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 home remodeling cartoons.
One of the less horrifying consequences of the Covid pandemic has been the surge in home remodeling. Apparently, people cooped up for months at home look around, and decide they need nicer rooms to stay confined in.
If you’ve survived a home remodel, you know it’s no picnic. That goes double if you have a live-in partner. Joint decision-making leads to joint arguments over money, design, and who gets more closet space. Add to the mix hammering, paint fumes, and dust everywhere, and you have a perfect subject for cartoons.
David Sipress sums up the experience of living in a construction zone: walls stripped down to the studs, power tools on the floor, actual living space reduced to the square footage of a prison cell. Survival is the goal.
Homeowners want to know what they’re getting into with a major remodel. An experienced general contractor can provide a cost estimate. The G.C. in Robert Leighton’s cartoon has enough experience to prepare this couple for what could happen, taking into account more than the mere monetary costs. The humor builds in the caption as the stakes increase, and the exaggeration becomes more plausible.
Homeowners are often shocked at the cost of even a modest remodel. Accurate estimates are a good reality check and often result in scaling down a project. Sometimes they result in more reflexive responses. The reaction of the husband in Todd Condron’s cartoon is visceral.
The contractor is just one member of the remodeling team. The project starts with the architect, who works with the clients to create a design that aligns with their desires. The contractor turns the plans into reality. And, as pointed out by Phil Witte, co-author of Anatomy of a Cartoon, one professional keeps the marital framework sturdy to prevent a domestic collapse.
Renovations are an interesting topic of conversation if you’re considering such an undertaking. If not, then talking about a home remodel is verbal Ambien. Cartoonist Amy Hwang, who trained as an architect, may have been inspired by a certain type of client who can’t understand why some folks might not be fascinated by bathroom tile.
In another Amy Hwang cartoon that is more specifically architectural, the entire drawing consists of similar structures devoid of people. A boxed title explains the odd line-up of newly erected wooden barns. Perhaps their wood will be reclaimed before it is even claimed.
Of course, if a guest wants to compliment a homeowner on a renovation, that’s a different matter. Here, British cartoonist Colin Dukelow offers an unexpected take on that situation. The artwork is fairly eccentric for a gag cartoon—pea-sized heads, wavy lines combined with ruler-straight edges, washes together with patterned backgrounds—works well with the surprising caption. Cool.
A home makeover can give a tired residence a fresh look. A brick facade and chimney, large glass panels, and a bit of landscaping all add value to the familiar dark castle often depicted in Frank Cotham’s cartoons. This one goes the anachronism route in a big way. Details include the spear-bearing sentry atop the tower contrasted with the satellite dish on the new wing’s roof. Similarly, the caption begins with a contemporary-sounding phrase and ends with an archaic one—a testament to Cotham’s twin skills as artist and gag writer.
“This Old House,” the home improvement show on PBS, now in its 42nd season–that’s not a typo–has become such a touchstone for homeowners seeking expert advice without paying for it that it functions as a verb in William Haefeli’s cartoon. And the realtor knows exactly what the speaker means.
A major renovation or addition isn’t always needed to give a home a new look. Sometimes a little redecorating will do the trick. Of course, like the mouse in the children’s book who gets a cookie, a simple addition can lead to a cascade of consequences. Undoubtedly, that is what’s in the man’s mind as he surveys the room, perhaps soon to be unrecognizable, in another cartoon by Robert Leighton. Mission creep looms.
Mick Stevens takes a common cartoon setting—heaven—and renders it almost unrecognizable simply by substituting clouds with, of all unheavenly things, carpeting. It’s as if we’re in a suburban track home. One might not think heaven needs much in the way of redecorating, but perhaps it’s part of God’s unknowable plan. Change, even in heaven, is good.