Part 2: Words & Pictures RT: Part 2

Research Task: The ‘Gag’ Cartoon

Take some time to search online for these ‘gag’ cartoonists:

  • Gary Larson
  • Virgil Partch
  • James Thurber
  • B Kliban
  • Roz Chast

Make a note of any of these cartoonists you find interesting. Choose a specific cartoon by one of the cartoonists you find funny or like the style of. Discuss what it is you enjoy about it and why it is successful. Consider the following questions:

  • What is it about the style you like?
  • Is the cartoon silent or does it include words?
  • What is the subject?
  • What is it that makes the joke funny?

I had a great time looking at the work of the listed cartoonists. Some of them made me laugh out loud.The only cartoons I vaguely recognised were Gary Larson’s The Far Side.

Along with the research listed in the References, I also created Pinterest boards for each artist with a selection of their work. Some of them had more images available than others:

I noted that Larson has requested that his work is not put on the internet except on his official website, but evidently it is still readily available online.

The cartoonists whose work I was most drawn to were Gary Larson, Roz Chast and Virgil Partch. I did like the style of B Kliban’s cat drawings, but I could not really understand the humour of most of James Thurber’s work that I came across and the style did not really appeal to me either. I found it interesting to see how each of the cartoonists has a distinctive style, whether in black and white or colour, which makes their work recognisable among others.

I found it really challenging to narrow my selection down to one particular cartoon that I liked, so I chose one from each of the three artists I preferred.

Gary Larson Cartoon

Selected cartoon by Gary Larson. Source: Pinterest

I like the anthropomorphism of the characters so they resemble the human ones in Larson’s other cartoons, in terms of their body language, expressions and environment.

The cartoon does include words underneath the drawing and it is obvious which of the characters is speaking.

The subject relies entirely on the viewer being aware of the fairytale story ‘The Three Little Pigs‘ and the fact that the Big Bad Wolf ‘huffs’ and ‘puffs’ to blow their houses down – (successfully so with those made of straw and sticks, but not the one made of bricks as is the house these pigs are living in). The wolf ends up being boiled in a pot by the pigs in the original version…

I found this cartoon very funny because it has taken the traditional story and updated it in a modern way that takes the idea of the Big Bad Wolf and makes him appear to be a bit of a pervert and nuisance.

Virgil Partch Cartoon

Selected cartoon by Virgil Partch. Source: Pinterest

I quite liked the ‘simple’ style of Partch’s cartoon using minimal lines, which reminded me of Picasso’s line drawings. It has the appearance of being a quick sketch, but Partch clearly took a great deal of care in terms of the layout and perspective, which guides the viewer’s eye from the bottom to top of the image, taking in the visual information as required to understand the gag.

This cartoon is silent.

I thought that nowadays some of Partch’s work would probably be described as slightly sexist, but I enjoyed it all the same. The subject is presumably a husband and wife who have gone on a camping trip, but the wife has somehow found a power source far way in order to use a light for some bed time reading. The husband looks on in bewilderment.

It was mainly the expression on the husband’s face that made the cartoon funny to me.

Roz Chast Cartoon

Selected cartoon by Roz Chast. Source: Pinterest

I liked that the style of Chast’s cartoons is a blend of realistic and cartoony.

Most of the cartoons that I found by Chast seemed to include words, but not in an overpowering way – I thought the text and the artwork complimented each other very well. The style of the text suited that of the drawing.

With all the examples of Chast’s work that I found, the scenarios she depicts are relatable to the ‘average’ person. This particular cartoon pokes fun at the way people have arguments with each other entirely in their heads, simmering in a rage, rather than airing the issues and discussing them maturely. I particularly liked the fact the woman is thinking, ‘Just like his father’ and the man is thinking, ‘ Just like her mother’!

I found everything about this cartoon funny – the expressions, the body language and the words/thoughts.

Reflection After Tutor Feedback

My tutor suggested I comment further on what it was about the James Thurber cartoons that did not appeal to me. I refreshed my memory by looking at some examples of his work and I just could not ‘get’ the humour of most of them. Several seemed quite sexist for the present day, but even if I disregarded that (important) aspect of the cartoons I just could not find what was meant to be funny about Thurber’s work.

I considered each one for some time and although I did feel the quality of the lines and style of drawings along with the expressions on the characters’ faces and their body language suggested I should find them humorous, I concluded that the humour must be way above my head. I did also note that perhaps it would be helpful to view the cartoons in the context that they were presented, for example, they may have related to a story in a magazine/newspaper article, which could enlighten me.


Art Republic, (2011). The Line Drawings of Pablo Picasso. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Cartoon Stock, (n.d.). James Thurber search results. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

James Thurber Website, (n.d.). James Thurber. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

JVJ Publishers Illustrators, (n.d.). Virgil Partch. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Lambiek Comiclopedia, (2006). B. Kliban. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Lambiek Comiclopedia, (2021). Gary Larson. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Lambiek Comiclopedia, (2021). James Thurber. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Lambiek Comiclopedia, (2016). Roz Chast. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Lambiek Comiclopedia, (2020). VIP (Virgil Partch). [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Roz Chast Website, (n.d.). Roz Chast Website. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

The Far Side, (2021). The Far Side Comic Strip by Gary Larson – Official Website. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). B. Kliban. [online] Available at: [Accessed].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). Gary Larson. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). James Thurber. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). Roz Chast. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Wikipedia, (n.d.). Virgil Partch. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 July 2021].

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