Itâs obvious, isnât it? We are (so to speak) drawn to comics because we like to look at pictures. And pictures have intricacies that we sometimes overlook in our dash through a strip to get to the punchline. Take, fâinstance, a recent Beetle Bailey:
The first panel is the sort of art we usually see in Mort Walkerâs masterpieceâflat background details in profile. But in the second panel of this releaseâwhatâs that? Perspective? The staircase is rendered as an exercise in perspective: we can see the top of the lowest step, but by the time the staircase is disappearing out of the top of the panel, the perspective has so altered that we canât any longer see the top of the top step.
Below Beetle is Dustin by Steve Kelley and drawn, exquisitely, by Jeff Parker (the editorial cartoonist, not the comic book guy). In this strip, Dustin is trying to sneak an arm around his girl while theyâre watching a movie. Who hasnât done this? So the maneuver is familiar, but Parker refined and focused the visuals in order to make sure we catch the moment.
In the second panel, we might focus too much on Dustinâs gaping maw and miss his move if Parker hadnât provided several visual cues. First, the fist at the upper left of the panel: that shows us that Dustin is moving his arm. Second, his girlfriendâs eyes: sheâs looking, not straight ahead anymore, but over her shoulder at Dustinâs wayward hand and arm. And if we follow the direction of her looking, we canât miss Dustinâs appendage.
And in the third panel, her frowning glance is directed, again, to the trespassing Dustin anatomy.
Parker carefully composed the key moments in the strip so we wouldnât miss the action central to the gag.
Our next visual aid is excerpted, entire, from Keith Knightâs K Chronicles.
Keef is sometimes accused of having no drawing skills. While itâs true that his style is simple to the point of wild abbreviation, thatâs style, not absence of ability. Keef is the first to admit that his manner of drawing is, er, unusual. Visual shorthand. Full of hints and ellipses. In this example, we see how his visual condensations work to depict frantic movement. It wouldnât be nearly as franticâas visually excitingâif he drew in a more complicated way.
And, speaking of cartoonists whose styles often do not denote artistic ability, we come to Tom Toles, whose lumps of dough impersonating people (sometimes even notable public figures) barely qualify as caricatures of humanity (which is what they are).
Here we seen one of Tolesâ typically pointy-headed lumps addressing some military equipage arranged in the traditional way for marking the grave of a solider killed on the battlefield. Notice the entirely adequate, even superior, artistic skill displayed in the drawing of the rifle, the helmet, and the boots.
Clay Bennett draws his editorial cartoons in the more customary cartooning manner, as we see here.
Couldnât resist reviewing these two comments on the “Donât Ask, Donât Tell” issue being bandied about last month. Now, happily, resolved, one hopes, for all time in this countryâs military forces.