In the United States, the funny papers will have more than laughs this Sunday.
More than 70 comic strips will each have six objects hidden in the artwork when they appear in newspapers this weekend. These symbols were added to recognize workers in the battle against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Look closely at the comics and you will find a face mask for medical workers and caregivers. There is a steering wheel for workers who transport masks and other personal protective equipment, as well as an apple for teachers. Readers will also find a shopping cart in honor of supermarket workers, a fork for food service crews and a microscope for medical researchers.
In the “Sherman’s Lagoon” comic strip, the six objects are hidden in ocean waters. In “Blondie,” they appear on the computer of Dagwood Bumstead, Blondie’s husband. In “Zits,” they are hidden in Jeremy Duncan’s bedroom.
The effort to honor healthcare and other frontline workers was the idea of Rick Kirkman, a co-cartoonist of the “Baby Blues” comic strip.
Kirkman said he wanted to show his thanks to the frontline helpers. He contacted other cartoonists, who helped shape the idea, and it just kept growing.
This Sunday would have marked the last day of the National Cartoonists Society’s yearly meeting, which was canceled. “I just felt like that was a great day to do it because we’re missing that big communal feeling, but at least we can get to do something together,” Kirkman said.
All the participating comics, including additional art, will appear on two websites: ComicsKingdom.com and GoComics.com. All the cartoonists provide links to local or national aid groups in their social media feeds.
Jason Chatfield produces the “Ginger Meggs” strip and is president of the National Cartoonist Society. He said that while cartoonists have worked together before for causes, nothing of this size has been attempted.
“There’s nothing quite like sitting down and seeing all the comics together on one page and on a really special day where we’ve all coordinated to do something very special for a really good cause,” he said.
Because comic strips are often finished weeks before publication, many of the cartoonists had to go back into already approved works to add the symbols or create a new strip.
Kirkman left it up to the artists how to hide the six symbols. For some cartoonists, the work was relatively easy. For others, it required a little more work. After all, how exactly was “Prince Valiant” — set in the fifth century — supposed to add a microscope, which was not invented until the late 16th century?
One cartoonist, Wiley Miller, had to work especially hard since his “Non Sequitur” strip takes place thousands of years ago. “I told him, ‘Well, you know, you just hide stuff in there,’” Kirkman said. “And the next day he came back, and he said, ‘I did it!’”
Chatfield said some of his fellow artists came up with stylized versions of the objects, like half-eaten apples or an apple pie. “Something that cartoonists love is a creative challenge,” he said.
While many cartoonists hope to keep their work escapist and so have avoided dealing directly with the coronavirus, Kirkman and Chatfield have added information about the health crisis into their daily strips.
Kirkman and “Baby Blues” co-creator Jerry Scott had some characters wear face masks when coming from outside, and Chatfield’s sports-loving hero is now being schooled at home.
The cartoonists are looking forward to Sunday.
“I’m going to be as pleasantly surprised, I think, as everybody else to see all of this,” said Kirkman.
I'm Mario Ritter Jr.
Mark Kennedy wrote this story for The Associated Press. George Grow adapted the story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
comic strip – n. a series of pictures that tell a story
shopping – adj. related to or involving the purchase of goods or services
cart – n. a small wheeled vehicle
fork – n. an instrument for lifting food into the mouth
cartoonist – n. an artist who produces simple images of people or animals
participate – v. to take part in
stylized – adj. treating something in a non-realistic way
challenge – n. a call to take part in a competition
character – n. a person or actor in a play, movie or other production
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