Notable selections from KQED’s Youth Media Political Cartoons Challenge

Once again, I have the honor to comment on a collection of cartoons that students submitted as part of KQED’s “Political Cartoon with Mark Fiore” youth media challenge – and, again, I’m grateful that I don’t have to pick a winner!

We received hundreds of editorial cartoons on a wide range of issues submitted by students in grades six through 12 across the country.

Here, in no particular order of preference, are several cartoons that stood out.

(And remember, you can still send in your cartoon submissions until June 2023.)

United States COVID Policies

Aaron Y. created a visually powerful cartoon that really got me thinking and put the pieces of this political equation together in an entirely new way.

It’s a wonderfully simple concept that’s brilliantly rendered to illustrate hypocrisy in action.

It’s a great cartoon, but maybe there’s a way to say something more specific than “I have to do everything” at the bottom?

And that’s probably just a sketcher’s quibble, but what about a bright red marker to do that red line instead of a pencil?

Guns in America

Maddie P. created a hard-hitting comic that comments on the proliferation of guns in the United States, particularly in his home state of New York.

The connection to New York in this cartoon is fitting since its simple black and white style seems to be at home on the pages of The New Yorker.

While no one walks the fashion catwalks with assault weapons, the strength of this cartoon is that it’s all too true: Guns are actually a fashion accessory in the United States.

Fossil fuels

Eden S is clearly a talented artist and these are wonderfully rendered dinosaurs (feathers and all).

This cartoon is beautiful and almost more like an editorial illustration than a conventional political cartoon.

One thing to ask yourself when watching the cartoon you just created is, “What does the cartoon say?”

If the audience “hears” your message and you know it from their comments, you’ve succeeded.

There is some vagueness in the intended message of this illustration, but what I take away is that these dinosaurs (Utahraptors, Eden tells us) foolishly tinker with an oil pump jack, much like humans do.

Some may see this cartoon and question the cannibalistic tendencies of dinosaurs as they mine their own fossilized ancestors.

Firearms Regulations

Alex G. very clearly captures the absurdity of having different age restrictions for firearms and alcohol.

What I like about Alex’s cartoon is that he doesn’t demonize; it simply states a fact: you can legally buy a gun before you can drink alcohol.

Factual side-by-side comparisons like this can be a very effective way to get your point across.

But be sure to stay on your toes when it comes to understanding and reporting all the essential facts behind a cartoon.

For example, a gun rights advocate might watch this cartoon and point out that you can’t really sell a gun to “all ages” in California, for example.

This cartoon would be stronger, and harder to tear up by those who oppose its message, if you added “18+” to the gun side.

Great idea !

American history

Date N. thrills a lot in this cartoon about the complex history of the United States.

It’s a tall order to illustrate the great sweep of United States history in a single cartoon and, within that, to also highlight some of the most difficult parts of this story.

I admire your ambition, Dat!

One thing to consider: there are other ways to portray a Native American person than by resorting to the stereotypical “Indian Chief” look.

Look no further than my good friend and amazing cartoonist Matt Bors for an excellent and more current depiction. (Another hint: don’t look to Hollywood for your visual representations.)

pollution and covid

Sarina S. does one of my favorite tricks with this cartoon: it combines depressing news with a touch of cuteness!

These little jellyfish are cute and curious about the new intruder, giving an otherwise difficult subject a certain degree of levity.

Sarina demonstrates one of the fastest ways to get into people’s hearts and minds: add a touch of levity or humor and they’ll listen to what you have to say.

A cartoon like this can touch a lot more people than a depressing rant about ocean pollution or COVID.

It’s time for another designer’s quibble: experiment with different ways to depict an underwater scene.

You already have floating trash and plastic, so try adding some color to the background and some bubbles and you’ll be underwater in no time!

The pay gap

vanessa r. tackles gender inequality in a cartoon that highlights the pay gap between men and women.

This exchange works like a gag between what the man says and what the woman thinks.

Vanessa effectively slips the facts into the cartoon, but, personally, I’d like to see a little more fun at the expense of the male character.

The cartoon makes the man confident and the woman a bit pitiful.

I would like to see you make the man more ridiculous or clueless and the woman stronger.

If I were to redraw this cartoon, even without changing the dialogue, I would try to increase the pump level of the man and illustrate the woman with an eye-rolling “sheesh” expression.

Great stuff, though!

Thanks again …

Stay tuned for more great cartoons added here over the next few months.

The challenge runs until June 2023, so keep bringing those cartoons!

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