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It’s back to the future as Victorian students are asked to mask up at school

Mark Knight, July 21, 2022 6:00PM Kids News

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Cartoonist Mark Knight has used the famous DeLorean time travelling car from the Back to the Future movie to illustrate Victoria's return to face mask guidelines. media_cameraCartoonist Mark Knight has used the famous DeLorean time travelling car from the Back to the Future movie to illustrate Victoria's return to face mask guidelines.


Reading level: green

This week it was strongly advised, but not mandated*, that students in Victoria wear face masks in the classroom.

Medical professionals recommended wearing masks indoors, saying they provided protection against catching and also spreading Covid-19.

Of course, these protections depend on a few things, like the type of mask being worn and how well it’s fitted. But if you can get an edge on the virus, no matter how small, take it, I say!

The return to masks in schools is a reaction to another outbreak of a high number of Covid infections, which is putting pressure on hospitals and staff. There are also a lot of people off work and home from school sick, and workplaces are considering encouraging people to again work from home.

kids masks media_cameraVictorian school boys Felix, 12, and Oliver, 9, have been asked to wear masks again at school. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

We are into our third year of Covid and we all hoped we’d be rid of it by now and life would be back to normal. But as we now know it’s a resilient* little virus and it returns every now and again, with a new variant* forcing us to go back to our Covid restrictions. Some say it’s like the game of snakes and ladders. We move upwards on the ladders, then slide back when we land on a snake!

I wanted to draw a cartoon on the concept of the backwards and forwards progress of life with the coronavirus.

The idea for the cartoon was simple. I wanted to say that it looks like we have gone back to 2020 when we were living under strict Covid protocols*.

And here we are years later doing it again!

One of the techniques I like to use in my cartoons is metaphors* and images from popular culture. Our lives are enriched by the books we read, movies we watch, television, games and trends on social media. These things become part of our language.

When we hear a phrase from these movies or books it immediately conjures* up a picture in our minds.

When you paste this into a news story it helps describe what you are trying to say about the story.

So with the return of face masks at schools I had an image in my head of the classic Hollywood time travel film Back to the Future.

One of the stars of the movie is the DeLorean car that the crazy Dr Emmett Brown invented to go backwards and forwards in time. It is easily recognisable. Maybe I could use that?

media_cameraA replica of the car from Back to the Future films that inspired Mark Knight’s cartoon.

Staring at the blank piece of paper in front of me, I thought back to the days of dropping my own children off at school. You would all be very familiar with parents approaching the school drop off zone in a line of cars and the kids getting out and heading off to their classrooms.

Imagine if I inserted the DeLorean time machine car into that line, I thought. A flash of light and flames as it pulls up in a haze of blue smoke, a kid alighting from the vehicle and mum waving goodbye. The student surveys the scene around her – the face masks and Covid protocols in force – and wonders what year it is.

That would be cool!

When I drew the cartoon I was quite happy with the result. The scene is one we can all identify with and there’s the nice twist of the time machine pulling up.

One thing I really like when looking at the drawing is that I’m not quite sure whether the cartoon is set in the present or the past.

Did they travel back to 2020? That is a nice little mystery.


  • mandated: made a rule or law that must be obeyed
  • resilient: able to survive or recover quickly from difficult conditions
  • variant: something that is slightly different from other similar things
  • protocols: official procedures and rules
  • metaphors: imaginative ways of describing something by referring to something else which is similar in some way
  • conjures: makes something appear, as if by magic


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  1. What movie did Mark Knight base his cartoon on?
  2. Why did he think this was a good movie to use to help illustrate how we are living with Covid-19?
  3. As well as using the movie as a metaphor, what game does Mark mention in the story to describe Covid’s impact on our lives?
  4. What type of car is the time machine from the movie and in Mark’s cartoon?
  5. What does Mark really like about his drawing?


1. What happens next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the start of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Being able to draw is only one of the skills needed to be a great cartoonist. Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job.

Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design

Stretch your sentence
Find a “who” in the cartoon. Write them down.

Add three adjectives to describe them better.

Now add a verb to your list. What are they doing?

Add an adverb about how they are doing the action.

Using all the words listed, create one descriptive sentence

Extra Reading in humanities