Archive for the ‘Understanding comics’ Category

Another puzzle in cartoon understanding

August 19, 2018

It appeared on Facebook today, with this note from Chris Hansen:


(#1) CH: From another list we have a cartoon that takes a heckuva lot of background knowledge to understand. Arnold may want to deconstruct it, if he hasn’t already. I don’t know the cartoonist.

Well, I certainly wanted to deconstruct it, but not without knowing who the artist was. Quickly, however, Chris himself, Brian Guerrero-Kane, and Roger Phillips all supplied that information — Leigh Rubin (who has a Page on this blog) — and led me to fuller versions of the cartoon, with a title that considerably aids understanding. But the stripped-down version in #1, though challenging,  is soluble, so I’ll do that first.

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The crystal ball of cartoon understanding

August 17, 2018

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm takes us through the murky realms of cartoon understanding:

(#1)

At the surface level, the fortune teller offers a preposterous prediction about how Grimm will be reincarnated, and Grimm says he doesn’t believe in reincarnation. Entirely comprehensible (so long as you know about fortune tellers, and can recognize a stereotype of one —  woman in gypsy costume with crystal ball — and so long as you know what reincarnation is), but not funny, unless you also know about Carnation brand evaporated milk (sweetened powdered milk that comes in cans). It’s a joke, son.

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The nacho cart

August 13, 2018

Drew Dernavich in the August 20th New Yorker:


(#1) “Would you like to sample something from the nacho cart?”

An office cart conveying a gigantic heap of nachos, with hot cheese dripping over the side. Underneath are who knows what astounding toppings for the taco chips, your choice.

A demented dessert cart, transporting horror-movie foodstuffs. The fanciest of high-end dining  juxtaposed with low-end cheap thrills and street food, smelling of Mexican food trucks.

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Two texties, in two tonalities

August 7, 2018

Texties are cartoon-like compositions in which a pictorial component is entirely absent or merely decorative, not essential to the point of the composition — in effect, words-only cartoons; they can be intended as humor, like gag cartoons, or as serious commentary, like political cartoons.

Two have come to me via friends on Facebook recently — both funny, both taking off on specific registers in modern printed English: the lost and found poster (in the texty “FOUND:CAKE”, or F:C), and the amazing-fact texty on the net (in the texty “[plant facts!]”, or pf!). F:C is an elaborate translation, in detail, of an item of popular culture; pf! is an undermining of the amazing-fact texty form itself.

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Cultural knowledge

August 4, 2018

Three recent cartoons in my feed that depend on their readers supplying crucial bits of background cultural information: a Rhymes With Orange from the 1st (the eating habits of Japanese movie monsters); a Mother Goose and Grimm from the 1st (the His Master’s Voice dog); and today’s Bizarro/Wayno collab (clergy visiting parishioners).

In each case, the cartoon shows some situation from everyday life (which you have to know about) juxtaposed with, or translated into, another more remarkable world (which you also need to know details of).

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The ants are my friends?

July 28, 2018

Through friends on Facebook, a 7/30/12 Captain Scratchy cartoon (by Chuck Ingwersen) “The Wiener Dog Is Annoyed”, in which a dachshund and a pug are transfixed in panel 1 by small black dots on the ground between them, from which these sounds are emanating:

🎶Just like me, they long to be … close to you. 🎶

🎶Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. 🎶

🎶We’ve only just begun. 🎶

— upon which, in panel 2, the dachshund growls:

CRAP, WE’VE GOT CARPENTER ANTS.

(To get this, you need to know that carpenter ants are a real thing — not a stretch — and you really need to know about Karen and Richard Carpenter and their songs from 1970-71.)

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Photobombing Magritte

July 1, 2018

Today’s Bizarro, which requires that you recognize a painting and know the word photobomb:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

From the point of view of the peach and the orange, the image on the screen (Magritte’s painting “Son of Man”) is a photobombing of a portrait of a conventionally dressed bowler-hatted man (Magritte himself, it seems). A green apple appears unexpectedly in the portrait, in this case, interfering with and obscuring the portrait’s central image. In photobombing, the unexpected element may appear in the field of view unintentionally — irrelevant but noticeable things just happen to be caught in the scene — but it can be intentional — the unexpected element has been deliberately inserted into the scene by someone, as a prank. Only rarely does the unexpected element obscure the central image in the scene.

So from the point of view of the fruit, Magritte’s image is doubly awesome: it’s intentional (the work of a prankster, but who? why not the apple itself, acting on its own!); and it conceals the identity of the portrait’s subject (as in other bowler-hat paintings by the artist), thus subverting the idea of portraiture itself, while making a piece of fruit the actual focus of the work. Fruut Rulz.

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Aroused soap-opera scientists and the Stanford screw-moss

July 1, 2018

In the One Big Happy from June 4th, Ruthie’s grandmother, absorbed in the soap-opera romance of scientists Lars and Frieda in their lab, is caught offguard by the turn of their encounter to the frankly carnal and tries to protect Ruthie from, as we say, “adult themes”:

(#1)

In attempting to keep Ruthie from one show, her grandmother provides her with another. But of course what caught my attention was the Hennediella stanfordensis in Cornwall.

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The musician, the mayor, his instrument, and their vermin

June 24, 2018

The Bizarro/Wayno collaboration on the 21st is another exercise in cartoon understanding (but a relatively easy one):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

You need to know the basic outline of a European legend (the major clues to which are the reference to ridding a town of rats and the unusual word pied in the title), and you need to know something about musical instruments (to recognize that the sousaphone — named in the title — plays the role of the (musical) pipe in the legend).

Then there’s more to be said about the parallels between the cartoon world and the legend world, with special reference to wind instruments (of which the sousaphone is the largest). Which leads me to the rich world of the legend and its connection to the real world. And the fictivity of stories; there’s a fair amount of factuality, or at least real-world context, in the legend. And from there — surprise! —  to St. John and Paul’s Day next week (June 26th). And from there — another surprise! —  to eunuchs and the social world of the Roman Empire.

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Chez Le Fourmilier

May 29, 2018

Yesterday’s Bizarro/Wayno collaboration:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

A strenuous exercise in cartoon understanding: you need to be familiar with a certain kind of (seafood) restaurant, and to recognize both anteaters and a children’s educational toy known as an ant farm. And then to understand that the cartoon embodies a metaphorical translation from a seafood restaurant world to an anteater world.

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