Three kinds of cartoons

In an old New Yorker (from 7/6/15), two cartoons that especially struck me: a Mick Stevens meta-cartoon, and a Liana Finck with a playful word transposition. The second led me to a Finck from this spring that presents a real challenge in understanding.

The raw material:

(#1) Mick Stevens, going meta

(#2) Liana Finck: two Use compounds playfully transposed/Spoonerized

(#3) Liana Finck in the 5/8/17 magazine: two worlds intersect on the street

The meta-cartoon. Stevens’s couple in #1 are suddenly confronted with a gigantic pen intruding from above into their living room — and then they understand that they’re characters in a cartoon being drawn by an artist wielding that pen, which provides an explanation for the signature (of the artist) on the floorboard of the room.

From my 7/11/13 posting “More meta-cartoons”, which is about:

meta-cartooning, in which characters in a cartoon recognize in some way that they are, in fact, in a cartoon

illustrated with an Arlo and Janis and an Adam@Home. I wrote that:

Zippy has been going meta for many years, and Doonesbury dips into the genre every so often. Not long ago, I posted about a sequence of Pearls Before Swine strips in which the characters (including the cartoonist) commented on their cartoonness, and also posted a meta-Bizarro and then a meta-Mother Goose and Grimm.

Compound switches. The two Use N + N compounds — dish soap ‘soap for (washing) dishes’ and soap dish ‘dish for (holding) soap’ — are a transposition, or Spoonerism, pair, and so should enjoy one another’s company. As they do, with delight, in Finck’s cartoon.

Christian evangelism meets recycling. To understand Finck’s cartoon in #3, you need to recognize the formula “Have you heard the good news?” as part of a routine of public evangelism, especially by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, going door to door or appealing to people in public places, including on the street. In an expanded form:

Have you heard the good news (about (our Lord) Jesus Christ)? (He is/has risen (from the grave).)

You also need to recognize the two characters in the cartoon as plastic water bottles — not at all difficult — and — more difficult — also recognize the symbol


as a symbol of recycling, and in addition understand that “recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects” (Wikipedia). That is, in recycling, material metaphorically dies (when it is discarded) and then, if recycled, is reborn — metaphorically rises from the dead.

If you’ve got all that, you can appreciate the cleverness in having evangelical water bottles spreading the good news about how water bottles have been resurrected (via the miracle of recycling).

Note on the universal recycling symbol in #4, from Wikipedia:

Worldwide attention to environmental issues led to the first Earth Day in 1970. Container Corporation of America, a large producer of recycled paperboard, sponsored a contest for art and design students at high schools and colleges across the country to raise awareness of environmental issues. It was won by Gary Anderson, then a 23-year-old college student at the University of Southern California, whose entry was the image now known as the universal recycling symbol. The symbol is not trademarked and is in the public domain.

2 Responses to “Three kinds of cartoons”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    The hydrant on the corner cannot be coincidental. although I’m not certain of its significance.

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