Oh, the Horror, the Horror

Posted by on January 15th, 2010 at 6:38 AM

The phenomenon we illustrate this time has been creeping up on us for several years, quietly destroying brain cells, every day a few at a time so’s not to be noticeable, in order to foster a passive receptivity, a willingness to accept as professional work something that, just a few decades ago, we would have scorned and scoffed at. Stick figures. Not only have we grown to accept them: we have glorified them. And here we see the terrible consequences of letting Pearls before Swine get too popular: a veritable pandemic of stick figures. Other cartoonists, eager to become similarly successful, have resorted to the celebrated simplified illustrative technique that Stephan Pastis has used to catapult himself to fame and fortune.

Lettering—simple block printing—has also deteriorated. In the two examples from Brevity (upper left left), you probably cannot read what the characters are presumably saying. In the first the principal says: “I’m afraid your son is, quite literally, too cool for school. It’s really put us all in an awkward position.” In the second, the caption reads: “Trish was amazed at what she found when she pulled the dresser away from the wall: an old postcard from Granny, some tennis balls, and the brother no one told her about.”

I think this last one is hysterically funny. “… the brother no one told her about.” But the first one, I don’t get at all. And in neither one does the apparent joke depend upon the drawings’ being stick figures, additional evidence of the slow decay of the medium (if not of civilization as a whole). At least in our remaining three examples, the jokes depend upon the pictures’ being of stick figures. If they weren’t stick figures, the jokes wouldn’t be funny.

At the lower right, however, we have something else again. Here, the lines that make stick figures have disappeared altogether. We can’t blame this on Stephan Pastis. We’ll return to explain this mystery sometime soon. Stay ’tooned.

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2 Responses to “Oh, the Horror, the Horror”

  1. Wesley says:

    Most of these aren’t lazy drawing, though–aside from the Brevity panels, they’re perfectly well-drawn and in some cases funny cartoons about stick figures. I’m not sure that’s anything to complain about. (On the other hand, having done a stick-figure gag myself I may be biased.)

    But the only cartoonist who should be drawing stick figures for anything other than a gag is Randall Munroe (in XKCD, they’re thematically appropriate). Brevity really is awful. Have these things actually been syndicated and published, as though they were professional work?

  2. R.C. Harvey says:

    I was attempting, Wesley, to be, er, satirical—using a sudden flush of stick figures to ridicule the simple drawing styles of Cathbert comics, and Pearls. Sigh.