Yet More Cameos

Posted by on October 8th, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Just as comic strip characters are such familiar glyphs to newspaper readers that one cartoonist can use characters from someone else’s strip for jokes, so are various commercial symbols candidates for promulgating satirical messages. In Mother Goose and Grim, Mike Peters cultivated the possibilities for several days at various intervals over the last year.

In both of these, by the say, Peters skirts traditionally forbidden ground. In the first, he alludes to female nudity, a taboo of long standing in the syndicated comics biz; but no longer. (Thank goodness.) (Or badness, if that be more to your liking.)

In the second, he’s committed an outrageous pun worth savoring—again by walking up to a traditional taboo and then stomping around on it. Penises haven’t been punchlines for jokes in the funnies until, well, recently.

In the next pair, Peters gets religion.

My recollection of the fish symbol on car bumpers is that it stands for “Christianity,” not the anglers’ sport. And then in the next strip, “Christianity” gets horny when a female of the species shows up—a rabbit, famous for fecundity, and this particular rabbit for the requisite sex—a sly dig at the holier-than-thou pretensions of some believers.

Peters is able to deploy commercial symbols to attack a range of targets.

In the first strip, I think he’s expressing a mild degree of disgust at the tv commercials that aim at urinary ailments. Almost as off-putting as the Tampax tampons ads of a few years ago. At my advanced vintage, I’m not much bothered by such ventures, but if I were a teenage boy watching tv on my first date with a girl, I’d squirm just a bit—and we’d both giggle, I suppose.

In the last analysis, I don’t know whether to be mildly disgusted at these societal turns of events or to rejoice that such once intensely private matters are now so public that we can no longer have any reticence about them. Probably healthier to have it all out in the, er, open.

In the same vein of dubious (albeit hilarious) comedy, only with a dog (like Grim) (or any other dog) can such highly questionable matters as where dogs spend their time licking be converted to a joke involving Colonel Sanders. Or vice versa. Peters’ target here, I’d venture to guess, is the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan.

Peters reported once that his wife accused him of having the same sensibilities as Grim—and Peters quickly agreed, adding that it was precisely this personality quirk that enabled him to draw cartoons about a dog. He identifies with the canine. And here we have a pretty good instance of the consequences of that: nothing the woman or the Colonel says would lead us, ipso facto, to Grim’s licking preferences, but if you’re a dog, that’s what you think when you contemplate licking.

Once Peters has finished dredging commercial symbols for gags, he eventually gets to children’s literature.

But this time, we’re not very far into satire. Just a joke, son. Have a laugh on Peters and Barbar.

Or—? Is this a cartoon attacking the blood sport of slaughtering animals? And by putting the lovable children’s literature hero Barbar on the wall with actual victims of the hunter’s obsession, Peters makes us question the moral rightness of killing animals for sport. Barbar has obviously been murdered: he walks and talks and dresses like a fellow human being, and the word for killing fellow human beings is “murder.”

Oh, Peters—you sly dog you.

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One Response to “Yet More Cameos”

  1. […] a nice-looking Mr. Peanut: At The Comics Journal, R. C. Harvey examines the way Mother Goose and Grim cartoonist Mike Peters has used “cameos” by various advertising characters over the course of the last […]