Viva cartoons!

Chris O’Halloran from the Irish Comics News web site contacted me recently about contributing to ICN’s series, ‘Art Picks’, in which comic book creators talk about work that has influenced and inspired them.

You can see my choices up on their web site now. One of the things I talk about is how illustrated books formed my interest in artwork, not just comic books.

But I didn’t even get a chance to talk about cartoon strips, which were still appearing in newspapers back in the day. When I lived in the USA I loved the tradition of the Sunday Funnies – i.e. full-colour cartoons with extra panels that was its own little section of the newspaper. It was the first thing I reached for after a cup of coffee…

I adored Bill Watterson‘s Calvin & Hobbes, which continues to be a masterclass of stories told with joy and vere. It’s also a cartoon that appeals to children and adults, without patronising the first or boring the latter.

There weren’t many cartoon strips in newspapers in Ireland, but one I remember was Curly Wee and Gussie Goose – mostly because as a child seeking precisely this kind of entertainment I found it perplexing: it had verse underneath two images, none of it funny, and most of it strange. Still, I always read it whenever I saw it.

I found this image courtesy of a blog post about the strip on the Fústar web site, dating from 2006. Reading through the comments and doing a bit of quick searching I discovered that the comic was originally written by Maud Budden (real name Dora Magdalene) and drawn by Roland Clibborn. It was commissioned by The Liverpool Echo and it was produced from 1937 – 1969, and has been re-issued since.

Being a geek I was delighted when Dilbert appeared, as it was the first time a cartoon series embraced the world of tech, and lampooned the industry. The strip developed and changed over the years as Scott Adams’ creation became more popular, some of it becoming less to my tastes.

I did love Alice, of course…

Must… control… fist… of… death… remains a familiar refrain in my head during some situations.

And how many ways can I praise the magnificent Bloom Country by Berkeley Breathed? It was funny, political, moving, and deeply satirical.

Much to my surprise and delight I recently discovered that the Bloom County characters have returned from retirement, and are shaking off the mothballs with few signs of wear and tear.

Immediately Breathed has taken up of the cause of poking fun at the excesses of American political campaigning. And among writers, the ‘issue’ he has chosen to champion in the hopes of distracting the public from real issues is instantly divisive…

No doubt we will see Bill & Opus For President posters next year…

Of course there are web comics now, and so many of them it would be difficult to choose my favourites. I will point at a few I like very much.

Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant cartoons are about people, history, and popular culture, and are wickedly funny. As you’ll see from my article on ICN I’ve come to love Wonder Woman – and Beaton’s version is terrific considering all the guff that talked about Diane being a ‘difficult’ character…

The Awkward Yeti is written and drawn by Nick Seluk, and features a cast of characters including a blue Yeti, and conversations between his internal organs.

The Heart and Brain series is my favourite, depicting the battle between practicality and a desire for fun. Mostly, heart wins. Mostly…

I’m really enjoying Gemma Correll‘s pun-tastic cartoons, which are deservingly popular.

This one is both smart and pointed, so that it’s almost painful.

Similar to my piece for Irish Comic News, this is merely a tiny sampling of cartoon strips that I love. I’m so pleased that this artform continues to thrive thanks to the Internet.

Although, please, please, please credit the artists whose work you love if you share their creations online (You can even read about the importance of this via a cartoon drawn by talented Irishman, John Cullen.)

It takes a lot of work to be funny and witty via pictures and text, so cartoon creators deserve recognition and your support.

Viva cartoons!