Two tests in cartoon understanding

From the July 2016 issue of Funny Times, two cartoons that are real tests of understanding, the second more so than the first. From Bob Eckstein, a cartoon that is funny on the grounds of sheer silliness:


And from J.C. Duffy, a cartoon that is just incomprehensible unless you have two pieces of (pop-)cultural information:


Big men in funny hats and little cars. Even if you have no handle on the cultural reference in cartoon #1, it’s still funny that grown men should take such pleasure in wearing funny hats and driving around in little cars.

But then you might recognize that those funny hats are in fact fezzes. An iconic feature of Major Hoople in the old Our Boarding House comics (see note on this blog on 9/10/24) and of Matt Groening’s Akbar and Jeff  in the Life in Hell comics (note on this blog on 8/20/14, with a bit on the fez as clothing). And a characteristic item of dress of Shriners on certain ceremonial occasions. Not everybody knows about Shriners.

From Wikipedia:

Shriners International, also commonly known as The Shriners, is a society established in 1870 and is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, USA. It is an appendant body to Freemasonry.

Shriners International describes itself as a fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth. There are approximately 350,000 members from 195 temples (chapters) in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, the Republic of Panama, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Europe, and Australia. The organization is best known for the Shriners Hospitals for Children that it administers, and the red fezzes that members wear.

[Sexism note: Shriners are men only, though there are “ladies’ auxiliaries”. The ladies, bless ’em.]

[Parade Unit:] Most Shrine Temples support several parade units. These units are responsible for promoting a positive Shriner image to the public by participating in local parades. The parade units often include miniature cars powered by lawn mower engines.

… Shriners in St. Louis have several parade motor units, including miniature cars styled after 1932 Ford coupes and 1970s-era Jeep CJ models, and a unit of miniature Indianapolis-styled race cars. Some of these are outfitted with high-performance, alcohol-fueled engines. The drivers’ skills are demonstrated during parades with high-speed spinouts.

A Pittsburgh Shriner in an iconic miniature car participating in a Memorial Day parade:


Just as in the cartoon.

Previously from this cartoonist, Bob Eckstein (signing himself bob), on 5/30/15 (“Earworms, snowmen, and parodies”).

The mythical monster as secret agent. If you lack the two items of (pop-)cultural background for understanding cartoon #2, you’re baffled; what you see is a feral-canine creature introducing himself to a woman at a bar as “James Chupacabra”. What’s funny about that? (Beyond a bar pickup line from a creepy-eyed man with a head resembling a wild wolf or fox.)

The two crucial ingredients. One, the James Bond introductory formula

The name’s Bond. [pause] James Bond.

(classically said over a (gin) martini, shaken not stirred).

Two, the figure of the chupacabra. From Wikipedia:

The chupacabra or chupacabras (… literally “goat-sucker”; from “chupar”, “to suck”, and “cabra”, “goat”) is a legendary creature in the folklore of parts of the Americas, with its first purported sightings reported in Puerto Rico. The name comes from the animal’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats.

Physical descriptions of the creature vary. It is purportedly a heavy creature, the size of a small bear, with a row of spines reaching from the neck to the base of the tail.

Eyewitness sightings have been claimed as early as 1995 in Puerto Rico, and have since been reported as far north as Maine, and as far south as Chile, and even being spotted outside the Americas

The figure in #2 is considerably less fearsome than the chupacabra of legend. But there are those glowing eyes.

The James Bond formula has been used in many cartoons.  For instance, this one:


From English Blog on 4/25/13:

Today’s cartoon by Paul Thomas from The Daily Express is inspired by the revelation that AA Milne, the man who created Winnie-the-Pooh, was a First World War spy.

… The cartoon is drawn in the style of E.H. Shepard’s illustrations for the Winnie-the-Pooh books, and depicts Pooh as a James Bond figure dressed in a tuxedo and bow tie. His introduction ‘The name’s Pooh—Winnie the Pooh’ is a clear reference to James Bond’s iconic catchphrase, “The name’s Bond, James Bond”.

Earlier appearances of the artist of #2, J.C. Duffy:

ML on 7/8/07, “Argumentative dogs”: Fusco Brothers

on 4/3/13, “Eggs over easily”


4 Responses to “Two tests in cartoon understanding”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    For a chupacabras you may not have met, from
    Gothic for Goths Lesson 02: Gáitsūgja Meins
    The only text of any length we have in Gothic is a very literal translation of the New Testament, an ideal documentation from a linguistic viewpoint, since it gives us the Gothic word for chupacabras.

  2. bobeckstein Says:

    Thanks for focusing on my work.

  3. Bob Richmond Says:

    I’m a Mason, but Bob Eckstein’s cartoon goes a long way to explain why I’ve never petitioned the Shrine. (You have to be a Mason before you can petition the Shrine.)

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