What Fools These Mortals Be! A collection of 19th century humor cartoons
Bill Watterson on what legendary satirical magazine Puck tells us about change and opportunity.
Today, as the mass media atomizes, newspapers struggle, and political cartoonists lose their jobs, it’s strange to look at 19th Century publications like Puck, where a political cartoon could take up the entire cover or a two-page centerspread inside. The artistic possibilities and visual impact of that kind of space are revelations.
Even in its own day, the lithograph drawings of Joseph Keppler were a world away from the crosshatched wood engravings of Thomas Nast’s cartoons of just a few years earlier. The new lithography technology permitted sensuous lines, an immense range of halftones, and—what must have been absolutely eye-popping in those days—full color.
This article is reproduced from What Fools These Mortals Be: The Story of Puck, by Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West, published by the Library of American Comics.
The cartoonists of Puck were clearly excited by the opportunities and their cartoons are lavishly drawn. Some are bold and graphic, some are exaggerated and cartoony, and others are richly illustrative. The commentary is equally varied, ranging from silly, to satiric, to outraged. In these early days of cartooning, the weekly humor magazine gave cartoons real prominence, and cartoonists immediately began pushing every limit of the art form. Decades later, comic strip cartoonists did the same thing in the daily newspapers. Cartoons are partly shaped by their publishing environment, and the artistry of cartoons expands in those rare times when it’s given some encouragement and open territory.
The Internet seems to reduce everything to niche markets of dubious profitability, and it remains to be seen if political cartoons will ever thrive again, but we are again at the threshold of a new publishing technology, and cartoonists can now draw any kind of cartoon, in any kind of medium, in any style. The open territory for artistic expansion is here again. Perhaps the Puck cartoons reprinted in this beautiful book will remind us of the power, scope, and artistic possibilities we’ve long neglected.
Flag Waver accepts uploaded images or URLs and turns them into an on-screen waving flag. There are advanced options for wind and hoisting! Sadly, you cannot export or save animations.
Over a decade ago, we tipped readers to the astronomy illustrations of Trouvelot. now the New York Public Library has a large collection of his work available online.
Photographer Brian Tomlinson creates beautiful stills of liquids dropped into an aquarium. Some of the results are below:
When you can’t wait for the world’s longest meeting to end, the mindless leg bouncing makes your boredom obvious and just annoys everybody else. Everyone knows the TPS reports need the damn cover sheet, but some sadistic colleague keeps forgetting, probably on purpose just to eat into your lunch hour. Enough is enough!While serving a […]
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]