When Should You Make Political Cartoons? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork When Should You Make Political Cartoons

I know that I talked about cartoons and satire in yesterday’s article, but I had a rather interesting experience a few months ago that I thought I’d revisit briefly because of what it might explain about political cartoons. Or, more accurately, when you should make them.

Although I hardly ever make political cartoons, I suddenly found myself making one earlier this year. I didn’t plan to make a political cartoon that day, but I did.

It was prompted by reading a few news articles earlier this year about the (then) Culture Secretary’s planned changes to the BBC Charter (like this one and this one ). As soon as I realised the full horror of what these proposed changes meant, I suddenly felt compelled to respond with a cynical political cartoon.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Our 'Culture' Secretary!" By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Our ‘Culture’ Secretary!” By C. A. Brown [1st May 2016]

The interesting thing was that I didn’t really set out to make a political cartoon, it just kind of happened. Amidst the emotions that these articles had provoked, a fully-formed idea popped into my mind and, within a couple of hours, I’d made a cynical political cartoon. To say that making this cartoon was a cathartic experience would be an understatement.

This, I think, is when political cartoons are at their absolute best. When you feel like you absolutely have to make a political cartoon, then it’s probably going to come straight from the heart and it’s probably going to have real meaning behind it (or at least it’ll feel like it does).

If making a politcal cartoon genuinely feels, even for a moment, like it’s a way to fight back against some event or possibility that you feel powerless about, then it’s worth making. As paradoxical as it might sound, political cartoons that come from a feeling of powerlessness are often the most powerful types of political cartoons.

If you have an attitude of being reluctant to make political art, then – as counter-intuitive as it might sound– it usually means that you’ll only produce political cartoons when it really matters to you. In other words, you’ll be intensely focused on trying to find a way to get your opinions across as powerfully and effectively as possible, because anything less just wouldn’t be right.

This is when the very best political cartoons are made. In situations where the idea of not making a political cartoon is more strange/frightening/unusual etc.. than actually making a political cartoon is.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve tried to make more “light-hearted” political cartoons, because I thought that they’d be funny or topical. But, because they don’t really have the same level of passion or emotion behind them as my more “angry” political cartoons, the quality is significantly lower as a result. Like with this mediocre cartoon I made about a silly publicity stunt by the Labour party before the 2015 UK general election:

"Ed's New Tablet" By C. A. Brown [4th May 2015]

“Ed’s New Tablet” By C. A. Brown [4th May 2015]

So, ironically, you can sometimes produce better political cartoons by not making them regularly. Unless, of course, you plan on becoming a professional political cartoonist (in which case, practice, practice and practice some more).

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Sorry for the ridiculously short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

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Why Do Webcomics Often Get Political ?

2016 ArtworkWhy  Webcomics get political  Article sketch

Although this is an article about why webcomics (and traditional syndicated newspaper comics) sometimes include political cartoons, I’ll start by briefly talking about an example of when this happened to me recently.

One of the strange things that I’ve noticed since I started making a webcomic mini series called “Damania Returns” (it’s a follow-on to these two mini series here and here) is that it has included a lot more political and philosophical stuff than I had expected.

But, first, here’s an example of one of the more political cartoons in my mini series:

"Damania Returns - Big Fictional Guns" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Returns – Big Fictional Guns” By C. A. Brown

This was originally just going to be a comic about how old First-Person Shooter computer games from the 1990s and early 00s were considerably more imaginative and well-designed than modern ones.

But, before I knew it, I’d remembered an article I’d read quite a while ago and soon the comic ended up turning into a surprisingly political tract about the arms industry – even though I tried to hide it by adding a contradictory joke at the end. Without thinking too much, my apolitical cartoon had become a political cartoon.

But, this is hardly something that is exclusive to me. Whilst some long-running print comics series have managed to remain pretty much apolitical (eg: Garfield, The Beano etc..), it’s surprisingly difficult to make comics – especially regular ones- that don’t involve politics. There are several reasons for this.

One of the reasons why politics turns up so often in webcomics and syndicated comics is because of the way that they’re made. Unlike traditional narrative comics which can take a long time to make and which tell a single self-contained story, with both webcomics and syndicated comics, the writers have to think of new ideas for stand-alone comics every day.

Thinking of new jokes and comic ideas every day (even when making short webcomic series, that are posted daily for 1-3 weeks) isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world. As such, people who make comic strips regularly sometimes need a quick and easy source of interesting ideas. And, well, the writer’s/artist’s own opinions about the world and about politics are an easy source of ready-made comic ideas.

If you don’t believe me, try talking about a topic that doesn’t interest you for twenty minutes. It’s challenging, isn’t it? Now try talking about a topic that you have strong opinions about for less than five minutes….

In addition to this, webcomics can often sometimes become political for the simple reason that webcomic makers have far more freedom of speech than traditional newspaper cartoonists do. Because anyone can post pretty much anything on the internet in many democratic countries, there’s no editor or censor to tell you to tone down the political parts of your webcomic.

Likewise, there’s something uniquely powerful about expressing your opinions in cartoon form. This probably has something to do with the fact that comics are both a visual medium and a written medium. Because of this, comics can have twice the impact of either journalistic articles or films. When you make a political point in a comic, it just feels a lot more serious than it does if you’d just expressed your opinions verbally or in written form.

Finally, I guess that politics appear so often in webcomics for the simple reason that – unlike a TV show or a movie – most webcomics are only made by one or two people. As such, they often have much more of a “personality” than things made by larger groups of people do. And, well, most people’s opinions are a large part of their personalities.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