The best cartoons of 2021

The end of December is approaching, so it’s time for our traditional top 10 of the best cartoons of the year. In 2021, we published a total of 236 cartoons (so far) as an editor’s choice on our homepage, chosen out of 8524 cartoons that were sent in by our cartoonists.

The 10 best we have selected are not all editor’s choices, but instead are based on how they resonated with our audience. We have also aimed to cover some of the most the important topics in the news this year, and to represent the geographical spread of our cartoonists. And we've tried to represent all genders, even though the profession is still very much dominated by men.

This selection is to some degree arbitrary, as limiting our selection to just 10 cartoons means we had to leave out a number of excellent cartoons about important topics. We hope you will enjoy the cartoons here nonetheless. If you would like to keep up to date with our best cartoons, consider subscribing to our monthly newsletter.


The last joke

January - Antonio Rodriguez

The only Trump cartoon in this year's selection is by Mexican cartoonist Antonio Rodriguez, with a cartoon about the attack on the Capitol in January.


Health inequality

February - Mahnaz Yazdani

Out of all the cartoons about the unequal distribution of vaccines (and there were quite a few), this one by Mahnaz Yazdani from Iran is by far the most popular.


The endarkenment

April - Max Gustafson

Another hugely popular cartoon is this one by Max Gustafson, who reflects on the time we live in.



May - Tjeerd Royaards

This year's violent outbreak in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was illustrated by Tjeerd Royaards.


Floods in Europe

July - Marian Kamensky

Another very popular cartoon, this one by Marian Kamensky from Austria, also illustrates the endarkenment (as Max Gustafson calls it). More extreme weather events, like the floods in the Europe in July, do little to sway the opinion of climate deniers.


The corporate ladder

June - Peter Sully

Mocking corporate culture is an evergreen pastime for cartoonists, and always popular with fans of cartoons. This one is by Australian cartoonist Peter Sully.


Keyboard warrior

September - Tomas

Another subject that is good for popular cartoons every year is social media, how it affects our lives, how addicted we are to it and how we use and abuse it. This cartoons by Italian cartoonist Tomas deals with that last subject.



October - Vasco Gargalo

Continuing our streak of evergreen that subjects, here is one by Portuguese cartoonist Vasco Gargalo, responding to yet another report (this time in France) about widespread child abuse by Catholic priests.


Career Perspective

2782-211122 Gender (Zamani)_small

Life in Afghanistan will be very different for girls, now that the Taliban have taken over, says Nahid Zamani from Iran.


Knowledge and peace

2740-210921 Peace (Dehgani)_small

But it is the next generation that will shape the future. Hopefully, they will do so by aiming for the stars, and not their fellow humans, as illustrated in this beuatiful visual by Mansoure Dehghani, who is also from Iran.

If your interested to see our most popular cartoons from previous, you can check out the 2020 here, 2019 here and 2018 here.

Dutch cartoonist Tom Janssen wins the second edition of the European Cartoon Award

EU and belarusThe winning cartoon, by Tom Janssen


The European Press Prize and Studio Europa Maastricht have announced the name of the winner and runners-up of this year’s edition of the European Cartoon Award. With his work EU and Belarus published in the newspaper Trouw, the Dutch cartoonist Tom Janssen won the first prize. The two runners-up are another Dutch cartoonist, Hajo de Reijger, and the Turkish artist Musa Gumus - both published by Cartoon Movement.


It's ChineseCartoon by Hajo de Reijger


BloodCartoon by Musa Gumus


The works of the winner and runners-up were selected from almost 300 submissions, coming from 28 countries, European and beyond, by a jury composed of award-winning cartoonists, previous year’s nominees, activists, and experts.

Janet Anderson, chair of the Panel of judges:

'Editorial Cartoonists have shown us again how they make powerful political commentaries with their drawings. 2020 was the year of the pandemic in Europe, and our shortlist selection and our prize-winner inevitably reflect much of the worldwide economic, social and political debates. But in our other top choices, we wanted as a jury to also reflect on the huge political story taking place in Belarus, and the political reality of how Europe engages with what is just over its borders, and to highlight the importance of the freedom of the media and the violent threats the press faces.'

The jury of the European Cartoon award 2021 was composed of: Anne Derenne (2020 winner), Janet Anderson, Khalid Albahi, Gian-Paolo Accardo, Paulo Jorge Fernandes. And, for the first round of selection, a jury composed of five previous year’s nominees: Mette Dreyer, Claudio Antonio Gomes, Costel Patrascan, Halit Kurtulmuş, and Tomás Serrano.

