New Zealand Herald
cartoonist Rod Emmerson has again been recognised for his popular artwork after receiving a new award he says "beats a knighthood".
While in California attending a conference for the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), Emmerson was gifted something quite special, the Ring of Skulls, by legendary Canadian cartoonist Terry Mosher.
"He's a legend in this part of the world - in his mid-70s and still working hard.
"His wife had the same ring made for him some years back in Mexico, for his years and dedication to the industry. She said the skulls on Terry's ring represented the number of editors he'd had in his career."
Mosher had used the AAEC as a platform to launch the award which had no borders, voting panels or nominations, "just a nod and a wink", Emmerson said.
"Among this community of editorial cartoonists, they either all know each other, or they know your work.
"He's decided to start having these rings made and will selectively present them to people who everyone respects and admires for their years of dedication, 'badass' cartoons and survived in a very hostile industry."
To be the first to receive one beats a knighthood in Emmerson's book "because it comes from the heart and soul of a living legend of a cartoonist, and backed by a legion of great cartoonists on the other side of the world".
Kevin Kallaugher, Maryland-based cartoonist for the London-based Economist, was also marked to receive a ring, meaning there would be three recipients in total.
Early this year, one of Emmerson's cartoons went viral with hundreds of thousands of views, even appearing on French television screens.
A cartoon was a cheeky play on three major global events - the Football World Cup, Wimbledon and the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
"For me it was a bit of an aligning of the planets because you had three really big events within 24-48 hours of each other – that being the World Cup Final, the men's final at Wimbledon, and then the forthcoming summit with Putin and Trump," Emmerson said.
The finished cartoon highlights three caricatures of; a French footballer holding the World Cup, Novak Djokovic lifting the Wimbledon trophy after winning the men's singles, and Russian President Vladimir Putin lifting US President Donald Trump in a nod to their rivalry during the Helsinki summit.
A cartoon on the anniversary of 9/11 also saw large numbers but which some took as Emmerson supporting right-wing activists.
On the left underneath the headline, "2001", Emmerson has drawn the hand of the Statue of Liberty holding the flame with the word "united" below it.
Underneath a "2018" headline on the right, there is a person's hand holding a tiki torch which is ignited with the word "divided" below it.
"A lot of people were saying I was giving the thumbs up to the right-wing groups that carry tiki torches," Emmerson said.
"I saw so much of this I had to jump on and tell them that this is how you carry a stick – you're reading too much into it."
The cartoon instead depicts how the tragedy of 9/11 banded America together, but in the 17 years since it has become divided after a range of social issues.
"Seventeen years on you look at America today and it's a very divided place and I half think that this was part of an overall plan," he said.