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Posted at 9:05 AM ET, 10/ 6/2009

Riffs' Picks: From Late-Night TV to the Idiot Box, Today's Fave Five Cartoons

By Michael Cavna

From Late-Night TV to the Idiot Box, here are today's favorite cartoons culled from across the mighty mighty Web...

Facing the unforgiving spectre of a cartoon deadline, sometimes you inadvertently discover things. Under the pressure of a syndicate's expectations burning white-hot (though admittedly, that physical sensation is simply your head having got too near your drafting table light), you're forced in desperation to improvise -- to create in an entirely different way from standard writing technique. And two things I improvised all too often years ago while trying to meet deadlines were: (1) marathon drawing sessions; and (2) mash-ups with other people's cartoon characters.

Regarding the first matter, I dare speculate that thousands of pro cartoonists have pulled 24-hour sketching sessions over the decades to finish a job if not done well, then at least, well, done. But it took zen comics theoretician/artist Scott McCloud to smartly popularize the formalized one-day "cartoon jam" by challenging friend Steve Bissette to create a 24-page comic in 24 hours (McCloud likewise took up the challenge himself). Now, over the intervening 19 years, McCloud's dare became an international event, luring the participation of professional and amateur cartoonists alike. And over this past weekend, thousands of cartoonists participated.

So for our No. 5 RIFFS PICK today, we spotlight the work of two cartoonists who participated in 24 Hour Comics Day: One is Daniel Olson's "Meanwhile in Wyoming". The other is by Lea "Diva Lea" Hernandez, who says her 24HCD is "made entirely of an iPod Touch/iPhone, from writing to research to art to uploading to Tweeting updates.

And while we're shining a white-hot klieglight on Mr. McCloud's wildly popular cartoon "holiday," Comic Riffs is also pleased to note his talk to Hoosier students Monday about the Web as an "infinite canvas" and the prospects of Webcomics as a horizon for hope.

4. MASHABLE ART: For today's RIFFS PICK NO. 4, we spotlight Bob Staake's inspired spot illo for the latest Style Invitational -- which also conveniently gives us a chance to plug the Empress's latest contest.

Mashing together comic-strip characters from different strips, of course, is surely as old as Little Nemo and the Yellow Kid. I always particularly enjoyed in the '80s when both Gary Larson and Berkeley Breathed would "adopt" Garfield at the tabby's expense (notably when "The Far Side" python swallowed Garfield entirely, the whole "kitten"-kaboodle, and when "Bloom County" would deploy Bill the Cat to mock the suction-cup-happy Jim Davis creation). So it was only natural that when on tight deadline and seekign inspiration, I sometimes mulled how to place Gumby or Dilbert or even Mr. Potato Head in a bizarre scenario. (And of course several weeks ago, Comic Riffs and its readers offered their own Disney/Marvel mashup creations.)

Now this week, 'Riffs encourages Post comics readers to have similar fun with the Invitational's challenge, by combining any two Post strips. If you give it a shot: good luck and Godspeed!

3. THE ONLY CONSTANT IS CHANGE: Some days I embrace "Mark Trail" because it's not only a mere comic, but also -- once you're doing reading the "gag" -- you've then got a bonus puzzle to play with.

Take today's strip. If "Mark Trail" ever hired a continuity editor to make sure the visuals were consistent, half the fun would be lost. If a regular "What's Wrong With This Picture?" as characters drastically shift distances around the table even while remaning seated; objects on the table not only move inexplicably, but shift shape and form; and entire windows on back walls disappear altogether. Thank you, Mr. Trail, for being both cartoon and our day's Visual Su-Do-Ku

2. THE HOST WITH THE MOST: As the Letterman saga continues -- and as cartoonists continue to use Dave's famed Top Ten list as fodder -- Atlanta's Mike Luckovich spins it for our favorite Letterman cartoon thus far.

Annnd No. 1 with a ballot, if not a bullet....

1. UN-CIVIL LIBERTIES: In this week's "Idiot Box," Matt Bors has me laughing before I can even get to the second panel; just the image of Wolf Blitzer's whiskered visage poking from beneath the veil were enough to get me going. But beyond that, the layers of satire at work here are masterfully dispatched, as Bors remain in complete control. Bra-vo.


Since Comic Riffs mentioned the "Lio" Look-Alike Contest some weeks back, I'd be remiss if I didn't cite the winner in this space: It's "Brian F." from California, sporting a killer hair spike. Congratulations -- and bonus points for a reader younger than 13 who still looks at the print funnies. You and your spirited haircut give us a glimmer of hope, Brian.

By Michael Cavna  | October 6, 2009; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The Morning Line, The Political Cartoon  
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In case anyone is wondering what the "mash title" for the Style Invitational illustration is supposed to be, The_Empress said that they forgot to insert it during production; it was supposed to be called "Spiderbert" (see:

Posted by: kilby | October 6, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

If you want to read "The Other Coast" is is at I don't know what is the matter with the print edition, its now Wednesday and the Post is still running Sunday's strip!

Posted by: 2old2readcomics | October 7, 2009 2:36 AM | Report abuse

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