Friday, January 24, 2020

"Trolling For Wonderful!"

Everyone has standards. 

Mine, in one context, are apparently quite high.

Meaning I enjoy less,

But complain more.

I think today about “single-panel” cartoons and the all-time greats in the field, like the recently late Gahan Wilson.

The oblivious blind man, pressing the doorbell at the School of the Deaf.

That was his.

The desperate dentist, yanking a tooth so hard, the patient’s entire skull flies out his agonized mouth.

That was his too.

You see what I mean?  Those images are unique, explosive and indelibly memorable.

Something has happened to the majority of “single-panel” cartoons.  They rarely surprise me.  Or if they do, they surprise me in a “So what?” kind of a way.

A lot of cartoonists lean on the workmanlike formula of “incongruous juxtaposition.”  But as with crudely off-color jokes, simple “incongruous juxtaposition” is not enough.

Those jokes also have to be funny.

A beached whale, wearing jockey shorts.  And the caption says:

“The one day I don’t put on clean underwear.”

Whales in jockey shorts.   An “incongruous juxtaposition.” 

But then what?

The shoreline waters are glutted with black.  A recognizable bottle lies capsized in the distance, draining its pollutant into the sea.  And the caption says:

“There has been a massive ink spill.”

“Ink spill” replacing “oil spill.”  But beyond “incongruous juxtaposition”, what exactly’s the point?

This one actually lampoons the “incongruous juxtaposition” motif itself. 

A woman and man, colorfully dressed as a trapeze artist and a clown appear in a standard business office.  And the caption says:

“Caption: we work in an office; however, we have dressed for the circus.  What a humorous mixup.”

This exposing depiction of the way most cartoons are constructed is the artistic equivalent of “We entirely give up.”   

I know there are many laugh-inducing cartoons, and feel free to mention your favorites.  Me, with my “unreachable” standards, I’m looking for “sublime.”

Rivaling my favorite:

A car drives by a rural farmhouse.  And the caption says:

“Number of Tllda Swinton spottings in Kansas – zero.”

Or a juxtaposition, serving an actual comedic idea.

Picture of a galley ship, with the oars flailing madly in every direction.  And the caption (from a voice inside the ship) says:

“Come on, guys.  It’s only a bee.”

The best are the best because they’re the best.

I just wish there were more of them.

Of course, if there were more of them “the best” wouldn’t be special, so I suppose I should be grateful for the pedestrian ones.

But I’m not.


JED said...

I find that restrictions on art can sometimes force the artist into considering different ways to express themselves that help their art (or music or writing) go in a wonderful new direction. What could be more restricting that having to imply the history and the situation of the characters of a comic in one panel? That's like telling Bach he had to get his point across in one line.

You probably know this already but, just in case, I thought I'd mention that Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons are available (the old ones at least) on their own website now (since September 2019). You can get a daily selection of some of his classic cartoons at:

His cartoons are not for everyone but this one thinks they are terrific.

cjdahl60 said...

I agree that Gary Larson is one of my favorites in this genre. I used to have a Gary Larson desktop calendar with a new single panel cartoon for each day of the year. Always started the day off right......

Jerry said...

Count me among The Far Side fun bunch. Mr. Larson made a bunch of money based on the incongruous. Single scene cartoons used to be very prominent but with the internet killing so many magazines, well, the stage keeps moving.

Andy Cowan said...

Hi Earl,

One of my most enjoyable writing gigs included teaming with wonderful artist and creator, Dan Piraro, on some 300 of his Bizarro King Features panels from 2007 to 2015. Especially when I got to poke fun at this sacred cow...

Female physician asks patient, "You feel 'funny'? As in strange & difficult to explain, or as in a New Yorker cartoon?"

Patient: "What's the difference?"

Maria said...

Read latest Interesting and odd news online 👇

Follow my social networks for funny memes and odd news

Facebook page 👇
follow Facebook page
Join Twitter
Join Telegram