Cartoons are more than just little panels that make jokes. For me, they are little sparks of joy in the midst of a world that is all too complicated and often bewildering. Cartoons tend to brighten my day and make even the most mundane reading activities more fun.

It seems to me, however, that cartooning has lost a lot of its spark in the modern age. Newspapers and magazines are publishing some of the most banal and outdated humor imaginable. I mean, how many times can they make the same stupid joke about a husband not wanting to take out the trash? Cue the over the top GROOOAAAN…

But still, cartoons are awesome. So who is out there that is still doing great cartooning work? Here are three of my favorite cartoonists that I encourage you to check out

1. Tom Cheney

I’m not always the biggest fan of New-Yorker cartoons, because they can be inscrutable and hard to understand. In fact, there are some theories that state that New-Yorker cartoons are not even meant to be funny, they are just meant to make people who live in New York, and understand that culture and city life, vaguely chuckle to themselves. Well, Tom Cheney definitely proves that wrong.

I am always amazed at the detail, and really satisfying sense of composition and perspective that goes into every one of Cheney’s cartoons. He is a true master of this art form, and it is not often that great art and great writing are equally demonstrated. But Cheney definitely does this better than almost anyone out there.

Here is one of my favorite selections of a Tom Cheney cartoon:

cartoon by tom cheney

You can see more of his cartoons by clicking here

2. Loren Fishman

One of my absolute favorite comic panels online is Humoresque by Loren Fishman. Again, this cartoon is an example of an amazing attention to detail both in terms of writing and composition. This cartoon can get downright controversial at times, as Fishman does not shy away from giving highly opinionated takes on subjects like religion, politics, sex, and social issues. For example, here’s one that I could not stop laughing at, even though it’s definitely on the line between good and bad taste:

loren fishman cartoonist

He definitely dances on that line expertly, and even when he crosses it, it’s so funny and so based in reality that he takes me over that line with him. And that’s what I love about Humoresque Cartoons.

You can view more of his cartoons by clicking here

3. Max Garcia

I was always a huge fan of The Far Side by Gary Larson. Growing up, this was absolutely something I looked forward to reading in the newspaper every day, and I was always champing at the bit for the next Far Side book or calendar to come out. Since Gary Larson retired, many cartoonists have been trying to copy his style, tone, and unique sense of dark comedy. The most famous example is probably the abysmal cartoon “The Argyle Sweater” by Scott Hilburn, which is so obvious in it’s imitation that it borders on plagiarism.

Max Garcia’s cartoon “Sunny Street” is, I believe, a worthy successor to The Far Side. Max Garcia actually understands how to personify animals, how to make a pun that is perfectly understated, and how to be nuanced while still remaining silly. It is really rare for a cartoonist to be able to capture all of these elements. Also, like The Far Side, Garcia’s drawings are a little more crude than the other artists mentioned here, but that doesn’t take away from the message at all.

Here is an example of what I mean about a cartoon that shows an understanding of how to personify animals in an actually funny way, and not just for the sake of itself:snt160919

Yup. The animals come out on top at the expense of the humans, but they’re not smug or even emotional about it. They’re just living their own lives and don’t give a crap about us. It reverses our world view, which is another thing that is so wonderful about what cartoons can achieve.

For all these reasons, I believe that Max Garcia really is a worthy successor to Gary Larson, and even though Sunny Street doesn’t have the same level of popularity, I hope that it will catch on with more people soon.

You can see more of his cartoons by clicking here

Final Thoughts

I really hope that cartooning is not a dying art form. What I see in newspapers today makes me very sad, and hopefully with the explosion of web-comics, we can still preserve the traditions in cartooning that made it great in the first place. Things like attention to minute detail, nuance, and the subtleties of really good writing.

Do you have a favorite cartoonist or web comic that you’d like to talk about? Let me know in the comments!

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