Skip to main content

How international cartoonists see Gadhafi

By Liza Donnelly, Special to CNN
  • Liza Donnelly says cartoonists are struggling with how to draw Gadhafi in this brutal period
  • She describes how eight cartoonists from around the world take on the subject
  • Some show him looking clueless or toppling from perch; others show carnage of his reign
  • Donnelly: Middle East news is moving fast; cartoons capture it, speak volumes in an instant

Editor's note: Liza Donnelly is a contract cartoonist for The New Yorker Magazine. She conceived of and is editor for World Ink, a division of, which is expressly for the publication of international political cartoons. Liza is a charter member of the international group Cartooning for Peace founded by French cartoonist Plantu. Her most recent book is When Do They Serve The Wine?

(CNN) -- Cartoonists are struggling with how to draw Moammar Gadhafi. He used to be a clown. Now he is a horror.

He has been around many years, and cartoonists have been lampooning him every step of the way. He is easy to draw and instantly recognizable. But how to depict him now -- and how to handle the bloody, tragic violence he is unleashing in Libya -- can be a difficult challenge for artists.

Difficult, but not impossible, as these international cartoonists demonstrate in their powerful cartoons.

The dictator's image can be stylized, as in the portrait by Turkish-born cartoonist Hayati Boyacioglu, or gritty, as drawn by Marc Beaudet of Canada. Tom Scott, a cartoonist from New Zealand, shows us the dictator in detail, and with just a few words adds insight into Gadhafi's cluelessness.

How to handle the bloody, tragic violence he is unleashing in Libya can be a difficult challenge for artists
--Liza Donnelly
Is opposition waning in Tripoli?
Possible military aid to Libya

A Belgian, Pierre Kroll, draws the most minimal of lines to indicate Gadhafi toppling from his perch to land on his people's carnage. The extent of the dictator's murderous reign is shown in comparison with that of other recent rulers. Stavros, a cartoonist from Lebanon, combines his caricature of Gadhafi piloting a coffin with real photographs of bombs, lending further symbolic heft to the cartoon.

My own cartoon was inspired by seeing Gadhafi, in his first bizarre speech after the uprisings in Libya, holding an umbrella. I combined it with the Muslim tradition of removing shoes to indicate utter disrespect.

While it may be easy to caricature a man, themes and trends can be approached more broadly. The uprising in Libya, as hinted in Pierre Kroll's cartoon, is following those in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain. Cartoonists look for such trends, and try to find visual ways to speak to them.

International cartoonists particularly have to rely on images more than words. Canadian cartoonist André-Philippe Côté uses simple lines to convey the contrast between people and force, and in his depiction of people, we see resolve. Finally, Cécile Bertrand from Belgium steps back even further to point to what he believes to be a significant connection between Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the cause of peace.

The news in the Middle East is moving very fast, and cartoonists have to work quickly to capture it in their own style and creative voice. These cartoonists show us the power of cartoons to speak volumes in an instant.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Liza Donnelly.