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Those crocs are just so *happy!*

(From Pearls Before Swine. Click on the thumbnail for full sized double snarked comical strips!)

Pearls Before Swine is one of those strips that's been on my "you really need to have a look at this" list for some time. I've had many, many recommendations that I read it. People I respect like it. It was just one of those things.

Well, as it turns out, one of the LJ people whose LJ I read (LJ -- it's like it actually means something when you say the initials) goes by the Livejournal sobriquet of The Weasel King, which I'd probably have a joke about, but given my own Livejournal sobriquet is Demiurgent, I don't have room to judge, now do I?

Anyhow, TWK posted a few Pearls Before Swine strips over the past week, putting them right. In. Front. Of. My. Face. Go to the Friends Page, read Pearls Before Swine. And that did it. This is so getting daily trawled now.

He put the lower of the two strips above up -- it's part of an ongoing sequence, where a couple of crocodiles move in next door to a zebra in the housing development. And would like, very much, to eat him. Today's just tickled me, so I went to snark it, and as is my wont, I went to the day before's strip to get to the archive page for the linkback... and saw the glorious, hysterical Sunday strip above it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The newspaper syndicates are not afraid of controversy, opinion or being sometimes savagely funny. I submit to you Pearls Before Swine as a test case.

So, read it.


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I've been reading this mostly on sundays, and for a while I really wasn't impressed. All of a sudden, though, the writer started using sunday strips to construct huge, elaborate, pun punchlines. I *love* pun punchlines. And, somehow, they worked - they were meticulously constructed without being contrived. Immediately, this one hit my top ten sunday list. Very cool.

Making fun of Cathy is "controversial"? Erm, whatever. Personally, when I saw that strip in the paper, I wished the gag were less generic -- pretty much any character from my newspaper's Sunday section could have been inserted into that last panel without altering the joke a whit.

Also, there's this weird phenomenon where only Cathy Guisewite can draw Cathy correctly. The character looks so easy to draw, and no parodist ever gets it right. She's harder to reproduce than Charlie Brown, and have you ever tried to draw Charlie Brown?

No, having predators actively trying to cheerfully eat some of the other characters is controversial. (Yes, I know it's been part of the comics page forever. This is the 21st Century. We have to think of the Children, Shaenon.)

Calling Cathy inane, on the other hand is an example of opinion, which I also referred to in that list. ;)

Setting the writing aside...that has to be the most poorly drawn syndicated strip I've ever seen.

I have sympathy for the plight of the funnies, but they're not gonna win back readers by being an eyesore.

I gotta say, it's rare that I read _Pearls Before Swine_ and find a joke that overcomes my dislike for the visuals. I like it when cartoonists, y'know, show a little drive for visual quality. And if the response is, "But it's _style!_", well, I don't buy it. Call me a snob. ;p


I actually quite like the artwork. I think it meshes with the tone pretty well. But maybe that's just me.

sylvan, I will restrict my usual diatribe on the subject to merely reminding that there's a difference between "I don't like X" and "X is bad". If you don't like the style, that's fine, but I think you're doing the artist and the rest of us a disservice by using "it's poorly-drawn" as a shorthand for "I don't like the way it's drawn"; if you genuinely think it's poorly-drawn, why do you think that?

I think it should go without saying that these things are subjective. When I say something it poorly drawn, it obviously means that *I* don't like the looks of it. But I'll give you the full critique if you want.

The layouts are boring, and often cramped and ugly. Things are simply stuck in the frame with little regard for composition, and often squeezed in around the huge amounts of text.

The characters look the same in almost every panel. I've seen more expressive sprite comics. There are some nice variations on the occasional strip, but those just make me disappointed by their rarity. The characters are almost always seen from the same angle, too.

Similarly, the line width is flat yet strangely inconsistentóthere is enough occasional variation (usually only in the eyeballs and background details) to make me wonder why it varies so little. There's no visual logic to it.

The color in the Sundays isn't actively ugly but it is very bland, and doesn't do anything to rescue the drawings from themselves.

The lettering is decent, but it suffers from the excess of text, forcing Pastis into poor solutions such as reducing the 'font' size for just one panel.

Simplistic character designs are not a bad thing in an of themselves, but when a comic has so little else going for it visually, they quickly lose their charm. Not that these designs had a lot of charm in them to start with. Especially the Rat.

I'm not saying the art is a catastrophe--it was at least professional enough to get into syndication, obviously. It tells the gags in a pretty clear way. But it does almost nothing to enhance the humor, and it seems to have no real interest in being visually attractive. It just does the absolute minimum required, and maybe a little less.

I tried to like Pearls Before Swine, I really did. I had it on my own daily comics trawl for a good long while. But when I realized that it was never earning more than occasional 'Heh' from me, I dropped it. Somehow its jokes always strike me as being too obvious.

In regards to the art -- one of the biggest laughs I ever got out of the strip was when the characters were at a diner, and one of them finally realized there was never any food on the plates because Pastis couldn't draw food. For Rat, that was "the last straw", and that led to a fairly lengthy sequence in which the animals in the strip went on strike. But I'd noticed the thing about the plates before that...and I've noticed it since the "strike" ended.

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