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Stars of Political Cartooning – Theodor Geisel

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at a great editorial cartoonist best known for his other doctorate work.

Enjoy!

I’m being misleading, of course, as Theodor Geisel used the name Dr. Seuss not only for his children’s books (which began with the 1937 classic, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street), but also for the lesser-known, but just as striking, editorial cartoon work he did during World War II.

Geisel had been working in advertising since he left school in the 1920s, producing some very popular ad campaigns (he also did a short-lived comic strip in 1935). In 1937, as mentioned above, he began working on children’s books.

However, that went on hold in 1941, where he devoted his time to political cartoons, first as a cartoonist for the New York City daily newspaper, P.M., and later on doing work directly for the United States Army.

Geisel was a strictly against the United States’ isolationist position, and mocked that attitude frequently…

He also mocked those he felt were symbolic of the US’s attitude towards isolationism, particularly Charles Lindbergh…

He also took the time to make fun of the “alliance” between Germany, Russia and Japan at the time…

His response to Pearl Harbor was interesting, as it seemed to express more frustration than anger, like most other political cartoonists of the day….

He continued to express that frustration with the early days of the war…

But most of Geisel’s ire was directed at the homefront, particularly those who he felt hampered the US’s efforts – he was strictly a “you’re either with us or against us” type of guy…

Hehe…GOPstrich…as a huge Roosevelt fan, you can only imagine his stance on the Republicans at the time…

A fascinating piece of his work at the time was the way he stood up for the rights of Jews in America…

and Blacks in America…

And yet still portrayed Japanese-Americans like this…

While I suppose it is an understandable enough viewpoint to hold at the time, it is still a strange comparison between his super tolerant views on one end and his hatred for the “enemy” on the other.

Geisel drew about 400 cartoons in total before devoting his time fully to the Army (including producing films for the Army – one of which, Design for Death – a look at Japanese culture – won an Oscar!).

Thanks to the University of San Diego for their archive of Geisel cartoons from this time period. Be sure to check them out! Lots more great looking comics!!

30 Comments

I have a book of Dr. Seuss’ political cartoons. they are excellent and I almost wished he had had a longer career, he was ahead of his time on a lot of things.

And a lot of Seuss’s later kids’ books have actual messages to them. Kids may not understand then beyond tales of cats and elephants, but parents who read it every day start wondering.

I remember finding out about his War Manual work from a Ray Harryhausen interview… they worked together on a character called SNAFU… Yep.. “Situation Normal…etc.”

Did they coin the term together, or had it been popularised beforehand?

And a lot of Seuss’s later kids’ books have actual messages to them. Kids may not understand then beyond tales of cats and elephants, but parents who read it every day start wondering.

Probably the best examples of this is The Butter-Battle Book, which is a commentary on the nuclear arms race, and the Lorax, which is way-ahead-of-its-time environmentalism.

As a side note, for a long time many pro-lifers claimed “Horton Hears a Who” as anti-abortion (“A person’s a person, no matter how small”), but Seuss apparently intended to promote racial equality. I’m not sure if Seuss himself took a public stance on abortion, but otherwise he clearly was a New Deal Democrat.

Love, love, love the imimitable art style. No one doesn’t recognize Dr. Seuss.

And of course Yurtle The Turtle was a huge allegory about Hitler.

Geez, that’s some gorgeous stuff.

I’m really loving this series. Thanks, Brian.

[…] Comic Book Resources continues to look at historical editorial cartooning. Today’s featured cartoonist: Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. […]

There were several volumes of this and other stuff from throughout his career on Wowio.com, which were really great.

[…] Birthday Bash I’ll Never Understand The Costume Impulse History On Jack Kirby On Boris Efimov On Theodor Geisel <a href=”http://www.punknews.org/review/7691″ title=”Remembering Skin”>Remembering Skin David […]

the were really meaning full

help cant go to sleep to booorrriiinngg

He is awesome!

Dr. Suess knew his stuff! Great artist!

This really helps me with a school project about political cartoons. THANKS BUNCHES!!!!!

I never knew Dr. Suess did political cartoons as well as children’s books! I loved his books as a kid, and now learning this is helping me with my history class! haha

I love the irst one, completely true, it bugs me when americans are all cocky because the “won” ww2 even though they didn’t join it till the very end when every other country had prety much run dry.

This political cartoons are funny to look at.

I’m this for my project at school i found funny ones on google.com
i like Dr.suess when is his brithday.

i love dr.suess

I <3 doctor suess.

Wow people get a life

I appreciate your work, keep-on. But do many concerning Religion, too.

[…] you for your other work, you know your dark political cartoons that sometimes were inappropriate. Examples are here.  In fact, thank you for being inappropriate. For giving a big middle finger to civility and […]

Dear Compiler, this is a great collection of Geisel’s comics! However, i would like to offer you another interpretation of your last inclusion, the comic about the Japanese American citizens. This comic was is ironic, in response to the American government’s internment of nearly 110,000 Japanese Americans in “War Relocation Camps” in 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Geisel’s likely intent is to mock the government’s ridiculous assumption that any Japanese person living in the US from California, to Oregon, to Washington would have Japanese sympathies and serve as Japanese spies against the American government during the war. The unending line of Japanese people lining up to receive arms and wait for the call is hyperbolic to the point of being absolutely ludicrous, outrageous, even fascist. After all, these people were Americans, and indeed many Japanese Americans died in pursuit of the democratic ideal in the horrors of World War II. Geisel was not being racist here, he was a champion of democracy and equal treatment, as is reflected in his comics about the Civil Rights Movement and antisemitism. Many of Seuss’ books also reflect his ideals of balancing individual freedom with individual responsibility for the greater good of the community of the world.

However, in addendum, the actual cartoon depiction of the Japanese Americans is rather offensive. Despite the fact that they are cartoon depictions, the depiction of the Germans does not reflect such offensive stereotypical imagery, so it is confusing why such an otherwise racially tolerant man would draw a race of people in such a manner.

[…] and during the war began submitting satirical sketches to newspapers. Just as you can see, in these early caricatures of Mussolini and Lindberg, the style that would eventually blossom into The Cat in the Hat, it’s possible to view his […]

[…] in political cartoons. The first known depiction of Jesus was one of these, mocking his followers. Dr. Seuss got his start there, and names like Thomas Nast continue to live on for good […]

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