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 air travel.
The news from every direction is bleak and getting worse: Ukraine, climate change, the stock market. When things get bad, we want a break. Better yet, we just want to get away from it all, and almost anyplace will do.
The first step is to head to the airport. As we approach, the anxiety starts to build, especially if we haven’t flown in a while. Inside the imposing structure, as Mick Stevens portrays, we know chaos awaits.
Isn’t there some alternative to slogging through the airport security gauntlet? This brutal process adds time, irritation, and potential embarrassment as we walk barefooted through strange machines. And which lucky soul will be pulled aside for additional scrutiny? Our cartooning madman, Edward Steed, adds a diabolical twist to the final pat-down.
At last, we’re at the boarding gate and on time! Our cherished notions of a classless society, however, fall apart as the boarding agent puts us in our place. We stand aside as the anointed board first. Veteran cartoonist Paul Noth’s art is noted for its clarity. Even the ascending jet seen through the window gets realistic treatment.
The PA system on the airplane can erupt at any moment with announcements from mundane to concerning. No one likes to hear there’s a problem with a machine about to hurtle us 30,000 feet into the air. Tom Toro knows how to strike fear into the heart of any nervous passenger. He also takes great care to render all the details in his compositions—from the headrest covers and air vents to the seat pocket magazines.
An introvert’s worst nightmare is meeting the strangers with whom they’ll share the next few hours. There’s simply no escape. Worse still, it’s someone you know but would prefer to avoid. Zachary Kanin takes that scenario to the extreme in his airplane seating gag.
No flight would be complete without the de rigueur safety announcement. Once a spotlight moment for the flight attendant, the announcement is now handled by a slickly produced video playing on your seatback screen. Hmmm, is Amy Kurzweil’s flight attendant sounding a bit resentful?
The bright spot on most flights is the cheerful attention bestowed by our flight attendant. Though the amenities have shrunken from the “golden era” of flying, they manage to put a positive spin on everything. William Haefeli celebrates another small triumph of high-altitude positivity in his unique style.
At some point we settle down for the long ride to our much-anticipated destination. Now relaxed, our minds are free to wonder at the miracle of flight. Or perhaps, in Roz Chast’s experience, just mindlessly wander.
Mid-air emergencies call for quick thinking and swift action. Flight attendants will often prevail upon passengers for expertise in a specific area—especially during the era when several airlines were heading into Chapter 11. Leo Cullum, himself a former airline pilot, has something very specific in mind to remedy this high-flying emergency.
Once aloft, we are reminded in numerous ways—some subtle, some not so subtle—that we are in the least worthy class on the aircraft. There is another, loftier class aboard; in fact, there may be two or more higher classes in the case of some ultra-luxe airlines. J.B. Handelsman brings us down to earth fast before we get our hopes up for caviar and foie gras.
Every so often, we get an in-flight peek into first class as we wait in line for the lavatory. The white napkins look soft and the cutlery substantial. A quiet hiss and pop of a bottle signals more champagne is on the way. Alex Gregory’s ribald scenario hints at bacchanalian revelry above the clouds…and we’re not invited.
For our last cartoon, back on the ground, we assess the landing. Was it soft? A mere kiss of rubber to tarmac? Usually, but Michael Crawford knows that skills vary from pilot to pilot. Here, a couple less-than-thrilled passengers give the pilot their unvarnished review.