Henry Martin – An Appreciation

Henry Martin is a cartoonist that really resonates for me. I love the sketchiness of his line, his exquisitely lengthy captions, and the detailed economy of his backgrounds. He’s just terrific and so I wanted to share some of my favorite Henry Martin cartoons with you:

Henry Martin Cartoons 01

What a great surprise caption. Martin makes you wait until the penultimate word to let you in on the joke and lands it perfectly.

And this is a good example of that detailed economy to set the scene. With just a few lines you’ve got a grand home looking out on a stone patio, some mountains, and a tree in autumn dropping its leaves. Amazing.

Henry Martin Cartoons 02

There’s a lovely weirdness to this idea. Is that an alien? Some sort of fairy? A variety of elf? It doesn’t matter. What matters is this thing shows up and for some reason unbeknownst to us gives this average businessman the idea for some revolutionary new product.

But is that enough? No, this guy wants the creature to not only come back, but to explain it again. There’s a lot going on, and even more unsaid. Wow.

Henry Martin Cartoons 03

I showed this to my son and he wanted to know what machine that guy was using. Sigh…

So the typewriter dates this a bit, but replace it with a laptop and this cartoon works as well today as it did years ago. And this is a good example of that long Martin caption that I admire. Three sentences and not a well-crafted word wasted. (“…brighter tomorrow” kills me every time.)

Henry Martin Cartoons 04

I love the darkness of this idea contrasting with the banality of the wife double-checking that the husband has everything he needs for the day. You could never do this cartoon today, and I think that only adds to the appeal. And look at those chairs!

Henry Martin Cartoons 05

Look at the beautiful wash on this. Everything and everybody is nicely defined, the light is going where it should, and there’s a fun casualness that only comes after thousands and thousands of cartoons. And that sucker punch caption is marvelous.

Henry Martin Cartoons 06

Picking just the right word(s) can make or break a caption. For me this cartoon hinges on emphasizing the word “this,” the slightly pretentious name, “Arthur,” and “markedly altered.” A lesser cartoonist might have gone for “really changed” or just plain “altered,” but “markedly altered” slows and shifts the rhythm of the read perfectly.

And please take a moment and admire that terrific shading again.

Henry Martin Cartoons 07

Another odd but wonderful idea for a cartoon, and a real challenge to depict visually. I mean, what does apotheosization look like? And the “in an unprecedented move” in the final sentence is just brilliant.


Henry Martin Cartoons 08

This dinner party kind of scene has always flummoxed me because, to be honest, I don’t go to many dinner parties. I don’t know how the room looks, where people stand, how they dress…  But I think this is a really nice scenic middle ground and I intend to ape it a lot in the coming months.

Henry Martin Cartoons 09

Here’s another cartoon that could totally work today.  And look at the way the scene and demeanor of the characters reinforce the idea of the caption. So nice.

Henry Martin Cartoons 10

The expressions on both the floating head and the wife make me laugh out loud when I read this. Then there’s the shading around the head, the detail on the tablecloth, the goofy I-told-you-so-ness of the caption… This is an embarrassment of cartoon riches.

Henry Martin Cartoons 11

What I love most about this cartoon isn’t the controlled ease of the shading, or even the caption that illustrates a truism of marriage at bedtime, but the fact that this is drawn from behind the couple! Look at that angle! It would never have occurred to me to frame it that way, but Martin pulls it off effortlessly.

Henry Martin Cartoons 12

Here’s another cartoon that’s a bit dated technologically, but I suspect you could still show this to most people and they’d understand the idea behind it. And I respect anyone who can pull off a purely wordless gag this nicely.

Henry Martin Cartoons 13

Another knock-it-out of the park example of Martin’s greatness. Economy of scene, beautiful line and shading, and a gag that not only surprises but implies something more. Even the name, “Miss Beckerman,” is great!

Henry Martin Cartoons 14

I love the melancholy in the humor here. And the giant bare desk, window, and cityscape support the gag so nicely.

Henry Martin Cartoons 15

The gag here is very nice (and well punctuated), but the art here is what stands out for me. First off, that’s a lot of flowers to draw and not skimp on. Then the deft shading implies even more foliage really nicely. Finally the overall shape and framing of the scene is so fluid and natural and so hard to get just right that you can’t help but linger and marvel.

Henry Martin Cartoons 16

This final cartoon is so damned funny in every way. I think it’s my favorite Martin cartoon and embodies everything I love about his work.

So there’s my appreciation of cartoonist Henry Martin. I hope you enjoyed reading it half as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Want to know more about Martin? Here’s some additional reading:

And here’s some stuff you can purchase:

Want to know more about other cartoonists I like? Here’s some other posts to check out: