An editorial cartoonist, also known as a political cartoonist, is an artist who draws editorial cartoons that contain some level of political or social commentary. Their cartoons are usually based upon day to day news and current affair topics. It can also be a national or international topics.
The most common outlet for political cartoonists is the editorial page of the newspaper, not the dedicated comic section, although certain cartoons or comic strips have achieved crossover status. In some countries, as like in India, the most common and popular appearance of such cartoons are at page one, called as pocket cartoons, mostly located at first column of the page. R. K. Laxman, Sudhir Dar, Mario Miranda, E. P. Unny, Shekhar Gurera, Ajit Ninan etc. are some very popular editorial cartoonists through their commentaries in their daily pocket cartoons.
Most editorial cartoons lack the type of explicitly partisan political opinion found on the rest of the editorial page, instead opting for humor that reflects the conventional wisdom of readers. Nevertheless, the presence of explicitly partisan, critical and satirical humor is growing in editorial cartoons as partisan opinion and argument continue to play a larger role in News Media as a whole. In recent years the internet has become an excellent means for distributing short format media, humor, and minority political opinions, leading to a large growth in the popularity of online alternative editorial cartoons.
There is a Pulitzer Prize awarded every year for America's top editorial cartoonist — as decided by a panel of senior media industry professionals and media academics (see Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning). Other major awards given each year to editorial cartoonists include the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club, and the Herblock Prize.
The largest organization of political cartoonists is the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) which has over 300 members. The National Cartoonists Society in the United States also welcomes editorial cartoonists.
There are several North American books that have collected together the majority of cartoonists being published at the time. Attack of the Political Cartoonists, written by J. P. Trostle, was published in 2004 and includes profiles of 150 mainstream American and Canadian cartoonists. Attack was an effort to update the 1962 tome Today's Cartoon, by New Orleans States-Item cartoonist John Chase, which included most of the editorial cartoonists working in the U.S. at the height of the Cold War. And the 3-volume Attitude series includes some of the political cartoonists who have appeared in alternative newspapers and online — see Attitude: The New Subversive Cartoonists.
There are also a number of North American annual collections published each year, including Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year from Pelican Publishing, Best Political Cartoons of the Year from Daryl Cagle, and Portfoolio, which showcases the best Canadian cartoons of the year.