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 camping.
Ah, it’s midsummer and time to get back to nature. Time to load up the car and set off to see our fabulous—and crowded—National Parks. No fancy accommodations for us, oh no; it’s sleeping on the ground like our forebearers … and toss and turn, and toss and turn. Well, OK, maybe upgrade to a cabin?
Speaking of our forebearers, when they camped, there were no ripstop nylon tents and down sleeping bags. They just threw themselves on the ground and snored the night away. In our first cartoon, a quartet of prehistoric folks get together for an evening of cave camping. Jack Ziegler seems to imply there wasn’t much to it.
Half the fun of camping is the gear, especially snazzy outerwear. Why not stand out in the great outdoors? Amy Hwang’s hot dog roaster summarizes ambivalence towards spending the night outdoors succinctly.
Not everyone is thrilled with encounters in the wild. Some tender feet take exception to the smaller creatures abounding near their camping site … like insects. Our couple doesn’t seem to be on the same page in Teresa Burns Parkhurst’s woodland scene.
Camping is a classic test for the compatibility of a new relationship. Like Benjamin Schwartz’s peeping bears, veteran observers enjoy a front-row seat for the emotional fireworks about to erupt. Perhaps couples counseling training should be required for all park rangers.
“Getting away from it all” is a common reason to gather ’round the campfire. The woes of civilization seem to melt away among the soaring pines and gentle breezes. Your kids, as Drew Panckeri conjectures, might have other ideas.
Hiking to a remote campsite is a rare opportunity to get off the grid. There’s no sidewalk and sometimes no trail, just our eyes and ears to guide the way. But can we live without the trust we place in our electronic gadgets? Andrew Evans ponders that question as well.
Cartoonist and illustrator Harry Bliss pulls us into a complex winter scene of remarkable depth. His dense composition of an ice fisherman’s bivouac is worthy of a museum. The textures of the tent and fisherman’s clothing, framed by snow-encrusted trees, are worth a second look. The details are stunning. Miraculously, Bliss even manages to convey falling snowflakes. Naturally, a cute dog steals the scene.
High altitude camping is dangerous under the best of circumstances. Summiting a mountain requires rigorous preparation. The equipment and supplies must be checked and rechecked; there is no room for error. Of course, as Colin Dukelow imagines, human error can never be completely eliminated.
The acerbic Michael Crawford can’t resist drawing a pair of campers with attitude. Sure, they’ve had an OK time … up until now. Though the setting looks idyllic, a closer look at the tents reveals a possible source of dissatisfaction: lots of bugs.
Corporate camping is a peculiar endeavor. The purpose is less about the great outdoors and more about team building. P.C. Vey’s identically suited “campers” indulge in a strange fireside ritual. They’ll have plenty to discuss around the water cooler on Monday.
What would a camping trip be without the ritual telling of a ghost story? Of the many clichés in the cartooning world, the flashlight-underlighting gag remains durable. Kaamran Hafeez has thoughtfully ensured that the scary story plot is appropriate to the age and income demographic of the fireside audience.
We conclude with a magical starry night in the great outdoors, courtesy of the diabolical Edward Steed. The sentimental and the just plain weird collide head-on in his twist on the joys of camping. Apparently, when star-gazing out in the wild, it pays to look down occasionally.