As one cartoonist’s on-campus appearance should remind students, political cartoons are far from dead – they’re just no longer confined to one-panel newspaper editorials.
Syndicated cartoonist Keith Knight will appear at USF today in Marshall Student Center Room 2072 for a 2:30 p.m. reception, followed by a 3:00 slideshow presentation profiling his work.
His comic “(Tr)uth” might offer a traditional single-panel editorial, but his two comic strips do not. Additionally, today’s cartoonists might work in one panel or twenty, daily or weekly, on newspaper or online – so readers need to find an easy entry point.
The Oracle outlines Knight’s political cartoonist contemporaries.
Garry Trudeau – “Doonesbury”
Perhaps the best-known political cartoonist, Garry Trudeau has covered four decades of American politics and eight presidential administrations through his comic strip “Doonesbury.”
Following title character Mike Doonesbury and a complicated character cast, the strip took aim at moments spanning from Watergate to the Iraq War. Gerald Ford once said “Doonesbury” was “one of three major vehicles to keep us informed as to what is going on in Washington,” while George H.W. Bush claimed he “wanted to go up and kick the hell out of” Trudeau.
More than 1,500 newspapers still syndicate the strip and Slate.com posts the comics on a page with flashbacks and archives.
Yet Trudeau hasn’t stopped skewering modern politics. This week’s run shows Doonesbury watching his television as Reps. Heath Shuler and Jason Chaffetz boast on “action”-packed Fox News about carrying concealed guns after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Tom Tomorrow – “This Modern World”
Tom Tomorrow – a pseudonym for Dan Perkins – claims he wouldn’t be making comics if it weren’t for “Doonesbury.” Yet over two decades, the cartoonist has developed his own unique stamp on the political strip “This Modern World.”
Using a visual style reminiscent of ’50s comic artwork, each weekly strip satirizes the political scene.Tuesday’s comic alone references WikiLeaks documents, the Sharia law controversy and an exceedingly well-tanned John Boehner.
The cast includes Sparky the Wonder Penguin – a visor-wearing bird who reflects Perkins’ liberal sensibilities – and a cast of conservative characters such as the human, Biff.
According to the comic’s website, “This Modern World” is published in about 80 newspapers and Salon.com. Beyond his political drawings, Perkins also created the artwork for Pearl Jam’s 2009 album “Backspacer.”
Ruben Bolling – “Tom the Dancing Bug”
Ruben Bolling, whose real name is Eric Fuller, gave up his law career to create “Tom the Dancing Bug” – a sometimes editorial, sometimes absurd cartoon.
Sometimes the strips – like an “Outer Limits” parody involving a failed irony attempt or a “News of the Times” strip where a 12-year-old boy discovers the new female gender – have no discernable political commentary in them at all.
Yet, when Bolling confronts social or political issues, the results are usually incisive. One recent strip featuring the characters Barack Obadger and the Hollingsworth Hound takes aim at the idea that President Barack Obama is hurting the wealthy.
Another comic envisions an entirely politically correct version of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Stephanie McMillan -“Minimum Security” and “Code Green”
If you’re looking for truly alternative politics, try Ft. Lauderdale cartoonist Stephanie McMillan, whose two online comics address environmental damage that she believes corporate interests cause.
The story follows figures like “Animist Riot-Polkacore” musician Javier and Bunnista, a rabbit turned revolutionary by the diminishing wilderness.
Recent comics, which run a newsfeed under each strip, mention Texas pecan trees dying near a coal plant and decry Obama’s job benefits. “Code Green” tackles similar environmental and political issues, but uses the traditional one-panel editorial cartoon format.
McMillan’s work was also featured in the 2002 anthology “Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists,” which led her to form the group, Cartoonists With Attitude. The group includes Knight and Bolling.
Check salon.com/comics, cartoonistswithattitude.org, and cagle.com for links to more political cartoonists.