So this time, the illustrator prepared herself: “I simply planned to draw my character Lekesia holding her head in anguish — no words.”
Then came the words from the courtroom: Chauvin was guilty on all three charges of murder and manslaughter. Would the artist go back to the drawing board?
“It was my son, Chase, who said to me that my original idea could still work,” says Brandon-Croft, creator of the comic strip “Where I’m Coming From,” which featured Lekesia, and the first African American woman to be nationally syndicated to mainstream newspapers.
To convey a mood of the moment, her son suggested Lekesia could be covering her face and peeping through her fingers.
“I was like: Yes!” the cartoonist says. “Once I started getting it down, I felt the need to also add in the hope I was feeling. Still no words, really — just a kaleidoscope of raw emotions running the gamut.”
Brandon-Croft’s poignant comic was among the images that artists were creating and adapting on deadline.
An hour before the verdict, Vancouver-based cartoonist Pia Guerra decided she would render a cartoon of Chauvin that she believed would stand regardless of the outcome. She considered what it would feel like if he were found not guilty or the verdict were split, and the “huge weight of disappointment” that would result.
“That’s where the emotion welled up — the anger of how often these kinds of injustices happen,” says Guerra, adding: “It would be revealing of what Chauvin was: a monster who lynched a man, openly, arrogantly challenging horrified witnesses with the power of his badge. Either way, it would have been a glaring spotlight, and that’s where the drawing came from.”
She drew Chauvin backdropped by his shadow, which was rendered as a Klansman holding a noose.
“It reveals who Chauvin is,” she says. “It reveals the history of policing in America.”
In Tennessee, Clay Bennett decided to create a cartoon in response Tuesday afternoon, but his deadline would be less than a half-hour after the verdict was read.
“When the jury returned to the courtroom about 5 p.m. [Eastern time], I was already working on the cartoon — a drawing simple enough to produce in the time available that illustrated an idea based on the verdict I hoped the jury would reach,” says the editorial cartoonist for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
When Chauvin was found guilty, Bennett breathed “a huge sigh of relief.”
“It wasn’t the relief of a cartoonist who would make his deadline,” says the artist, who drew a thank you “card” to the jury, “but rather the relief of an American whose faith in the system would survive another day.”
When Mike Luckovich got word Tuesday that the verdict was due in soon, he immediately prepared to pivot.
“Since they hadn’t deliberated very long, I figured it was probably a guilty verdict,” says the political cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. So he drew Judge Peter A. Cahill at the bench, with the jury foreman saying off-frame: “We the jury find Black lives matter …”
Luckovich finished the cartoon, got his editor’s approval and posted it on social media before 6 p.m. Eastern time.
“This is when editorial cartooning is the most fulfilling,” he says, “when you can do a cartoon under a tight time frame on something important that you know will resonate with readers.”
And Steve Brodner, who creates “The Greater Quiet” feature for the Nation, drew in advance a scowling Chauvin pictured within the “G” of the word “guilty.” How could he be so sure?
“I could not believe,” he says, “that 12 jurors could have possibly come to any other conclusion.”