Cartoons are Good Therapy
“A merry heart doeth good, like medicine.”
Studies show that laughter releases all kinds of healthy stuff in our bodies. According to an article written by Lynn Erdman, RN, MN, OCN for a 1994 issue of the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology, vol. 11, Issue 4, “Laughter eases the mind, defuses tension among people, and has positive physiologic effects on patients.”
According to Erdman, the benefits of laughter were known as far back as the Thirteenth-century when laughter was used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures. Five hundred years ago, laughter was used to treat colds and depression (Lee, 1990)
Perhaps, if we showed people more cartoons, they would need less health care.
Some people consider cartoons a great way to help children too. In their book 101 More Favorite Play Therapy Techniques, authors Heidi Gerard Kaduson and Charles E. Schaefer, Eds. write that, “Storytelling with the use of self-drawn cartoons is a venue that encourages children and adolescents to share what is going on in their lives and psyches without needing to rely just on verbal skills.”
The authors believe that cartoons provide therapists with insights about the way children structure their world. Sequential cartoons seem to provide the most opportunity for therapists to help their young clients.
There are numerous other examples of cartoons being used in health care. If you know of any, please share them.
“You can worry any object into humor. Worry it enough to find the humor that lies within. Someplace, there’s got to be a gag,” said cartoonist Irwin Caplan in a Cartoonist PROfiles interview that appeared in December 2000. He made a career creating gags for advertising.
Caplan graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in fine art. His career as a cartoonist began in the US Army during WWII where he learned he could sell his gags to a civilian market. After the war, he began selling cartoons to many major publications, but found that his income did not reflect his success. “Eventually, I was told that I was the fifth-ranking cartoonist, in terms of sales to the majors,” said Caplan to Editor Jud Hurd of Cartoonist PROfiles in 1972, “but right then and there, I knew there was something wrong with the business because I didn’t have any money!”
Eventually, Caplan returned to his native Seattle and began doing graphic design work. It didn’t take long for his cartooning abilities to become part of his business and for advertisers to see the benefits of using graphic humor to promote their products and services.
Caplan believed that advertising could be an excellent alternative to magazine and syndicated markets for cartoonists. But he did have one piece of advice: “Cartoonists usually aren’t the best at business,” he said. “You have to have some business sense...I would say, Get yourself a good accountant.”
Irwin Caplan died February 22, 2007. He was 87 years old and was proud to be known as an advertising cartoonist.
If you really want to learn something about cartooning, read Kyle Baker's book How to Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning published by Watson-Guptill Publications; 2008.
While he covers a few of the basics such as tools, and cartoon drawing, the real value of his book is the overall attitude he projects about the art. He repeatedly tells the reader to learn how to draw in his or her unique way. This does not mean he discourages readers from learning how to draw,; it just means he wants them to find their own style.
But, being unique is only part of the cartoonist's job. "It's not enough to be 'different'," writes Baker. "You also have to offer customers a unique benefit. People need to know what, specifically, they will be getting if they buy your product." Practical advice like this is sprinkled throughout his book.
Baker is a successful cartoonist who has worked in comic books, animation, and advertising. He has written and illustrated graphic novels such as Nat Turner, King David, The Cowboy Wally Show, and more. His cartoons have appeared in MAD, Entertainment Weekly and his film work includes Shrek, Looney Toons and Phineas and Ferb.
Baker is an unapologetic self-promoter and calls himself "the greatest cartoonist of all time" on his twitter page. While that title is debatable, I do think he is an excellent artist who has taken the time to share some of his insights on the art of graphic humor. I recommend his book.
One of my favorite cartoonists is Jean-Jacques Sempé, a French-born cartoonist who has a knack for making people laugh without words. In my opinion, Sempé is one of the best visual humorists of the last century - and possibly this one too.
I have made an extensive study of this and have tried a few techniques.
In general, I have found that there are a number of approaches to creating a
gag. Here are some suggestions based on ideas from a number of other
cartoonists. For more ideas on writing gag cartoons, read "the Cartoonist's
Workbook" by Robin Hall. In my opinion, it is one of the best books on the
subject and you will learn many gag writing techniques. Another good source is
cartoonist Randy Glasbergen. He has written a number of excellent books on the
subject including "How to be a successful cartoonist" among
First, realize that it is NOT easy. Maybe for some, creating a funny
cartoon is as easy as sleeping on the couch, but for most of us, it is tough.
One consolation is that it does get a bit easier at times. I think the brain
become used to thinking funny and starts getting into that mode sooner. Of
course, that does not mean the cartoons get better. It may still take ten or
fifteen attempts before you get that gem.
Here they are. I will have more in future posts.
Create three columns and label them People, Places, and Things. Under
each column, list appropriate items. For the People column, you might have
cowboys, space aliens, tourists, etc. Under Places, you could have Arizona,
Munich, moon, Canada, and so on. Do the same for Things by listing clocks,
radios, computer, and steak fries.
After you have an extensive list, combine one item from each column. Do
not be logical about this. Group space aliens with Canada and clock radios. By
making these unlikely combinations, you get your brain thinking a bit nutty and
soon, you will begin to see a gag peeking out around the edge of your
The next thing to do is carry a small notebook around with a pen. You
want to be ready to capture an idea whenever it hits you. As unlikely as it
seems, there are times when a gag will punch you in the nose or at least give
you a nudge. Don't rely on memory to record it - do it right away. Just tell the
other members of your staff meeting to excuse you for a moment as you write down
that funny thought. They'll understand.
It is also a good idea to practice thinking funny about a specific
topic. For example, you might want to do some construction cartoons or develop
some gags for realtors. Learning how to create gags for a specific topic will
help you create a batch of cartoons for a specific publication. It is a good
Last, but certainly not the least, is to keep practicing. Set a goal of
writing a set number of gags a day or week - and stick to it. By forcing
yourself to be funny, you will learn how to turn it on when you need it and that
is what separates the adults from the kids.
I am writing about my passion – cartooning and why I think cartoons are good for you and your health.
Take health care for instance. Studies show that laughter releases all kinds of healthy stuff in our bodies.
Show people more cartoons and they will need less expensive health care.
Cartoons can also revive a sluggish publishing industry. Let’s face it, since newspapers
and magazines have reduced the number of cartoons they publish, subscriptions have gone down. Increase the cartoons and subscriptions could go up increasing the need for more workers.
Cartoons are also an excellent way to sell products, illustrate ideas and, according to some experts, reach the Gen Y people.
For all these reasons, I think there should be a revival of this art form. It can help make people happier and give them something to tape onto cubicles, refrigerators, and office doors. It can also provide a nice income for cartoonists.
I hope you will find these posts and my cartoons entertaining. If I can put a smile on your face, I think I will be fulfilling my mission in life. Please feel free to share your comments, criticisms, and, even better, compliments.
As a cartoonist and writer, I have a passion for the fine art of graphic humor. I believe it is an art form that does not get enough recognition. I hope to change that, if possible. Please let me know if you like these posts and my cartoons.