Showing posts with label rube goldberg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rube goldberg. Show all posts

Saturday, June 17, 2017


One of my favorite newspaper cartoonists of the WWI era was the great Rube Goldberg. Unfortunately for Rube he's mostly remembered for the "Rube Goldberg Device" where a chain of events eventually causes a bucket of water to tip over and fill the thirsty man's glass. That's all clever and appealing but it's not the man's best work. If you've only seen the inventions, then read on. You're in for a treat! Be sure to click to enlarge!

The poses in "I'm Cured" (above, topmost) are terrific, especially the running pose on the upper right corner. When I first saw it I was so inspired by the jacket that I ran out to a thrift shop and bought one just like it. The thing rides way up in the back and when I raise my hands up the jacket shoulders stay up there, even after I put my arms down again. What a find! I still have it.

And how do you like the thinking poses on the strip above? That's how I feel when I'm thinking. I feel smarter just looking at it.

Aaaah! Refreshed at the fountain of Goldberg! For me these four panels (above) are art, suitable for a museum. I love the running poses on the bottom! Rube's universe is all about ordinary people. Not handsome men and beautiful women, just ordinary people doing the best they can.

Rube, who was tall himself, did great tall people. I love the placement of trees (above) behind the guy.

How do you like the arms on the woman above? The simple staging, deliberately stiff pose, and obsessively horizontal lines in the shadows make the picture even funnier.

That's Rube on the lower left. Goldberg always said that he had a great childhood and this photo bears that out. But where's his mother?

Friday, June 10, 2016


Good old Milt Gross! That's his work above. Sometimes I think the man was incapable of making an unfunny drawing.

And Rube Goldberg (above), cartoonist extraordinaire! I love the way he thinks of excuses for people to hold their own heads, hands and knees... just what you weren't supposed to do in polite society. The thinking at the time was that poses like that made you look dumb and low class.

Here (above) Milt Gross tries his hand at the same thing. I love the opening pose with the raised shoulders and clutched arms. How do you like the mustachioed head with hair greased back?

I also like the shaking fist in the middle drawing. The pointing finger on the other hand is the perfect counterpoint. He's no doubt pointing at his own image in the mirror, but it (probably unintentionally) also looks like he's pointing at his elbow, as if he was making a dirty gesture of some kind.

  Back to Rube Goldberg (above). I like the way he used to draw strange heads then think of funny biographies to justify them.

Geez, this was drawn over a hundred years ago!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Two of my favorite cartoonists were Milt Gross and Rube Goldberg. Milt Gross often gave top flight poses to all the players in the frame, both the aggressors and the reactors. 

Rube Goldberg staged everybody in the same shot too, but frequently gave the best poses to the reactors, as in the in the strip above.

Okay, he sometimes gave the aggressor (above) the best poses, but you you see what I'm getting at.

I've been influenced by Goldberg so in photo stories, like the kind I do on this blog, I usually give the emphasis to the listener.

 Here's excerpts from a photo story I did in June, 2009. The girl (played by me) is surprised when her stupid ex-boyfriend (off screen) approaches her in a restaurant. I'll leave out the dialogue.

 She humors him, hoping he'll go away.

 But he doesn't.

He says that, now that he knows she hangs out at this restaurant, he'll hang out there too.

 Yes sir, they'll be inseparable from now on.

 The boyfriend bids goodbye for now...

 ...but adds that he'll be back.

 Well, it goes on. You can link to the whole thing on the side bar. The story's called "The Ex-boyfriend."

The odd thing is that, despite my affection for reactive acting, the animation I worked on usually put the emphasis on the speaker.

That's because I like to work with aggressive characters. They're appealing. The audience naturally wants to see what they're doing, and so do I. Even so, I had a lot of Goldbergian fun working on the reactive scenes and I wish I could have done more of them.

BTW: the last two pictures above aren't mine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I'm always amazed when Saturday Morning cartoons end with an ethical lesson. I mean the cartoon itself is often incredibly unimaginative and intellectually deadening. It's pretty clear that this celebration of mediocrity is the real message of the show, regardless of what's tacked on at the end.

TV producers aren't the bad bad guys. They're just putting on what they think the public wants. It's the public that needs to be educated about cartoons and I think I'll take a shot at that right now. Sorry if I appear to be preaching to the choir.


Good, funny cartoons don't need a message at the end. The whole cartoon is a positive message.

First and foremost, a good cartoon always stimulates the intellect of the viewer, even when the subject matter is stupidity.  In the cartoon above Rube Goldberg makes everybody look hilariously awkward but he manages to convey real sentiment as well. The two friends at the top and the married couple below are genuinely touching. This is the power real cartooning has. It can convey deep meaning at the same time it clowns around. 

Even the color in a good cartoon is educational. I look at this creek BG above and I'm filled with wonder about the beauty of nature, and of shadow and silhouettes and hidden places. I'm reminded that spots of color in relative darkness can be awesomely mysterious and satisfying. Backgrounds like this remind us of the ability of subtle things to amaze.

Good cartoon color is immensely stimulating, all by itself. An artist will deliberately take two colors that clash and make them work together by adding a third color that relates them. When you first see them you rebel and want to say, "Hey, you can't do that!" but before you can get the thought out, you realize that the color does work. Improbable as it is, the darn thing works. That means the picture has educated you, made you more graphically sophisticated.

