Words as Well as Pictures

Posted by on August 27th, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Today, a short tour around the block, pausing to appreciate cartooning. We forget sometimes that words are as integral to the cartooning arts as pictures. By way of reminding ourselves of this vital truth, here are Mike Peters and Wiley Miller. (If the image is too small to read—which, for most of us, it is—the recommended procedure is to click on the image and it enlarges. For some inexplicable and presumably temporary reason, when you do that here, you and the picture are merely transported to another plane, where the picture resides more-or-less alone, same size as before; but if you click on it again, there, it’ll get much larger—large enough, usually, to read. Try it: you’ll like it.)

Word play, pure and simple. Or simple and pure, if you prefer. Dan Piraro isn’t above the silliest word play in Bizarro, as we can tell from this charming example.

Darby Conley takes word play to a terrifyingly amusing extreme in the verbal hijinks here.

And in Pickles, Brain Crane does what he often does: he doesn’t play with words so much as he plays with their meanings; and he continues the dialog he started above in the following:

More of the same in accessorizing metaphors. A delight. But Crane takes a different turn in our next visual aid, which doesn’t play with meaning so much as with metaphysics.

In Luann, Greg Evans turns conversational gymnastics into verbal wit in the exchanges between nerdish Brad (Luann’s brother) and his sumptuous paramour, Toni. Their relationship has been under construction for 2-3 years now, and as the two become more confident of each other, their conversations brim with wit as well as affection. Their exchanges progress logically, linguistically, from panel to panel—a stunning example of realism in talk—terminating, invariably, in that flash of humor we call wit. And in this case, the picture in the last panel makes Toni’s remark the punchline for the day. Without the picture, her comment loses its comedic impact.

And here’s Wiley Miller again with a couple of politically loaded gags.

Once an editorial cartoonist, Wiley often strays from the purely comedic. And he does it again in our next examples, particularly the second one.

And while we’re on the topic of playfulness, here’s Stephan Pastis in Pearls Before Swine, doing what he’s done before—playing with the physics of the medium itself.

That’s the copyright line of type that falls out of the gutter between the third and fourth panels; Pastis has tinkered with this element of the strip before, and I suppose he’ll do it again, too.

Immediately below, Chad Carpenter is in somewhat the same mood in his self-syndicated (and extremely popular) Tundra. I thought at first that Carpenter was referring to a real—that is, authentic—bunch of contract disputes, but, no, he assures me it’s all made-up fun: “Yep,” he said in answer to my impertinent query, “—making it up. I was referring to contract disputes between my characters and myself—sorta like prima donna actors and TV execs.”

Well, if Pastis can perform similar feats in Pearls, why not Carpenter in Tundra? Although since he hasn’t done this before, I’m not sure where we’re going with it. More fun ahead, though—without a doubt.

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