Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind the gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at pandemic remodeling.
Signs of normal life are slowing returning: customers in partially-open restaurants, more cars on the road, more flights in the sky. One commercial segment in particular seems to be thriving during the pandemic: Home Depot-type emporiums, jammed on weekends with home project enthusiasts.
Why? Many people are still working from home, and the familiar four walls feel like they’re closing in. Delayed household projects are moving to the front burner as boredom sets in.
Gahan Wilson demonstrates that the catalyst for change can be simple. The husband’s expression in this riotous drawing tells a story of reluctance for the initial decorating theme … and even less for the new one.
Of course, the urge to improve one’s dwelling is nothing new. Frank Cotham envisions an isolated frontier couple having a similar discussion. The horse at the window seems to take a dim view of the idea.
Our next home improvement couple is knee-deep in the drudgery of fixing up a bathroom. Mike Lynch provides wry commentary on the post-honeymoon phase of a relationship.
Tensions between couples rise to the surface when the home they share undergoes change. Planning ahead by having a home remodel team to cover all the bases is essential. Phil Witte, co-author of Anatomy of a Cartoon, suggests a minimum of three team members, with an off-site expert third in line—the gag spot.
Projects can get out of hand quickly. Trevor Spaulding veers into the absurd with a Gothic revival renovation taken to the extreme. The house is a crazy-quilt architectural mash-up of Byzantine-era cupola and Notre Dame-inspired buttresses. Anachronism—"pulling a permit" with reference to flying buttresses—drives the humor.
The latest tools and gadgets are flying off home improvement shelves. The results are not always appreciated, as Shannon Wheeler suggests by the uncomfortable posture of the seated guest and hostess.
Many an over-ambitious homeowner dives into the deeper waters of plumbing projects—not always with success. When the would-be tradesman fails, it’s time to bring in the pros. Aaron Bacall dispenses with a caption in favor of a pithy company motto to deliver the gag.
An adult’s comment delivered by a child is a common cartoon theme. Here, the tyke in Bruce Kaplan’s scenario can’t help but emulate her parents in the redo frenzy. She knows what she wants and expects Dad, playing the role of contractor, to make it happen … and pronto!
One-upsmanship in housing even extends to the animal kingdom. The venerable Sam Gross captures the latest trend in snail shell abodes. His anthropomorphic translation to the world of gastropods provides a gentle twist on the “Keeping up with the Joneses” humor.
Mistakes are made. Home remodeling can only bring a return on investment if you actually own the house. In this asymmetric composition, Alex Gregory’s precise lines effectively convey the complicated demolition activity as we catch the rueful couple at the moment of their woeful realization.
Our last cartoon reminds us of happier times when we voluntarily remained at home. Even back then, however, the siren call of home maintenance could not be ignored. Vegetation and inanimate objects demand the attention of Mort Gerberg’s gentleman in the recliner. There’s no rest for the weary, even in cartoons.