Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Humor of Re-engineered Comics

Do comics that have their captions altered by a third party constitute a genre?

Today a reader named Brad submitted a caption for this comic (see the latest comments below it), which I posted in a mischievous attempt to stump and frustrate. A few people took good-hearted stabs, but Brad's caption is, to me, quite funny. Without knowing that the original cartoon is in Norwegian, and that the new caption is both a substitute and a commentary, I don't know how humorous it would be. This suggests to me that there is indeed a dividing line between the original and re-written cartoons.

Re-writes try to be funny in part by being commentaries on the comic. They may take advantage of ambiguities in the art, foibles of certain characters, banality or introduce themes not covered in the original.

A writer might intentionally re-interpret what a character is pointing at, or, as in Mark Trail, comment on size mis-matches between the characters and the decorative wildlife that are frequently recycled for insertion. When the rewrite contains criticism, it becomes satire.

It looks like altered captions represent a genre with two subgenres: parodies and satires. Within those we might expect to see more art re-workings as well, such as the combined art and writing deletions of Garfield Minus Garfield.  Pure re-workings, essentially volunteer writing and editing, are not common. My wife and I leave marked up newspapers around for each other to find, but even a this-is-better rewrite is loaded with a message: the previous caption bites.

What can you do with this episode of The Socially Challenged, from Finland?