CRISIS IN THE ART OF MODERN CARTOON
by Vladimir KAZANEVSKY / Ukraine
“New” cartoons with the dominating of images without support of verbal have arisen in the thirtieth years of the twentieth century in the USA and in France. The founders of “new” cartoons were O. Soglou, S. Steinberg, J.M. Bosc, J.M. Folon…
Worrying signs of deep crisis in the “new” cartoon appeared in recent years. The main feature is the emergence of a large number of cartoons-clones or “secondary” cartoons. There were discussions, which of the “secondary” cartoons can be considered plagiarism, and which simply random coincidence. Plagiarism in the art can take a simple theft. Frequent cases matches are characteristic sign of the crisis in the “new” cartoon.
…..One indicator of the crisis in the “new” cartoons is discontinuing the Yomiuri International Cartoon Contest. Officially announced, that “contest has already made a significant contribution to the development of manga culture since it started in 1979. During its history of more than a quarter century, the number of cartoon entries received totalled 289,554.”
Two years before the closure of the contest in the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun were published the article “Yomiuri International Cartoon Contest: New perspective may lead to fresh ideas” by Professor Masashi Ueda.
The article stated that more and more artists send to the competition cartoons such as those who previously had success. However, the author pointed out, one of the cartoons submitted for the competition, proved so unusual, grotesque, almost all members of the jury voted for awarding the author of Gold Prize of Free Event-Section. In the cartoon, monkeys hang from trees by their hands, while a man hangs from a tree by his brain. The author concluded that “this may reflect our belief that Yomiuri International Cartoon Contest is entering an era of change… I think the contest will receive more cartoons that include free and fresh ideas”. But after two years this contest came to an end.
To speak convincingly about the crisis of “new” cartoons, will try to analyse the “essential” characteristics of cartoons. Cartoon can be seen in terms of visual images, which built its “semantic content”. Interesting are also the philosophical, social and other messages that the audience receives by this cartoon. You can also consider methods that were used in the process of creating “comical effect” of the cartoons.
…..Let’s consider the imaging world of “new” cartoons. “Semantic content” of most cartoons based on the usual for spectators images, at the same time, “convenient” for the creation of “comic effects”. Thus are the literary heroes (Don Quixote…), heroes of animation and cinema (Mickey Mouse…, Charlie Chaplin…), paintings (Mona Lisa…), architectural structures (Tower of Pisa…) and many others. In addition, there are also stereotypical situations, such as man on desert island, man in the desert, a lover in the cupboard… And here it is necessary to notice that the number of “convenient” to create a cartoon images are not infinitely.
…..Each cartoon bears a certain message to the spectator. Quite often such messages are based on current information. For example, currently “fashionable” topics for cartoonists are the threat of terrorism in the world, global warming, etc.
The creative process of establishing a “semantic content” of cartoon is subordinated to the certain laws. The act of creation studied well enough (Koestler, A. 1964). For example, there is a two-stage model for the appreciation of jokes and cartoons (Suls, J. 1972). Very interesting is An Affordance Theory Analysis of Cartoon Humor by Dean H. Owen (1988). Basic concepts of conceptual integration theory (Fauconnier & Turner, 1994; 1998) include mental spaces, frames, or cultural models, and mappings. The research by Alan F. Blackwell and T.R.G. Green (1999) suggests that graphical metaphor should increase the usability of visual programming languages by providing an instructional aid when learning to use the language. General Theory of Verbal Humor by S. Attardo and V. Raskin (1991) means joke similarity. We can use the main ideas of this great theory for cartoon art with success, etc. Methods for creating cartoons are fairly universal.
During the development of art of a “new” cartoon have been created “primary” works. Combinations of the above elements of creative processes such as images, methods and messages lead to creation by beginner cartoonists “secondary” works. First of all this concerned creativity of artists from the countries, where “new” cartoon originated relatively recently.
Does this mean that the crisis in the art of cartooning will go deeper? And are there a ways out of crisis? Of course there is. As noted by Professor Masashi Ueda, “New perspective may lead to fresh ideas”. Attempts to create new images in cartoons, the original messages, embodied in the cartoons, the search of unusual methods of creating of “comic effects” may allow other ways the development of “new” cartoons.
(author is top Ukrainian cartoonist, lecturer and theorist of Cartoon Art)