Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"Hidden Drive" b/w "Genuine Wicker Satellite Dishes"

The straightforward Freudian vibe of the first drawing contrasts intriguingly with the enigmatic, looser illo on the bottom, which looks more like a modified grapefruit half than anything else.

From "The Vermont Noteboook" (unpublished), October 20, 2005

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"Three Dancing Cans of Insanity Are More Than One"

A typically overstuffed early strip that nevertheless has subtle graphic tendons: The first panel's wall-line becomes the sink-edge in panel two; the tiling in panel two leads to the projector head in panel three, etc. Some have criticized this as "futile leakage," but the artist, at least in this case, knew what he was doing. When we get to the final curvature, we envision a Möbius strip (with an oblique pun on strip)—an appropriate backdrop for the unhinged finale.

Over a decade and a half later, the strip feels downright prescient. Look in your cupboard right now: You probably have three cans, and they were most likely doing the Charleston right up to the moment you blew the cover on their little world.

From The Yale Herald, March 8, 1990 (Vol. IX, issue 8)

Friday, February 24, 2006

"Despair, Depression, and Death" b/w "Art Is a Man's Name"

The charming one-off "Despair, Depression, and Death" was likely inspired by the purchase of a new pen. The continuous slope of the hill through all four panels lends an unsettling air to the strip, particularly in box #3, where "Bill" appears suspended in space. (Constructing these "through-lines" was a Saturnine fixation of sorts, especially in the earlier strips.)

The cartoonist followed up "3D" with one of his recurrent musings on art (and a return to the scratchy line favored during this period). The changing expression of the face on the canvas is acceptable (cf. the stem of the flower in "3D"); more jejune, perhaps, is the painting's title, the beret, the French-fried "artiste." But Randy makes it all worthwhile—he's the squat opposite of the sort of canine one finds at the Happiness Inn.

Postscript: These strips were done on a single sheet of paper (a not atypical process). The intervening doodles depict bats or spiders. The three circles are possible title panels for "3D"; the archives are not extensive enough to tell us which one was finally used. (A circular title panel was later deployed for another one-off, "The Adventures of God.") A second "Despair, Depression, and Death" strip, never published, exists.

From The Yale Herald, January 26 & February 2, 1990 (Vol. IX, issues 18 & 19)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Happiness Is a Warm Fish"

This is a very relaxing strip, full of lazy (albeit cryptic) pleasures. The lettering here is quite uniform—at last!—and the drawings convey just enough information. Nothing distracts; every element is like a little toy. Those stiff, wooden-looking hands in the final panel look like they've escaped from the Museum of American Folk Art.

From The Yale Herald, April 19, 1991 (Vol. XI, issue 12)

Monday, February 20, 2006

"Nghuh-Ahhh, Nghuh-Ahhh"

One of only three Saturnheads to appear in Fall 1990, "Nghuh-Ahhh, Nghuh-Ahhh" exhibits a move to crisper lines, thanks to a new pen—which does nothing to prevent the weight of the lettering from fluctuating wildly. Though the punchline proper remains one of the great "pure" punchlines in the series, the panels are stuffed with so much incidental text that they distract from it—all of this suggesting that religion is a difficult row to hoe (i.e., no instant gratification). Claimed as a Christian work by some readers at the time, the agonized syllables that bookend the strip invoke Lovecraftian insanity more than anything else.

From The Yale Herald, November 2, 1990 (Vol. X, issue 9)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

"People Love This Strip—in Cuba"

We begin with one of the most frightening works in the oeuvre. "People Love This Strip—in Cuba" features a topsy-turvy panel, an unusual dripping-blood special effect, and a bizarre culminating illo possibly drawn by the cartoonist's sister.

From The Yale Herald, November 15, 1990 (Vol. X, issue 11).