Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind the gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at Dating.
As any parent or student knows, the real new year begins when it’s time to head back to school. Gone is the relaxed schedule and balmy heat of summer. Bells are ringing, but not the sonorous kind emanating from the town square.
The turn towards autumn is subtle: cooler evenings, warmer clothes, and changing colors in the trees. Former New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff captures the first harbinger of fall in a caption-less classic. This beachgoer just got a wake-up call.
Transitioning from the lazy days of summer to classroom rigors can feel abrupt to many new and returning students. One day you’re in a bathing suit, the next a straightjacket of new clothes. Ed Fisher shares his memories of returning to school in a dynamic composition. Looks like a fun ride … until the last stop.
School clothes shopping with a parent is an annual rite of passage for most kids. There’s an inevitable contest of wills over style, and it only worsens as the years roll by. Bad news for the young man in the sales aisle: trapped between the two towering women, he looks outmaneuvered as Barbara Smaller takes the mom’s side.
Loading up on school supplies delivers the final crushing blow—summer’s over. As a mom, Roz Chast knows the drill all too well. Notebooks, paper, pens, and weird stuff like protractors fill the shopping cart. But, with enough whining, maybe you can get a cool, new backpack.
The more frugal among us find ways to reduce student expenses. Shopping at sales events, buying in bulk, and online bargains come to mind. Leo Cullum’s cartoon about holding the line on school costs may have come from the artist’s life–he was the father of two daughters—not likely, though, given Cullum was a commercial airline pilot for many decades.
Once back in session, teachers can’t resist putting students on the spot by having them report about the summer—in front of the entire class. And kids hate public speaking. They mumble and blush, then flee back to their seat in mortification. In one case, however, Peter Steiner’s enterprising young student may have found a workaround–when in doubt, out-source!
The teacher looks taken aback in Alex Gregory’s version of “What I Did Last Summer.” She’s unprepared for the folded-arms sangfroid of the young student. We may agree this media-savvy tyke has a point. Speaking of points, it’s worth noting Gregory does all his drawings on a computer. The straight lines and beveled corners give his work a clean, precise look.
Stories of vacations and amusement parks are the usual stuff of back-in-school conversations. For the lucky few, however, tales of backwoods adventures and first kisses in sleep-away camp pour forth. Not so for the left-behinds, as Barbara Smaller’s picture of juvenile disappointment shows.
Due to the endless news cycle available on cell phone apps, kids are hyper-aware of issues, especially the environment. They get it; that’s their future at stake. Avi Steinberg plugs into that angst by eavesdropping on a conversation after school.
The master of anxiety cartoons, David Sipress, delves into the mind of a tiny tot. Nightmares of academic achievement measures already beset this terrified elementary school-goer. Sipress’s pen style enhances the tension with wide-eyed expressions and dramatic crosshatching.
First-day jitters are not just the province of young students. We conclude by observing parents feel the separation keenly as they entrust their progeny to virtual strangers. The classroom in William Haefeli’s drawing is a welcoming place; the teachers look assured of their responsibilities, although Mom, pinching her pearls, needs reassurance. If you’re not familiar with Haefeli’s intricate style, it’s worth a second look to drink in the classroom’s keenly observed details.