[FOUNTAIN]Cat-like cartoonsThe French daily newspaper Le Monde is well known for featuring a cartoon on the front page. Jean Plantureux, known as Plantu, has been a political cartoonist for the paper for over 20 years and is infamous for his unreserved satire and acute humor. He caused a controversy when, on a live television broadcast, he drew President Jacques Chirac having sex with a sleeping Marianne, the national emblem of France.
Plantu inherited his style from the 19th century French painter Honore Daumier, who is known as the father of political caricature. When the comic journal “La Caricature” was launched in 1830, Mr. Daumier started drawing political satire and cartoons. Although he was imprisoned for six months for making fun of King Louis Philippe in a cartoon, it did not discourage him. In a time when newspapers and magazines were the exclusive entertainment of aristocrats due to high public illiteracy, Mr. Daumier’s cartoons revitalized the daily lives of the general populace.
Word balloons first appeared in cartoons in the United States at the end of the 19th century. Richard Outcault was the first to use word balloons in his comic strip “The Yellow Kid,” where he wrote the thoughts or words of a young boy on his yellow nightshirt.
This one frame cartoon was published in the New York World, a daily newspaper owned by Joseph Pulitzer. Mr. Outcault’s cartoon became so popular that William Randolph Hearst scouted “The Yellow Kid” for his New York Journal American, only to lose it back to the World later. The competition between the two journalism powerhouses gave birth to the term, “yellow journalism,” which refers to sensationalism in news reporting.
The more popular a cartoon is, the more controversial it becomes. The European media made much commotion over cartoons of Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper and a Russian newspaper was ordered to shut down a day after publishing a cartoon depicting Muhammad, Jesus, Moses and Buddha.
It is pathetic. It does not make sense that religion is a sacred ground that cannot be touched by cartoons. If the cartoons are neutral, it should not matter. The fault of the Danish newspaper was not the publication of the Muhammad cartoon but its refusal to publish cartoons satirizing Jesus. Plantu’s cartoons are loved by readers because he is so well balanced that he has even drawn a cartoon deriding Le Monde.
The 19th century French writer Champfleury said cartoons were like cats that would wake from sleep at the slightest disturbance. A cat that only wakes at a sign from a certain direction is not a very good cat.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s “week&” team.