Political cartooning is one of the oldest forms of comics. Ben Franklin’s “Join, or Die,” published in May 1754, is sometimes regarded as the first of its kind (at least in the United States). The tradition has continued down through the present day in obvious and subtle ways - with cartoonists like Thomas Nast, Garry Trudeau, Al Capp, and Walt Kelly contributing their wit to lancing the political elite. To no surprise, the current Presidential administration has inspired its fair share of sequential art retorts.
Some of the very best criticisms of the Trump presidency have, maybe surprisingly, come from two artists outside the political cartooning stable, both best known for their mainstream comics work. Pia Guerra, famed for her five-year run illustrating Y: The Last Man, has been skewering the administration with a series of emotionally devastating one-panel stilettos. Addressing topics ranging from family separation at the border to President Trump’s distrust of the press, Me The People runs regularly on TheNib.com and has received a print edition this October from Image Comics.
Mike Norton - best known for stints on Queen & Country, All New Atom, Archer & Armstrong and his creator-owned webcomic Battlepug - vents his caustic anger in Lil’ Donnie, where he takes aim at the president’s conflicting statements and juvenile outrage. Lil’ Donnie appears on GoComics and got its first print collection, Lil’ Donnie vol. 1: Executive Privilege, also from Image, this past August.
Neither of the creators had a strong history with editorial cartooning prior to launching their current ventures, but both felt they had to speak up about what they see in the United States today. “I did editorial cartoons for the high school paper but that’s about it,” Guerra explained. “While working to establish a career in comic books I would occasionally draw about a news item or something that made me angry, and it would just sit in a sketchbook. Later, I posted some of these on social media and a few got some notice. It wasn’t until after the Big Boy cartoon went viral in 2017 that I was asked to be a regular contributor to TheNib.com.”
Norton agreed. “I did a couple of strips in college, but they weren’t political. I’ve spent most of my life actively avoiding political stuff. It wasn’t until the last election that even thought to myself, ‘This is getting a little ridiculous.’”
As for what topics most drive them to put pencil to paper, they agreed completely, with Guerra succinctly stating, “Mostly, it’s those addressing Trump’s unbelievably childish behavior.”
“Ego and stupidity,” Norton said. “I mean, it’s easy to make fun of someone who thinks as highly of himself as our current president, and he’s definitely not winning any MENSA awards. But I’ve returned to a few other issues because I personally get annoyed by them - gun control and the spurning of NFL players over protesting.”