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 snow.
As temperatures drop heading into the New Year, cascades of snowfall across the country. We explore a renewed world wrapped in a white mantel with wide-eyed appreciation. Our cartoonists, however, may have a different take on the cultural rituals associated with snow.
Growing up, the most exhilarating news to a kid was the 7 a.m. announcement of a snow day. Ya-hoo! No school, lots of sledding, and hot chocolate. William Haefeli revives this magic for adults in his wintertime tableau. Haefeli is one the most distinctive cartoon artists working today. His arrangement of people and strong clothing patterns are worth a second look.
It’s not uncommon to see the occasional adult flopping backward into powdery snow to create a snow angel. The urge to create one is universal and innocent, a connection to childhood. Leave it to Tom Toro, relying on the old switcheroo, to provide an unexpected twist. Facedown, they could be mistaken for fallen angels.
Bruce Kaplan is a master of minimalist drawings with strong lines and no shading, ideal for portraying winter scenes. In this panel, he communicates that the first run of the ski season may not have gone as planned.
Though adventurous-seeming in sports magazines, few of us relish the thought of boring through thick ice to sit out in the cold and fish. Our hearty outdoorsman may not have chosen his portal wisely in this Harry Bliss cartoon. The majestic background and realistically rendered fish give a hint as to why Bliss is a premier illustrator whose works have graced numerous New Yorker magazine covers.
A giant in the cartooning community, the late Jack Ziegler brings his unique brand of humor to an urban snowscape. The simple, contrasting lines economically illustrate footprints and convey movement. Who among us has not had cutting remarks for Fido’s distracting interest in a new snowfall?
Faced with the daunting prospect of snow removal, many a homeowner has wished for superpowers to help with this arduous task. Mick Stevens calls upon Biblical inspiration for his suburban walkway clearing. It’s almost as dramatic as the Hollywood version. The anachronistic approach to humor is applied to perfection.
Though air traffic is light this year, it’s hard to forget the strange rituals airplanes go through in icy airports. Frank Cotham imagines that the plane is not the only one requiring attention. The details of his drawing suggest this might not be a first-rate airport. Just one seat is required in the terminal for the single seat available in the biplane. For the detail-oriented, note the diamond-shaped window that is often featured in the living room doors of Frank Cotham’s cartoons.
It’s hard to go astray with most decorations around the winter holidays. The themes are highly traditional and decidedly in conventional taste. One of the most offbeat cartoonists, P.C. Vey, has his homeowner musing about a questionable choice in holiday presentation.
Ultimately, as the long winter holiday drags on, too much skiing can feel like an endless cycle of up and down the mountain. John O’Brien, one of the foremost practitioners of the caption-less cartoon, captures that sentiment with an intricate perpetual motion ski machine. The image is simultaneously amusing and magical.
Liana Finck’s quirky style and unique humor challenge a reader’s perceptions. Her snow somehow rearranges its falling pattern in response to the professional training of those strolling through it, or perhaps that’s just how they perceive it.
All good things must come to end, especially when it comes to municipal snow removal. Traffic must continue to flow, so Joe Dator’s work crew has hit upon the optimal materials to melt the accumulated precipitation. What the salt doesn’t dissolve, the hot sauce will.
We conclude with a cartoon by Bob Eckstein, a man so obsessed with snowmen that he wrote a book called “An Illustrated History of the Snowman.” If that proudly nationalistic snowman could speak, he would probably say the Norwegian equivalent of “neener-neener.”