These are those little boxes on the editorial page of your local newspaper where cartoonists try to educate and entertain the masses via their snappy, illustrated political commentary, usually on current events. Done well, a political cartoon will creatively expose the social and political hot buttons of the day; in fact, one of the precursors of the Mexican Revolution was a bunch of perfect political cartoons. Done poorly... well, they're easy to avoid.
The first political cartoons were drawn by William Hogarth in the 1720s, before newspapers as we know them. An early American example was Benjamin Franklin's drawing of a snake divided into 13 parts, which he captioned, Join, or Die. Some famous political cartoonists of the past:
- James Gillray, late 18th and early 19th century cartoonist who is still cruder and more vicious than any of his mainstream successors.
- Thomas Rowlandson, Gillray's versatile contemporary.
- George Cruikshank, otherwise most known as an illustrator for Charles Dickens' novels.
- John Tenniel, who besides illustrating Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, also drew the famous "Dropping the Pilot"◊ cartoon for Punch
- Thomas Nast, who created the Republican elephant and popularized the Democratic donkey◊ (and created the modern image of Santa Claus). Also famous for leading a revolt against the Tweed Ring.
- Louis Raemaekers
- Bill Mauldin, who is remembered more for his wartime strips than for his Pulitzer-winning postwar political cartoons. The most famous is a picture of the Lincoln Memorial sobbing after JFK's assassination.
- Herbert Block ("Herblock")
- Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) made these circa WWII, before moving to kids' books.
- Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, who in the first years of the 20th century ran the political satire magazine El hijo de El Ahuizote. During Porfirio Díaz's administration, in the middle of a harsh dictatorship, their presses were constantly confiscated, some of its journalists were even murdered, and both were promoted to national heroes for being among the instigators of the Mexican Revolution.
Some modern political cartoonists, such as Mike Peters and Jeff MacNelly, have also drawn daily comic strips.
With the age of the internet, political cartoons can be community driven projects such as Polandball
The now-defunct UK magazine Punch was famous for its well-drawn cartoons for a long period, a number of them turning up in school history books.
Most British newspapers still have political cartoonists on the strength. A typical example would be Steve Bell, who draws both editorial cartoons and a long-running daily political strip called If... for the Guardian. Cartoonists of other political hues are also available.
- Accentuate the Negative: A left-leaning cartoonist will always conjure up more attacks on the right than praises of the left, and vice versa. Centrists generally portray both sides of the political spectrum negatively, but tend to lean against the party in power and take sides on issues with lopsided public opinion (like that LGBT people pose no threat to society or that climate change is real).
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Democratic Donkey, Republican Elephant, Wall Street Pigs, etc. Also see National Animal Stereotypes below.
- America Saves the Day
- Anvilicious / Author Tract: The whole purpose is to promote the cartoonist's ideology after all.
- Children Are Innocent: A child is often displayed to be the victim of dangerous political policies.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive
- Corrupt Politician
- Dirty Communists: Right-wing cartoons will likely portray Democrats as anti-American radical socialists.
- Expo Label: Always make sure your metaphorical images are properly labelled, so Joe Citizen can tell what you are talking about!
- Fox News Liberal, Daily Kos Conservative
- He-Man Woman Hater / Straw Misogynist: A common caricature of right-wing politicians.
- Hypocritical Humor: A politician accusing the other side of doing something immoral while doing that same thing as well. Or a politician denying a claim about him while demonstrating otherwise.
- The Klan: Left-wing cartoons will likely portray Republicans as KKK sympathizers and white supremacists.
- Motivation on a Stick
- National Animal Stereotypes: American Eagle, Russian Bear, British Lion, etc. Also see Anthropomorphic Personification above.
- Our Presidents Are Different: Generally the portrayal of the (current) U.S. President will be anything but sympathetic, especially when he is deeply unpopular.
- Patriotic Fervor: Invoking nationalistic sentiments is an easy way to get one's point across.
- Politically Correct History
- Propaganda Machine: Right-wing cartoonists always love to go after the media. Fox News is a popular left-wing target but appears less often.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Virtually every major story is going to be covered, from every political turn in an election, to major legislation passed, to deadly tragedies, to even flash-in-the-pan fads (e.g. there were dozens of Ice Bucket Challenge cartoons when it was popular).
- Strawman Political: Regardless of the cartoonist's political bent, the opposition will always be exaggerated.
- Strawman U: "Berzerkeley" tends to be more focused on, as it's a far more common theme in right-wing cartoons.
- Very Special Episode: A cartoon about a deadly tragedy or a solemn holiday will usually be completely humorless.