Topical cartoons and satire magazines
SINCE THE DAYS of Hogarth and Gillray, the trenchant political or topical cartoon has always had a home in satire magazines and newspapers. Politicians and celebrities have a small price to pay for their power, fame and huge pay packets – they earn it all in full view of public scrutiny. And, as the fruits of their labours are intended for public consumption, we feel entitled to be able to publicly comment upon on them and all their ridiculous foibles.
William Hogarth mostly commented upon British society as in the above Beer Street and Gin Lane which contrasted the mild effects of Beer compared to the devastating outcome of overindulging in gin drinking.
James Gillray was one of the first and foremost political cartoonists who unrestrainedly took on the great and mighty who were ruling the world at the time. Above, you can see his reaction to the ‘carving up of the world’ into empires by William Pitt the Younger and Napoleon Bonaparte. Thus it can be seen how powerful cartoon imagery can be.
Satire had a boom in the Sixties with the emergence of TV shows such as That Was The Week That Was and magazine Private Eye, founded by comedian Peter Cook and Richard Ingrams. From then on, until, it seems, the mid-Nineties, Britain’s cartoonists and caricaturists were kept continually busy on newspapers and magazines of all sorts. I had a brief period of freelance cartooning with a whole range of magazines and some newspapers from the early Eighties until the late Nineties.
The famous humour magazine Punch was a revered outlet for many cartoonists and its relaunch after a gap a few years was much welcomed. At the same time, the UK edition of the American Mad Magazine had ceased production. (The UK edition making much more sense to us Brits than the American version with all its contemporary cultural references only Americans would understand.) During the gap between different versions of Punch, I launched my own satire magazine, Ha! Humorous Arts, aiming to be a mix of Punch, Private Eye and Mad in one publication.
This ran for five bi-monthly issues, with a print run of 1,000 each issue. We distributed them around independent London newsagents and achieved a sales rate of 40% and fans as far afield as the States wishing to subscribe to it. Two major publishers showed an interest but finally baulked at the difficulty of selling advertising in such a publication.
But the idea of a satire magazine has never been from my mind. Having had a freelance career for many years, producing magazines for a variety of clients I had garnered enough knowledge and appreciation of the nuts and bolts of publishing to want to produce my own.
To this end, I still create a magazine-like platform for some of my own topical comments in The Noose which appears whenever I feel so inspired by current events.
I am a believer that any satirist should lambast the Right, Left and Centre whenever it is deserved and if they are inspired to do so. There’s nothing more tedious than humour being used as a propaganda tool by constantly just bashing away at one type of target.
Some, such as the Brexit cover, above, are produced at great speed, what with having income-earning duties to pursue! It remains to be seen how popular satire magazines remain in the future. I fear that the current social media age is gradually eroding people’s sense of irony to such an extent that less and less is being expressed for fear of causing offence. I can only continue to dream of a time when an imaginative entrepreneur offers me a publishing deal for The Noose!
Here, you can see more Topical Cartoons.