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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/13/2008

The Morning Line: When Bad Art Happens to Good Characters

By Michael Cavna

When a witty comic-stripper who has no pretension of drawing well gives us bizarre art, we get it. To quibble over the art is like complaining about the cinematography of a hilarious Christopher Guest mockumentary.

Then, though, there are the more talented illustrators whose artwork occasionally, mysteriously, goes awry. To wit, three examples of When Bad Art Happens to Good Characters:

JUDGE PARKER: Talk about a tough lie. The dialogue balloon comes from behind. (NAS)
Enlarge Comic

1. JUDGE PARKER: Ah, bask in the perspective, the tension of the crouch, the detail of the goatee, but then -- WHAT? Why is that errant dialogue balloon pointing at ol' man Cheatham's, um, lower back. We sensed that Cheatham is always speaking out of his tuckus anyway, but we meant it figuratively...

MARK TRAIL: At last, someone gets the last word on Kelly Welly. (NAS)Enlarge Comic

2. MARK TRAIL: Another case of Wildly Errant Word Balloon. Our artistic expectations aren't as high for "MT" as they are for "JP," but neither do we expect its art to go all "Gil Thorp" on us. But there, in the third panel, suddenly the balloon looms above the foregrounded bighorn sheep (thanks, "marshlc") -- which, if we indulge the visual faux pas, adds a rather entertaining twist. Someone ship this talking sheep over to "Pearls Before Swine" for a coupla weeks of real fun.

FRAZZ: But is Mallett willing to draw the breast stroke? (UFS)Enlarge Comic

3. FRAZZ: If strips want to get anatomically vague, that's surely their prerogative, but "Frazz's" topless exploits stump us: If you're going to draw the navel, why not draw the nipples? Does Jef Mallett somehow consider the male nipple inappropriate for our breakfast viewing?

Visually or otherwise, what are your pet peeves in the comics? We invite your comments.

By Michael Cavna  | August 13, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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I don't usually notice balloon placement except in Mark Trail which has a variety of talking plants, animals, rocks, etc. The people never seem to open their mouths.

I did notice that Sally kept talking over her brother today. And when I looked at the on-line peanuts in the WaPo page, I noticed that it didn't match the print Peanuts. Is this the norm?


Funniest strip of the day is, by far, Pooch Cafe.

I suspect the JP storyline will continue with two men in white coats, one carrying a large butterfly net and the other a coat with long sleeves and straps will descend on Mr Cheatham. He's clearly insane.

Can someone PLEASE move Candorville off the crease? They often have a balloon on top and bottom and unless I unfold the paper I miss part of the strip.

Posted by: f2 | August 13, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Mark Trail regularly has animals "talking" and sometimes they seem quite appropriate.

Posted by: Neil Ottenstein | August 13, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Balloon placement isn't an issue unless it's directed at the wrong character or otherwise goes horribly wrong (thought balloon for word balloon, etc.).

I don't know whether there's a syndicate equivalent of BS&P, but that may be the reason why man nipples aren't on display. And while we're on the subject, I'm guessing there were no outraged reactions to the nudity in last Sunday's "For Better Or For Worse."

Posted by: Daniel J. Drazen | August 13, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Um, that's not a goat, it's a bighorn sheep.

Posted by: marshlc | August 13, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

marshlc is probably right, but to be certain why not ask the talking goat?

Posted by: Baaaa | August 13, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Today's Telnase (speaking of political cartoons) didn't offend my artistic sensibilities per say, but it did make me raise my eyebrows in surprise. It was making a point about the Chinese government and (I think) incorporated physical stereotypes of Chinese people. I get why she did it...the whole "cute girl was only lip syncing at the Olympics" deal, making a connection between that and the ugly truth of Chinese communist rule hiding behind the illusion of a free press and economy...I get it, I get it. All the same, in order to draw/animate the comic, she is edging close to not just an ugly/scary Chinese person, but a historical and offensive image of Chinese people (what was with the teeth? couldn't she make him a big scary monster w/o the teeth?) I'm not offended or anything...then again, I'm not Chinese. I do find the whole thing interesting.

Posted by: Omaha | August 13, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

More on Mark Trail talking animals -->

Posted by: gallahad | August 13, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I loved your comic perspective this morning- no pun intended, really - I did think the placement of the bubble in Judge Parker was done tongue in cheek - OMG - another unintended pun! I'd better stop now...

Posted by: janietiptoe | August 13, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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