Evergreen satire - launch event

On September 15, the Evergreen satire project was officially launched with an online event, live from the Beeld & Geluid Den Haag media museum in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Cartoon Movement editors Emanuele Del Rosso and Tjeerd Royaards talked with Jürgen Kaumkötter, director of the Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen, Germany, Rob Phillips, Head of Archives and Manuscripts Section and the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales and Tjeerd de Boer, deputy editor at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

Here is the full stream of the event:


Evergreen satire is a network of institutions that house historical cartoons or have have expert knowledge in the area of editorial cartoons.With this new network, we will explore ways to open up these archives and to present the cartoons therein in an engaging way to a general audience. In the launch event, we discuss cartoons made by cartoonists in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and compare them to cartoons protesting repressive regimes today. And we take a look at how the Cold War and Vietnam war were portrayed in cartoons, and how cartoonists draw about current geopolitics and the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Evergreen satire - online event September 15

We want to invite you all to our first official online event of Evergreen Satire on Wednesday September 15 at 4 pm CEST, live from the Beeld & Geluid media museum in The Hague, The Netherlands. It’s free!


Register for the event


Evergreen satire is a network of institutions across Europe that house historical cartoons or have have expert knowledge in the area of editorial cartoons. In our first event we will bring together several guests to explore how war has been visualized by cartoonists through the years.


Banner for website - Evergreen Satire



September 15 is the International Day of Democracy and September 21 marks the International Day of Peace. We therefore thought it fitting for our first event to explore how cartoonists have drawn about war & peace in the last century. Can we compare cartoonists drawing anti-Nazi cartoons in the 1930s to Syrian cartoonists that protested against the regime with their work? And can we see similarities in cartoons about the Vietnam war and the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Guests will include: Jürgen Kaumkötter, director of the Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen, Germany; Rob Phillips, Head of Archives and Manuscripts Section and the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales; and Jop Euwijk, curator News, Current Affairs and Information at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. And of course Emanuele Del Rosso and Tjeerd Royaards from Cartoon Movement.


Register for the event


European Cartoon Award shortlist


This week, the European Press Prize and Studio Europa Maastricht announced the shortlist of 16 cartoons that are nominated for the European Cartoon Award 2021, from a total of 287 submissions, sent by cartoonists from 28 countries.

We are incredibly proud that 8 of the 16 nominated cartoons were first published on Cartoon Movement!

The winner, who will receive €10,000, will be announced in September. For more details about the prize and the judges, go here.




Editorial: our position on anti-vax cartoons

Cartoons reflect the public debate; an international community of cartoonists will therefore frequently reflect the different perspectives that are present in the global public debate, including the more extreme ones. In some cases, we will try to present and publish these varying perspectives. In other cases, we will make the editorial choice to focus on one perspective, ignoring others.

On such example is the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar in 2017. While the overwhelming majority of our cartoonists chose to call out the atrocities committed by the Myanmar army, our contingent of cartoonists from Myanmar defended their government and army, stating that the accusations of genocide were fake news. In light of the evidence, we chose not to highlight these perspectives. That doesn’t mean these cartoons are censored; it simply means we will not publish them on our homepage or post them on our social media channels.


Fake__aung_thein_htike__athCartoon by Aung Thein Htike ATH from 2017, with the perspective that the suffering of the Royangya was fake news.

We have made the same editorial decision for cartoons that speak out against vaccination. In light of the evidence about the effectiveness of the vaccination, we will not publish cartoons that ignore this evidence and feed into the various conspiracy theories out there about the supposedly nefarious intentions of researchers and governments alike. We do show a couple of them here, to illustrate our decision. If you want to see how most cartoonists think about the vaccine and the anti-vax movement, check our collections here and here.


Vaccinescreamvaccine_pete_kreiner Cartoon by Pete Kreiner


FauciA portrait of Anthony Fauci, by Elchicotriste

With all editorial decisions, there will be grey areas. Not publishing anti-vax cartoons is a clear-cut decision, but what about cartoons about the position and rights of the unvaccinated in society? For instance, Swaha takes a more nuanced approach with her cartoon questioning the French Covid passport as a way to return to a free society.

A citizen in a free society is only free to the extent that his or her freedom doesn't harm the freedom of others; the problem with unvaccinated is that they consciously make a decision that is potentially harmful for the rest of society. On the other hand, one could argue that no state should have the power to coerce people to inject something into their body, and that granting privileges to one group over the other is coercion of a sort.


CM_21Cartoon by Swaha

We will not change our editorial stance on the anti-vax movement (barring new scientific evidence), but we will closely be looking at the way societies and governments deal with the unvaccinated, and the cartoons that are made about this.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor


P.S. This editorial has been edited slightly on August 9 after receiving feedback from SWAHA, to better reflect the intention of her cartoon.

No Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning this year

By Tjeerd Royaards

While editorial cartoonists arguably have been producing excellent work in recent years, the environment in which we do our job is becoming ever more challenging. This article was sparked by the decision of the Pulitzer Prizes not to hand our an award for editorial cartooning this year.



