As we march through the 21st century every December I post my highlight reels of mostly topical cartoons from the year and this year we need 23 so buckle up...
1. Happy New Year
During the dying embers of 2022 I drew this end of year cartoon showing the baton being passed onto the baby drinking Prime 2023. Being passed on by the weary 2022 was Covid and war both of which continued to cast a shadow over this year although Covid-19 was more in the inquiry rather than pandemic phase. War galloped ahead of its fellow horsemen of the Apocalypse to drag more countries into its terrible grip. I'm sure when I draw this again for 2023/24 the hope will be in the same ... please make 2024 more peaceful than 2023.
2. Valentines Day
My first cartoon of 2023 to make it into print and a Valentine's pun I was quite proud of. The cost of living crisis keeps making everything more expensive, but on the upside it is a source of gags.
3. Thor day week
Talking of puns I tried to keep the pun ball rolling with this cartoon from the reject bin. In general I'm in favour of an N-1 working week where N is the current number of days I'm working.
4. Aesop's Cables
And yet I continued to try and do puns to little effect but I was quite proud of this effort at a time when every local junction was dug up and controlled with inefficient four way temporary lights.
5. Voter ID of Dorian Gray
The government was legislating to get UK voters to produce photographic voter ID at local and general elections in order to deal with "voter fraud" which is an insignificant problem compared with ensuring the general population are actually able to vote and have a recognised form of photo ID other than just a driving license or passport. The proscribed list came out heavily weighted towards and old age pensioners were allowed to wield their bus passes, but students weren't which tended to favour parties that have older voters (Conservative) vs those who attract younger voters (not the Conservatives).
6. SNP Auditors
In the spring there was a series of stories about the SNP struggles to find a replacement auditor after the previous auditors quit. The rumours then became a police probe into the SNP that would eventually lead to Nicola Sturgeon and her husband being questioned by the police and allegations around the purchase of a luxury .motor home. Normally Scottish politics doesn't make that much of splash around the UK press but various SNP in trouble stories did for a time register in the headlines and still rumbles on at a less dramatic level.
7. Pillow Talk
One gag that wasn't topical but got published in Private Eye in May was this one about Pillow Talk.
The "budget" coronation for the already King Charles was on 6 May 2023 when some folk in the country got excited for the pagentry, Penny Mordaunt wielding a massive sword and some employers (not mine) issuing bonus bank holidays. I drew cartoons about the stone of destiny and this one from an a pothole's perspective of a street party (also didn't happen here).
9. Slow Marching
The crackdown on "noisy" or "disruptive" protests by a government not fond of scrutiny led to protestors having to adapt their tactics and so there was much talk of slow marching as an alternative to just blocking a road and how the police handled it. So now the police can enforce some sort of minimum speed limit on people holding banners which lead to this cartoon.
10. Helicopter PM
Rishi Sunak our Prime Minister and executive emperor seemed to never want to take public transport when he could use expensive and environmentally dubious helicopter transport. Also there was video of legions of police officers having to jog alongs his presidential motorcade when he did use the car, This led to him being rightly mocked by cartoonists including this one who does have a pet dog.
11. It's a witch-hunt
In June there was a spate of Tory MP's resigning (by being appointed to ridiculous posts like Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead) trigger by-elections, except Nadine Dorries who said she would resign but then dragged it out for months. One of the most high profile resignations was former prime minister Boris Johnson who was being investigated for misleading parliament but interpreted this as a witch-hunt, political hit-job and revenge for Brexit. It was the same sort of language former US president Donald Trump was using the other side of the pond as the charges stacked up against him in various states. All political careers end in failure but not all are accepted graciously and indeed this may not be the end for either of them particularly with the 2024 US Presidential election looming.
12. New York New York
This year I visited New York for the first time which was frenetic and tall. Just before I visited at the end of June Canadian wildfires and the direction of wind had turned the air quality in New York from disappointing to deadly and lead to various media pictures of an apolocalpytic orange-tinged Manhattan. This is the rejected cartoon I drew about it.
