Visuals

The ability to produce visual humor without captions or dialogue is a very rare talent. It's the ultimate skill in graphic humor. Otto Soglow, who draws "The Little King" strip, has this talent, as does Charles Addams. One of Addams's cartoons has remained a perfect model of illustrated humor for more than forty-five years. In the cartoon, a skier looks in amazement at the tracks of another skier who has mysteriously maneuvered one ski around the right side of a tree and the other ski around the left sideā€”and is still on his feet skiing down the hill.

For the most part, however, visual humor in single-panel cartoons still draws heavily on slapstick. The cartoon isn't intended to create a complex situation, so the visual must take only a second to absorb, and there's very little space for more than a punch line. The situation must immediately be within the readers' intellectual grasp. If they must pause to figure it out, too many will just skip to the next cartoon.

There are about forty different setups that are used and reused. Most cartoonists have their own favorite settings; Fradon's, for example, are baseball fields, corporate board rooms, the nightly news, road signs, heaven, hell, and court. Most of the time there are two characters, but only one does the talking. Other basic illustrations range from one central character talking on the phone to cartoons showing small groups of three or four easily identifiable characters. The caption is about the only thing that surprises.

Two chorus girls: "I think a girl should marry for love. I'm going to fall in love with the first millionaire I meet."

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