Cartoons: Not Just for Kids

Sure, everyone remembers watching cartoons as kids, and most animated movies are geared toward children. It’s much easier to do the types of characters and actions that kids appreciate as animation than with actors and film. Think about it: kids like animals, some of which don’t even exist in real life (dragons, unicorns, monsters, etc) and kids expect pretty much all of them to talk. Imagine the costumes and effects that would have to be created to do those things as a real film and you’ll understand why it’s typically animation.

But cartoons aren’t just for kids. In Japan, there is a whole culture surrounding adult themed cartoons (anime) and comics (magna). We mostly call them “graphic novels” to make it sound better than a “comic book” but that’s pretty much what they are. However, being cartoons does not make them less valuable or minimize their content. If you don’t believe me, go read Maus or Pyongyang. These are not silly illustrations for easy laughs you find in the Sunday paper. These are real subjects drawn in such a way that it enhances the story and becomes part of it in a way that words cannot. There are plenty more, ranging from historical pieces to biographies to fantasy to everything in between. Go to your local library and take a look, or head to a comic book store – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

I also think that political cartoons can sometimes be more effective than the rest of a magazine or newspaper put together. There’s something about an illustration that makes us pay a little more attention to the meaning. We’re not skimming through or only reading the first paragraph. It’s something that we actually notice, something that has the potential to stay in our memory for a lot longer than simple words can. Look at the career of Terry Mosher (aka Aislin). Some of his drawings got him into some pretty hot water – he was the first English-speaker who dared to draw an unflattering picture (well, the pig feet aren’t very attractive) of the Queen, or the one of Prime Minister Mulroney face down in the snow (which earned him a rebuke in the House of Commons). Yet, even after years of these kinds of things, he was honored with the Order of Canada. Why? Because his work is actually a valuable medium of public expression, that’s why! My parents couldn’t tell you anything about the rest of the news that day but boy do they remember that picture of PM Mulroney in the snow!

Then there are shows like Et Dieu créa…Leflaque, which is both a CGI show about a (somewhat atypical) family and a political satire rolled into one very popular show. If you’ve ever seen it, or anything like it, you know this is not one of those shows geared toward children. It is an excellent example of what you can do with the medium of cartoons – something that educates, that makes you laugh, that expresses views in a satirical but effective way. There are other shows out there like it, you just have to know where to look.

Let’s not forget where some of the most popular characters of the day come from: all those action hero movies all got their start as comic strips or books! Don’t tell me their success is all due to kids plunking down money to buy those movie tickets and watching the series on TV.

Comics have a place in the lives of every adult. If you lose your prejudices and keep an open mind, you’re sure to find a writer and medium that you enjoy!