Why This Cartoon Works (I Think) #1

I’ve been playing with this idea for a new semi-regular feature for a while where I take a cartoon that I’ve done and explain why it works or doesn’t. The problem is I don’t want to come off sounding like “hey, look at me! I’m so cool! I know everything about cartooning! Blah blah blah!”

So, before I start, lemme get this out there – I have no art training whatsoever. I don’t know a thing about color, composition, etc… It’s also been a good while since I read any Gerberg, Richter & Bakker or even any McCloud, and I’m no cartoon historian, so, long paragraph short, this is going to be pretty much my largely uninformed theories and not much more. Enjoy!

Let’s look at this cartoon:


A little background first: this one has sold to Teacher magazine, has been used in a number of presentations/newsletters, and has been saved as a favorite at Andertoons most often. So I think we can agree that it’s probably a pretty good cartoon.

OK, let’s look at the art:

I’ve kept the scene relatively simple, but there’s enough there to get the idea of a schoolroom setting across. The blackboard would probably have been enough, but the alphabet on top felt right.

I used a blackboard instead of a more modern whiteboard for two reasons: 1) It’s nice to have a large dark area to help the “The big dog run.” pop a little, and 2) I think it helps get the classroom idea across more quickly.

The cartoon reads from left to right pretty well I think. First you see the teacher and blackboard, then the “The big dog run.”, then the boy speaking, and then the caption. You fill in the necessary ingredients of the joke in the right order with (I hope) no ambiguity or confusion.

Now the joke:

The cartoons I like most have art and captions that wouldn’t work without the other, and I think this mostly fits in that category.

It’s basically taking two cliche phrases, “agree to disagree” and to a lesser degree “subject/verb agreement”, and mashing them together. Add the kid trying to get away with obviously incorrect grammar, and it works pretty nicely.

As I remember I started with “agree to disagree” and let my mind wander on “agree” for a while.

Honestly, it took me a little bit to get the right wording for the chalkboard sentence, and I ran it past the first-grade-teacher/Mrs. just to be sure.

The sale:

I knew when I wrote this that it would most likely be a good fit for a women’s magazine, or possibly a more general cartoon market. After those were exhausted I put together a pak of teacher cartoons and sent them to Teacher after my wife noticed they were using cartoons. (BTW, it was fun for my wife to be able to show me off a little in the teacher’s lounge!)

So that’s it. I’d love to hear any theories or arguments on what I’m right and wrong about. More soon…