A picture is worth a thousand words? How about a cartoon …

The Iraq war is spawning more than just controversial pictures. It’s also generating a bevy of editorial cartoons across the globe. Those who enjoy the politics of the pencil can peruse some of the best cartoons thanks to a superb Web site.

Daryl Cagle maintains the Professional Cartoonists Index at Slate magazine, for which he is also the cartoonist. This cartoon compendium catalogues the editorial work of dozens of creators.

The index is fairly broad and quite a lot of fun to sort through. In addition to cartoons about the Iraq war and terrorism, Cagle collects cartoons on all sorts of recent hot topics: Donald Trump, “The Passion of the Christ,” obesity in America, file-swapping and so many more.

The cartoons are just as easy to read on the site as they are in a newspaper or magazine. And each cartoon comes with the ability to e-mail it to a friend, as well as e-mail the cartoonist, visit his own site, or instantly and easily look at his archived cartoons.

The cartoonists come from all over: Denver Post, San Antonio Express-News, Mobile Register, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Louisville Courier-Journal, and the list goes on and on, tallying more than 100 American cartoonists alone. (There’s also a section on cartoons from around the world, which is eye-opening all by itself.)

Cagle has devoted a whole section to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. One cartoon shows Rumsfeld lying down, tethered to a leash held by President Bush. “Sorry, Don,” says Bush, “but from now on I’m keeping you on a short leash.”

And that may be one of the kinder, gentler cartoons.

“I have been seeing some blistering editorial cartoons lately,” wrote Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute. “The Iraq prison scandal has led to some of the most striking cartoons since September 11.”

The site offers plenty more.

Cagle maintains a cartoon blog on the site, and he offers a teacher’s guide for using the cartoons in courses like social sciences, art, English and journalism. The guide provides lesson plans for elementary, middle and high schools.

One can sign up for a free e-newsletter of the editorial cartoons, and also acquire the cartoons for use in publications on a pay-per-use basis.

The site brings the oft-overlooked craft of political cartooning into fascinating relief, and anyone who keeps up with current events will most certainly be engaged by the work of these editorial masters.

The site is extremely well built with solid functionality. This, combined with incredible content, makes the Professional Cartoonists Index well worth a visit.

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

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