The strengths of a good cartoon include topicality, mockery, incisive humour, honesty and artistry.
Ron Tandberg worked as a cartoonist for Melbourne newspaper The Age from 1972 until his recent death. A Year of Madness depicts his cartoons for 2017 and, as a bonus, includes a few Tandberg sketches in the final pages. ‘I love to draw in my spare time,’ he wrote. Sketching was his escape from the madness that was 2017.
The strengths of a good cartoon include topicality, mockery (usually of the powerful or famous), incisive humour, honesty and, of course, artistry. There is scarcely a cartoon in this collection that doesn’t tick all those boxes, but the very fact that newspaper cartoons such as Tandberg’s are topical means that they date. To some extent this collection overcomes that issue by quoting below most cartoons a letter to the editor or an extract from an article that may have been an inspiration for the particular cartoon. In this way the reader (or should it be viewer?) gets a gentle memory jog back to the day of the original publication.
Perhaps because he was bullied and beaten at school, Tandberg has been a champion of the little person, the ordinary person, the underdog. So many of his cartoons, as does the cover of this book, show the ordinary person – you and me – as puzzled, perplexed or questioning.
The year 2017 was also the first of the Trump presidency and Trump features in many of the cartoons, such as the one where an ordinary man asks ‘Has [Trump] ever thought of using diplomacy?’ and the ordinary woman answers ‘Only as a last resort’. But Trump is by no means the only politician featured a number of times. Tony Abbott wins the frequency award and Peter Dutton and Barnaby Joyce outperform Malcolm Turnbull, although he doesn’t escape a few mentions either. Rupert Murdoch only makes one appearance with the line: ‘Who needs dual citizenship when you can have dual ownership?’
The Labor Party gets off remarkably lightly, although Sam Dastyari manages to feature and there is one cartoon about Chinese financial donations. Tandberg’s personal political views are there for all to see.
Most of the cartoons deal with national or international affairs but there is a dig at Melbourne as the most liveable city in the world showing a stationary driver in a gridlocked traffic jam wondering how things could be any worse elsewhere.
The term ‘cartoon’ was first used by the humorous English magazine Punch, now defunct. Looking at some of its cartoons from many years ago, many still resonate today because they relate to unchanging aspects of the human condition. As time passes it will likely be the same for this memorable collection.
4 ½ stars
A Year of Madness: the Tandberg Collection
By Ron Tandberg
Wilkinson Publishing 2018
Paperback, 160 pages
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level