Mark Fiore is living his dream. But even in his wildest dreams, he didn’t expect to win a Pulitzer Prize.
The 1991 CC graduate made history when, in April 2010, he became the first online-only editorial cartoonist to win journalism’s greatest accolade. His animated cartoons boosted him to a pantheon including Berke Breathed, Jeff MacNelly, Garry Trudeau, and Bill Mauldin.
“To be in that company is a huge honor,” he said by phone while traveling from his California home.
After hearing of his win — and jumping up and down while yelling — Fiore and his wife, Chelsea, “hit the ground running.”
He hadn’t let himself think too much about beating the other finalists, but he did fantasize a little about how it would feel. “In my mind, I would take the day off and go surfing, but it’s been constant work.”
The $10,000 Pulitzer award is earmarked for their DIY bathroom upgrade.
Fiore is also the first self-syndicated, animated-only cartoonist to win a Pulitzer. “I hope I’m a pioneer, not an anomaly,” he said.
His cartoons, which appear on the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate.com site, are short works of art and satire, born of the Flintstones by way of Monty Python.
Looking back at the cartoons he did at CC, Fiore dismisses them as “so worked-up and serious.” Eventually, he learned to wrap his messages in less-confrontational packages. “I had to flip that humor switch.”
He came to CC knowing he wanted to be a cartoonist and “focused on that like a laser beam.” He took art classes but majored in political science, thinking it was a better back-up plan.
Fiore followed his brother, Chris, who attended CC before transferring to Berkeley, and his sister, Suzi Fiore ’86. He came for visits and decided it was a good fit. The school still influences his work habits.
He makes notes about current issues on Mondays and begins drawing with ink on paper. On Tuesdays he scans his finished pieces into the computer and animates them using Adobe Flash. Voice actors add their talent on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and Fiore spends Wednesdays scrambling to meet his deadline.
“It’s almost like I’ve got a mini-Block Plan in my head,” he said. “I digest a large amount of information in a short time. I dive right into it for three solid days.”
CC also left him with a taste for public service. His website, www.markfiore.com, includes a page called Do Something, an outlet for people to turn their frustrations into action for causes including Haiti earthquake relief, the Humane Society, and the Red Cross.
“I got into journalism to make difference,” he said.
Has he thought about the fact that his obituary will start with “Pulitzer Prize winner”? “Better than escaped convict,’ ” Fiore said, laughing.
He takes his work seriously, but not himself. That is another legacy from CC, where “the message was, ‘It’s OK to try something weird and out there.’ I was fortunate to make it work.”