Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday afternoon toons: Special New Year's Edition

Welcome to the first p3 toonfest of 2009. If you were expecting the holidays to be a quiet stretch for the political toonists, you'll be pleasantly surprised. (Although not every cartoonist was at his drafting table for the full week. Still, we'll manage.)

Bob Geiger's still on vacation. Watch for his toon review next week.

Daryl Cagle's round-up features several 2008-in-review pieces.

p3 Picks of the Week: John Darkow, Jimmy Margulies, John Cole, Gary Brookins, and Steve Breen.

And as for the dominant theme in Cagle's Best of the Year in Review collection, I'll give you a hint: ears and teeth.

The p3 Harmonic Toon Convergence Certificate--plus the p3 Buyer's Remorse Notification--has been mailed out to Dick Locher and Rob Rogers.

The p3 Too Much Information Award goes to Daryl Cagle, on the condition that he won't tell us where he got the details.

p3 World Toon Review: Stephane Peray (Thailand), Arcadio Esquivel (Panama), Pavel Constantin (Romania), and Angel Boligan (Mexico).

Ann Telnaes kisses 2008 goodbye.

Guest toon: Carol Lay performs a fiery Feifferesque dance of farewell.

Portland homeboy Jack Ohman considers the transition in the Office of the Vice President.

The NYTimes notes the passing of Will Elder, an artist whose name you might not recognize today, but whose work you've undoubtedly seen. Elder was one of the earliest of the artists for MAD Magazine. His credentials were already impeccable: In 1953 he did a parody of "A Visit From St. Nicholas" that was banned in Massachusetts and the focus of a dubious sting operation by the NYPD. Apparently not everyone imagined "half-butchered carcasses of hogs, a goat, a baby elephant, a lion and the requisite mouse, all dangling from meat hooks, gushing blood" when they read the words "not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." Who knew?

"Will was the one who gave Mad magazine its look and style, which were different from any comic book that had been created before," [MAD founding editor and Elder's childhood friend Harvey] Kurtzman wrote in his memoir, "My Life as a Cartoonist." "He was the one who started filling the margins of every page with hundreds of tiny cartoons. They had nothing to do with the story on the page."

Connoisseurs of Elder’s style call it "chicken fat," so named by its inventor for "the part of the soup that is bad for you yet gives the soup its delicious flavor." Elder’s art was one of perilous excess. Elder was the funny pages’ answer to Charlie Parker and Allen Ginsberg and Lord Buckley, and he served as inspiration not only to the comix artists of the underground movement, like Robert Crumb, but also to rock musicians in their aesthetic neighborhood, like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Indeed, Garcia, who idolized Elder, once sought him out and invited him to a concert (at which Elder wore earplugs) and commissioned his idol to paint his portrait in oils. "I always liked that thing of overdoing it," Garcia explained in an interview about Elder, "and here’s a guy who really understands what overdoing it is all about."

You can see Elder's trademark marginalia on this December 1956 MAD cover (click to enlarge--it's all about the details). Also, note that this cover arguably beats both The Nation and Tom Tomorrow to the punch by 44 years.

A favorite bit that Warner Bros. animators liked to return to was the bookstore at night, when the titles and covers come to life--usually involving shameless puns and quick pop culture references. (So popular was the shtick that "Animaniacs" lifted it four decades later, this time in a movie rental shop: When a tyrannosaurus from "Jurassic Park" menaces the three heroes, Yakko says, "Let's drop a bomb!"--whereupon they shove several box-office stinkers, including"1941" [by "Animaniacs" executive producer Steven Spielberg], off the shelf and watch them explode below.) "Book Review," directed by Robert Clampett in 1946, is worth watching twice: Once for the action in the foreground, and once for the puns, the rapid-fire cameos (Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, W. C. Fields, Jimmy Durante, and more), and the lush backgrounds (look at the moving typeface scenery behind Sinatra's first appearance--it reappears later, too; you won't find that in an "Animaniacs").

p3 Bonus Toon: Jesse Springer is taking the week off.

No comments: