The massacre at Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 brought urgent questions about censorship, satire, offense, and artistic responsibility to the forefront. On February 19, 2015, PEN American Center, The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) brought together graphic novelist Art Spiegelman (Maus), artist/ journalist Molly Crabapple (Scarlett Takes Manhattan), socio-political cartoonist Emmanuel “Manu” Letouzé, and The New Yorker Art Director Françoise Mouly to examine the current landscape for cartoons and satire.

The night was packed with thoughtful discussion on the state of cartooning and satire, both in the U.S. and abroad. One exchange that remained with PEN staff started with Molly Crabapple’s comment that cartooning is and should be particularly “inflammatory” because “it is visceral and irritates authoritarian assholes.” Crabapple’s point was meticulously unpacked as Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly discussed the ideas and editorial process that went into The New Yorker’s most memorable and controversial cover illustrations, among them the “41 Shots” cover printed in the wake of the notorious police shooting of Amadou Diallo. Of one of his other covers, the Valentine’s Day illustration that depicted an orthodox Jew kissing a black woman, Spiegelman said, “I got people from both communities mad at me for that.”