Saturday, June 6, 2009

Family Circus: I hope I catch some fish sticks!

This cartoon is hilarious because a fish stick is a processed food product that does not, in fact, resemble any living fish.

Much like Jeffy is a processed cartoon stereotype that does not, in fact, resemble any living child.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Betty: Parry Hotter?

This comic is hilarious because Betty is buying gay porn for her son.

Family Circus: I'm gonna spend all summer not missing school.

This cartoon is hilarious because Billy is going to enjoy his summer vacation.

Marmaduke: You are not bringing home one of those!

No, children, don't cry. The grotesque parrot-creature in the window only looks that way cause Marmaduke's so darn big!

Beetle Bailey: Who gave you the flowers?

This comic is hilarious because Sgt. Lugg is lonely and desperate for kindness, but everybody hates her because she's fat.

Blondie: I'll just have to shop harder to buy more stuff in a shorter time!

This comic is hilarious because it reinforces gender stereotypes.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Arlo and Janis: I'll do all I can to positively influence events.

While the poor artwork in Marmaduke and The Family Circus provides ample ammunition for mockery, it doesn't really prevent their authors from telling the kind of stories they want to tell, mostly because the stories they want to tell are so simple. The less than laudable artwork in Pearls Before Swine and xkcd, meanwhile, is actually something of a feature; it's interesting, and often humorous, to see what Pastis and Munroe can do within their artistic limitations. The drawing in Arlo and Janis, though, is a real hindrance.

Jimmy Johnson's strip is mostly daily gag stuff, but it occasionally involves a reasonably complex continuing storyline, along the lines of a less involved For Better or For Worse or 9 Chickweed Lane. It's not a particularly great comic, but the serialized storytelling is pretty decent. The drawing really drags it down, though. As the above installment indicates, the style of the strip is pretty simple and minimalistic. Beyond that, the characters just aren't very expressive, and that's the real problem.

The conversation taking place between Janis and Gus is pretty serious, and the writing does a decent job of conveying the gravity of the situation. But Johnson isn't able to convey that same seriousness in his artwork. On the contrary, Janis and Gus are so stiff and expressionless that they may as well be in a Pearls Before Swine. And in a story like this, in which the characters should be wearing their emotions on their sleeves, that just doesn't work.

A big part of readers' connection to the characters in For Better or For Worse was image-based. Even without words, the characters' emotions were clear. The drawing in 9 Chickweed Lane is quite a bit more inventive than Lynn Johnston's ever was, but, still, what really gives readers a connection to it is that expressiveness in characters' faces. Johnson's characters don't have that, and it's the biggest reason why Arlo and Janis isn't a very good comic strip.

Marmaduke: Marm, I wasn't done lecturing you.

Oh, kids, don't be freaked out by Dottie's frighteningly skeletal fingers. They're only like that cause Marmaduke's so darn big!

Family Circus: Mommy, was tonight gonna be a bath night?

This cartoon is hilarious because Jeffy has finally snapped. Having already killed his siblings and buried them in the back yard, he is now luring his unsuspecting mother to the doorway. Don't go to him, Thel! Don't do it!

Ziggy: I never express my opinions...I don't want them moving my strip to the editorial page!

Ziggy's lying, of course. He spouts bland populist talking points all the time, just like the characters in Pluggers and Shoe and The Family Circus. And that's fine! Cartoonists have every right to express their opinions. It would be nice, though, if they would acknowledge what they're doing.

With the exception of Pluggers, these cartoons all have more going on than the political, but the political is still there. Populism, after all, is a political position.

Cathy: I'll pay you $100 to not have a yard sale!!

Oh good. More yard sale humor.

Even the characters are sick of this trope.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drabble: Alex Trebek is very handsome, isn't he?

I'm pretty sure that Drabble's audience is composed entirely of people who are excited that Jay Leno's moving into primetime.

Ziggy:...These days...the only thing I can be sure that I can't be sure of anything!

At least we can be sure that Ziggy is always going to suck.

Marmaduke: I recently discovered one of my arms is longer than the other.

This cartoon is hilarious because it attempts to provide a textual excuse for bad drawing.

Alternate caption: Don't worry if all the characters appear horribly distorted, kids. It's just cause Marmaduke is so darn big!

Family Circus: PJ "ALL GONED" his dinner!

Dolly's hands are disturbingly swollen.

Pluggers: You're a plugger if the sandwich for work has to go into a gallon-size Ziploc bag.

This cartoon is hilarious because pluggers are sinful gluttons.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mother Goose and Grimm: I like Doris Kearns Goodwin.

I take my enjoyment of his comic to mean that what the comics section needs is more Doris Kearns Goodwin and less gratuitous squirrel butt.

Garfield: Well, darn.

This comic is hilarious because Jon is going to suffocate on caulk.

Family Circus: Grandma, when you were little, what kinda music did you play on your iPod?

This cartoon is hilarious because Grandma didn't have an iPod when she was little.

Cleats: It's not just any soccer ball, Jack. It's a Miley Cyrus soccer ball.

Miley Cyrus is kind of creepy. A Miley Cyrus soccer ball is creepier yet. But that kid's jealous obsession with the Miley Cyrus soccer ball is the creepiest thing of all.

Rubes, Close to Home and Strange Brew: Internal logic in single-panel cartoons.

While single-panel cartoons tend to work by accentuating the absurd, it is nevertheless necessary for them to have a certain internal logic. Take Sunday's Rubes, for example. The premise of the cartoon is the old adage that a man's home is his castle. Taken to absurd literalness, it makes perfect sense within the world of the comic that homes would therefore come under siege from Hagar the Horrible like raiders. It's ridiculous, but the joke flows naturally from the premise.

Yesterday's Close to Home, on the other hand, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The premise is that it's easy to vacuum up toys. The joke is that this particular mother has a hung a sign up on her wall indicating what noises various toys make when they get vacuumed up. But it's not at all clear just why she would hang up such a sign. What use is it, after all, to know the noises various toys make when they get vacuumed up?

The logic in today's Strange Brew is even worse. The premise is the idea of keeping an eye on something. The joke is that the characters in the cartoon are eyes. But that makes no sense at all. If, after all, you were an eye, you wouldn't have an eye. So you wouldn't be able to keep your eye on anything. I suppose you could keep yourself on something, but that doesn't sound right. And so the cartoon isn't so much amusing as it is perplexing and stupid.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brevity: Stop it.

Why is Spock green?

Family Circus: When I finish my homework, can I do something useless?

This cartoon is hilarious because Billy's parents have taught him that, outside of material success, his life is worthless.

Ziggy: When you're sad and lonely, "trash day" can become a "fresh start."

Tom Wilson apparently believes that there's no metaphor so bad that it can't be made acceptable through the use of quotation marks. But he is very, very wrong. I can sort of go with him on trash representing our troubles, but what the hell are our "empties" supposed to be?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Born Loser: A-P-P-L-E.

This comic is hilarious because apple is not a palindrome.

Pluggers: I put on half a pound last week!

This comic is hilarious because, while the men in the Pluggerverse are all fat slobs, their wives feel the need to exercise themselves to death.

Stone Soup: For an old lady she's got a good arm!

This comic is hilarious because Gramma is abusive.

Family Circus: Mommy! PJ's touching the plant!

This comic is hilarious because Jeffy is an enormous douche.