The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2009 Edition

It’s likely that you already know, just from the title, whether you’re interested in reading or owning this book, so I’m not sure whether anything I say will convince anyone one way or another. The reactions I had were mostly negative, although some were nitpicky. Here are my criticisms:

The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2009 Edition cover
The Best Political Cartoons
of the Year 2009 Edition
Buy this book

First, the title. The cartoons are from 2008, and the “2009 Edition” title makes the content look fresher than it is. It’s a tad misleading, especially with the near-hidden “edition”.

Second, the self-promotion grates. Starting with the line above the title on the front cover, “From the most popular cartoon site on the web, Daryl Cagle’s Professional Cartoonists Index”, the book reminds us many times how great the editor and his projects are. The introduction is more of the same, listing off several websites to visit. I was left with the impression that skipping the book and surfing the web would have been a better choice, if this is nothing but one big ad. The repetition of phrases like “best commentary site” made the editors sound egotistical and overblown.

Then there are the significant omissions not noted until you get to the second introduction, which plugs a whole ‘nother book. All of the presidential election cartoons, a significant topic for editorial coverage, were pulled into another collection, The BIG Book of Campaign Political Cartoons 2008. That’s a reasonable choice, but I would have expected to have some note to that effect on the back cover — “be sure to see our companion volume”, perhaps — instead of reading inside “Every true cartoon wonk will have to have both books.” That kind of sell leaves a bad taste with me. (And there are still political cartoons included here, including those relating to the VP race and Obama’s election.)

The introductions are formatted exactly the same as the content pages, so I didn’t realize we’d started the book proper until I was already into it. That format is somewhat amateurish, by the way, with the text running on the page in an overly wide single-column layout. Topic follows topic in mostly random order with perfunctory, superficial introductions.

The most insightful piece consists of two pages on how editorial cartoonists keep losing jobs as papers cut back or close with thoughts on the future. The other sections consist of cartoons lumped together on the page. Very similar illustrations may appear next to each other, but the similarities aren’t commented on or addressed. I don’t know what the selection criteria are, other than that the editors thought they were the “best”.

Now, all that said, it is a densely packed book, so if you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of the editorial cartooning field, it’s a great choice. It’s also an interesting reminder of all the talked-about events of last year, and if Cagle’s predictions come true, it might be a real time capsule in another year or two. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)


2 Responses to “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2009 Edition”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » April 20, 2009: Beauty-schooled dropout Says:

    [...] [Review] The Best Political Cartoons of the Year 2009 Edition Link: Johanna Draper Carlson [...]

  2. Dwight Williams Says:

    Have you been introduced to the Portfoolio series yet?

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