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.