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Les Gibbard, 1945-2010
posted October 12, 2010

Les Gibbard, once the youngest staff cartoonist in Guardian history and a forceful critic of government policy at home and abroad, died on October 10 due to complications following a routine operation. He was 64 years old.

imageGibbard was born and raised in New Zealand. He first learned about cartooning from the artist and former New Zealand Herald cartoonist Gorodon Minhinnick. He worked in New Zealand and Australia before moving to London, where he was initially employed by The Daily Telegraph.

He would switch offices after being hired by the great Alastair Hetherington to assume duties at The Guardian, and eventually become the longest-serving political cartoonist in that publication's history, starting in 1969 and working until 1994 in that role. The 23-year-old Gibbard replaced Bill Papas.

Perhaps Gibbard's best-remembered period was the Falklands War, when a reworking of a World War II-era Phlip Zec cartoon was criticized for its lack of proper fealty to British causes. That cartoon was even held up as proof in the House of Commons that the British media did not support taking military action in the region. He was also a noteworthy critic of Israel when he felt the need to be, as seen in this 1982 cartoon.

Among his long list of clients as an illustrator and cartoonist were The Sunday Mirror, The London Evening Standard and Melody Maker. He seemed to have employed a much simpler style in some of his illustration work, particularly later one, whereas his political cartoons were more traditionally and fully rendered. Gibbard was also an animator, producing a political cartoon series called Newshound and contributing work to a smattering of cartoon features and television shows. His static cartoons appeared on the television show On The Record between 1988 and 1995.

A retrospective of Gibbard's Guardian years was mounted in 2005.

Les Gibbard is survived by his wife of 32 years.