Caleb Orecchio here with thoughts on a Barry Windsor-Smith strip, and other news.


from Opus vol. 1 by Barry Windsor-Smith, 1999

“You ask why? I say why not?” — BWS’ note on the above piece in Opus.

This strip has no “joke” in the traditional sense, but there is a payoff. A punchline. “POH!”

1, 2, 3, POH! It’s so simple. What is a four panel strip other than three panels that, traditionally, set up a punchline? Jack White, a musician and upholsterer, has noted that it takes three staples for a material to be considered upholstered at the bare minimum; this is his observation of the beauty within simplicity. Here Barry Windsor-Smith does not busy himself (or the reader) with a plot within three panels to bring us to the fourth, he simply stalls us and then squeezes the trigger. POH! It’s actually kind of funny, or at least amusing.

What I find very interesting about this strip, is that it isn’t contrived in any way. Obviously, I presume, this was made privately. Maybe as a joke to himself or his assistant or studio mates or whatever. It does not matter. I am simply pointing out the simplicity, looseness and playful nature of the piece. There is a solid art and drawing background behind the images: the wash, the marks, the 270 degree turn; but they all briskly collide to make the joke, POH!

This is a perfect strip. I’m not going to argue the point, but consider how few cartoonists make strips like this. Consider how few cartoonists make comics for fun. Musicians play music for fun. Football players throw the ol’ pigskin around for fun. Consider this, fellow cartoonists, for twenty minutes a day, as a warm-up, make a four-panel strip for fun that you’ll never show anyone. I guarantee you will be surprised by what will come out of that exercise. Many perfect comics are made in sketchbooks and will never be seen by anyone until the sketchbooks of that cartoonist are published, like the above example (also I think the sketchbooks of Chris Ware and Gary Panter apply).

Perfect comic strips can be painstakingly rendered by Ernie Bushmiller, but they don’t have to be. Sometimes, they are made by Barry Windsor-Smith as a joke is all I’m saying.




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