A brief history of the political cartoonist, whose job is endangered in the digital age:
Martin Rowson in particular seems to revel in mixing allusions to obscure literary texts with lashings of excrement. A cartoon he drew last month for the Morning Star features a ‘fivearsed pig’, shitting turds emblazoned with the logos of London 2012 sponsors through sphincters coloured like the Olympic rings.
Occasionally, the digestive obsession becomes a bit too much even for left-wing papers. Rowson tells me that his fellow Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell always files as late as possible to make the staff grateful that the picture has arrived at all. ‘There’s a wonderful story about Georgina Henry, when she was deputy editor, going past the comment desk at about eight o’clock one evening and Steve’s cartoon had just come in,’ he says. ‘It was a wonderful one of [George W] Bush as a monkey, squatting on the side of a broken toilet, wiping his arse with the UN Charter. And there’s all this shit splattered on the wall behind it, and she looks and says, “Oh God, no.” [Alan] Rusbridger had put down this edict saying less shit in the cartoons, please – you know, the editor’s prerogative – and she and Steve had this eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.’ What happened? ‘He finally caved in. In one of the greatest betrayals of freedom of speech since Galileo, he tippexed out three of the turds.’