Why would a European cartoonist have an opinion about an award for US cartoonists being awarded or not? Because this latest development seems to fit in a trend of several developments that reinforce each other and have one thing in common: they are all detrimental to political cartooning. Most of these developments have already written about, by us and by others, but I feel it's worth mentioning them again.

Many in the field were outraged by the decision of the Pulitzer Prizes not to award a cartoonist this year. The American Association of Editorial Cartoonists issued this statement. US cartoon platform Counterpoint also issued a statement. Michael Cavna of the Washington Post responded with this article. He makes it clear that the decision not to hand out a Pulitzer in a particular category isn't unprecedented, but after a year in which so many outstanding cartoons have been made, it feel unjustified and, even worse, adds to the loss of standing of political cartoons within the field of journalism.

Timid cartoons and no job security

The number of staff positions for cartoonists has been dwindling for years. As more and more of us are forced to go freelance (or have been freelancing our entire careers), the field becomes ever more competitive. Nowadays, many newspapers and magazines select cartoons from a large pool of freelance cartoonists sending in their work. Following the tenets of neoliberalism, this increased competition should lead to a better product. In the field of cartooning, it does exactly the opposite. Daryl Cagle, who runs a US syndicate of about 70 cartoonists, has written many times about timid editors shying away from hard-hitting political satire.  The cartoons that get picked most from his syndicate are the ones that do not express an opinion; harmless jokes about the news do well, and cartoons about celebrities. The incentive is clear: if you want to sell your work, you need to pander to these editors; don't be hard-hitting, don't make people angry, don't draw anything controversial.

Freelancing has not only lead to more watered-down cartoons, it has also significantly weakened the job security of cartoonists. In 2019, the international edition of The New York Times decided, on the basis of one controversial cartoon, to stop running cartoons altogether. As a result, two of their regular cartoonists, Heng and Patrick Chappatte, lost their jobs over a cartoon they did not even draw.

Over the last ten years, this kind of response seems to have become the norm; when a cartoon sparks outrage, fire the cartoonist. And with more and more cartoonists working freelance, this decision is easier than ever. If we've published one of your cartoons and it makes people angry, we'll just never publish your work again. There are several examples of this, both in the US and in the rest of the world. They seem to have become more numerous than examples of newspapers standing with their cartoonists. Here are some examples from the US, Australia and most recently, India, where well-known cartoonist Manjul was fired after making the government tried to take down his Twitter account because of his critical work.

There is irony in this. In most professions, when people make mistakes we would say that to err is human; but for a cartoonist, whose job is to provide sharp critique, one mistake is unforgivable.

Please note that in the case of the US and Australian controversy, I do not agree with the cartoons published (which I think were bad and insensitive), but I take issue with the knee jerk reaction of getting rid of the cartoonist. And it's also important to point out that, despite these trends, many cartoonists are continuing to produce amazing, scathing, sharp, hilarious and downright brilliant cartoons. It just keeps getting harder and harder to find placed to publish them. Even social media is getting increasingly sensitive when it comes to satire.

Within this context, it is more important then ever that a renowned institution recognizes the responsibility they have to recognize the work being done by cartoonists under ever more difficult circumstances. Instead, they decided they could not agree on a winner and not to hand out the prize at all. The decision of the Pulitzer Board is not only an insult to this year's finalists, it also contributes to the weakening position of political cartoons in general.

UNESCO cartoon competition on global education

Allmeansall-gem-report-unesco-cartoonIllustration by Anne Derenne

The Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report) is an editorially independent, authoritative and evidence-based annual report published by UNESCO. Its mandate is to monitor progress towards the education targets in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework.

The GEM Report team has worked with cartoonists for several years to illustrate the various topics being analysed in its annual publications. Deemed by the team as a thought-provoking communications tool, the cartoons are commissioned as an original way to tease out the multiple themes in each annual report.

This year, for the first time ever, the GEM Report is launching a cartoon competition in partnership with the Cartoon Movement. The competition is focused on the theme of the forthcoming 2021/2 GEM Report covering the role, influence, benefits and concerns about non-state actors in education. The competition is to draw the best cartoon depiction of the issues around school choice and the impact of non-state actors in access, equity and quality in education. The winning submission will receive $500. Read the full brief and information on how to take part here.

To give you an idea of what they are looking for, here are some of the artists they have worked with in previous years:

Political cartoonist, Gado, from Tanzania, who is the editorial cartoonist for The Standard in Nairobi, created satirical cartoons about accountability in education for the 2017/8 GEM Report.


In 2020, Anne Derenne, a cartoonist and illustrator with Cartooning for Peace from France worked with the GEM Report to create cartoons illustrating the many different faces of inclusion in education.


The competition will culminate at the end of July 2021. Cartoons submitted will be voted on by the public via the GEM Report’s Facebook page.  The winner will see his/her cartoon feature in the 2021/2 GEM Report on non-state actors in education, in all public facing events for the Report held around the world.