Artists love to create art. That's pretty non-controversial. And writers love to write. But cartoonists have to be both artists and writers. So which is their favorite, art or words? For the most part, according to my comprehensive research, it's the art. By far. We cartoonists will come up with a great idea for a cartoon and break out the pencil/pen/drawing stylus. Perspective, point of view, style, foreground, background, Easter eggs, and on and on. Then color! Yes, it's great.
But does it matter?
My answer? No, not so much. I have observed, again backed by thousands of hours of painstaking research, that the words of a gag cartoon are roughly ten times more important than the art. Perhaps more. The art is an afterthought.
This assertion makes some cartoonists unhappy. "No, that's bullshit!", they exclaim. "My style is unique and the care with which I approach my art is IMPORTANT!". And my response is ….. nope. If this weren't the case, why would cartoons with scribbly scabbly style, looking as if they'd literally dribbled from the pen of a three year old, be garnering thousands of likes and flying through the internet? Why? Because we quickly grasp the art to get the setting and then read the gag. And the gag makes us laugh.
Or how about this? In the olden days, the New Yorker's editor would receive a cartoon and say to the cartoonist "I like the gag but your artwork isn't right. I'm going to get another artist to draw it." This was not uncommon. What defined the cartoon? The gag. The art was window dressing.
The kiss of death for a cartoon is when the first thing people say is "Oh, what a beautiful drawing." They're simply never the ones that hit big. But when the first response is "HA HA HA …", then we've got a winner. And the picture isn't the thing that gets that Ha Ha. Easy enough to prove; just remove the gag. In fact, that's what's done at some magazines with their caption contests. All picture, no gag. And does anyone laugh at it? Not that I've observed. Not until it's been gagged.
So there's your advice, aspiring cartoonists. Hone your writing and you're ninety percent of the way home.
Let it not be said that the time for the experiment has already passed; for the old age of nations is not like the old age of men, and every fresh generation is a new people ready for the care of the legislator.
Some words from Alexis de Toqueville to start your morning.