Funnies News

Posted by on May 10th, 2010 at 9:55 AM

We don’t intend under this title to cover the entire funnies beat at one swell foop. Instead, we’ll merely mention a couple of things we noticed lately.

In Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, for example. Sarathan Livingston Palin may be the only political figure to appear in the strip in her natural state, undisguised. When Trudeau draws Presidents (of which, I realize, Sarah the Palin is not one, but she’s being cast for that part, right?), he is wont to substitute for an actual caricature a symbol for some trait of the personage. Bill Clinton appeared as a waffle; GeeDubya as an asterisk floating under a cowboy hat. (“All hat and no cattle,” as they say down Texas way.)

Trudeau has yet to decide on a symbol for Barack O’Bama; when the current occupant of the White House appears, it is as a disembodied voice hovering over the Executive Mansion (which, I believe, is the official name of the White House). Trudeau has resorted to this device before in his long history as a heckler.

The erstwhile Alaska governor, however—as we see forthwith—appears as herself, a caricature of herself, that is.

While it’s true that this episode—and the initial appearance of The Palin—claims her as an “action doll,” Trudeau drops the pretense almost at once: the rest of the sequence that week makes no mention of the pretext. She is evidently worthy of ridicule in-and-of herself, no punches pulled, no disguises or symbols deployed.

And while we’ve paused here at the threshold of Doonesbury, take a look at this strip (released March 23, 2010). It may be historic.

Notice that Trudeau has somehow omitted Michael Doonesbury’s spectacles in the second panel. That’s what those ovals clustered around his nose are—spectacles, eye glasses. In a normal depiction, they float below Michael’s eyes—no bows to hold them to his ears—looking like growths on his cheeks. The ovals have long ago ceased any serious attempt at representing eye glasses. They are, rather, vestiges of some bygone moment in the strip’s early history. And here—on the historic day of March 23, 2010—they disappeared altogether in one panel.

And that—disappearances—brings us to the other comic strip created by (but uncredited to) Trudeau, Bruce Tinsley’s Mallard Fillmore, a right-wing rant that would not exist were it not for the knee-jerk policy of most newspaper editors to “balance” one political point of view with another, leaving us, dear readers, as uninformed about facts as if we never read newspapers at all. (Which is what the current younger generation is doing. Or, rather, not doing. Reading newspapers, that is.) So Mallard exists at its scrunched-up at the right-wing nut side to balance Doonesbury, which leans to the liberal left.

And Tinsley in these examples is clearly even more in debt to Trudeau than usual. He’s appropriated Trudeau’s talking White House device, applying it to the legislative branch of government. Instead of actually depicting so-called Congressional leaders, Tinsley draws the capital dome and has it do the talking.

The drawing in Mallard usually bespeaks the minimal effort Tinsley devotes to the strip: it has usually mostly disappeared.. If he draws more than one picture in any given strip, it’s an unusual day. Our first example above is typical; in the second, someone must’ve told the cartoonist that he was short-changing his newspaper client list, so he quickly drew two capital domes. I was expecting that this innovation would lead to talking clouds, which occupy so much of the first strip here; but, alas, Tinsley reverted to other practices later on.

Finally—again, in our continuing and unflagging effort to keep you abreast of what’s going on in the funnies—Dustin, the boomerang title character who returned from college to live at home while he tries, unsuccessfully, to find employment, announced last week that he had decided on a career. He’s going to be a comedian. Coincidentally, Steve Kelley, who writes the strip (moonlighting from his regular job as editorial cartoonist at the Times Picayune in New Orleans), also does stand-up comedy.

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One Response to “Funnies News”

  1. WLLilly says:

    …Regrading the relationship between Mallard and Doonesbury , in my irregular noting of M.F. , I’ve noted strips where Tinsley takes out the strip by name – Not a parody or expessing any disagreement with it , but showing Tinsley’s aging Boomer academics saying ” Let’s go read Doonesbury ” , or , even , IIRC , the narrator in the captions/Tinsley himself saying ” You can go read Doonesbury “…Am I correct here ?
    Meanwhile , I’m not aware of any response in kind by Trudeau .