There are lots of jobs for writers that I have envied over the years. I always thought that writing cartoons would be great. What could be easier? Two or three frames and you’re done. One long panel and one decent punch line and your readers are chuckling and you’re punching out.
Of course, there are the drawings that might take a bit of time, but I think many of the cartoons awaiting us on the comic pages of the Sunday paper are generated by graphic art from computers or comic robots of some kind. There are thousands of drawings awaiting in the computer. Dennis the Menace running. Dennis the Menace climbing. Dennis the Menace spilling something or otherwise driving Mr. Wilson nuts. Just pick one and then write a strip around it. Wind it up with Mr. Wilson losing his patience and yelling “DENNISSSSS!!” Easy enough, eh?
How about Charlie Brown? Lucy always holds the football and then at the last second pulls it out and Charlie falls on his keister. We laugh, even if we always know what’s coming. We know that Charlie will choose the skimpiest tree in the tree lot because he’s a compassionate kid and although that’s not necessarily funny, we still read Charlie Brown every week without fail.
There’s that loyalty to our comic strip friends, some of whom have been with us since we were young enough to believe in their stories.
Snoopy sleeps on the top of his dog house with Woodstock on his snout.
Good old Pig Pen is always getting even dirtier with clouds of dust following him everywhere.
How hard can it be to send them on new adventures?
There’s a certain comfort that comes with familiarity and is ingrained in our personalities from childhood. I used to always read the “funny pages” to my boys on Sundays. They had their favorites.
I guess the comic strip writers just have that little balloon floating above their characters to fill. No one is expecting a 1,000 word comic about local government. That’s the job of editorial cartoonists who regularly call out politicians or celebrities and give them a prominent proboscis (big nose) or a markedly ridiculous comb over. The cartoons that find a place on opinion pages of newspapers sometimes have the depth and wisdom that a whole page of text can’t carry. There’s even a “Courage in Comics” award.
Courage because editorial cartoons can make a lot of people mad.
Cartoonists get hate mail and sometimes get fired for their views. It is where freedom of speech gets flushed down the throne.
One that touched me personally is a cartoon drawn of newspapers tied up in a bundle with a gag and some rope and the bubble said, “We are not the enemies.” I blanched at the cartoon that showed the American flag flying at half mast for This Week, Last Week, Next Week. Hmmmmm.
There are cartoons that poke fun at the president’s love for fast food and his declaring being shorted on catsup packets as a national emergency.
I love a clever turn of phrase in a cartoon even if it touches a nerve.
Like Smokey the Bear looking over a scorched forest, still smoking and saying to himself, Only You ….
There have been many cartoons written about the plastic straw debacle, including one that has a “suspect” in a police mug shot and underneath it says, “Used plastic straw.” Which is not exactly funny.
One of the darkest days in comic history was in January 1995. It was the last day Gary Larson’s “Far Side” was published. Far Side is the best cartoon ever for making you snort milk from your nose. I love the one where one critter (sometimes hard to tell what they were) was reading the newspaper and looking at the obituary page when the other critter says, “You’re so morbid! It is the first thing you look at every day!” Or the one with the sign posted above a kid’s bed who apparently has problems waking up, “First pants! Then shoes!” And the one with the dog standing by his owner’s breakfast table with a gun: “Hey Bucko! I’m through with begging!” I wouldn’t show that one to Ivy Claire, the canine begging machine, she might get ideas.
Larson is a master at dog toons. Like two dogs walking down the street and one confides in the other, “It’s always, sit, stay, heel. Never think, innovate, imagine, be yourself.”
Why did the chicken cross the road, well, Larson’s chicken says “Why do you need a reason?”
Finally, one of my all time favorite Far Side comics. There’s a bunch of birds sitting on a sofa looking into a pizza box. One says: “Let’s see … mosquitoes, gnats, fleas, ants … What the heck? Those jerks! We didn’t order stink bugs!”
There are rumors that after a 25-year hiatus Gary Larson may come out of retirement on Jan. 1, 2020. Just in time! We really need some humor!