Political cartoonists’ jobs are a lot like yours. Some days they get to work full of vim and vigor and inspiration and promise for the future, and some days, they … don’t. But even when nothing that exciting or thrilling comes to mind for our cross-hatching classes, there’s still a deadline rapidly approaching, and a top editor lurking just out in the hall muttering about outsourcing to Russia, so they’ve got to come up with something. This week, Cartoon Violence offers the aspiring cartoonist a primer on churning out acceptable filler when the clock is ticking.
Works because: Did you know that our system of government is almost entirely run by angry white guys in suits? While our Founding Fathers intended America’s administrative apparatus to be operated by hopeful white guys in frilly breeches and wigs, a series of constitutional amendments in the early 19th century brought us to the current state of affairs. Therefore, any group of angry white guys in suits standing around bitching about things can stand in for some aspect of the U.S. government. Just change the word balloons and the label — to “lobbyists”, “cabinet”, or what have you — et voilà! A whole new cartoon!
With just a little tweaking, it can become: A cartoon about the Supreme Court! Just fill in those white shirtfronts with black ink, and you’ve got judicial robes!
Works because: Funny hats are funny! It’s hard to remain so stuck-up and serious when you’re wearing a funny hat, and it’s a good way to “humanize” the candidates, who desperately need humanization because they are in fact killer cyborgs from the future sent back in time to kill us all. And don’t worry about using hats that are funny because they’re “ethnic” — nobody will mind a bit. Why, this cartoon is based on the title of that Agatha Christie novel, so it’s not racist even a little.
With just a little tweaking, it can become: A cartoon about the various presidential contenders wearing Groucho Marx glasses, or about the various presidential contenders being beheaded on video by militants.
Works because: If you’ve got pictures of things, and they’re labeled to indicate that they represent concepts or actors within what would in a broad sense be considered part of the political realm, then you’ve got a political cartoon, pretty much by definition. And they’ll have to publish it. They’ll have to, because you’re a political cartoonist. They might be all like, “But your ‘smoker’ is so small compared to the cigarette that ‘Europe’ is stamping out that he could never actually smoke it,” and then you can be all like “LOOK! ‘Europe’ is stamping out smoking in a ‘public place’! It’s a political cartoon!” And they won’t have any counterargument.
With just a little tweaking, it can become: A cartoon about pretty much anything, since smoking could be a metaphor for just about anything. Change “Europe” to “Congressional Democrats”, change “public place” to “tax cuts”, change “smokers” to “President Bush” — WHAM! I just wrote another one! Ka-ching! Time for golf!
Works because: Let’s face it: Drawing caricatures is hard, and, when you get beyond the four or five political types who are frequently on the teevee at any given time, nobody really knows what these clowns look like, so it’s best not to bother. So if you’re drawing some kind of elaborate Hillary Clinton campaign/baseball dugout metaphor, there’s no point in trying to find a picture of a Clinton campaign staffer and drawing him or her in a baseball uniform; you might as well just slap a generic campaign aide in there. But there’s also no need to be too transparent: Actually labeling said figure “generic campaign aide” might be a wee bit confusing to the typical reader, who doesn’t care how the political cartoon sausage is made.
With just a little tweaking, it can become: [Insert generic Bill/Hillary "pitcher" vs. "catcher" and/or Bill "lost his fastball" impotence jokes here.]
Works because: One of the purposes of political cartoons is to put things into perspective. And what puts things into perspective more than fiery space rocks raining down from the skies, killing us all?
With just a little tweaking, it can become: A cartoon in which just about any topic is preempted by swift death by meteors. “So we’ll be in Iraq for 100 years … what’s the worst that can happen?” “So the deficit is enormous and Social Security is insolvent … what’s the worst that can happen?” “So the dollar is plummeting and oil is scarce … what’s the worst that can happen?” METEORS, that’s what.