High Risk Cartooning

Posted by on April 30th, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Mike Keefe, editooner at the neighborhood Denver Post, drew this cartoon last week. Click to enlarge.

Keefe’s komment seems to me right on the nail’s proverbial cranium. A completely dispassionate objective kibitzer—say, a visitor from another planet—might read the Arizona law on illegal immigrants and find it entirely reasonable.

If, say, you’re a cop and you stop a driver for speeding or some other infraction, you ask for the person’s driver’s license and car registration and then, if you have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be in this country illegally, you ask for his “papers.” And what might prompt your “reasonable suspicion”? The driver’s appearance? If he doesn’t speak English? His accent?

Any number of legal citizens of this heppy heppy land might not speak English well, so that doesn’t work. Color of skin? Any number of legal citizens might have skin color that’s somehow “different” (from what?). Arizona’s governor, the hapless Jan Brewer, was asked what an illegal immigrant looks like (as if looks were the criteria), but she couldn’t tell. “I don’t know,” she said.

The law has at least two serious defects. First, it’s very nearly impossible to enforce by any means known to law enforcement without getting into racial or ethnic profiling. Second, the law leaves a door wide open for sundry kinds of abuse to come tromping in with jack boots and swastikas.

Keefe’s cartoon gets at both of these matters with admirable acuity.

He is also risking a lot with his use of color. The whole of his comment depends on the colors coming out “right”—shades of brown on the cop’s color wheel. Keefe’s gamble reminds me of Gus Arriola’s adventures in coloring the Sunday Gordo strip.

For the Sunday strip, Arriola looked for a perfect match between the humor and the art. He wanted gags that depended upon color or design or the configuration of the panels themselves. He also wanted his Sunday strip to look different. He wanted to attract a reader’s attention, to draw the eye away from other strips.

Since the panels in all the other strips were multicolored, Arriola often bathed whole panels of his Sunday strip in single colors—one red, one blue, one green. The contrast arrested a reader’s wandering eye.

Arriola also withheld color: instead of coloring everything in every panel, he sometimes used color only to accent drawings that were otherwise simply black lines on a relatively vast expanse of white background.

White space attracts attention in Sunday’s riot of color, and Gordo leaped off the page, its generous white spaces contrasting sharply with the fully-colored panels of the neighboring strips. Sometimes Arriola created white space by converting the panels to ovals or circles: that left more space, all white, between the pictures.

Using color as the basis for a gag was a highly risky proposition. Once Arriola did a Sunday gag in which the punchline, “Silence is golden,” was delivered by the color.

And that time, the printers that produce the Sunday funnies for national distribution inadvertently left the yellow out of a huge portion of the press run. Charles Schulz had recognized what happened and wrote Arriola a note, saying, They dropped the yellow—how courageous of you to use color gags!

Arriola was usually more successful, though. He did a gag in which two burros go from one side of the fence to the other because the “grass is always greener on the other side,” and that one worked fine. Two hues of green materialized.

Another time, he had a gag that depended upon a spray can of paint that sprayed a Miro painting. Other cans of paint sprayed other famous paintings.

But if you depend upon a printer to get the color right, you’re betting the store.

FOOTNIT: Baldo, the comic strip I’ve written about twice this month, celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday, April 29, and I was off in the ether and missed it. Congrats Carlos and Hector. And Baldo.

Be Sociable, Share!

3 Responses to “High Risk Cartooning”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by RR Anderson. RR Anderson said: high risk cartooning http://trunc.it/7ly72 […]

  2. Scyzoryk says:

    Oh. I thought the cop was holding up a facial measuring device, the kind eugenicists used to “determine” things like intelligence and moral fiber. A whole different hazard inherent in this strip…

  3. Mike Hunter says:

    …Not to mention the added hazard of assuming that other folks can recognize the object in the cartoon as a take-off on a Pantone Matching System strip book!