A May Day special – Cartoons!
Cartoons have been with us as long as printing has been with us. Cartoons embody “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Cartoons are often political, societal, satirical, sophomoric if not sexy, dangerous, pointed if not downright vicious and sometimes funny. Often a combination of these and other traits. Cartoonists, especially those of a political bent, have been banned, imprisoned or worse.
The great cartoonists are clever, imaginative and must be able to draw. In addition, they often have to do this within very short timeframes, especially if their work appears in newspapers. Today’s event must be depicted in tomorrow’s paper. Cartoons are typically found in newspapers, including cartoon strips, magazines and are sometimes published originally in book form collections. Magazines that are notable for their cartoons invariably have collections of these printed in book form. Sometimes the collections present the artist.
Let’s start with one of the magazines that has been with us for a long time and is best known for its cartoons.
Punch magazine was established in the UK in 1841 and was at its most impactful in the 1840s and 1850s, when it helped to coin the term "cartoon" in its modern sense as a humorous illustration. Its circulation achieved its height in the 1940s and then went into decline. It closed for good in 2002. Sir John Tenniel is remembered mainly as the principal political cartoonist for Punch magazine for over 50 years and for his illustrations to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).
The New Yorker is perhaps the top of the cartoon pile in the United States. The magazine started in 1925 and is still going strong. It is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana, its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews, its rigorous fact checking and copy editing, its journalism on politics and social issues, and its single- panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.
The New Yorker has featured cartoons (usually gag cartoons) since it began publication in 1925. The cartoon editor of The New Yorker for years was Lee Lorenz, who first began cartooning in 1956 and became a New Yorker contract contributor in 1958. After serving as the magazine's art editor from 1973 to 1993, he continued in the position of cartoon editor until 1998. His book The Art of the New Yorker: 1925–1995 (Knopf, 1995) was the first comprehensive survey of all aspects of the magazine's graphics.
The French have been masters of the cartoon, especially the political cartoon, for centuries and cartoonists’ works were extremely impactful and terrifying during the French Revolution. Charlie Hebdo is very much in keeping with this tradition.
Charlie Hebdo (French for Charlie Weekly) is a French satirical weekly newspaper that features cartoons, reports, polemics and jokes. The publication, irreverent and stridently non-conformist in tone, is strongly secularist, antireligious and left-wing, publishing articles that mock Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and various other groups as local and world news unfolds. The magazine was published from 1969 to 1981 and restarted in 1992 and it continues today.
In 2012, the newspaper published a series of satirical cartoons of Muhammad, including nude caricatures; this came days after a series of violent attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East, purportedly in response to the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, prompting the French government to close embassies, consulates, cultural centres, and international schools in about 20 Muslim countries. Riot police surrounded the newspaper's offices to protect it against possible attacks.
Cartoonist Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier had been the director of publication of Charlie Hebdo since 2009. Two years before the attack he stated, "We have to carry on until Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism." In 2013, al-Qaeda added him to its most wanted list, along with three Jyllands-Posten staff members. On the morning of 7 January 2015, Islamic terrorists stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices killing twelve people. The search for the perpetrators was well covered by the international press.
To this day, political leaders in France have defended the right of free and open expression and have defended the publications of Charlie Hebdo that continue their controversial publishing unapologetically today.
Ahem, changing gears slightly, I feature the work of Charles Addams, the creature creator of The Addams Family. Addams's first drawing for The New Yorker, a sketch of a window washer, ran on February 6, 1932, and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1937, when he drew the first in the series that came to be called The Addams Family, until his death.
There are many collections of his work, including Drawn and Quartered (1942) and Monster Rally (1950), and Homebodies (1954), his fourth anthology of drawings (Simon & Schuster). Addams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life.
Canadian Doug Sneyd has had close to 500 full-page color cartoons published in Playboy Magazine. He was a founding member of the Canadian Society of Book Illustrators and has been a member of the National Cartoonists' Society and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Thirty of his full-page color Playboy cartoons are among the 235 Sneyd works included in the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa.