§ Gawker predicts hard times for political cartoonists if Obama is elected. Part of the problem is that caricaturing the African-American candidate could draw accusations of racism. What’s really interesting about the piece is this bit about famous illustrator/cartoonist Thomas Nast (who invented Santa Claus, among other things):
Master cartoonist Thomas Nast proved political cartoons could be used to subvert racism, as in this classic satire of whites congratulating themselves for the emancipation of slaves from an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly:
Nast’s cartoons not only crucially challenged the way people saw political issues — coming as they were in a time with significantly less media — but they consistently fought against racist caricatures of black people.
The idea that in 1863 a great artist was actively campaigning against racist caricatures (in a country where slavery was a current event) comes as a bracing reality check for those who defend racial caricatures that have lasted right to the present day as an innocent reminder of a happy time when folks just didn’t know any better.
Folks have always known better.
§ In this heated election season, it’s only natural that candidates would use the power of comics to deliver their messages. In California, state senate candidate Hannah-Beth Jackson has put out a cartoon flyer:
On the comic-book cover of the mailer, a woman expresses shock at a paper’s headline, “Hannah-Beth Jackson kidnaps Elvis!!” The inside of the flier explains how “Tony Strickland has been making some pretty wild charges about Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson.” Another illustration shows a man reading a newspaper with the ridiculous headline, “Jackson voted to tax puppies!”
§ Not so innocently, in the heated Minnesota Senate race, incumbent Norm Coleman has been forced to repudiate a comic book attack on opponent Al Franken:
Sen. Norm Coleman doesn’t like the tasteless comic books attacking Al Franken sent out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to Minnesotans, notes the Pioneer Press blog Political Animal, and the senator said so in a message to the group:
“The piece itself is something that simply should never made it to the mail. The direct mail piece, which comes in the form of something that looks like a comic book, focuses on Mr. Franken’s repeated efforts at comedy using jokes about rape, child abuse and other degrading commentary during his career,” Coleman wrote.
Guess ya gotta draw the line somewhere.