s most frequent targets has been President Trump, but the cartoonist has decided to stop addressing the President directly.
“I’ve decided I’m not just going to attack Trump all the time, for a couple of reasons. One, I’m not going to change opinions on that through a local cartoon. Two, it gives the President the attention he seems to crave. I will focus on an issue like immigration, but I won’t particularly call out the President anymore,” Hill said.
As Hill was completing “The Usual Suspects,” three of the papers for which he drew have been combined into one. With fewer and fewer papers publishing, opportunities for editorial cartoonists are decreasing, yet Hill feels they can still help shape the public discussion.
“A lot of the cartoonists who’ve lost their jobs are now publishing through syndicates or social media. People are still reading, looking and taking something away from the art form, it’s just harder to make a living at it,” Hill said.
[Ron Hill, ideastream's Dan Polletta/ideastream]
Ron Hill will sign copies of "The Usual Suspects" at the Solon Branch of the Cuyahoga Country Public Library Sunday from 1:30 p.m-3:30 p.m