Archive for the ‘Understanding comics’ Category

The heifer executive

May 17, 2022

Yesterday’s wry Rhymes With Orange strip, wordless and spare-looking, but packed with tons of meaning on two fronts, the dairy and the managerial; meanwhile, it presents a challenging exercise in cartoon understanding.


(#1) If you see that there’s something sweetly funny about a dairy cow managing a business, well, that will do — but the pleasure of the cartoon is in the details

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Flagging your identity

May 7, 2022

Friday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro (Wayno’s title: “Logo Design”):


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

There’s a relatively straightforward implicature from what Superman says, that there was a time when he didn’t wear an identifying logo — “the big red emblem” — but used only his spit curl (BrE kiss curl) to identify himself.

(Well, there is the rest of the costume, including the cape, but I suppose the idea is that those items would merely identify him as some superhero or another, speeding through the streets and airspace of Metropolis, but would fail to distinguish him from all the others. While the spit curl would have been something unique; it could have been, oh, a goatee, red eye shadow, pixy ears, a big butch metal neck chain, red knee pads with S on them, brass knuckles, high-heeled boots, any manner of things, but a spit curl ought to work.)

As it happens, in his early appearances, starting with Action Comics #1 in June 1938, Superman had the S shape on his chest, but not on his forehead. What to make of that? — Has he forgotten? Is he confabulating? Or does his use of “is too subtle” not implicate a spit-curl-only period?

Perhaps it merely conveys that when he started his career he, or maybe Martha Kent, realized that spit curls alone apparently are, as a general matter, insufficient to distinguish exceptional individuals from the herd, so added the logo from the beginning; in that case, he might have said “an S-shaped spit curl apparently would have been too subtle [for our purposes]”, so they axed the spit curl completely in favor of the much less subtle logo.

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Three cartoons for 4/12/22

April 12, 2022

(Warning: as is my way, a soupçon of smart-ass street talk.)

Two on gendered topics, plus another cartoon that’s incomprehensible unless you recognize one of its elements (and only incidentally has a gendered bit in that element).

Masculine identity for young teens in a One Big Happy (a re-play from 4/26/10 in my comics feed today); a display of femininity in today’s Rhymes With Orange; and then, in today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, on the equipment needed for a night lighthouse (with an incidental display of maleness).

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The self-rising mascot

March 13, 2022

(Considerable discussion of sexual practices in this posting — largely in cautious language, but some may find the topics — male masturbation and male-male sexual acts — distasteful.)

To understand the brilliant 3/11 Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, you need to marshal detailed information about the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Roman Catholic confessional, the language of male masturbation in English, and self-rising flour (I wonder what, say, a Japanese exchange student in the U.S. would make of the cartoon; there is just so much culturally specific knowledge needed to understand it):


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

You must recognize the central figure as Poppin’ Fresh the Pillsbury Doughboy (though you can’t see the Pillsbury label on his chef’s hat), the dough-creature mascot of the (American) Pillsbury baking brand since 1965; and you must recognize that he’s at the grill, or screen, separating the penitent from the priest in the confessional box of a Roman Catholic Church, where he is confessing his sins (seeking absolution from the priest); then you must understand that the particular sin he’s confessing is masturbation (stimulating his penis by hand to become erect — to rise — for the purpose of sexual pleasure), and that this is a grave sin, requiring confession; and finally, and crucially, you have to see that his reference to his masturbating as self-rising (metonymically causing himself to rise) is a play on words, the ordinary use of self-rising being to flour (available mostly in the US and the UK) with added ingredients that will cause dough made from such flour to swell — to rise — on its own.

What makes the cartoon so delightful is that all of this is woven together by the fact that Poppin’ Fresh is an anthropomorphic being — a male one, with the desires of a sexually mature male — made of dough.

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surfdom

February 22, 2022

The Zippy strip for 2/20, in which Bill Griffith gets to goof on surf vs. serf:

(#1) Zippy’s title: “Serf City!!”, playing on the song title “Surf City”

panel 1: the serf wakes up in his cell and gets up — the idiomatic phrase surf’s up, roughly ‘the waves are good for surfing; let’s do it’, so figuratively ‘conditions are good for action; let’s get on with it’

panel 2: the serf surfing the net — the (metaphorical) verb surf ‘move from page to page or site to site on’

panel 3: the serf channel-surfing — the (similarly metaphorical) synthetic-compound verb channel-surf ‘change frequently from one television channel to another’

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The infested apple

January 18, 2022

Today’s Price / Piccolo Rhymes With Orange, again with the apple:


(#1) Just silly-surreal… unless you know René Magritte’s 1964 surrealist painting The Son of Man (French: Le fils de l’homme), in which case it’s second-hand surrealism

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Area 51 x 57

December 19, 2021

Today’s Piraro/Wayno Bizarro crosses iconic space aliens from popular culture (sequestered, according to lore, in Area 51 in Nevada) with an anthropomorphic Heinz ketchup bottle (advertising itself, on its label, as one of the Heinz 57 varieties):


(#1) This unlikely couple met on the arid high desert of Nevada; but the ways of the heart are inscrutable, so they now live together in a rough cabin in Area 54, along with their oddly tasty progeny — bottled as Out Of This World salsa verde (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

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A collective cry

December 16, 2021

Monday’s (12/13) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with five crows — one of them speaking on a cellphone — in conference:


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

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The photoon from Satilla Shores

December 9, 2021

On Facebook on 11/23, Charlie Fulton offered this photoon — a photograph intended as a cartoon — and provided it with a caption, in this case a brief text expressing a personal opinion of his about some event, not depicted in the photoon, without any explicit connection between the event and the photograph. So Charlie’s captioned photoon takes a ton of context and background knowledge to appreciate, but (in my opinion) it’s very cleverly bitter (measured bitterness being a CF specialty).

The photoon, with Charlie’s caption:


(#1) [CF:] Ah, the clever “toenail defense” tactic. I should have seen it coming.

The only really easy part of the comprehension exercise is recognizing the objects in #1 as the edible seeds — known in English as Brazil nuts — of the Bertholletia excelsa tree  (native to South America).

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Comes a pause in the day’s occupations

November 18, 2021

… that is known as Miller Time … when you deserve a beer break today.

None of this makes sense unless you know the advertising slogans: It’s Miller Time (for Miller High Life beer, not for novelist Henry Miller, playwright Arthur Miller, or bandleader Glenn Miller), You Deserve a Break Today (for McDonald’s, hawking hamburgers, not beer). But Calvin knows:


(#1) The Calvin and Hobbes strip distributed today, originally published 10/9/86, alluding to “Miller Time” slogans in Miller High Life beer commercials from the period

Calvin is supposed to be 6 years old — admittedly, with the sensibilities of a boy of roughly 10, but, still, not expected to be familiar with the ways of beer-drinking, so his father is alarmed that Calvin seems to be looking forward to a brew after the occupations of his day. (Whatever happened to the Children’s Hour? Television happened.)

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