A monumental puzzle in cartoon understanding

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro is a Psychiatrist cartoon — they’re a Bizarro specialty — that is incomprehensible if you don’t recognize the figure of the patient and know about this patient’s history with psychiatry (cardboard box??):

(#1) Incredibly, it’s also significant that this is today’s Bizarro, and that today is 11/26/22 (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

Significant, in that your appreciation of the joke will be heightened some if you understand that today is a notable anniversary associated with the figures in the cartoon.

And your appreciation might be heightened a bit more if you recognize who the therapist in the cartoon is (based on).

All of this is so in-jokey arcane that the actual cartoon distributed by Cartoon Kingdom includes a bottom line explaining the significance of the date, which is then a key to unraveling everything else. But the patient, you have to recognize the patient.

Who is not just a character in a cartoon (in this cartoon, the way the therapist is), but a character from a specific comic strip, drawn in the style of that strip, so that the patient looks “cartoony” in a way the therapist does not.

Brief digression on cartooniness. From my 6/2/16 posting “Cartoony days”:

The topic [of this Zippy strip] is a familiar one in Zippyland: cartoonishness or cartooniness, indicated by various physical characteristics — noses, eyes, eyebrows, ears, jawlines, and mouths. In Zippyland, of course, everyone’s a cartoon character and they’re all dressed like one, but some of them are “realistic”, normal, regular folks, while others are flagrantly cartoony.

The 2016 posting is about the flagrantly cartoony end of the scale, but it is a scale, and the patient in #1 is somewhere in the middle — highly stylized, but not grotesque. You have to recognize him to get on with understanding the Bizarro cartoon.

This should not be hard; he’s Charlie Brown, the central character in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, a strip that ran for 50 years (from 1950 through 2000), and was both extraordinarily popular and enormously influential. And here he is seeking psychiatric assistance.

Brief digression on the therapist. Who is the therapist? Wayno’s cartoon likeness of Schulz himself. Compare Wayno’s version (an appropriately serious image for a therapist) with this fine photograph of Schulz at work:

(#2) A smiling Schulz at a job he loved (CBS Photo / Getty Images)

But what of the cardboard box? This is the crux of the joke; to appreciate it you need to recall one of the recurrent gag settings in the Peanuts strip: Lucy Van Pelt, making money by offering her services as a psychiatrist, in what amounts to a roadside consulting room made from a large cardboard box. All sorts of cartoon folk used her services, but neurotic Charlie Brown was an especially frequent customer. As here:


So Lucy is the psychiatrist he’s used to. A therapist in an actual consulting room — with a couch and a diploma on the wall — is a big step into the world of adult therapy. (He has a young-adult body and clothing — but still the same shirt.)

Oh yes, why today? The Bizarro as actually distributed by Cartoon Kingdom:

(#4) Schulz was indeed born on 11/26/1922, so today is the 100th anniversary of his birth — an occasion celebrated by a great many cartoonists with Peanuts-themed strips for the day

Sweet. Very sweet.

6 Responses to “A monumental puzzle in cartoon understanding”

  1. Geoffrey Nathan Says:

    90% of today’s comics had tributes to ‘Sparky’. Many brought tears to our eyes (this was in the Free Press, but i assume most papers were similar).

  2. Ken Rudolph Says:

    I got the Charlie Brown reference, of course. But Lucy’s psychiatry from a box went over my head. For me, typical Lucy is withholding the football.

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    I got everything about this strip except the likeness of Schulz. (It helped that almost every comic on the page was a Schulz tribute, and further that the previous day’s Boston Globe had an article about the fact that cartoonists everywhere had written/drawn such tributes.)

  4. Mark Mandel Says:

    I loved this, thank you!

  5. Mitch4 Says:

    We linked to and remarked on this post at https://cidu.info/2022/12/04/sunday-funnies-lols-december-4th-2022/

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