13. Holiday Destinations
This cartoon I did get into Private Eye about trying to pick a destination that wasn't affected by wildfires as North America and the Mediterranean were battling an earlier and fiercer wildfire season. As terrible as it was for those who lived in these area the media only ramped up the coverage when UK tourists were being evacuated from beaches in Rhodes or elsewhere and having their yearly summer holidays nearly turned into nightmares.
14. Actor's Strike
This cartoon which appeared in Private Eye was about the SAG-AFRTRA actor's strike which followed that paralyzed Hollywood production from July to it's resolution in November. There was also a writer's strike about pay, conditions and the use of AI from the Writer's Guild that proceeded and overlapped this.
15. The Twits
Elon Musk managed to kill Twitter at the end of July changing its name to X because a long time ago he'd bought the domain X.com. The whole year has been a trial for Twitter users as first the platform became less reliable, then the launch of a paid tier meant that the free tier had to be nerfed, and finally Elon Musk did his best to bring back various banned baddies under the guise of free speech while using his platform to weigh in on all sort of issues driving away sponsors in the process. Earlier in July fellow tech-bro billionaire Mark Zuckerberg launched a Twitter rival Threads which was popular for a while and led to this illustration of the proposed cage fight between them which never materialised. The whole social media fragmented further as ex-Twitter founder Jack Dorsey threw Blue Sky into the mix if you had an invite and now I have to cross post to about 5 different platforms if I can be bothered.
16. Moon Landings
On 23rd-August the Indian Space Research Organisation landed Chandrayaan-3 a lunar lander/rover near the south pole the fourth country to land on the moon and the first to land near the south pole . The budget of this mission was a fraction of what other countries have spent to try and land a rover on the moon and indeed only the previous week Russian's attempt to beat the Indians to the south pole crashed into the lunar surface. This new space race to the moon inspired this cartoon which appeared in Private Eye.
17. RAAC and Ruin
Just before the English schools were due to return the government decided based on "new" information it had received that it had to close a number of them due to the presence of dodgy concrete known as RAAC or Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete.
No sooner had education secretary Gillian Keegan failed to quell concerns than it escalated and it appeared RAAC was in hospitals, prisons and anywhere else where buildings had been cheaply constructed and not replaced. The government had to appear like this wasn't something it had been warned about for a while and it was willing to do whatever it took to solve it hence Jeremy Hunt found cash down the back of the sofa to solve it.
18. English Autumn
Here is a cartoon on a common theme that I drew at the end of Autumn which Private Eye liked but didn't use for a couple of months due to the glut of river pollution toons that appeared this year. As a visual metaphor for the rancid mess of a government of 13 years that has allow the corruption of this basic resource for profit was too appealing to cartoonists. It would be nice however if this wasn't still a cartooning topic in 2024 because the government finally introduced tough enough regulation and fines that private companies didn't feel they could dump raw sewage in rivers with impunity.
19. Long Term Decisions
Tory Party Conference season was seen as yet another chance for a reboot of Rishi Sunak's premiership after a disastrous summer of stories of crumbling concrete in schools etc, resignations and resulting by-election losses. With no sense of irony Rishi Sunak set out to unveil a series of pledges to try and pull up his poll numbers while claiming they were tough but necessary long term decisions for the country. An example was trying to up North Sea oil drilling and postponing the ban on petrol/diesel cars while still claiming we were on track with environmental targets in a "pragmatic" way.
20 Planet Earth 3
Apart from Barbie/Oppenheimer one of the cultural events of the year was another Planet Earth season featuring David Attenborough and capturing spectacular wildlife in high definition. As well as drawing along with the weekly episodes I also got this cartoon into the Eye which lead to some feedback of people telling me their toddler found it hilarious, and another telling me why film sharks are called Bruce. Apparently "Bruce" was the nickname of the shark in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" franchise which was then referenced in Finding Nemo where the shark was also called Bruce. The Planet Earth 3 series was not exclusively about sharks but they did make quite a few appearances.
21 Liz Truss Plot
This is perhaps my favourite cartoon I got published this year based on the famous engraving of the Gunpowder Plot by Crispijn de Posse the Elder (on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London). Around bonfire night everyone tries to tie current events into the gunpowder plot and Liz Truss and her supporters rather than hiding were plotting with their own take on how the government should be run (because they did so well last time). I got to redraw the etching in a fun cartoon style.