Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at the 2020 Masquerade.
Years from now, after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, photographs will preserve this strange era. Empty streets, deserted beaches, and shuttered storefronts will predominate in cell phone snapshot collections. The strangest sight of all, however, will be photos of a masked populace. Perhaps this era will be referred to as…The Corona Masquerade.
There’s a new etiquette for mask-wearing passersby as captured by Mick Stevens. A jaunty wave, a merry crinkle around the eyes, and a wide berth are the new hallmarks of friendly greetings. The smile must be imagined.
Suddenly, just going to the grocery store involved strange new customs. Steve McGinn eloquently summarizes the new mask and distancing protocols in a captionless cartoon.
Bizarre shortages cropped up as the pandemic news dominated the airwaves: toilet paper, bleach, yeast, and understandably, masks. The repercussions of being last in line for face protection are depicted in another cartoon by Mick Stevens.
Of course, the fashion conscious among us lost little time in cultivating “mask-couture.” No words are necessary in Steve McGinn’s send-up of a mask fit for 5th Avenue.
If you miss out entirely on obtaining a mask, some improvisation may be required to comply with face covering requirements. In the quirky world of Liana Finck, why not go with a paper bag? This pre-pandemic cartoon presents a slightly less odd scenario today.
Even with a functioning mask, good intentions gone wrong abound in these nervous days of uncertainty. The simple act of borrowing a cup sugar goes humorously awry in Peter Kuper’s neighborhood scene. The sugar crystals in the wind seem symbolic of the times.
Now that we’re in the habit of donning a mask before heading out on errands, it occasionally pays to consider one’s look. Off the slopes, a full-face ski mask is often the preferred head garb for bank robbers. Peter Steiner’s naïve schnook will raise a few eyebrows in the teller queues. The startled wife’s expression is priceless.
As for real bank robbers, counterintuitive behavior could work in their favor. Natalie Dupille illustrates the confounding logic of one robber’s bold ploy.
The surgical mask has become such a common sight that its graphic incorporation into iconic logos requires no explanation, as seen in this cartoon without a caption by Phil Witte. The somber message is clear that New Yorkers in particular are facing a new reality.
Speaking of New York, the closing of Broadway shows has been a morale crusher for many. Cartoonist and illustrator Michael McParlane swaddles the centuries-old masks of tragedy and comedy in claustrophobic fabric.
“When will it end?” one asks, as weeks turn into months of restrictions. Veteran cartoonist Mort Gerberg is thinking big as he addresses the issue. Interestingly, the Mt. Rushmore heads have gown hands to signal dismay at the state of union.
We conclude with another Gerberg cartoon, where even God maintains distance—mask at the ready—from his creation. What would Michelangelo think of a blue nitrile glove interrupting the famous “touch” scene, a venerable carton cliché? Right now, humanity needs all the help it can get.