When it comes to editorial cartooning, quality is often tied to “which side of the aisle” you are on. I’m sure conservatives wish Garry Trudeau was never born, while liberals view Mallard Fillmore with an air of disgust and revulsion.
Jen Sorenson falls into the wider ranging category that is typified by comedian Lewis Black. Granted, her cartoons show a liberal, that is, “tolerant” bent, but, in like an impatient conservative, she rails against stupidity in all its forms.
Slowpoke, One Nation, Oh My God!, the latest collection of her syndicated Slowpoke strip, has bite, but doesn’t draw blood. That’s only because Sorenson’s arguments are presented with too much intelligence and logic to ever be totally mean.
The collection covers cartoons from before the 2004 US Presidential election right up to the primaries for the 2008 election. This is a heady time for political cartoonists. It was the era of George W. Bush’s freefall in popularity, the rise in social networking sites, and an upturn of conspicuous consumer consumption. And Sorenson has something to say about all of it.
Yes, the Bush White House, and the neo-con America it represents, provides fodder for many of the cartoons in the book, but Sorenson also aims at targets such as big business, the lack of environmental awareness, the American pursuit of the latest fad, and a wide range of other topics. Even the Democrats in Congress are not immune to her viewpoints, as she calls them out for their lack of backbone in opposing Bush and his cronies.
Sorenson attacks all the topics with an attitude of common sense and a desire to shine a light on the hypocrisy of certain types of conventional wisdom, no matter what ideology they represent. Her arguments are well researched and expertly given. A certain amount of indignation comes through in her strips, but you get the sense she is trying to have people rise to action instead of just getting a rise out of them.
Artistically, she portrays her ideas succinctly and clearly. Her style, while totally her own, shows the influence of Matt Groening, Peter Bagge and Tom Toles. Her characters range from simple caricature to the lipstick-shaped head she gives President Bush to the perpetual lustful look she gives her own Drooly Julie. This diversity in presentation keeps things fresh and exciting, stimulating the reader’s eye while keeping the mind focused on the point Sorenson is trying to make.
While you might be able to find most of these strips on line, there is a major selling point for this collection. Under each strip, Sorenson writes a paragraph or two about the topic at hand. Not only does this give an insight into her creative process—something this reviewer always loves to see—but also tells funny behind-the-scenes stories about each cartoon.
She explains how she meant an eggplant in the shape of the head of Rush’s Geddy Lee to represent the Danish cartoonist controversy, and also tells us which cartoon was widely misinterpreted by her audience and how. Each entry is fascinating and funny in their own right, and gives us not only information about the panels above it, but also about the artist herself.
If you are conservative, then Slowpoke, One Nation, Oh My God! will probably irritate you more than enlighten you. But, if you are able to keep an open mind, you will experience an artist with a defined point of view who can illustrate her points in a logical yet amusing fashion. And that is what makes for great editorial cartooning.