Skip to main content

Instamatic Poli-Cartoon?

The Internet is a wonderful thing. As a culture, not only do we have access to more Photoshopped pictures of naked celebrities now than at any other point in history, but we are also inundated with pornography's ugly sister: Internet news.

Since the days of William Randolph Hearst, straight through USA Today, mainstream news has been a wonderfully horrid, sensationalistic organ. Context? Analysis? Bah. These are for lesser people, who don't have the eye-catching infographics and ten-foot tall headlines that come with a real media outlet. The news exists in the perpetual now, giving the reader pure manic facts as they happen.

Internet news turns the volume up to eleven. A nation of cocaine addicts has just been given a roomful of crack. On the Internet, world events are reported faster than they happen. On the busiest news day in recent memory, September 11th, there were actually digital headlines throughout the day telling us that there were no new developments in the massive terrorist attack that took place twelve hours earlier.

On the other hand, the same information in print newspapers would be out of date by the time the papers hit the stands.

If it's in print, it's old news.

It doesn't stop with world events. A quick trip to msn.com will bring the reader California recall results, Red Sox/Yankees scores, interviews with celebrities, and Cosmo's ten newest tips for losing weight while pleasuring your man... as they happen. The entire newspaper, from news to sports to opinion and even letters to the editor, is thrown at the reader's face at the speed of light.

Well… almost the entire newspaper.

While the DOW, NYSE, and NASDAQ are recalculated hourly on every browser in America, the comics section trudges along at its old print-paced speed. The reason for this seems obvious: the world has no need for 24-hour-a-day fat jokes from a constantly updated Garfield, or an hourly self-affirmation from the arms of Ziggy.

What the world could use, however, is a steady stream of political cartoons – up-to-the-minute political cartoons, as relentless and immediate as anything else on an Internet news site. If Internet news sites can post Bush's speech thirty seconds after it is over, they can post a joke to go with it. They can post a hysterical lampoon of a tenth-inning Red Sox loss before the post-game analysis gives way to syndicated episodes of Seinfeld.

It could be argued that it would be impossible for political cartoons to keep pace with Internet news. No matter how fast the staff cartoonist hears about a story, no matter how fast they come up with a joke, they couldn't possibly draw a quality comic in the appropriate amount of time.

This, of course, is utter hogwash. If a columnist can have a well-crafted opinion piece ready for release within an hour after a story breaks, an artist can have a well-drawn political cartoon ready within the same amount of time.

There seems to be nothing preventing such up-to-the-minute online political cartoons other than the fact that no one's done it yet.

Some time ago, Scott McCloud issued a 24-hour comic challenge to the comics community at large: write, draw, and print a full length story in 24 hours. Consider the possibilities of the one-hour political cartoon: sixty minutes after a news story breaks, put a one-panel cartoon in reference to the event somewhere on the Internet. These cartoons could be posted on the cartoonist's blog, favorite message board, or little sister's slash rec site – it doesn't matter where it is, so long as it's finished and available to the world while the news is still fresh.

News goes faster every day, as the speed of the Internet gets more and more efficient. Even the events being reported on are lagging in its wake, and the natural vacuum could easily be filled by different varieties of commentary. The political cartoon, given its dependence on current events, is an ideal candidate to fill the void. The only things missing are cartoonists willing to provide the material.