Cartoon Violence Sweats The Small Stuff
Dykes To Watch Out For creator Alison Bechdel once described her urge to put little, almost invisible details in her comics as arising from horror vacui, which must be a common cartoonist affliction. Indeed, even in the strips and political cartoons mocked, derided, and raged against in this space, there are usually little flourishes worthy of approbation, which get glossed over by the vast majority of the reading public, who either stare blankly and try to process all the over-labeled thingies, or prepare angry letters to the editor about how tired they are of so-called "cartoonists" shoving propaganda for the liberal media elite/vast right-wing conspiracy down their throats. In recognition of the whimsical work of these ink-stained wretches, this week Cartoon Violence will seek out amusing ancillary details to praise in several recent cartoons. Then we'll also say something mean, because otherwise we'll lose our street cred.
Enjoyable flourish: Germans are probably the only ethnic group that it's still acceptable to broadly stereotype in cartoons, and this one goes for the gusto. Beyond the obvious lederhosen/alpine hat on our dissolute Dr. Z stand-in, you've also got a beer stein, perched on his head for some unknowable but hilarious reason, and, even better, a string of sausages crammed into his front pocket. A sausage pocket! Those Germans'll think of everything.
Troubling detail: The decrepit "Kreiszler" in the background has a top-mounted machine gun with a still-smoking barrel, implying that Germany has been transformed from a rather pleasant social democracy into an anarchic, Mad Max-esque hellscape while we weren't paying attention.
What's next?: Hans und Helga are going to have sweaty yet orderly German sex in the back seat of that car, then go riding off to steal some gas from Belgium, munching sausages all the while.
Enjoyable flourish: The Xes in the dead Republican elephant's eyes. It's always amusing when bits of comic shorthand are magnified, as these universal symbols for dead cartoon characters are on the front of an animal so enormous that they dwarf Vice President Cheney's pointy bald head.
Troubling detail: The monstrously huge bones that frame the scene. How many titanic beasts has Cheney killed? Why do they keep coming to this field, where death awaits them, in Vice Presidential form?
What's next?: Cheney's going to put down the gun and start feasting on the elephant's still-warm corpse, without even using his hands.
Enjoyable flourish: Those bees are flying through a hoop in Mother Nature's hand, but not reappearing on the other side; presumably it's some kind of mystical interdimensional portal that this Earth goddess uses to teach her petulant lessons to mankind, and if the dude on the left attempted to follow the bees through it, he'd just smoosh up against the wall like Wile E. Coyote trying to chase the Road Runner through a cliff.
Troubling detail: Mother Nature looks all too much like some lady you'd meet at the Ren Faire, only eleven feet tall.
What's next?: When the bees completed their voyage of transportation through The Circle and found the Great Hive, they knew that their deaths at the hands of the Swatty Ones would be forever avoided. Yet was the pollen as sweet in this new realm without care? It was a philosophical conundrum that the drones toyed with in the idle weeks between mating seasons.
Enjoyable flourish: Forget the current pretensions of the Clinton estate in Westchester County: A place called Hope will always feature discarded propane tanks amongst the overgrown weeds, Red Man chaw-branded thermometers, and porches slowly sliding downhill.
Troubling detail: Why must our 42nd president be constantly portrayed as some kind of horrifying beast man?
What's next?: That all depends on whether Hillary's followed Bob Barker's advice regarding the spaying and neutering of her pets.
Enjoyable flourish: The "nuclear threat club" sign is held up on the wall with masking tape, establishing this trio as a bunch of immature loser dorks, not even smart enough to earn the "nerd" title. But still: nuclear armed loser dorks, who can have you killed on a whim.
Troubling detail: Flashing fake gang signs and spouting fake hip-hop gibberish is the sign of someone insecure and eager to please, not of a self-assured, lizard-eyed soulless killer.
What's next?: The club is soon riven by internecine squabbling: Ahmadinejad's attempt to impose his strict Sharia views of gender separation by adding a "no girls allowed" clause to the by-laws is countered by Kim Jong Il, who wants very, very badly to get laid.
Enjoyable flourish: Europe apparently enjoys carrying home its bank withdrawals in enormous burlap sacks, and is so well known at this local branch of the World Bank that it doesn't even need to use the conveniently provided pen to fill out a withdrawal slip.
Troubling detail: That sack is already in its final, filled-with-Wolfowitz shape in the first panel, meaning it must be pretty stiff. That means that Shoeless Paul might be able to make an escape!
What's next?: The ancient Romans punished parricides by sewing them into a stout leather bag with a dog, a snake, a rooster, and a monkey, and then throwing the whole thing into the river. That all seems pretty elaborate. As long as there's a monkey involved in some capacity here, I'll be happy. --THE COMICS CURMUDGEON