Kal's Great Political Cartoons in The Economist

Posted by Steven Seidman on Monday, June 19, 2017

From his first cartoon for The Economist in 1978, Kevin Kallaugher (or "Kal" as he prefers) has drawn beautifully rendered, insightful, and biting works. Since then, he has published almost 4,000 more creations.

The cartoonist’s role typically has been to mock political leaders, or, as cartoonist Patrick Oliphant wrote, to provide “a leading vehicle for pointed and savage opinion." And Kal is a worthy successor of past great cartoonists—such as Thomas Nast, Bernard Gilliam, and Herb Block—who have pilloried politicians.

Many cartoonists depicted George W. Bush as a dopey figure, often drawing him smirking, and with closed or squinting eyes and bushy eyebrows. Kal drew him that way, back to back with his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, in the aftermath of voting in the contentious presidential election of 2000, with Gore drawn taller, with spiked ears and a large, pointed nose. Both candidates held guns, shaped like Florida (the state, whose recount would determine the victor). Kallaugher is known for detailed, crosshatched, pen-and-ink cartoons, in black-and-white and color—his crosshatching technique reminiscent of etchings by Albrecht Dürer and Edward Hopper. And, of course, he adds exaggeration to his portraits. He, like many cartoonists, drew President Barack Obama as an ultra-thin figure with huge ears.

Kallaugher is an unabashed opponent of President Donald Trump. In fact, according to journalist Thomas Urbain, Kal “has in the past depicted the real estate tycoon as a menacing animal.” But now that Trump has assumed office, “you have to be more nuanced,” according to Kal. “You attack his policies; his buffoonery,” he stated. In that vein, Kallaugher drew a potbellied, multi-chinned Trump with a hairdo that was only slightly exaggerated, pulling an "alt. right" cart, driven by Steve Bannon, with a rat atop his head.

His recent book, Daggers Drawn: 35 Years of Kal Cartoons in The Economist, includes great caricatures of U.S. and international leaders, drawn with a "poison pen," as Kal describes it. The exaggerated features of John Kerry (with an incredibly long face), a sneering Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush with the ears of Yoda (trying to build a "Star Wars" anti-missile defense system), Margaret Thatcher with a pointy nose, and Rupert Murdock as a kangaroo are just a few of the caricatures. The book is available at https://kaltoons.myshopify.com.