Here’s my cartoon comparing the sizes of the worst pandemics in history.
The cartoon may look familiar; I’ve been updating it as deaths from COVID-19 have been growing through the year, with deaths now rounded off at 300,000 in the USA and 1,600,000 worldwide. That’s our coronavirus in the lower right corner – here’s what he looked like a couple of months ago on September 20th when there were “only” 950,000 worldwide deaths and he didn’t even merit legs.
Moving back to August 3rd, COVID-19 was looking pretty tiny at only 690,000 worldwide deaths.
Our coronavirus was little more than a speck back on March 30th when the worldwide death estimate was only “thousands.”
COVID deaths are skyrocketing now and I’ll keep updating the cartoon every month or two. It is likely that our COVID-19 character will grow larger than the combined 17th Century Great Plagues (bottom row left) that were resurgences of the Bubonic Plague in Europe. Later this Spring, COVID-19 may stand taller than the Antonin Plague (top row right) that killed as much as one third of the population of the Roman Empire in 165 to 180 AD and was suspected to be either smallpox or measles.
With so many people who won’t have access to a vaccine, or who reject taking a vaccine, there’s no telling how long I’ll keep updating this cartoon, and how big COVID will grow.
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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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My new coronavirus cartoon is something of an infographic, comparing the sizes of all of the world’s great pandemics. Each virus monster is sized to approximate the number of deaths in each pandemic.
I know this isn’t what editors want to see from editorial cartoons. Editors like funny jokes –but I love infographics. I drew a syndicated comic called TRUE! in the 1990’s, inspired by the cute infographics in USA Today.
(I kept flashing back to my Muppet days when I drew this, and kept wanting to put the ping-pong ball eyes on the tops of the “heads”.)
Lots of people ask me to post my roughs online. I hate doing that, but you want it, so I do it. Here’s the sketch.
I’m posting these first on Instagram (@daryl.cagle). I don’t have a lot of followers on Instagram. Come follow me and you’ll see some early, exclusive stuff, like my terrible, messy sketches! Here’s a detail …
The editor at the Albuquerque Journal and a professor at George Washington University spotted an error in my cartoon and I issued a correction. This is the original, incorrect cartoon is below, the corrected version is above. Can you spot the error and correction? (answer below).
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The error was that I left our a decimal point on Ebola – the deaths were 11.3K, not 113K – ten times less!
Some good news for a change.
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The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians still looms large in cartoons around the world, with an endless flow of cartoons from Arab countries showing monster-Israel assaulting, eating, crushing or somehow decimating the poor Palestinians.The dove of peace has been killed by Israel in every imaginable cartoon – crushed, squeezed, stabbed, burned, eaten.Poor bird.
The conflict goes on forever, long after every original cartoon idea has been exhausted.Americans don’t see much of these cartoons because they would be regarded here as anti-Semitic at worst, or as the same thing over and over, at best.
After Algeria, my Middle East speaking tour took me to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.At my first event in Cairo I spoke to a group of Egyptian journalists who brought a newspaper up to me, proudly pointing out that in Egypt, editorial cartoons are often printed big and in color on the front page of the newspaper.The cartoon they showed me would make an American editor choke; it showed a spitting snake, in the shape of a Star of David; inside the snake/star was a peace dove, behind bars, and above the snake, in Arabic, were the words, “It’s not about the bird flu, it’s about the swine flu.”
I explained that in America this cartoon would be regarded as anti-Semitic, and it would never be printed.The Egyptian journalists were emphatic, explaining to me that the cartoon was about Israel, not about Jews – an important distinction to them.
“Israel isn’t mentioned anywhere in the cartoon,” I said.
“But we all know the Jewish star is the symbol of Israel,” they responded.
I said, “It is a religious symbol.It is the same as if I took the star and crescent off of the flag of Pakistan and drew a similar cartoon, saying it was about Pakistan.” They didn’t respond to me, my comment was such nonsense. I continued,“The cartoon seems to say that Jews are like snakes and pigs.”
“No, no!We have lots of symbols for Israel that we all know, like the Jew with black clothes and a big hooked nose!” one of the Egyptian journalists insisted with some passion.“We like Jews, we just don’t like Israel!”
The newspaper with the cartoon disappeared when I mentioned that I would like to scan the cartoon for a column about our spirited conversation.The Egyptian journalists all continued to insist that I misunderstood what the cartoon meant.
I had an opportunity to meet with a group of Palestinian editorial cartoonists in Gaza by teleconference.I sympathize with their plight; the poor cartoonists had almost no outlets to print their cartoons.One of the Gaza cartoonists showed me a cartoon he was proud of, showing an alligator eating a dove.I told him I didn’t understand the cartoon, and he explained that the alligator was blue, “which everyone understands to be Israel” and the dove had green wings, “which everyone understands to be Palestine.”
I tried to come up with some advice for the Gaza cartoonists on how to get their work published.I suggested that they could submit their work to international publications, but that it would be tough if every cartoon was another Israel/monster cartoon.The cartoonists responded to say that in Gaza, they are under siege, and they don’t care to draw anything else.
I suggested that the Gaza cartoonists need to coax Western editors into printing their cartoons, and they would do well to consider some other angles, for example, drawing about their personal experiences and day-to-day difficulties.Palestinian cartoons criticizing Hamas and Fatah are rarely seen and would get reprinted.I spoke with one West Bank Palestinian cartoonist, Amer Shomali, who lost his gig with his newspaper because he insisted on drawing cartoons critical of Fatah; he was so frustrated that he rented a billboard to post a Fatah cartoon that his newspaper refused to publish.The billboard was swiftly taken down.
I explained to the Gaza cartoonists that when the Israel/Palestine conflict is big in the news, and we post cartoons about the topic on our site, our www.cagle.msnbc.com traffic goes down.Americans are not very interested in events that happen outside of America, especially when it is the same news story, year after year.I told them that the most popular topic ever on our site was Janet Jackson’s boob, and that our readers really like cartoons about cute puppies.Hearing this, the Gaza cartoonists stared at me blankly, and then urged me to organize an international exhibition of cartoons that highlight their plight at the hands of Israel.
Not all Palestinian cartoonists fit the same Israel/monster mold.I met two interesting West Bank cartoonists in Ramallah.The cartoon below is by Khalil Abu Arafeh, who has a nice style and range; he draws for the Al Quds, the big newspaper in the West Bank.This cartoon is about the United Nations Goldstone report, when they were looking for witnesses to testify about Israeli war crimes in the recent Gaza incursion, a lady stands out from the crowd saying, “We are all witnesses.”
Another interesting Palestinian cartoonist in Ramallah is Ramzy Taweel, who draws about everyday life in the West Bank, and posts his cartoons on Facebook here.I regret that they are all in Arabic, and incomprehensible to most of our American audience, but the cartoons are quite nice. Â Befriend Ramzy and take a look at his cartoons.It would be good if we could send a few new Facebook friends Ra
After meeting with the Egyptian journalists and Palestinian cartoonists, I spoke in Israel to close to three hundred students in a crowded auditorium at the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design and to a Journalism class at Hebrew University.I also spoke to a journalism class in the West Bank, at Birzeit University. The students were all great fun.
Thanks again to the U.S. State Department for arranging the trip and the speaking engagements.