If... (comic)

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If... is an ongoing political comic strip which appears in the UK newspaper The Guardian, written and drawn by Steve Bell since its creation in 1982.



If... is a sharp and cynical satirisation of British politics and current affairs from a left wing perspective. It's named after the famous Rudyard Kipling poem[1]. Suiting both Bell's anarchic artistic style and the paper's political stance, it consists of a short (usually three-panel) daily episode in each Monday to Thursday edition of the paper, with subjects usually covered in these 4-day-long segments. A guest strip appears on Friday, usually The Perry Bible Fellowship. If... occasionally utilises wordplay and coarse humour - Bell is fond of using the pejorative British word "wanker" and its euphemistic variants, for example. With the Guardian's move to new presses, If... started to appear in full colour in September 2005. Initially, the title was reflected in the concept, with each week presenting a separate stand-alone story such as 'If... Dinosaurs roamed Fleet Street,' or 'If the Bash Street Kids ran the country'. This shifted into a different approach during the 1982 Falklands/Mavinas war, when Bell started to concentrate on two central characters - Royal Navy officer Kipling and the Penguin he befriends.


Many of the political and other public figures who are lampooned gain in-joke characteristics, which often build into plot strands of their own. Examples include:

Prime ministers

  • Margaret Thatcher, depicted with a mad, staring eye, a pointed nose, wide neck, big hair and generally masculine features.
  • John Major, who began appearing with underpants on the outside of the trousers of his suit, when it was claimed that he tucked his shirt into them. Bell referred to this as "the badge of an essentially crap Superman". (Ironically, this report turned out to have been false, having been made up by Alastair Campbell during his late days on the Daily Mirror [1]. Nevertheless, it fitted popular perceptions of Major's naive suburban incompetence so well that many people today still believe it to be true.)
  • Tony Blair, depicted with the same mad, staring eye as Margaret Thatcher and a very pointed head which, along with his ears, can be used to make any object (speed cameras, pylons, giant eye, poodle) represent him, playing upon his increasingly authoritarian image.
  • Gordon Brown, depicted as a grumpy ruthless Scot and can be used to make any object (bear, snail, lion, Stalin) to represent him.

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