The Politics of Cartoons

Note: with cartoons, political = editorial (for the most part) 

In America’s current political climate, many artists have published cartoons that criticize the (political, societal, etc) system. This is not a new phenomenon. The idea of “political” or “editorial” cartoons has been around since Leonardo da Vinci. da Vinci did a series of caricatures

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Five Caricature Heads by Leonardo da Vinci.  https://www.wikiart.org/en/leonardo-da-vinci/five-caricature-heads

focusing on deformities and the grotesque, in which he would dramatize and parody a person or person’s features. Much later, caricatures would become the basis for political cartoons, using allusions (creating context) to satirize and critique the establishment in a single panel.

Many art historians cite William Hogarth and James Gillroy (both living in the 18th century) as the fathers of the political cartoon. While there were many other influenctial artists along the way, Ben Franklin‘s “Join or Die” cartoon is one of the most important (and popular) American political cartoons as it was the first printed in the United States. Franklin’s cartoon symbolized colonial unity during the French and Indian War and was used again during the Revolutionary War to rally the colonies against Britain. This cartoon is of particular interest because it didn’t critique the enemy but turned the finger towards the self as if to say “Why aren’t we standing together and fighting back?” benjamin-franklin

When the 20th century came around, editorial cartoons grew in popularity thanks to the industrial revolution, expansion of newspaper printing, and World War I. With world wide turmoil, there was much to critique including the League of Nations which many people thought was useless.

FUN FACT: Dr. Seuss made several cartoons speaking out about issues such as “America First”, racism and political corruption. lead_960

Today, political cartoons remain popular due to the current American government and the way social media allows artists to share their work with the world. Magazines like The New Yorker and many newspapers still publish editorial cartoons everyday

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Drew Sheneman  Copyright 2017 Tribune Content Agency

which have made waves on social media as well. The artistic style of political cartoons have changed a lot throughout the past few centuries, but satire and change has always been at the center of the art.

This week’s comic is my commentary on the net neutrality discussions. IMG_1393

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A Short History of Comics

 

Ancient Funnies

Ever wonder who created the first comic? Depending on your definition, most scholars agree that the modern idea of comics began to take form in the late 19th century. However, a loose interpretation of comics can be traced back to ancient times.

 

For modern audiences, comics are the combination of words and pictures that narrate a story.

That being said, there is no one definition that encompasses what a comic is. At their core, comics can also be described simply as “sequential art” with a story. Using this loose definition, some scholars, notably Scott McCloud, trace the origin further back citing Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mayan pottery, and even cave art. Having looked at these examples, I definitely think ancient sequential art, especially hieroglyphs act as precursors, but they don’t quite fit my definition of comics.

Simple cartoons have circulated in broadsheets, pamphlets, books, and newspapers since the birth of the printing press. As cartoons added text—often at the top or bottom of the cartoon— and became more satirical, the closer they resembled modern comics. Rodolphe Töpffer is often credited by both Americans and Europe

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One of Outcault’s Hogan’s Alley strips. Mickey Dugan, better known as the Yellow Kid, listens to his new phonograph.

 

as with creating the first comic strip, The Loves of Mr. Vieux Bois in 1837. American comics are believed to have originated with Richard Outcault’s Down in Hogan’s Alley featuring a mischievous child called “the Yellow Kid”. Outcault’s strip was first published in The New York World in 1895 and led to the creation of newspaper strips. Early Sunday comics were full pages, colored cartoons. Around this same time, Japanese artists were developing what would eventually be considered manga.

 

Yellow Ellen

This is how I imagine myself if I were the Yellow Kid.

Join me next week as I explore comics’ Golden Age, Superman, Batman, and many more fun characters!