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Updated Pandemic Comparison

Back in March I drew a kind of cartoon graph, comparing the size of pandemics in history. March seems like a long time ago now, and some readers have emailed me suggesting that I should update the cartoon to reflect the most recent COVID-19 death count –so I did that. Here’s the updated cartoon.

UPDATED 8/4/20: I thought I would re-write this as a syndicated newspaper column, so that’s what you see below, followed by the original blog post. – Daryl

Comparing Pandemics in a Cartoon

I’m an editorial cartoonist. Back in March I drew a cartoon infographic, comparing the size of major pandemics through recorded history. March seems like a long time ago. Lots of readers emailed me suggesting that I should update the cartoon to reflect the growing COVID-19 death count – so I did that.

I got angry mail, in response to the cartoon, from liberal readers who thought I was making the Trump administration’s arguments, minimizing the tiny COVID-19 monster as a “small” concern, like “the flu.” That wasn’t my intent. I was just interested in how the pandemics actually compared.

I’ve thought about drawing another cartoon comparing COVID19 with the most common causes of death in the world. The most recent stats I can find are from the World Health Organization in 2016 where COVID-19 would come in just behind malaria, suicide and HIV/AIDS, and would have double the death total of homicide and malnutrition – but it would still be a tiny speck compared to cardiovascular disease and cancer, so it isn’t easy to draw. Also, there are no easy, round, spikey monsters that represent suicide, malnutrition, homicide and heart disease.

Some readers thought I didn’t minimize COVID19 enough; they point out that a more important measurement is the percentage of the world’s population that died in each pandemic. The population of the world has grown exponentially in past centuries, making the Bubonic Plague tower over all the other pandemics with an estimated 200 million dead in a world that had close to 400 million in total population during the 1300’s.

Small Pox killed an estimated 56 million in the 1500’s, out of a total population estimated between 425 million and 550 million.

The Spanish Flu killed an estimated 40 to 50 million around 1918 and 1919 when the world population was between 1.8 and 2 billion.

The United Nations estimates the current world population 7.8 billion. If I adjusted the sizes of the spikey, round monsters in the cartoon to account for the estimated world population, the biggest pandemic monsters would be even bigger, and the smallest monsters would be even tinier specks. It would be impossible to draw that cartoon.

It is tough being a cartoonist in a pandemic.  – Daryl Cagle


Here’s the original blog post.

Back in March I drew a cartoon infographic, comparing the size of pandemics in history. March seems like a long time ago now, and some readers have emailed me suggesting that I should update the cartoon to reflect the most recent COVID-19 death count –so I did that. Here’s the updated cartoon.

I added a tiny 8/3/20 date under my signature, anticipating that as deaths skyrocket, I may be updating the cartoon a few more times with a growing COVID-19 monster. Since the cartoon can’t be reprinted until at least tomorrow, I added in the most recent daily rate and rounded off. I suppose I’ll release a new, updated version of the cartoon every month, as COVID-19 becomes more of a menace compared to his predecessors.

Here is the first version from March.

As the world continues to spin further into the pandemic apocalypse every month, I may make this into an animated gif to show the COVID-19 monster growing.

I got some angry mail in response to this cartoon, from liberal readers who thought I was making the Trump administration’s argument, minimizing COVID-19 as a “small” concern, like “the flu.” That wasn’t my intent. I’ve thought about drawing another cartoon comparing the most common causes of death in the world. The most recent stats I can find are from the World Health Organization in 2016 where COVID-19 would come in just behind malaria, suicide and HIV/AIDS, and would have double the death total of homicide and malnutrition –but it would still be a tiny speck compared to cardiovascular disease and cancer, so it isn’t easy to draw.

I’m still thinking about it.


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2 replies on “Updated Pandemic Comparison”

Every Pandemic noted came years ago with the exception of the Spanish Flu, when hardly any Medical Science existed.

The Bubonic Plague did NOT kill 200 million but about 25 million. Other numbers are also exaggerated. Left out: “During the 20th century, it is estimated that smallpox was responsible for 300–500 million deaths.” Why is Coronavirus much smaller than Ebola, which killed far fewer? Cartoons, satire, etc are meant to expose lies, not promote them.

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