Archive for the ‘Understanding comics’ Category

Thanksgiving sacks of cement

November 28, 2019

A Thanksgiving cartoon by graphic designer Matt Reedy, requiring crucial background knowledge for understanding:


(#1) From Reedy’s pages of Den of Apathy prints (riffs on popular culture) on Etsy: WKRP “As God As My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly” (an 11×17 print is on sale there for $15)

A completely wordless cartoon (just the helicopter, the plummeting turkeys, the cityscape in the background) might not have worked, but “Cincinnati” is enough to make it the composition into a funny cartoon — if you know the background. “Thanksgiving” would work instead (with the same proviso). Or both: “Thanksgiving in Cincinnati”.

If you know Reedy’s title, you have even more of the story, but you still need to know how all these parts fit together, though you might reasonably infer that someone has dropped turkeys from a helicopter in the belief that they could fly, and that’s funny in itself. For the whole story, WKRP is crucial.

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The Russian sardines are coming!

November 6, 2019

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo goes (sort of) bilingual:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

The Cyrillic label hints at сардинкы (transliteration in Latin letters: sardinky/i) ‘little sardines’, with a hard sign Ъ added to allow an allusion to one of those odd symbols. Meanwhile, the title tsardines is a portmanteau, of tsar and sardines, referring to the five tsars of Russia packed like sardines into the tin.

(Yes, full appreciation of the cartoon requires assembling a fair amount of knowledge of several kinds, starting with sardines and their customary packaging.)

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Reaper days

October 31, 2019

For the dead season, Grim Reaper cartoons from Will McPhail. For today, Halloween, the GR goes trick-or-treating in the city:


(#1) ReaperWeen in McPhailia

And for tomorrow, the Day of the Dead, a whole series about the GR searching for a fashion look; the title image:


(#2) The New Yorker‘s Daily Shouts column from 1/28/19, “Death finds a signature look” by Will McPhail — in which the GR tries five experiments in fashion before settling on his signature black hooded robe and scythe

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The Potato Fried

October 27, 2019

A Wayno cartoon from 4/11/16, an exercise in cartoon understanding:


(#1) “My name is Idaho Montoya. You peeled my father. Prepare to fry.”

(See the comments. It turns out that Wayno’s original was wordless, so this caption was added by some wag  — who deserves credit.)

If you don’t get a crucial reference, the cartoon is just silly, two cartoon potatoes having a duel with potato peelers. So you need to recognize that the figures are anthropomorphized potatoes, and that the things they are wielding are potato peelers. Then there are potato references in each sentence of the challenge: Idaho, famously a source of potatoes in the US; peeling, a step in preparing potatoes for many sorts of dishes; and frying, one common method of cooking potatoes (in French fries, for instance).

You will probably also catch the groaner pun in Prepare to fry, based on the stock expression from popular adventure fiction, Prepare to die.

But otherwise, it’s just a bit of fanciful silliness. In fact, it’s rich and complex, if you’re in on the jokes.

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Heavenly POP

October 18, 2019

It’s been about ten days since the last POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) here — a 10/9/19 posting “Two old cartoon friends”, with doctors without border collies — so, on the theory that regular POPs are good for the mind and the spirit, today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo, at the very gates of heaven:

pearly gates + gate-crasher

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

Appreciating the cartoon requires that you be familiar with the pop-culture story (whose source is the Christian Bible) of St. Peter at the pearly gates to heaven; that you be familiar with the belief (spread by an 1989 animated movie) that all dogs go to heaven; that you know the idiomatic synthetic compound gate-crasher; and that you know the idiomatic nouning plus-one. That’s a lot of cultural stuff.

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shaker of salt

August 26, 2019

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo:


(#1) A parade of unidiomatic prepositional alternatives (with the P of) to the synthetic compounds cheese grater, nutcracker, meat cleaver, egg timer

(Wayno’s title: “Rhyme & Punishment”; see comments below)

To understand the relevance of these nominals, you need to know not only who Jimmy Buffett is and that his most famous song is the notoriously ohrwurmisch “Margaritaville”, you actually need to know a crucial couplet from the song:

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Understanding the bull

August 1, 2019

In the August 5th & 12th New Yorker, this droll cartoon by John McNamee:

(#1)

To understand the cartoon, you must, first of all, recognize the figures of a bull and a bullfighter. Crucial cultural knowledge, but not (I think) especially challenging. Then there are the other details — the two of them are seated in a livingroom, the bull is having a dainty cup of tea, the bullfighter is showing the bull patches of the color red. And then there’s the caption: how does it knit some or all of these things into a joke?

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On the lawn

July 26, 2019

In the July 29th New Yorker, two cartoons about things for American lawns, each requiring one key piece of knowledge for understanding: Bob Eckstein showing a moment of silence; Farley Katz featuring a distressed bird.

(#1)

(#2)

Both cartoons are complex — several things are going on at once, including allusions to American political life — but you can’t get anywhere with them unless you recognize the repeated images in them: the shuttlecocks of the game badminton in the Epstein, the plastic lawn flamingos in the Katz.

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Choosing the words

July 19, 2019

Two One Big Happy cartoons in which young Ruthie confronts word choices: once in the name of a food, which is yucky or not, depending on what you call it; and once in the telling of a joke you know is incredibly funny, but you have to get all the right names of things in it:

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Two comics explained

June 20, 2019

First came the Frazz strip from yesterday, sent to me by John Baker because he thought it would be of special interest to me (for reasons that will quickly become clear):


(#1) Frazz, the school janitor who’s also a Renaissance man, copes with the puzzlement of one of the students

And then a visual composition with what is obviously a Magrittean disavowal — a visuoverbal humor form realized variously in (at least) paintings, drawings, cartoons, and web graphics (there’s a Page on this blog about it) — that appeared in numerous slightly different versions on Facebook recently, baffling me:


(#2) Ok, it’s not a moon, but what, I wondered, is it? And what does it have to do with the Magritte original?

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