Reading through huge headlines, small subtexts and long articles can get tedious after a point, but political comics make it all easier. In the era of a lot of political conflict and debate, political comics act as an important tool of awareness.
News and commentary about the socio-political scene in India are usually filled with heavy words and immaculate writing which often skips the ones who need to read it the most, but with the rise of comics in newspapers, and now social media - things have been changing.
Making social and political issues more accessible and understandable has been around for a while. From R. K. Laxman’s well known Common Man satire to Kesava Shankar Pillai’s Shankar’s Weekly, cartoons have been a largely successful story-telling tool. Groups like Aisi Taisi Democracy and for brief moments even All India Backhod dabble into political humour as a method of awareness through comedy.
This approach, one of lightheartedness, comedy and caricature is one that has been dominating not just the small section dedicated to it in the newspapers but now, even social media. Why has there been such a growth in the world of political comics?
Why Political Comics Are Now Everywhere On Social Media
For the longest time, politics stayed the topic of discussion between the elderly, now the political shift seems to have changed the face of how we see the world. Teens, young adults and barely adults all are invested in the political discourse through social media.
This shift from just newspapers and news outlets to now social media, has made politics more open to the public. Social media has changed the structure of political discourse, this is where political cartoonists and cartoons find their way to the centre stage.
Sabari Venu, a city-based cartoonist, known for his Malayalam pun-based comics on @meancurry, says - “People who read my comics are young and this is the best medium to reach them.” He also adds that social media allows one to put out cartoons on any issue free of editorialising and gatekeeping.
This is the main reason that political comics are now shifting to social media instead of newspapers, the artist has the last word. There are no extra edits or cutting down that has to be taken care of, the artist has the freedom to put out a comic that he feels fit.
Another reason these comics work so well on social media is the fact that the entire concept of social media thrives on liking and reposting or retweeting images. Comics that still educate while also garnering a laugh fit perfectly into that framework.
Appupen, another city-based cartoonist said - “The mainstream was so loud. With the central narrative, catering to a certain section, social media gave smaller voices a platform.”
“I choose my topics on the basis of what appeals to me. Often, I talk about things that might not be getting much traction on the news,” says Appupen. This sort of freedom and ease of mind is what has political comics making the rounds on Twitter and Instagram.
To sum it up, political cartoonists have found their comfort zone on social media - amongst a more accepting crowd, in a less monitored environment and a non-politically driven arena.