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Facts & Comics

We live in polarized times. The election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has laid bare deep divisions in American society. These same division can be found in Europe, and are exploited by populist politicians that successfully operate in many European countries.

By their nature, editorial cartoons give one particular perspective on what is happening in the world. By showing a range of perspectives we hope to avoid getting entrenched on one side of any given debate.

The comics we publish give us the chance to do fact-based explorations from various angles. In recent years, we have done numerous comic collaborations with university professors. Comics are an excellent tool to make complex subject matter understandable and accessible, without losing sight of the relevant facts.

SudanFragment from 'Sudan: Who Got What?'

One of the first of these ‘academic’ comics we ever did was the story of South Sudan, from independence in 2012, to civil war within just three years. This eventually became a series of comics:

I.    South Sudan: Who Got What?
II.   South Sudan: The Price of War, The Price of Peace
III. Seeking Justice in South Sudan

The comics are drawn by Kenyan comic artist Victor Ndula and written by Alex de Waal, a world-renowned expert on South Sudan. They are considered to be such a good and succinct explanation of the situation in South Sudan that they are now part of the standard briefing pack at USAID for anyone working on Africa.

We are currently working on more comics as part of our partnership with the London School of Economics, this time focusing on justice in Angola.

More recently, we published Europe’s Refugee Crisis: A Perfect Storm, a comic collaboration with a profession of migration law that explains how Europe is largely responsible for its own refugee crisis.

RefugeesFragment from 'Europe’s Refugee Crisis: A Perfect Storm'

Today, we’ve published a comic/animation that seeks to explain how polarization works and what we can do to reverse this process. The comic, drawn by Pedro X. Molina from Nicaragua, is based on the model of polarization by philosopher Bart Brandsma.

PolarizationFragment from 'Polarization'

This academic approach to comics isn’t only novel, we believe it necessary. Ironically, in a time when information is more abundant than ever, facts can sometimes be hard to find. Our social media timelines present us with what we want to hear (even if it’s fake), and Google enables us to find support for any of our convictions, no matter how far-fetched. The least we can do is to make sure that the comics we publish are thoroughly researched and based on fact, not fiction.

The two most recent comics are produced for Times of Migration, a new platform with a focus on refugees and migration. Times of Migration takes a fact-based approach to its subject matter; in the often highly charged debate about migration, it is more important than ever to have all the facts.

CNN Trump Cartoon Gallery


As our newsroom is filled to the brim with cartoons about Trump winning the US election, other media around the world have published cartoon slideshows. CNN has also published a slideshow. Unlike the majority of other media, CNN asked a number of cartoonists to send in a cartoon right after the final result of the election, and actually pays them for their contribution. Cartoon Movement’s editor-in-chief and cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards made the homepage of CNN with his perspective on Trump winning the US elections.

Questions of Copyright

Questions of copyright is a monthly feature in which we share some of our questions and concerns about how and where cartoons from Cartoon Movement are used without our permission.

A cartoon by Miguel Villalba Sanchez (pen name Elchicotriste), responding to the lack of media attention for Haiti after the devastation of hurricane Matthew, went viral. Elchicotriste’s haunting image again proves how the Internet offers cartoonists the potential to reach a massive audience with every cartoon they do. Which is of course wonderful, although many media outlets that shared the cartoon did forget to ask for his permission. But instead of listing the sheer endless list of media websites with this particular form of selective amnesia, we’ve decided to highlight the two media outlets that did contact Miguel.

Miguel has informed us that Al Jazeera and Europa Press both contacted him before publishing the cartoon. Europa Press even linked to Cartoon Movement (the original platform of publication), one of the very few that did. Well done!

On a more negative note, another platform we’d like to highlight this month is Sada El Balad, a news website from Egypt with almost 2,5 million fans on Facebook. The English version of the website has a page that’s devoted to cartoons, publishing cartoons from various sources including Cartoon Movement. We’ve contacted them to inform them of our copyright policy, but have yet to receive a reply. In the meantime, they continue to provide an additional (if unasked for) outlet for our cartoons.

We refer to this unauthorized use of cartoons by media outlets as the culture of free content on the Internet. Because people on social media freely share content, many professional journalists and editors feel they can do the same. In our view, this is one of the biggest threats to our profession. If you're in Australia (near Sydney), and you're interested in the future of editorial cartooning, we recommend you attend 'Surviving in a Digital World, a panel discussion on November 12 that is part of the annual conference of the Australian Cartoonists' Assiciation.