Political Cartoons


In the United States, political cartoonists have successfully adopted the map as a visual metaphor for over two centuries. Because cartoons effectively convey a message in visual shorthand, they often accompany editorials in newspapers. One cartoon by Eric Hanson illustrates both his original artwork and how it was incorporated into design of the front page of The Washington Post on July 4, 2001.

By manipulating the shape of the map into a contentious object, political cartoonists can summarize a complex divisive issue without a single word. In one example, which accompanies an editorial on handguns, the cartoonist has magically morphed the map into a weapon in a sequence of just four steps.

Another popular variation is to anthropomorphize the map: the addition of limbs or facial features can turn the map into a human figure. A third example is transformed into a caricature of a patient lying in a hospital bed; a few deft strokes can then convey discomfort.

Herb Block (1909-2001), known as Herblock, and Christophe Vorlet have both been especially inspired by the map motif and have turned to it repeatedly, throughout their careers as cartoonists, as shown here (with permission):

Herblock “Anywhere, Everywhere, Any Time, All The Time” (1999)

“Anywhere, Everywhere, Any Time, All The Time” --- A 1999 Herblock Cartoon, copyright by The Herb Block Foundation

This cartoon was originally published in The Washington Post (4 November 1999), accompanying an article by Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Herblock "Reagan $3 Trillion Debt, Bush No New Taxes" (1999)

"Reagan $3 Trillion Debt, Bush No New Taxes" --- A 1999 Herblock Cartoon, copyright by The Herb Block Foundation

Originally published January 31st 1990.

Vorlet Untitled 1994

Christophe Vorlet. Untitled. The Washington Post (11 December 1994), accompanying the article by Theodre K. Rabb, “Whose History? Where Critics of the New Standards Flunk Out.”

Vorlet Muni Bonds 2012

Christophe Vorlet. Muni Bonds. WSJ.com (8 June 2012). Accompanied an article by Jason Zweig entitled How Long Will the Tax Break On Municipal Bonds Last?

Vorlet Biased Media 2006

Christophe Vorlet. Biased Media. Published in the Los Angeles Times (12 February 2006). Accompanied an article by Robert C.J. Parry entitled The war you didn't see.

Vorlet Great Recession 2008

Christophe Vorlet. The Great Recession. 2008.

Vorlet Bombing Iran 2009

Christophe Vorlet. Bombing Iran. Published in The Progressive (http://www.progressive.org). October 2009. Accompanied an article by Matthew Rothschild entitled Bush's Iran War Plans.

Vorlet Healthcare

Christophe Vorlet. Healthcare. Published in The Progressive accompanying an article entitled Fix the Prescriptions.

Vorlet Untitled 1999

Christophe Vorlet. Untitled. Published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (12 March 1999). Accompanied an article by Allen E. Goodman entitled America Is Devaluing International Exchanges for Students and Scholars.

Vorlet Hegemony 2008

Christophe Vorlet. Hegemony. Published in The Chronicle Review (15 February 2008). Accompanied an article by Karen J. Winkler entitled The End of American Hegemony?

Vorlet Macroeconomics 2009

Christophe Vorlet. Macroeconomics. Published in The Boston Globe (12 June 2009). Accompanied an article by Sunsa Dudley and Jeff Rosen entitled Watch for hidden taxes.