The Riff: When the Funnies Go Verbose
In the middle of an interview some years back with Pulitzer-winning political-cartooning legend Paul Conrad, I asked about his extreme pithiness. The messages of his cartoons were often conveyed with striking visuals and short captions, and he loathed word balloons. What did he think then, I queried, of editorial cartoonists who relied heavily on dialogue?
His response was fittingly short, and tart: "They should just give up cartooning altogether and become WRITERS!"
Conrad recalled seeing a recent political cartoon that needed 180 words to get across its message. He was disgusted to the point of stopping to count this treasonous verbosity.
As comic strips face space limitations, their cartoonists face a tough task that seems weighted against them: How do you fully develop characters, plot and story before even, depending on your strip, cutting to the punchline?
"Lio," of course, ducks this issue by going without dialogue. And "Dilbert's" Scott Adams is a minimalist master when it comes to reducing his three-panel joke (or jokes) to fewer than 40 words.
At the other extreme, often, are such strips as "Tank McNamara," "Zippy" and "Pearls Before Swine."
This week, for instance, "Pearls" routinely tips the scales at 70-plus words. (Myself, I often try to hew as close to the "magic 50 mark" as possible--much beyond that, my gags seem to quickly lose punchiness.)
The curious thing is: I rarely mind it when "Pearls" goes long--in part because the very funny payoff is so frequently worth the wait. And since "Zippy" seldom seems about the "joke," per se, I will leisurely enjoy the verbal stroll.
On the other hand, even as a former sports cartoonist, I sometimes find "Tank" just too dense, and I fight the urge to edit as I read.
So today, Comic Riffs puts the question to you: Does long-windedness keep you from reading certain strips? Is verbosity a serious deterrent? Or is it a more subtle distinction than that, depending on other factors in the strip?
And of course, if too many words and images is your issue, then there's always one satiric sanctuary: "Garfield Minus Garfield."
| December 19, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: The Riffs
Save & Share: Previous: The Morning Line: Riffys for Inspired Art and Cameos
Next: The Morning Line: 'Rockit' Man Achieves Liftoff
Posted by: Late2Bass | December 19, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LeMuff | December 21, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Montanan | December 21, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tomtildrum | December 22, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jumper1 | December 22, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.