Matt Bors still sees hope for this fast-warming, white nationalist-overrun hellscape

Andy Downing

Matt Bors’ comics, like the world events upon which they draw, often paint a bleak picture of the future, depicting a planet decimated by global warming, a president and administration openly catering to white nationalists, and a political machine so beholden to the NRA that gun rights hold greater import than the lives of children.

At the same time, Bors, founder and editor of online cartooning site The Nib, hasn’t completely abandoned hope for the future.

“I don’t want to be boosterish and corny and talk about things I support, or things that are going well in the world, because I don’t think it makes for really good satire,” said Bors, 36, by phone from his home in Portland, Oregon. “I guess things seem really dire right now with Trump in the short term and climate change in the long term, but I think there’s a possibility of us pulling out of this. The demographics of the country are changing rapidly. The day we’re talking is the day of the Climate Strike, where the young people who are going to have to deal with the results of climate change are really taking the lead. … So, on one hand, I do feel we’re careening toward a dystopian, climate change world run by white nationalists and tech companies, but you can’t really get out of bed in the morning unless you think there’s a chance of altering the course of the future.”

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Bors, a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, also has the perspective of his political awakening coinciding with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run up to the Iraq War, an era he described as “more damaging” than the Trump administration, to this point, citing the more than 100,000 people killed in the conflict. “There were torturers in office and fundamentalist Christians and it felt very bleak,” Bors said. “Things are bad under Trump, but I’ve been here before.”

The same could be said of Bors’ current situation with The Nib, which lost the financial support of First Look Media in June. First Look, an independent journalism organization that also publishes The Intercept, had provided funding for the site since 2016, when The Nib rebooted after parting with former publisher Medium, which had hosted the comics site since its 2013 founding.

Moving forward, Bors said, The Nib will likely continue to function as an independent, reader-supported site, as it does currently.

“Never say never, but I’m pretty wary of [partnerships] right now,” Bors said, and laughed. “I’m definitely thinking about how to keep The Nib alive for the long run. We’re smaller. Our only funds come directly from our readers right now, and I like that, in a way. It means that we’ll live or fail on our merits.”

No matter the platform or backing, Bors has been able to maintain complete editorial freedom with The Nib — a rarity in times when journalism is increasingly corporatized through mergers, and when editorial cartoonists, in particular, have been reined in by conservative ownership groups fearful of upsetting the establishment. Witness Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers, who was fired in 2018 after more than two decades with the paper, following a stretch where leadership nixed 19 of his ideas for drafts of cartoons, all coinciding with the appointment of Keith Burris to Block Communications vice president, editor and editorial director (Block owns the Post-Gazette). Burris is viewed as sympathetic to Trump, and a number of Rogers’ spiked cartoons were critical of the president.

“Basically my entire adult life I’ve been able to do whatever I want comics-wise,” said Bors, 36, who will lead a “Save The Nib!” panel at CCAD’s Canzani Auditorium during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus on Saturday, Sept. 28 (Bors will also sign copies of The Nib's most-recent quarterly publication, Scams, at 5:30 p.m. in the same location). “I always say that I shouldn’t be able to publish The Nib because all of my contributors should be snapped up by other media outlets, but they aren’t. So I’m trying to hold it down being one of the only outlets that’s devoted to publishing this kind of stuff.”

Cartoon Crossroads Columbus

Canzani Auditorium at CCAD

8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 (book signing at 5:30 p.m.)

60 Cleveland Ave., Downtown

Save The Nib!