Terra Sigillata

If you’ve never heard of Mark Fiore, you should. And will.

Mark Fiore of the San Francisco Chronicle was recognized today with the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

For a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect, in print or online or both, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Mark Fiore, self syndicated, for his animated cartoons appearing on SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle Web site, where his biting wit, extensive research and ability to distill complex issues set a high standard for an emerging form of commentary.

The editorial cartooning award has been presented by the Pulitzer Foundation annually since 1922.

The Pulitzer page for Fiore’s prize includes the citation and his biography.

Although Walt Handelsman of Newsday won for this category in 2007 with his portfolio split between illustrations and animations, I believe that Fiore’s award is a first for a cartoonist who operates exclusively on the web and solely with animations instead of traditional, static illustrations.

Fiore’s entry of 15 animations from 2009 can be viewed at the Pulitzer site.

Moreover, Fiore is self-syndicated representing what is likely to become a model, for better or worse, of how large news organizations will skim the best talent without having to pay benefits or manage the high overhead costs of a bricks-and-mortar structure.

Furthermore, my purely data-free perception is that Fiore may be the first mainstream editorial cartoonist that young hipsters would actually recognize by name. Fiore appeals to middle-aging farts like me but also seems able to generate a buzz with those caffeine-crazed whippersnappers.

As a science blogger concerned about the costs of pharmaceuticals and health care delivery, I found Fiore to be especially sharp on the health insurance reform debate, particularly with his recurring characters, Dogboy and Mr. Dan.

The following animation appeared on March 24, 2010, so it wasn’t included in the Pulitzer judging. But it is one of the best that cuts to the quick between angry perceptions of the health care bill versus the facts.

Congratulations to Mr. Fiore for this unbelievably well-deserved award.