Speaker Ian Barclay talking about – HISTORY OF CARTOONS

On Tuesday, 16th March, Ian Barclay shared with Probus Club members his research into the history of cartoons through a zoom presentation.  He showed early cartoons which served various purposes, including a fun way to amuse and educate people.  Over time, cartoons evolved in various ways, sometimes poking fun at politicians through satire and at other times offering an entertaining way to explain difficult concepts.  Cartoons were used to illustrate comics, including the Boys Own paper which started in January 1879 and continued until 1967.  Their content promoted good social education.  By the late 1930s, the Dandy and Beano comics were offering caricatured characters such as Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat with their mischievous adventures illustrated in cartoons.

When Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution, it shocked many citizens who found his ideas difficult to believe and disliked the apparent irreverence to religion which had as a cornerstone the creation of man by God in seven days.  Papers, magazines and flyers offered many caricatures of Darwin, including one in 1871 showing Darwin as a hairy monkey with his head and large bushy beard superimposed onto the monkey’s body.  Cartoons often lightened topics which caused anxiety; sex education being an easy target for this approach which Ian Barclay illustrated with a cartoon from 2011 which showed two caricatured boys leaving a sex education class and saying, “It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.”

Another anxious topic is war and cartoons were used to recruit soldiers and to help reduce some fears, including a cartoon by David Low in 1940 showing a British soldier standing on rocks beside the sea with his gun and helmet, calling out “Very well, alone!” and shaking his fists at German war planes after Germany’s invasion of France.  War-time cartoons frequently captured people’s worries, criticisms of the enemy and the heroism of the English, whether it was in battle, in the allotment (“dig for victory”) or women building weapons in factories and producing food on farms.

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