18 July 2011

When Funny Comics Aren't Good Comics

Just something light today, I think, as the last couple of posts have been about as serious as can be.  I've never got Dilbert, I'm afraid. I've no shortage of friends who love it, but while I see why they like it, I just don't think it's a very good cartoon strip.

Don't get me wrong: I think it's both funny and clever. I just don't think it works as a comic should. I've long subscribed to Scott McCloud's definition of comics as 'Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer,' and I think that Dilbert nearly always misses the point. 

That Dilbert is a comic is indisputable. Whether Dilbert is a good comic, however, is a different matter, and to me it's significant that the pictures contribute hardly anything to most Dilbert strips. Scott Adams' words are good and clever, but I don't think they ever really gain from being linked with pictures. In Dilbert, as far as I can see, the pictures don't complement the words, or add to the words, or lead one to wonder whether there might be more going on than is simply revealed in the words. All they do is identify the speakers, and literature isn't lacking in devices that do likewise. Most Dilbert strips could be one-paragraph gags, and probably would be, were it not for the fact that we're not used to newspapers running such things. In Dilbert, as far as I can see, the pictures are there not to add an extra dimension of meaning to words, so much as to give the words an excuse to be there at all.

I enjoyed the strip from last week I've posted above. It's funny. It made me laugh. And it's made other laugh more when I've told them the words. It doesn't need pictures. You couldn't say that of Peanuts. Or Calvin and Hobbes. Or Red Meat. Or even Garfield...

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