Rarely do I not owe the morning's first smile to Steve Bell, the multi-prize winning Guardian cartoonist and the man who turned a president into a chimpanzee. The Bush-monkey idea has, in the past five years, been copied a million times around the world. The idea crops up on hundreds of websites. I've seen tee shirts with the image on, badges, posters and even a huge papier mache head-piece being worn at the anti-G8 at Gleneagles back in July.
In this morning's Guardian, Bell writes how the Bush-monkey idea came to him. Says Bell:
"I first drew Bush as a monkey after his installation by the Supreme Court, exactly five years ago. It was by accident. I was trying to depict him as a spiritual heir to Ronald Reagan, another useless chump whose most celebrated movie hit was Bedtime For Bonzo in which he starred with a chimp. So Bush became a chimp before I ever realised how closely he resembles our hairy forebears. Somewhat dim-wittedly, in retrospect, I had been trying to depict him as a turkey, because Bush's reputation for uselessness was growing as we got to know him, and (barring underpants) there is no better symbol of uselessness than that poor, maligned bird. But no amount of drawing him as a turkey would ever make him look like a turkey."
"...There was something about the way he held his arms as he walked up; then, as he faced the cameras, his mouth formed into a distinct pout. He moved like a chimp, walked like a chimp and even talked like a chimp. This was no play acting; George Bush actually was a chimp.
"...Some have written complaining that my depiction lacks subtlety and fails to convey his unique qualities and depth of character as a politician. I reply that I would be failing in my duty if I refused to acknowledge his unique qualities as a chimpanzee, for how often does a leader of the free world come along who resembles a monkey in every particular? Depth of character requires complexity, even contradiction. Bush betrays no such doubts or uncertainties. His confidence in his line of communication with the Almighty is total for the very simple reason that he knows he is God, and that is his most chimp-like feature."
For further Bell cartoons, try the Guardian's Steve Bell archive.