" . . . and a bargain, sir, sturdy and well broken in! Don't worry about those holes in the bottom of the boat. They won't show when it is in the water."
This caption under a simple pen and ink drawing is a cartoon, one of the millions that delight readers in newspapers, magazines and comic books. They tell stories, entertain, mock, ridicule and record events.People have always told stories through pictures. Hunters in prehistoric times drew their life events on the walls of caves, a queen of France embroidered the conquest of England in 1066. Characters like Bugs Bunny, Prince Valiant, Cathy and Goon have become famous from the cartoon pictures.
Many noted illustrators have used the cartoon as medium; for example George Cruikshank, who more than 150 years ago drew ink "gag panels" that had political undertones. William Steig, author and illustrator, often publishes cartoons in the "New Yorker" magazine as did the late Crockett Johnson. Thomas Nast, the artist who gave us the impression of Santa Claus as we generally view him today, was famous for his cross-hatch sketches of rotund political figures and entrepreneurs.
Some cartoon artists are known only for their comic drawings, such as Bud Sagendorf, who invented "Popeye," and Mort Walker, the `father' of "Beetle Bailey." Rube Goldberg, one of the old-time cartoonists, developed a special kind of silly humor that typically surrounds inventions, some of which carry his name in a generic way meaning `feather-brained contraptions.'
It is interesting to compare the themes of the comics over the years and contrast the world views and values through similar characters such as George Herriman's "Krazy Kat" and "Garfield" drawn by Jim Davis.
Because of the many messages that comics contain, historians believe that comics are one of the major contributions that America has made to the 20th century.
In CARTOONS AND CARTOONING (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1990. $13.95) Harvey Weiss discusses the specifics of cartooning, the gag panel, animated cartoons, comic books and the business end of this art form. He gives some hints for "doing it yourself."
With many examples from diverse eras of cartooning, Weiss shows how characters from comic strips have achieved international fame, such as Superman, Dick Tracy, Orphan Annie, Mickey Mouse, Popeye and Peanuts.
While many cartoons are humorous, such as Dik Brown's "Hi and Lois" and "Hagar," Weiss points out that many express political and social opinions of the artist through caricatures or exaggeration.
Weiss, a sculptor, illustrator and professor of art at Adelphi University, says, "As a teacher, author and artist, I feel that my business has much to do with communication - thoughts, ideas, visual images, humor and story. It seems natural and right to deal with the way drawing and writing come together in the rather special art that is cartooning."
What do elementary children think of cartoons? That was the question asked of the fifth-graders in Paula Winter's class at Boulton Elementary School in Davis School District.
Most agreed that they read cartoons and found the Weiss book of interest. Karalyn Thorsen was specific: "It's very creative. It's kind of like a cartoon dictionary. If you want to learn about cartoons, I'd recommend it."
Brittany Judd agreed. "If I were a judge I would give it five thumbs up!"
Lindsay Duffin makes a sales pitch for the book: "If you like cartoons, you should get this book!"
Cory Pease views the book in two ways. "It is funny but yet educational . . . ." April Tibbitts sees it as a means to further appreciate the art form. "I think this will help me understand how cartoons work, because sometimes I watch them on Saturday mornings, and some are really weird and hard to understand the meaning . . . ."
Weird, educational or just entertaining, cartooning is an art style that appeals to all ages and many levels of study and interest.