Graham Harrop looks as whimsical as you might expect from a cartoonist known for aiming at the funny bone.
He seems to have a perpetual wry smile, like he’s hard-wired to see the absurdity of life. On his head, white hair tumbles over his forehead and ears. That he has so much of it at age 77 is a wonder.
With a detour here and there:
Since Harrop started working as a cartoonist, the industry has changed dramatically.
In 1985, by one account, there were 30 to 35 full-time cartoonists working for [Canadian] newspapers across the country. Now that’s down to about seven, according to figures kept by Guy Badeaux, who edited Portfolio: The Year’s Best Canadian Editorial Cartoons from 1985 to 2005.
He said syndication now means newspapers can save money by choosing from a daily list of cartoons submitted by freelancers. The new system favours cartoons on national or international issues for the simple reason that cartoonists get paid more the greater number of papers in which a cartoon appears.
Wolverton’s technique of layered gags, inserting them where one would not normally expect to find them, such as written on a sign held by a hand sticking out of a hole in the ground, is also the mainspring of Screwballism. Nested gags, over-the-top slapstick, offbeat and off-color humor are all hallmarks of both Screwballism and Wolverton’s masterful comics, which celebrate the absurd nature of the world. With his singular vision, Basil Wolverton added novelty to an already novel form (and I don’t mean graphic novel!).
To discover the joys of Scoop Scuttle, made when Basil Wolverton worked at a fever pitch of screwball brilliance and forgotten for 80 years, is like finding a lost Marx Brothers movie from their Paramount days, when they were at their unchained wildest in films like Duck Soup. In an age of recovered cultural gems made available on a regular basis, it is easy to be blasé about a new collection of weird filler humor stories pulled from obscure Golden Age comic books, but Scoop Scuttle and His Pals: The Crackpot Comics of Basil Wolverton is kind of a big deal. There is much enjoyment and some enlightenment to gain from these stories, as a more complete picture of Wolverton emerges in which it becomes clear he was one of the most gifted, inspired, and resilient screwball artists (in any medium) of his time.
The Bus is a black and white half page strip about an unnamed man who rides a bus. He’s always dressed in an overcoat over a suit, is bald, wears glasses. In later material, he’s referenced as “The Commuter”, but never during the initial Heavy Metal run. In fact, the entire strip is without word balloons or sound effects — with only the occasional signs and some of the meta strips featuring captions — but the vast majority of the strip relies entirely on old-fashioned cartooning and sequential storytelling.
R. M. Rhodes went back to see if The Bus comic strips by Paul Kirchner held up over the years.
He was not disappointed (and includes a generous selection of the strips in his appreciation).
Unlike the earlier material, The Bus is stripped down – no color, just ink and zip-a-tone. It was not a simple strip, but it was elegant with much of the detail leaning more towards realism than not. At the same time, only the important details are retained, with an obvious considerable effort put into explaining the spatial relationships between the various vehicles and the characters that inhabit the page.