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In barbershop, star cartoonist Toby Dials is born

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A National Conservative Examiner exclusive

Work in conservative media, and you will almost certainly bump into a cartoon by Toby Dials. Dials’ work is featured by numerous conservative publishers like Big Government, Red State and All Right Magazine. His cartoons have been discussed by pundits on Fox News.

Dials’ work even inspired an urban myth. “In 2009,” he said, “I created one of my most viral cartoons—‘Hydrogen Barackside.’ I still get emails to this day with that cartoon pasted inside. For some reason, people think it was drawn in Scotland.”

So many people thought that, in fact, that Wiki Answers addressed the question of Which Scottish newspaper did the ‘Hydrogen Barackside’ cartoon appear in?, explaining that the myth originated on an unknown blog. Wiki Answers said, “[G]radually this was restated so many times that everyone believed it to be true.”

Nothing could be less true. Dials grew up in North Central Ohio and ultimately went to the University of Cincinnati. He entertained thoughts of going to college for an art degree. Dials told Examiner, “An uncle suggested it would be more financially sound to get an engineering degree, so that’s the route I took.”

Dials said he always “loved drawing.” As he worked on his studies in engineering, he stuck to drawing in his spare time. While in college he created cartoons for the school newspaper, The News Record. “I did editorials and a single cartoon panel twice a week,” he said. He also met and talked with “two great cartoonists”—Jim Borgman at The Cincinnati Enquirer and Walk Handelsman at The New Orleans Times Picayune.

Ultimately Dials went to work as an electrical engineer. On the side he did cartoons for a print magazine, Funny Stuff.

Dials’ itch to become a cartoonist was actually born in a barbershop. He recalled the first influence came when he was in junior high school:

“My barber had cut out an editorial cartoon from a ‘big paper’—actually, it wasn’t that big a paper, but it was the biggest I’d read at the time. The cartoon was about people I knew, our school board president and a local car salesman. I was just floored that someone would pay attention to the happenings in our little town. The artwork was awesome, especially the caricatures. I wished I could do stuff like that some day.”

In college, he said he “couldn’t wait” to see the Cincinnati Enquirer every day, “to see what Jim Borgman had come up with.” Dials said Borgman’s art and humor “were incredible.” Borgman’s work inspired Dials to try it out and he succeeded with the college newspaper.

“I was hooked,” said Dials. “I think I’ve bought, read or studied every cartoon book that exists. I’ve got a complete set of the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year books starting in 1972, minus 1973 because they didn’t do one that year.”

He said the “antics of Al Gore and the 2000 election” also pulled him in.

In 2004 Dials created his website TobyToons, and he began to contact blogs and websites in hopes they’d use his work. Erick Erickson at Red State liked Dials’ work enough to make the cartoonist a front page contributor. That site helped Dials’ work get exposure in the conservative blogosphere and “some from the Left,” he said.

Dials didn’t grow up in a particularly political family. “My family never talked politics when I was growing up,” he said. “I was never aware there was something called ‘politics’—besides voting for Reagan in my 3rd grade mock election.”

Like other creatives on Right or Left in politics, Dials’ philosophy manifests in the images and captions he creates.

Dials explained to Examiner:

“It says something to me personally that I was not influenced by anyone, Left or Right, when I was young. I found myself agreeing more and more with the ideas of a strong work ethic, personal responsibility, right and wrong and good versus evil that I see in most people on the Right side of the aisle. I just thought everyone believed in those things.”

One of Dials’ most recent cartoons paid homage to the late Andrew Breitbart. There’s an image of Breitbart standing at Heaven’s gate. St. Peter, gazing at Breitbart, says: “You’re gonna love it here. Everything is Big.”

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