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Stars of Political Cartooning – Carl Giles

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 the man voted ‘Britain’s Favourite Cartoonist of the 20th Century’.


Ronald Giles was born in London, England in 1916. He gained the name Carl due to his friends thinking he looked like Boris Karloff, so they called him Karlo, which eventually became Carl.

He dropped out of school at age 14 and became an office boy and eventually worked a bit in animation.

In 1937, he began doing cartoons and soon began working at the Daily Express, which is where he stayed for the rest of his career until his retirement in the very early 90s.

His cartoons were not standard political cartoons, and he did not typically do caricatures – he was noted by telling topical stories using normal people reacting to the news around them.

The main people he used for this were the Giles “family,” particularly his most famous creation, the rascally matriarch, Grandma…

He was a War Correspondent during WWII, and here is one of his few cartoons directly on the war…

Giles really does not have any one super famous cartoon.

Here is a fairly random sampling…

The images are courtesy of this awesome searchable Giles site

For fun, here are the two cartoons Giles did in his career on October 24th (he was so detailed that his cartoons were not dailies).

Giles lived long enough to see a statue of Grandma built in Ipswich, right outside the newspaper office building window where Giles worked for so many years…

Giles passed away in 1995, five years before he was named ‘Britain’s Favourite Cartoonist of the 20th Century’.


US Comics connection — Mrs. Henriot-Gulch in Cerebus is based on Grandma.

every year there was a collection of Giles cartoons published, I used to love them to death even as a kid.Giles did something which very few other political cartoonists could do- actually make people laugh.

always used to look forward to the Sunday Express newspaper every weekend for the Giles cartoon. We were lucky enough to have Jeff Hawke and and a Thelwell cartoon each week too!

There’s a pub in Ipswich town centre dedicated to him, but it wasn’t his local. That was out on the edge of town and had a bowls green (can’t remember the name of it now, I’m afraid). Giles had his own comfy chair in the tiny snug bar, where he’d sit and moan all the time. There were some original cartoons on the wall he’d done for the pub in exchange for beer at various times.
Grumpy old bugger he was.

And woe betide anyone who sat in his chair!!!!

Just like Graham Vingoe, I used to love these as a kid… even though I didn’t necessarily get all the political implications, the background detail and characters were rivetting… I could go back and read the Annuals time and again…

I also learned from Giles that there actually was a “right way up” for the Union Flag… Which I was anally glad was reflected in Captain Britain’s new uniform…

@ James Moar: Yeah! Red Sophia’s mum was based on Grandma! I wonder if that’s because Giles’ cartoons were printed in Canada?

Giles was absolutely one of the best. I have several annuals, and they have helped me understand British humour. Unlike Blackjak, I still don’t get some of them (they were pretty topical), but they were still funny with the impish kids making some kind of trouble somewhere in the panel.

Larry, I didn’t always get the joke, but it was the artwork and some of the family doing various things in the background that I loved… (my favourite was the kid with the camera and the hedgerow haircut…)

Although I do seem to remember that in a couple of the albums, they actually had a footnote to some of the cartoons mentioning the story that the cartoon referred to…

Oh, and if we were lucky we occassionally saw boobs! ;-)

Does anyone remember a cartoon that Giles did, showing two policemen and a burglar at some ones front door.
The caption went something like;
`This gentleman has come to rob your house, should you resist in any way, we will be forced to arrest you´
I´d be very grateful to get hold of a copy or the number of the album it may be in.

I always loved Giles and my Dad would buy me the books at the end of the year. Likewise I’m sure I missed a lot of the political implications but there was always something to catch the eye of the younger readers too.

[…] Co-incidentally, this very week, CBR had Carl Giles’ profiled in their Stars of Political Cartooning series. (Carl Giles at CBR). […]

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