Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Who said cartoons have to be funny?

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell put up a strong defence when tackled by readers' editor Siobhain Butterworth over complaints about one of his cartoons depicting Barack Obama as the target on a rifle range.
Readers complained that they were not amused by the cartoon. But Bell, as Butterworth reported in her weekly column yesterday, responded: "The cartoon expresses foreboding and is not supposed to be funny."
Butterworth wrote: "The revelation that some cartoons are not supposed to be funny was, if not an epiphany, helpful guidance to some of Bell's work."
It is true of great political cartoonists like Vicky, David Low and Philip Zec that many of their most famous cartoons aren't "funny" - they are making a point.
For example Zec's 1942 cartoon of a sailor clinging to a raft after his ship had been torpedoed, which was captioned: 'The price of petrol has been increased by one penny - official', was not "funny" and almost had the Daily Mirror closed down such was the fury of politicians.
The piece by Butterworth has provoked more than 50 postings by those who are committed Bell fans and others who accuse him of being a racist bigot, anti-Israel and various other sins. For the record, I think Bell is brilliant.
For anyone interested in cartoons the British Cartoon Archive website is well worth visiting.

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