For the better part of 150 years, cartoonists of all perspectives have used this eight-limbed, boneless metaphor to heighten people’s awareness of various evils. Originally used to show the menacing political and military threats of 19th-century imperialist European powers, the creature’s ignominious bulbous head and tentacles have, at times, stood for capitalism, communism, Churchill, Hitler, and evil corporate entities such as Standard Oil, among others. The trope lives on in today’s political cartoons; no surprise given the numerous octopi that infiltrate our current, 21st-century lives.
Artist unknown, “Adolf Hitler” (c. 1935–39). France: cartoon caricature from publication.
Artist unknown, “The Fountain of Taxation” (1909). New York: Keppler & Schwarzmann.
Udo Keppler, “Next!” (1904). N.Y. : J. Ottmann Lith. Co.
Featured in Lists: From the Animals Issue