Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Why Did We Trust Him? by Shannon Wheeler

I like reading books of single-panel cartoons, but they're not great blog fodder.

There's no story to write about, obviously, and unless the cartoonist has a really clear theme or topic, there's no hook to hang a review on. "Hey, here's a bunch of jokes by this one person!" doesn't say much.

So, here's a bunch of jokes by Shannon Wheeler, collected as Why Did We Trust Him? It was published by Top Shelf in 2019, and followed several similar earlier books by Wheeler, including I Told You So, I Thought You Would Be Funnier, and the mixed single-panel and comics-stories collection Memoirs of a Very Stable Genius.

This one has a table of contents, which is unusual for a book of single-panel cartoons. Even less usual: it seems to have an entry for every single cartoon, and is organized into sections - Introduction, Contents, Word, Afterword, Index, Glossary, Footnotes. These sections just have cartoons in them, and there's no obvious, say, "Index" theme to that section. It seems to be just a meta-joke about book design, which is fine with me.

(I did not spend any time comparing punchlines with the entries in the ToC: that would be crazy.)

This book seems to have a lot of cartoons about clowns, Sisyphus, and fishbowls, along with the usual cartooning staples: a couple in bed or at the dinner table, desert islands, gurus on mountaintops, people in Heaven or Hell. As I said, it's a book of single-panel cartoons.

I think it's funny, and Wheeler has a good style for the format: mostly thin lines with some gray washes for emphasis - looks like that could actually be some kind of watercolor, from the thinness and translucency. (I am not an artist, and may be embarrassing myself with this comment.)

The ecosystem for cartoons like this has mostly collapsed: you can find a few online in places like GoComics and the like, along with individual artists' social accounts (is it still mostly Tumblr these days?), but the vast thundering herds of magazines that bought dozens of cartoons each are mostly gone. If you like 'em, you probably need to seek out books like this one. So seek it.

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