February 14—for some a day of love, for others a day of regret and disappointment. Such a broad range of emotions inspires cartoonists to consider Valentine’s Day beyond the usual roses-are-red sentiment.
Cartoons about love and relationships often derive their humor from tension. Should one express one’s feelings? Will those feelings be reciprocated or rejected? Is true love even possible? Carolita Johnson punctures a promising scene of a man and woman on a park bench oblivious to the violence above them that destroys any potential for love. Poor Cupid has no chance.
Men freely admit that they don’t know what women want. Some men will at least seek the advice of a woman, especially on such an important day. Jack Ziegler presumed that was the case even in caveman days, when appropriate gifts were more limited than they are today. The list of items in the caption, each described enticingly by the saleswoman, strings out the humor to good effect.
The man who clearly does not know what women want is depicted in another Ziegler cartoon, this one taking its cue from a jazz standard.
Some men never seem to get it right when it comes to relationships, despite what they may consider their super-human efforts. Warren Miller expresses that sense of frustration, even Sisyphean hopelessness, in a caption-less cartoon that relies on a familiar trope.
That frustration goes double for women. Men, at least stereotypically, are often clueless, a viewpoint illustrated by Barbara Smaller. No credit is given for the guy’s perseverance.
Expressions of love or at least fondness sometimes arrive though the mail. Valentine’s Day in fact may have resulted from a conspiracy among greeting card companies, florists, and chocolatiers. Receiving a Valentine’s Day card can be an unexpected joy, but an empty mailbox can harden the heart of even the jolliest elf. Here, Edward Frascino, a cartoonist and noted illustrator of children’s books, considers how one iconic holiday figure fares during the Valentine season.
When a Valentine’s Day card does arrive, it can be sweet indeed. Everyone needs someone who believes in them. Even Bigfoot has feelings, as revealed in this sensitive cartoon by Zach Kanin.
Of course, not all Valentine’s Day cards should be taken at face value. The deceptive wooer with a hidden agenda is the subject of this Leo Cullum cartoon. The birdie will quickly regret opening its cage as well as its heart to this serial predator.
Some of us aren’t in a position to be terribly particular when it comes to choosing a valentine. Anyone of the same species will do in a pinch. Martha Campbell illustrates the unicorn’s predicament. While the cartoon relies on a familiar cartoon setup—Noah’s ark—the caption breaks an unwritten cartoon rule by repeating the punchline. Here, the repetition conveys the unicorn’s growing desperation and thus amps up the humor.
Sometimes it’s more realistic to simply give up. Why kid yourself, seems to be the message of this Leo Cullum cartoon.
Roz Chast has taken a completely different approach to Valentine’s Day, with a series of greeting cards intended for unconventional recipients. Here’s one example—a Valentine’s Day card from parents to their child, with a message of love mixed with mandatory neurotic anxiety.
We close with a simple, sweet cartoon from the files of Sam Gross, not known for his sentimentality. Love, his cartoon seems to say, is blind, or at least profoundly misguided.