The Morning Line: Brad Pitt & the Art of Body Language
As Brad Pitt coolly strode past us in the newsroom, my co-worker sighed, "I would marry him in a heartbeat."
"But can he cook?" I teased.
"Who caaares?!" she replied without pause, as the word "cares" hung in the air, buoyed by some unbashful mixture of longing, lust and deadeye certainty.
Her statement -- made a year ago now -- is also a fitting response to anyone who finds flaws in truly funny comics. As in: Who cares if "Pearls Before Swine" animals have stick-figure appendages? If anything, that makes them funnier.
Today, though, I want to appreciate the cartoonists who can cook. That is, the artists whose knowledge of the anatomy is so refined that even their "cartooniest" figures ring true visually. Today, soaring above pages of static character postures, a handful of artists stand out. They've got it, and like a movie star, they flaunt it:
1. ZITS: I've written before of my deep appreciation for Jim Borgman's line (and Borgman recently told Comic Riffs that Jerry Scott organically collaborates on the entire strip, so we shan't slight him). But in terms of body language (Jeremy's hand-in-pockets slouch especially), "Zits" gets so many subtle touches just right that it's a joy to gaze over.
2. BABY BLUES: In another Jerry Scott co-production, he and Rick Kirkman likewise get so many small things right. The lean of Zoe's back, the curled dangle of Wren's legs. Sometimes we linger over the art even before reading; there's an entire education to be found in there.
3. CUL DE SAC: Richard Thompson (also a Washington Post freelancer) has great visual fun with his kids, but we're convinced that some of his most exquisite touches are saved for Mom. (Take, for instance, how she leans into the table in today's last panel.) Small things, but they all add up to a finer meal.
4. JUDGE PARKER: Perhaps its newest artist, Eduardo Barreto, flaunts so much skin in "Parker" precisely because so many of his lines are so elegantly true. Some poses can get stiff, but his shifting weights are a study in cartoon grace.
5. SALLY FORTH: An unconventional choice, especially because Craig MacIntosh inherited the reins of an artistically stiff strip. While the anatomy may not always read as technically true (not necessarily the goal here anyway), we stop to appreciate MacIntosh's knowledge of body language. Today, Sally--suddenly inquisitive about Ted's new woman-friend--is all crossed and akimbo'd arms; Ted, newly high on his geeky acquaintance, is all loosened ties and relaxed power -- so much so that he's literally holding the control. For once, Ted "Lady Hands" Forth is a little more than mannish boy.
Which strips cause you to pause to appreciate the artwork? Fire away.
| September 30, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: The Morning Line
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