But as budgets shrink and page counts dwindle in the alt-weeklies that have nurtured the brand of alternative political cartooning that Sorensen has built her career on – think work like Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World or Keith Knight's The K Chronicles – the future of the form is in doubt. Sorensen is lucky to be able to make a living doing what she does anywhere. But will the next generation of political cartoonists be able to make a living doing what she does anywhere?
The important thing to remember about political cartooning is that it's an old art form, long predating its cousins: the American comic strip (which dates back to the 1890s) and the comic book (which was conceived as an original entity in the 1930s). Political cartoons have been a vital and essential part of our national dialogue since before there was a nation to dialogue about. You can trace the form's origins in this country from Ben Franklin's "Join, or Die" cartoon from 1754, through the Civil War-era work of Thomas Nast in Harper's (where he first represented Republicans as elephants and Democrats as donkeys) to the establishment of the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1922, to its contemporary form, having devoured all of the above as well as sequential comics like Doonesbury and the apolitical work of artists like Robert Crumb. The result has been a medium that's relevant to the interests and tastes of a contemporary audience who hungers for its political news to be served with a heaping serving of ironic detachment. A medium that's vibrant, vital, smart, funny-as-shit – and dying out.
"When you look at The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, what they're doing, really, is political cartoons," Sorensen says. "There's a tremendous appetite for political humor, so it doesn't make sense to us – why would papers cut their comics?"