Steve Bell (cartoonist)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Born in Walthamstow, London and raised in Slough, Bell moved to North Yorkshire with his family in 1968, where he trained as an artist at the Teesside College of Art. He graduated in film-making and art at the University of Leeds in 1974 and trained as an art teacher at St Luke's College, Exeter, (nowadays University of Exeter - St. Luke's Campus) in 1975. He taught art for one year in Birmingham before becoming a freelance cartoonist in 1977. His comic strip Maggie's Farm appeared in the London listings magazines Time Out from 1979 and later in City Limits, and Lord God Almighty appeared in The Leveller in the 1970s. In 1980, he contributed a cartoon interpretation of the lyrics to Ivan Meets G.I. Joe to the inner lyric bag of The Clash's triple album Sandinista!.
Steve Bell is probably best known for the daily strip called If..., which has appeared in The Guardian newspaper since 1981, and since the mid-1990s he has also been that newspaper's principal editorial cartoonist. One of Bell's most famous caricatures is of John Major as a dire superhero wearing his Y-fronts on the outside of his clothes, in a parody of Superman. Bell also claims to be the first cartoonist to have spotted Margaret Thatcher's mad left eye, as well as the fact that Tony Blair shares this unusual feature.
Steve Bell has won many awards for his work, including both the political and strip cartoon categories at the Cartoon Arts Trust awards at least eight times since 1997. Many collections of his cartoons have been published, and he has also illustrated original books in collaboration with several authors. He has made short animated films with Bob Godfrey, including a short series of animated cartoons for Channel 4 television in 1999 to mark the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's rise to power, entitled Margaret Thatcher - Where Am I Now?. He has appeared in a radio programme about the life of 18th century caricaturist James Gillray. Earlier in his career he wrote and drew the Gremlins comic strip for the British comic Jackpot.
In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. When he received the UK Press Gazette award in 2004 for Best Cartoonist, in his speech he thanked "George Bush - for looking like a monkey, walking like a monkey and talking like a monkey".
Bell is fond of parodying famous paintings. Examples include his parody of Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (in an editorial cartoon about the UK Independence Party); William Hogarth's The Gate of Calais about the ban on UK meat exports following outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and bovine BSE; and - before the 2005 General Election when it briefly seemed as if the Liberal Democrats might seriously threaten Labour - J.M.W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, in which a chirpy Charles Kennedy as tug-boat towed a grotesque and dilapidated Tony Blair to be broken up.