Cartoon Stories: Ocean Going
I started making cartoons in 2017, through this chain of events: Reading my Twitter feed one evening, I saw someone’s offensive remark, in support of a certain president I’m thoroughly against. The comment was underneath a retweet; for curiosity I moused over the original. I don’t recall what made me suspect it, but the upshot was the woman seemed to be using a second account to retweet her own tweets. Wanting to know how easily this could be done, I made a second account for myself, @jbbigstaff. But I’m not a political operative, so I got bored at once with the experiment, so far as retweeting posts from Torsade was concerned.
I bethought myself of some kind of content for J. B. to post, chose cartoons, and made a second WordPress blog to house them. That gave me a chance to use some comedy material I’d kept in mental storage over the years, without an outlet (or any plans to create one). Cartoons, of course, let you satirize various foolish things you’ve encountered in life. But, as I learned, they are also like staging mini plays or TV shows: you can cast whom you like, even famous people, script the action and frame the shot.
My first drawing style was my attempt to do what I had the impression cartoonists did, make a drawing in pencil and ink it over. That got to be really tedious. I departed from stylized or simple art after the first few. The more cartoons I made, the more I saw advantage in sketching detailed facial expressions. By that means my little characters can sell the joke like an actor would.
“The Manatee” is one of the earliest, still inky in style, one of several I’ve done on environmental themes. As in, the manatee sits in the C-suite, waiting for the audience corporate America tries to avoid giving.
I found out you could darken up pencil drawings with the Adjustments setting in Windows Photo, after which I quit inking, even via filter, and began using straight drawings with their pencil-sketch nuances. The blue borders were a necessity, otherwise the edges of a cartoon fade into the white background.
They ended up being a style feature, when I started adding yellow narration boxes and bumping speech bubbles out beyond the cartoon’s border. For blog presentation, I also title each cartoon, and add a tagline, so there is a little text on the page.
And for that, I need three jokes per piece: the cartoon’s, the title’s, and the tagline’s…which is a pretty good workout at joke writing.
This early one, “Armed and Cetaceous”, in response to a news report that a particular species of whale was dying out, should have had a narrative box for the punchline, but I used the tagline area, so:
“When the right whales are gone, only the wrong ones will be left.”
And this is how punchlines come about, as I jot things in my notebook…or remember them, if I can. There is a thing called the Oarfish omen, said to precede a tsunami, that manifests as the appearance of the oarfish in shallow waters where it’s not usually seen. When I first read about this, I spoonerized the words, and “Harbinger” is the result.
“Sea of Humanity” addresses those gigantic cruise ships causing overtourism in some nice places, like Naples, Italy, that would be quieter, and in the fullness of time better preserved, without thousands of people disembarking at once.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)