It's silly to take a cartoon (above) that never even attempts to do anything like that and praise it to the skies because it has a single positive message tacked on to the end. The cartoon itself is the message. By the time the fake message comes at the end, the real message has found its mark, and that message is sometimes: "Kids, never try to achieve. Do the easy thing. Let your mind go to sleep." 

Funny cartoon drawings are often the most stimulating.  The dog above is silly and hilarious for sure, but the hilarity forces you to pay more attention to the animal, and when you do you realize that the dog is the very essence of playful good will, energy and loyalty. The drawing exudes life force and seems to say, "Isn't it great to be alive?" It makes you want to be happy and make others happy. It may take a writer a whole book to achieve that, but a cartoonist can do it in a few strokes. 

Cartoon drawings often get their effect by innovating or calling our attention to something we'd overlooked before. Here (above) the artist reminds us of the graphic nature of our own bodies, how we ourselves are designs which can be manipulated. Just thinking about this makes me want to draw. Good cartoons create artists, and people who appreciate art.

Can good cartoon drawings make kids think? You bet they can! The two hand drawings above certainly make me think. They increase my awareness of hands as an expressive instrument and fill me with awe to think that the human mind can find such a wealth of possibility in such a commonplace thing as a hand.

This drawing (above) isn't just lampooning one individual. It asks questions about the nature of femininity and beauty. It applies sophisticated design to a joke, and because the drawing is funny the questions it brings up stick in our minds.

There's something about this picture (above) that's...I don't know what to call it...mischievous.  It makes me want to acquire skill so I can play jokes on people too. The skill of the humorous artist makes me want to hone my own skill, even if it's not related to art. 

It's the job of artists to raise the bar in society. Our achievement in a public forum like TV should inspire others to be good at the things they do. But you can't inspire people if the cartoon is bland, even with a message tacked on to the end.

This (above) is a complex drawing disguised as a simple one. Here two worlds collide. It says a lot about the gulf between different types of people, and encourages us to see the clash of worlds in a humorous light, which is not a bad lesson to teach a kid. The little guy is made to seem rigid and ridiculous for disdaining the offer of friendship. No lengthy lecture. It's accomplished painlessly, in one funny drawing. 

Should cartoons have messages tacked on? I can't imagine why. Good cartoons by their nature are already full of messages, even before the end comes along, and they're more nuanced and sophisticated than the phony, tacked-on kind.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Just fooling around on the net I found myself once again immersed in the bottomless well of creativity called Rube Goldberg. Forget the mature Goldberg who did all the invention drawings; I'm interested in the young artist who did his best work before 1925.

Twins are funny and two twins getting hit on the head at the same time (above) are funnier still. Nobody in Goldber's universe stays in center screen very long. The world around funny people is funny too.  Weird people are always passing in the foreground and background.

Goldberg's generation knew that  suits with tails (above) are funny.  Even normal business suit jackets had a high, tight-fitting waist line that flaired out below the waist and had a big center cut in the back...perfect for interesting back shots.

Nobody in Goldberg's strips looked dignified from the back.

Goldberg was fond of kibbitzers who stood around commenting on other people (above). Sometimes a ridiculous number of kibbitzers and loafers would show up.  They'd lean against walls, help themselves to your chewing tobacco, and argue with each other, all the time making sarcastic comments about you.

Notice the twins at the window.  Twins with beards are God's gift to cartoonists.

The Olive Oyl head (above) is a great template for funny characters of both sexes. I love little, beady eyes on a ball with a low nose and mouth. Goldberg correctly adds to the effect by giving men suit jackets made with Cliff Sterret-type drapery patterns.

This (above) is from my favorite Goldberg period. He seemed incapable of doing a drawing that was less than hilarious. Nobody in the Goldberg world of that time fit the chairs and vehicles they used. Even their clothes didn't fit. People were always out of sync with their enviornment but they were all so obsessed with what they were doing that they didn't seem to notice. 

Goldberg eventually did more normal kinds of strips like the one above, but you get the feeling that he considered them to be a burden.

I wonder if he was influenced by the plague that overtook silent live-action comedies in this period. Even before the invention of sound films the studios began to show disdain for gag shorts. They increasingly turned out comedies that told a story and more or less followed the rules of dramatic story telling.  Why the studios chose to commit comedic suicide is beyond my understanding.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Did Rube Goldberg work in a primitive style!!??? Absolutely not!!!!!!! He was working in a deliberately comedic style, one of the most sophisticated and effective styles in all of cartoon history!
Poor Rube is always lumped together with Bud Fisher's "Mutt and Jeff" (the long, narrow strip above). Fisher was a funny and creative artist in his prime but he was never as funny, as innovative or as warm and "human" as Goldberg.

Goldberg had more in common with Milt Gross (no example here). Both were funny as hell and both seemed to love the people they were making fun of. I don't know about you but I find Goldberg's bottom two pictures of couples (above) to be extremely tender and appealing at the same time they're caricatured. Bud Fisher couldn't touch stuff like this.
So, is Goldberg's style primitive? No!!! If the purpose of a cartoon is to get laughs then this style is shockingly efficient. The audience is already smiling before they read the caption. If any style can be called primitive it's the modern style (with very notable exceptions), which simply doesn't deliver the comedic goods.
One last look at Goldberg (above) ...(Sigh!) and I turn you back to the modern comedic style below.
Note: I know the guy who did the color drawings above. He's a talented guy and he'd probably jump at the chance to work on something genuinely funny.