Pulitzer Prize–winner Mike Luckovich, a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist, uses his offbeat wit and deft drawing skills to skewer politicians and comment on world events in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His provocative visual satires have a mused and enraged both Democrats and Republicans.
Michael Edward Luckovich was born on January 28, 1960, to Marilyn Westwood and John Luckovich in Seattle, Washington. His family moved often, and he learned that drawing caricatures of his new teachers proved an effective ploy in making friends, even if his creativity was not necessarily appreciated by his subjects.
He was inspired by the cartoons in Mad magazine, especially those of Mort Zucker, who was known for his caricatures of celebrities. During high school Luckovich discovered the work of political cartoonists Jeff MacNelly, Pat Oliphant, and Mike Peters. At age fourteen, he drew his first pointedly political cartoon to amuse his grandmother: a sketch of U.S. president Richard Nixon. He has been poking presidents and other celebrities with his pen ever since.
Luckovich graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington in 1982 and then sold insurance door-to-door for a couple of years while trying to break into his unusual brand of journalism. (Only an estimated ninety artists earn a living as editorial cartoonists in the United States.) Luckovich finally landed a job at the Greenville (S.C.) News before moving on to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Newsweek began publishing his work in the mid-1980s, and in 1989 he joined the staff of the Atlanta Constitution (later the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), where he is known for his congeniality.
Luckovich’s roll-with-the-punches attitude is all the more unusual because, unlike other cartoonists, he does not sketch rough drafts in pencil. He works only in ink, right up until deadline. “I use a lot of Wite-Out,” he says.
In 1994 Luckovich received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and in 1995 he won the Pulitzer Prize for twenty different cartoons covering a variety of issues. In 2006 he won a second Pulitzer for cartoons that addressed various topics, from Hurricane Katrina to the Iraq War (2003-11). One cartoon features the names of the first 2,000 American soldiers killed in the war, arranged to form the word, “WHY?”
According to Luckovich, one of the highlights of his career was riding on Air Force One with U.S. president Bill Clinton in September 1996. He asked the president to draw a self-portrait, which Clinton gamely provided. “I understood why he was trying to keep his day job,” Luckovich says.
Luckovich and his wife, Margo, have four children: John, Lucy, Mickey, and Michaela.