What's So Funny? Coloring Outside the Lines in the Cartoon Issue | The Cartoon Issue | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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What's So Funny? Coloring Outside the Lines in the Cartoon Issue


Published July 10, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated July 11, 2024 at 10:17 a.m.

  • Ali Fitzgerald | Rev. Diane Sullivan

There is perhaps no section of Seven Days that draws stronger (or louder) opinions than "Fun Stuff," aka the comics pages. Every couple of years or so, we refresh the spread to add cartoons we like, remove some we feel might be growing stale or just mix things up a bit. And whenever we do, we are met with outrage from readers jilted by the change.

The most common complaint is that the comics aren't funny. Humor, of course, is subjective. What's a knee-slapper to one person might fly over the head of another. And then there's this: Comics aren't always intended to elicit guffaws. Like any storytelling medium, they can inspire us to laugh, cry or simply see an issue in a new light. Still, who doesn't love the funnies, right?

This year, to give our comics pages a facelift, we enlisted the help of Harry Bliss, a New Yorker cartoonist and part-time Vermonter. We've been running his single-panel comic "Bliss" for about as long as the paper has existed. The New Yorker gets first dibs on his submissions, then we take our pick of what's left. It's a great deal for us and allows us to publish one of the funniest cartoonists on the planet every week.

So Bliss put out a call to dozens of his fellow New Yorker cartoonists and suggested a similar arrangement. We've since been deluged with submissions, which you'll start seeing in the comics section this week. We hope you'll find them funny — and if you don't, we're sure you'll let us know.

Given the lightning rod that is the comics section, it may seem masochistic to devote an entire issue to the art form, as we've done annually since 2013. But the Cartoon Issue remains one of our favorite editions to produce.

Why? For writers, comics demand a different way of thinking about stories. While we typically use images — photos, usually — to augment our writing, with comics it's the other way around. Here, art does the heavy narrative lifting, and we try, as best we can, to get out of the way. It's a fun and challenging endeavor that often leads to brilliant collaborations.

For instance, this year Mary Ann Lickteig and artist Clover Ajamie teamed up to highlight the folks at the King Arthur Baker's Hotline who help home bakers avoid kitchen catastrophes — or just lend an encouraging word. Meanwhile, Hannah Feuer and cartoonist Kristen Shull delivered an entertaining exploration of the perils of acroyoga.

Seven Days is in the midst of a series on aging in Vermont called "This Old State." While it's not strictly part of that series, Ken Picard and artist Dan Nott's comic looks at some of the oldest things in Vermont and could be considered a spiritual cousin.

Speaking of spirits, Steve Goldstein and cartoonist Ezra Veitch recount the story of the so-called "Ghost Army," a top-secret World War II unit that fought the Nazis with art projects, sound effects and guile instead of guns and tanks. Walter J. Kinkel of Hinesburg was part of the unit.

For a more hands-on appreciation of the comic form, head to the Main Street Museum in White River Junction to check out artist David Libens' exhibit of more than 80 postcard-size drawings. He's a former fellow at the Center for Cartoon Studies, which next week sends several cartoonists to Ireland for the annual Graphic Medicine Conference. Closer to home, new informational signage about the archaeology at Burlington's Intervale features illustrations by noted local cartoonist Glynnis Fawkes.

Finally, the cast of the monthly strip "Doomsbury" takes over the music section with a special cartoon edition of Soundbites. They also weigh in on music editor Chris Farnsworth's review of the new Phish album.

See you in the funny papers.

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