As a Guardian reader and an admirer of its regular cartoonist Steve Bell it was disappointing to see that his work for them on his daily ‘If . . strip is to be discontinued after nearly 40 years. It is not just that he caters to my lefty leanings but that he is a great drawer, inventive, original and makes me smile. Even occasionally laugh. Seeing the mighty mocked is one thing but there is also the pleasure in his ventures into the absurd and anarchic in apparent contrast to the seriousness of the topics he deals with.
Since the news came out some sources have suggested the break is due to Steve Bell being ‘anti-semitic’, ‘racist and misogynist’. Not true.
Mailing him via his website for permission to use his work here when reporting the end of ‘If . . . ‘ I had a reply that made it clear that it has never been suggested by The Guardian that this unpleasant accusation is the case. The separation from the Guardian was a financial decision on their part and no one there has ever suggested that Steve was being got rid of for reasons of alleged or supposed misogyny, racism or any other misdemeanour. In Steve Bell’s words ” .. the contract ending has everything to do with budget cuts and nothing to do with Priti Effing Patel!“.
In March a Bell editorial cartoon of Home Secretary Priti Patel depicting her with horns on her head and a ring through her nose, had some calling it racist. The Guardian have that cartoon on their website so obviously continue to not think so. In the same drawing Boris Johnson also had horns though no nose -ring. Steve Bells depiction of Johnson has a bare bottom where the face would be, so there is no nose. It is an indication of Steve Bells brilliance that a drawing of a chubby man with yellow hair and a bum for a face is immediately recognisable as the Prime Minister.
So, that aside, we rue the loss of one of the all-time great newspaper strips.
All the images are taken from Steve Bells website. I had difficulty selecting the images since the people and events depicted are now a history not known by all. So, one fairly recent and a couple that include my favourite characters, the penguins. Penguins turned up in the strip after the Falklands War(Guerra de las Malvinas) 1982 and have been behaving badly at various levels of society ever since.
More at www.belltoons.co.uk/bellworks