Wise Man

Thoughts provoked by John Baker’s comments on my posting yesterday “The back-to-school cartoon”, about this Brendan Loper cartoon:

(#1) I noted that “the original seer-consulting cartoon”, in the New Yorker of 12/5/22, had a different caption

JB commented:

For a second, by “original seer-seeking cartoon,” I thought you meant the first ever such cartoon. Any idea how this trope began? Is it primarily a New Yorker thing?

My response, and some notes from my files on the cartoon meme in question.

AZ’s response:

about the Seeker and Seer / Wise Man cartoon meme. Unlike some other memes in the single-panel gag cartoon world (Psychiatrist, Desert Island, Grim Reaper, Desert Crawl, Ascent of Man), my quick impression is that this one is indeed very closely associated with the New Yorker. But of course I don’t know the history, have no way of exploring it (I can’t access the archives because the magazine has fucked up my account, apparently irrevocably), and in any case have no time to pursue such a project.

But I hope that some curious person with a life less afflicted than mine will take up the question.

Now, from my files…

In my 6/2/16 posting “Bob Eckstein” (about the cartoonist),


a wordless cartoon that requires you to recognize two things: the Rubik’s Cube (and how you deal with it) and the cartoon meme of the seeker after the knowledge of a seer — scaling a mountainside to seek enlightenment (and perfection) from the master

At the time, I thought of the cartoon meme as Seeker and Seer.

Then, in my 5/3/19 posting “Wisely seasoned”:

The Wise Man cartoon meme. (Wise Man, rather than Sage, Guru, Sadhu, or whatever, seems to be the standard name in the cartoon world for this category of gag cartoon.) An extraordinarily popular cartoon meme (quite a few in the New Yorker alone), involving two characters: the Sage (sitting cross-legged on a ledge at the top of, or along the side of, a high mountain) and the Seeker (who has climbed laboriously up the side of the mountain to seek the wisdom of the Sage).

With four New Yorker examples — by Paul Noth and Danny Shanahan, and, with twists on the theme, by Kaamran Hafeez and Harry Bliss. I note that the Wise Man is sometimes female (as in #1 and Bliss’s cartoon).


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