How cartoonists are chronicling the ‘wild’ Jan. 6 hearings


As Adam Zyglis watched the public hearings of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, his mind soon went to Maurice Sendak.

Sendak, of course, authored such classic children’s books as “Where the Wild Things Are.” That title resonated with Zyglis, the political cartoonist at the Buffalo News, when talk during Tuesday’s hearings centered on a tweet from Dec. 19, 2020 — in which President Donald Trump called upon his supporters to attend a Jan. 6 protest that he said “will be wild.”

That tweet was preceded by what The Washington Post called a “wild session”: a tense and hot-tempered six-hour Oval Office meeting Dec. 18, during which White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson texted, “The west wing is UNHINGED.”

Zyglis decided to draw Trump dressed as Max, the lonely boy leader in Sendak’s fantasy who tames forest monsters, joining them in a “wild rumpus” before ordering them to stop. In Zyglis’s cartoon riff, the monsters are labeled as the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — sporting a QAnon pin, a MAGA hat and a Stop the Steal flag.

“The beasts in Sendak’s story nicely captured the sense of unruly anarchy of these right-wing extremist groups,” Zyglis says, with Trump “perfectly cast” as the child king.

“Satire and visual metaphor are instructive and therapeutic in times like these, when many of our ideals are being threatened,” says the cartoonist, who thinks that “these hearings have been confirming what the majority of Americans already knew, but in disturbing detail and clarity.”

“As a huge fan of Sendak,” he adds, “I only hope it would have given him a smile.”

Ann Telnaes, too, created a striking cartoon that nods to a previous work.

Days after the 1972 Watergate break-in, then-Post cartoonist Herblock drew the footprints of multiple scandals all leading suspiciously to the White House.

Telnaes, a Post cartoonist and animator, this week drew footprints — as a metaphor for real evidence — all leading to Trump.

“I’ve watched all the hearings, and some of the information isn’t new, but there’s still been stunning information which has come to light,” Telnaes says via email. “For example, while the Hutchinson testimony about Trump grabbing the steering wheel and lunging for the driver [inside the presidential SUV as the Capitol riot unfolded] was a wonderful visual for cartoonists, the eye-opener for me was her conversation on Jan. 2nd with [Rudy] Giuliani while walking him out to his car, and then her subsequent talk with her boss, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“They knew what was about to happen at the Capitol,” continues Telnaes, adding: “Herblock-inspired footprints all leading to Trump seemed apropos.”

Mike Luckovich also views Trump as central to the insurrection attempt, so he drew the then-president yelling a film director’s command — “Action!” — at protesters.

“After considering what I’d heard in the latest hearing, it became even more obvious Trump was the ringleader and was directing his misguided followers to attack the Capitol,” says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution political cartoonist.

The hearings offer so much potential satiric fare that Luckovich imagines them “like smorgasbords” for cartoonists. Does he draw lawyer Sidney Powell “ruining a company’s good name by drinking a Diet Dr Pepper during her testimony? Do I do a cartoon on those two deprogrammed former Trump supporters, who like millions of other gullible Americans were conned by Trump?”

Plus, Luckovich’s deadline means he has only a few hours to finish his cartoon from when each day’s hearings begin — a tight window he finds exhilarating.

Luckovich says the hearings have surpassed his expectations. “I have a feeling many people that may have initially believed the big lie — that the election was stolen — are now having serious second thoughts.”

Here is how some other cartoonists are chronicling the hearings:

“Sometimes cartoon ideas don’t come out easily … like trying to get ketchup out of the bottom of the bottle. I actually could not think of anything condiment-related at first. … The following day, it hit me that this splatter on the White House wall is a good summation of his presidency. That’s when this idea oozed out, like ketchup from a plastic squeeze bottle. Two of Trump’s biggest flaws were a lack of respect for the law and a lack of self-control, and these were on full display in the ketchup incident,” referring to when an angered Trump threw his lunch at the White House walls, causing ketchup to drip down them, according to testimony by Hutchinson.

Steve Breen, San Diego Union-Tribune

Meet the fans who follow the Jan. 6 hearings as must-see TV

“The Jan. 6 committee hearings are unfortunately a Rorschach test. … Evidence and revelations [show] an orchestrated coup attempt, if you are horrified by Trump and his narcissistic antics. Or a biased, unfair attempt to smear a ‘spirited’ rally in support of a legitimately aggrieved ex-president — if you are fan of Trumpism. The political moment we’ve been enduring since 2016 continues to feel otherworldly, as if we entered some anti-normal, diversionary wormhole. While staring at the astonishing pics sent back by the James Webb Space Telescope, the parallels seemed to lend themselves to a cartoon.”

“Each of these unique characters — Rudy Giuliani, [Rep.] Marjorie Taylor Greene, Sidney Powell et al. — have slowly emerged over Trump’s reign and the Jan 6. aftermath. I thought they all seemed like a motley crew of ridiculous supervillains. … Central Casting couldn’t have done a better job casting these clowns.”

Dave Whamond, Cagle Cartoons

“It’s clear to anyone not deluded by right-wing media that Trump is a thug who learned civics from mobsters.”

Patrick Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) “makes my job easier. I thought things would get dull after Trump wandered off.” (Cheney, vice chair of the committee investigating the attack, has said that multiple criminal referrals could be on the way, adding: “The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral.”)

— Jeff Danziger, The Rutland Herald

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