Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Two Abrams Cartoon Books, by Shanahan and Ziegler

I recently "read" two books of single-panel cartoons, both published by Abrams -- one was by Danny Shanahan and one by Jack Ziegler. Since it would be silly to give them each a separate post, here they are together:

Bad Sex! by Danny Shanahan: The pages aren't numbered, but I'd say that there are more than a hundred cartoons here -- let's say that this is probably 128 pages, with a single cartoon on each small, square (about 6" x 6") page. Shanahan gets a lot of mileage out of standard situations -- there are a lot of creatures (dogs, bulls, birds, and humans in various combinations) lying in bed post-coitally, a lot of bar scenes, and a number of office scenes.

Shanahan is good at New Yorker-style zinger captions, and this book has a lot of good ones that ring changes on the traditions -- like a bartender who says "If it's your wife, I'm not here" to a patron pulling out a cellphone, or one doe saying to another "What I couldn't do with a million bucks." In the best New Yorker fashion, the captions are nearly always a single line of dialogue.

How's the Squid? by Jack Ziegler: Ziegler is less conventional than Shanahan, with a looser line and stranger flights of fancy. (Such as the logo of Metro-Goldwyn-Macaroni, with the famous lion replaced with...you guessed it.) Shanahan is funny and good, but he does cartoons that you could see several other cartoonist coming up with. Ziegler, though: he has an odd, askew sensibility, and many of his cartoons couldn't have come from anyone else.

(He's perhaps the closest we have to a new George Booth -- he's not exactly like Booth, but they're both different from the usual New Yorker cartoonist along a similar axis.)

The cover cartoon shows Ziegler's style pretty well -- it's New Yorker deadpan, but stretches that deadpan well into Sam Gross or Gahan Wilson territory. The cartoons in How's the Squid also vary much more than those in Bad Sex! do -- Ziegler includes cartoons that have anything at all to do with eating, from the usual diner and restaurant cartoons to such surreal pieces as "The Empire State Building and a Side of Fries" and one of a man sitting in a gallery, looking at "The Scream" and eating popcorn with a large "Munch Munch Munch."

So Shanahan is funny, but -- purely on the evidence of these two collections -- Ziegler is just as funny, and across a wider spectrum, with more idiosyncratic cartoons to boot. (That might, of course, have something to do with the choice of cartoons for each book, or with the breadth of the two themes. But I call 'em as I see 'em.)

1 comment:

Bill Peschel said...

The "Bad Sex" cover made me laugh out loud, which surprised me (I don't do that often). That's one efficient cartoon.

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