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.
Phil: Why do you suppose so many cartoons are set in bars?
Rex: Because bars are the perfect place for drunken confessions, failed pick-up efforts, and public humiliations.
Phil: All funny premises, let’s look closer at some pick-up scenes…
Rex: This well-dressed woman gets right to the point with an iconic celebrity from yesteryear. Check out the details in Leo Cullum’s beautifully drawn upscale bar scene.
Phil: Incongruity drives this cartoon. The woman appears not at all nonplussed by the presence of a realistically drawn ad icon. She may not find Mr. Goodbar, but she’s got her eye on Mr. Peanut.
Phil: Speaking of odd-looking guys, here’s a cartoon inspired by the Easter Island heads. There’s much less detail than Leo Cullum would include, but the head definitely evokes mystery. Again, a seemingly everyday person interacts comfortably with an image from an alternate reality.
Rex: Right, and Mr. Stonehead doesn’t seem so out of place with his fitted suit and martini. The cartoon also provides a little history lesson; European arrival to the island occurred on Easter Sunday in – you guessed it – 1722.
Phil: Our cartoonists can’t resist getting animals into the act. Take J.B. Handelsman’s horoscope-themed cartoon, for example. Unlike the others, no human interacts with the non-human characters. I love how the Capricorn goat tugs flirtatiously at her beard.
Rex: That fish in the foreground doesn’t look too out of water; he seems to be keeping hydrated.
Rex: We started off with cartoons about attempted pick-ups. How about some brush-off cartoons?
Phil: I like this one by Carolita Johnson. Note how the background is suggested rather than spelled out, but it still conveys a bar. The cowgirl boots create a style difference between the two characters.
Rex: Those boots are made for walking—right past old baldy. At least her rejection is tempered by the words “right now”, suggesting that, just maybe, he could try again later.
Phil: There’s rejection, and then there’s crushing humiliation, as exemplified in this beautifully rendered cartoon by William Haefeli. It’s a closely cropped composition, but all of the elements are there: a few bottles, a largely obscured bartender, and silhouettes and glimpses of customers.
Rex: And the caption is an ego-crusher. Ooh, that’s gotta hurt!
Phil: Some of these seem a little sad, like this one, by P.C. Vey.
Rex: Bar cartoons often feature bewildered guys attempting to interpret female behavior. Here’s one by Drew Dernavich, sparely but powerfully drawn..
Rex: And saddest of all is this Michael Crawford cartoon, in which a man tells of lost love.
Phil: Wait, this is a late-night café, not a bar.
Rex: At least the caffeinated conversationalists will have plenty to say.
Phil: Let’s end on a happy note with this pleasantly weird cartoon by Joe Dator. It reflects the current trend to find a compatible partner online, where much depends on the profile photo. Meeting person-to-person or, in this case, person-to-cat-headed woman, comes later.
Rex: I think they make a cute couple. I hope it works out.