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 Halloween cartoons.
The evening of October 31st will be a welcome respite from the mask wars; it’s Halloween, so everyone will be wearing a mask! In a strange pandemic paradox, children will be wearing masks underneath their holiday masks. This trick-or-treat season will be one for the scrapbooks.
The inevitable harbinger of Halloween is the sudden appearance of pumpkins everywhere. No other gourd is the poster child for a beloved festivity. Cartoonist Bob Eckstein knows it’s important that every pumpkin look its best for the big day. We couldn’t help but notice Bob’s subtle touch with the image in the mirror. Not everyone has the patience to carve two faces—and contrasting ones at that—on opposite sides of a single pumpkin.
Setting a cartoon in a doctor’s office has become a sturdy cliché over the years. We generally expect bad news in these situations, and Alex Gregory’s doctor is no exception. He’s giving the “patient” his clinical description of the upcoming procedure. The simple line drawing conveys all we need to know, though the doctor’s bedside manner leaves something to be desired.
When it comes to trick-or-treating, the costume is everything, from a kid’s perspective; it’s got to be just right. Whatever’s hot at the moment, as Barbara Smaller observes, will cause a run at the costume store. Her eye for detail, from the bare tree to the tawdry window display, makes this cartoon stand out, and the caption lands on a most unexpected term.
Most costumes look adorable on the wee tykes. Some kids like to push the boundaries of good taste by adding egregious blood effects or horrible fractures to their outfits. The creative boy in Farley Katz’s trick-or-treat scenario is just slightly ahead of his time. Even the pumpkin looks horrified.
Most of us can remember some disappointments in our Halloween swag bag. Over time we all learned that not every house hands out full-size candy bars, and some houses offered items that no self-respecting kid would want. In another cartoon by Barbara Smaller, one treat-or-treater has decided to make a stand. The relative size of the children to the taken-aback adult amplifies the gag.
Always expect the unexpected from Hall of Fame cartoonist Roz Chast. And based on this cartoon, candy hunters should steer clear of her doorstep on Halloween. One can’t help but admire the earnest fervor with which the adults offer their yummy “treats”.
Some parents seem altogether unclear on the trick-or-treating concept. Once again, P.C. Vey unleashes his peculiar slant on the world. The empty wineglass on the table might be a hint as to this couple’s frowzy approach to such an innocent holiday.
Who could imagine the hectic domestic life of pumpkins? Tom Toro takes a literal approach with all the trappings of a typical suburban bedroom: wallpaper, dresser, framed pictures (including one with a pumpkin face), clothes on the floor, even a pet cat—asleep, naturally. All is normal from anywhere below the shoulders. The artwork is outstanding, and the concept both weird and original. Wait—is Mrs. Pumpkin really holding a carving knife?
Not all adults are thrilled with the idea of dressing up for a theme party. There’s always that sense of foolishness traveling to and from the party in a silly costume. In addition, there’s the fear of someone else showing up looking like you. Oh, the horror. William Haefeli explores the depths of these issues in his unique graphic style. The clothing textures alone are worth a second look.
We conclude with a paean to the procrastinators. Joe Dator is a keen observer of life around the boroughs of New York. He knows Halloween is a perfect time to bring together kindred spirits who, though talented merrymakers, might be a tad short on planning. In this cartoon, each character exhibits his or her own unique lack of imagination. The unimpressed onlookers are a nice addition, especially the child on the dad’s shoulders, as if there were a need to see above the non-existent crowd.