Archive for the ‘Understanding comics’ Category

Understanding the bull

August 1, 2019

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

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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.

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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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Trix is for kids

June 17, 2019

Going the social media rounds, this joke, an ostentatiously playful allusion (OPA) to a bit of popular culture, presented as a texty — a cartoon that’s primarily a printed text, though texties often come with a visual backdrop, which sometimes contributes crucially to an understanding of the joke, as here:


(#1) A texty that lives in two worlds: American political culture of recent years (a reference conveyed visually, through the photo of Paul Ryan); and an ad campaign for an American breakfast cereal marketed to children (a reference conveyed verbally, by the ostentatious play on the ad slogan “Silly rabbit / Trix is for kids!”)

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On the dog food watch

May 29, 2019

The 5/27 Wayno-Piraro Bizarro strip, set in the Land of Dogs:


(#1) (If you wonder about the secret symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

A dog food with Quibbles in its name is of course not going to agree with you, in one sense of agree with. So you can understand the cartoon, and see that the pun on agree with in it makes it amusing — and still miss the extra joke that Wayno and Piraro threw in for you.

The cartoon would have been funny if the dog food had been named just Quibbles. But Quibbles and Fits is a lot funnier, because it’s another pun, on the name of the (actual) dog food Kibbles and Bits. But of course you have to know about this particular commercial product to get that joke.

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Stravinsky’s 1970 Firebird and the Ghoulliard Quartet

May 20, 2019

Music, cartoons, and language play, plus Slavic folklore, Seiji Ozawa and his expressive hair, pony cars, symphony trumpeters, NPR, and Frankenstein’s monster. It starts with this wonderful cartoon by Jeffrey Curnow from the NPR site (hat tip to Virginia Transue):

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Ariperro

May 5, 2019

The punchline to a wonderful two-line bilingual joke, realized in this cartoon:

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First, some analysis of the Japanese-Spanish joke. Then some reflections on its appearance, all over the net, in both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking contexts, without attribution to an artist or identification of a source. And, finally, a likely account of its origin, in the Zona Dorado district of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico.

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Revisiting 29: chants/chance

April 1, 2019

From Karen Chung on her (public) Facebook group NTU Phonetics yesterday, this texty cartoon with a pun:

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The joke turns on the (perceptual) homophony of chants and chance, parallel to the cents / sense and prints / prince cases in my 3/27/19 posting “Two cents, common sense, incense, and peppermints”.

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You can’t get no ways…

March 23, 2019

… if you don’t know the phrase. An exercise in cartoon understanding that came to me from Facebook connections, but without any credit to the artist:

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If you don’t recognize It don’t mean a thing as part of a particular formulaic expression, you’re screwed; the cartoon is incomprehensible.

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