Today I Came Upon Philip Zec’s Most Famous Political Cartoons

It’s not every day you come across two of the most famous political cartoons of all time. But, on a sunny Saturday morning trying to escape the Royal Wedding, that’s just what I did.

I’d never been into the Political Cartoon Gallery & Cafe despite living only a few miles up the road. And it was a perfect distraction featuring all sorts of political cartoons, new and old, with a special exhibition of work from the Evening Standard newspaper.

And there was plenty to engage with. From the biggest Gerald Scarfe

…to a Steve Bell in the files…

…and I couldn’t escape the Royals entirely.

But pride of place above the till were two cartoons by Philip Zec. The original art. They may have changed the world.

Zec was a British political cartoonist and editor who moved from advertising industry to drawing political cartoons due to his abhorrence of the rise of fascism. He was considered such an opponent during the Second World War that his name was on a list of persons to be arrested immediately if the Nazis had invaded Britain.

The first cartoon, “The price of petrol has been increased by one penny – Official” was one of a series of pieces attacking war profiteers. Winston Churchill was outraged and Minister of Supply Herbert Morrison called it a “wicked cartoon… worthy of Goebbels at his best”. The government investigated Zec’s past and as to whether or not the Daily Mirror newspaper could be shut down over it.

However, the cartoon next to, created for VE-Day was said to have been a key factor in the Labour Party’s 1945 general election campaign, and the Daily Mirror reproduced it again on its front page before the election as Labour swept into power. And Zec even got an apology from Morrison for his first cartoon’s comments as a result.

Dr Tim Benson, the owner of the gallery, cartoonist and published critic, told me how he bought the first piece for just five thousand pounds in auction (it was estimated to go for £50), and the second was acquired from e-Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan‘s apartment — after he seemed to have taken it home with him when he was fired from the newspaper, after it had hung in his (and Robert Maxwell’s before him) office. All a misunderstanding of course. It is on permanent loan to the gallery.

It’s a wonderful place to browse, whether you are avoiding a royal wedding or not. If you are in the area, do pop in — there’s a comic shop right next door as well…

I wasn’t totally successful in my avoidance strategy. Round the back, there was a street party with a vaguely familiar bouncy castle…

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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