Between The Lines: Toby Morris’s 2017 cartoon stocktake

From Paddles the cat to Donald Trump, the Spinoff’s cartoonist tallies up the faces that he most often drew through the year.

There’s probably an old saying that goes the quickest way to follow history is to follow cartoons. If there isn’t, there should be: a cartoonist’s job is to condense the day’s events into a single panel, so it makes sense that a year of cartoons is a pretty quick and easy way to get a sense of what happened, what mattered and who did it. Or at the very least it’s a quick and easy way to do another end-of-year round up article with pictures.

Using the ancient method of counting, I’ve gone through my year of cartoons and tallied up the times a subject appeared. The results may surprise you. But most likely not. Perhaps you hate the news, or you’ve just arrived in New Zealand. Welcome.

I should probably note too that most of these were originally drawn for RNZ. Thanks RNZ. Everyone who is anyone (as we’ll soon see) changed jobs in late September, it was very 2017.

Most drawn: Bill English (23 appearances)

Well, that’s what being the prime minister for three quarters of the year gets you, doesn’t it? No surprises here. The first time I drew him was a train wreck, which would suggest that even after such a long career he hadn’t made much of an impression on me as a personality. Even in the Key years, when I drew JK with a sidekick, it’d usually be Joyce or Bennett.

But his cartoon persona soon took shape. I started off the year drawing him as a kind of taciturn funeral director type – staunch and humourless, but as time went by a sly grin started sneaking in. The last depictions are warmer and more human – in short, the guy grew on me.

Second equal: Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters (17 apiece)

How appropriate that these two end up together. I told you this was a good measure!

No surprises that our new leader would rank highly, even after beginning the year as an opposition list MP. Indeed, the first few times I drew her this year she was a literally background character, and she didn’t appear at all until late May. The range of facials illustrates her rollercoaster year too: some are terrified, some are confused, some are staunch, but on balance in most of them she is beaming. Fair enough.

Winston Peters, on the other hand, looks almost exactly the same in every drawing I did of him. Maybe because he has looked exactly the same for 40 years. At least.

Fourth: James Shaw (9)

Mr Fourth. The artist Tracey Moffatt once did an amazing series of prints capturing people who’d just come fourth in the Olympics. It’s a particular and peculiar emotion: you did well, but not that well. You didn’t come last, but you also didn’t get a medal. In all my drawings James Shaw looks a bit like someone at the wrong end of the table at a dinner party. He’s got a good point but he can’t get a word in.

Fifth equal: Donald Trump, Steven Joyce and Ngā Mōrehu (7 apiece)

Weirdly fitting that two of the year’s most notable abusers of power are together with the group defined by being abused by those in power.

Drawing Trump in 2017 went from a kid let loose in a candy store to the same kid an hour afterwards. It’s easy pickings, but kind of sickening. Where do you start? Where do you stop?

In every drawing except one Joyce is talking. Spinning. In many of them he’s the scheming sidekick, in the last few he takes centre stage, lying through his teeth about that imaginary hole. To me his credibility took the biggest hit this year.

Ngā Mōrehu, the survivors of abuse in state care, was the story that haunted me most this year. A national disgrace. I really hope they get the closure and resolution they deserve.

The Rest:

Metiria Turei, Peter Thiel, concerned citizen, Gareth Morgan (5 appearances)

Paula Bennett, Andrew Little (4 appearances)

John Key, Grant Robertson (3 appearances)

Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, Don Brash, concerned civil servants, a pie, Peter Dunne, Steve Bannon (2 appearances)

Hawkes Bay Regional Council, a cow, Adele, Wayne Mapp, John Clarke (RIP), Climate Change, Five Eyes, Shinzo Abe, Simon Bridges, Nathan Guy, teal joggers, homeless people, Putin, Zuckerberg, Xi Jinping, Clarke Gayford and Paddles the Cat (1 appearance)

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