Wednesday, March 11, 2009

17 by B. Kliban

A friend of mine recently sent me some books in the mail, one of which was a book of cartoons by B. Kliban called Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head & Other Drawings. I had never heard of B. Kliban (though his famous Cats do look familiar), and I was surprised to learn that he is credited with inventing the single panel cartoon where a third person caption describes the action. I enjoyed the book quite a bit, especially appreciating the way Kliban's best jokes are much more thoughtful than they appear at first glance, many with subversive undercurrents that can give us a flash of the world in a new way or simply show us the pure absurdity of life itself. (Many of the cartoons are completely absurd, almost as if Kliban had picked words from a hat and was forced to make a comic out of them.) Some of them aren't funny (on purpose), others are just plain stupid (in a good way), a few are witty, many are obsessed with punning, a handful are brilliant. Here is a selection:

B. Kliban the birth of advertising
B. Kliban cartoon
B. Kliban inglese
B. Kliban  business on parade
B. Kliban  fly
B. Kliban king kong
B. Kliban merchandising
B. Kliban people humiliating a salami
B. Kliban the victims family
B. Kliban fig
B. Kliban
B. Kliban keeping bugs away
B. Kliban debutantes and centipedes
B. Kliban making a flapjack person
B. Kliban knoll coward
B. Kliban a meter violation
B. Kliban


Hectocotylus said...

A friend of mine recently suggested taking photographs of staged Kliban cartoons. I thought that was a good idea. Another good idea would be to create a giant Kliban installation where motionless people recreate various cartoons.

Doug said...

A long-time Kliban fan myself, I enjoyed seeing these snippets again. Kliban stopped publishing the same time Gary Larson started, and they have such a similar style I always felt maybe they were the same person, just pseudonyms. Kliban is a Hawaii guy and if you show souveniers in Maui you see many of his cat drawings embossed on golf balls and oven mitts.

cathy b. said...

I used to use Kliban cartoons as "friend testers". If you didn't like Kliban, I didn't care to spend a lot of time with you. Right now I'm looking for the "anti gravity muscles unflexed, anti gravity muscles flexed" one.

Hectocotylus said...

Doug: Thanks for the comment. It's strange how popular his cat drawings got; I hear they're also very popular in Japan.

Cathy: Kliban seems like a good litmus test, though I'm afraid I'd have to disown my family if I used it.

I'll be posting some more Kliban in the future -- I recently bought a copy of Two Guys Fooling Around with the Moon, and just a few hours ago I found a copy of his out of print Tiny Footprints at a used bookstore. If the "anti gravity muscles" cartoon is in it, I'll be sure to post it.

Anonymous said...

ahh kliban
been a fan since...dawn of (wo)man.
the best is when something pops up in passing... like my friend today quoted noll coward on facebook..and i was forced to google Knoll Coward to share...thats how i found you advanced folks:)
also weird how favs grow/change.

Richard Minner said...

They're anti-jump muscles, and google knows where to find them :-) Been a fan since I was a kid, nice tribute, thanks!

mark said...

I had business on parade & the birth of advertising framed in my office when I ran a large cbale tv company in the eighties... the staff loved them, the corporate office did not... I still laugh when I look at them; Nothing has changed.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that decades ago it took me several dozen viewings before I understood what was being depicted by Fig 1, Fig 2, etc.

Joel Mielke said...

I was lucky enough to spend time with Kliban (he went by "Hap"). At the San Diego Comic Con we were chatting once and a young woman passing by saw his badge and insisted that she had promised her roommate that if she saw him she'd get him to draw a picture for her:
"She loves Siamese cats," she enthused.
"I don't draw Siamese cats. I just draw these striped alley cats."
She would not relent, so he took her autograph book and scribbled away for a few minutes. When he was done, he handed her a drawing of two stripped cats joined at the head.

Tyler said...

Great anecdote Joel -- thanks for sharing!

Dave19128 said...

"Another Boy for Jesus" perfectly captures the 1000 yard stare of a dried-out, lantern-jawed, itinerant tent evangelist winding down his oily career by duping homely, bloated, pimple-faced oxygen bandits.

grannytenderstone said...

I am so pleased to find this article and these reproductions of some of my favorite Kliban cartoons. I was particularly interested in the meter violation cartoon, which is what I Googled to get here, I was trying to find an image of it to share because a meme on a very similar topic came up on a pun page I belong to, and I wanted the person to see the comparison. However I find I cannot copy the image and I would sure appreciate being able to copy these cartoons, or at least that one in particular. I lost all my books almost 20 years ago due to the theft of a moving van packed with all my belongings, so I lost all my kliban books with everything else I ever owned. I first discovered kliban it seems in a gift shop next to my job in the mid-seventies I'm pretty sure it was. I was but 18 years old at the time and became an instant fan with the cats book, later acquiring the porcupine and the bigger than your head books too. I even had a huge tablet of 8.5x11 stationery, each page reproducing a different cartoon from his books. Thanks so much for posting this.

grannytenderstone said...

How delightful to hear this and see how his mind works on short notice even. Turning it around into a pun like that how wonderful!

grannytenderstone said...

PostScript... I would be thrilled to find the image of a particular cartoon with the caption "the wagon of Love breaks under the baggage of life", so if anyone has access to that I would be most appreciative to see it again.