“Cartooning Symbolia”

Derik points to this comic, Cartooning Symbolia, by Dash Shaw that uses Mort Walkers terms from The Lexicon of Comicana for various symbolic elements of the graphic medium. It’s an interesting experiment in formalism, and I especially appreciate the last twelve panels that introduce “new symbols,” which well exemplifies the complete conventionality of symbols given that the reader has no idea what these things mean.

I read Walker’s book for the first time last year, and here’s what I wrote back then to the comixscholars list:

Its not a bad read. Its funny and lighthearted. One gag even got me to laugh out loud. He does point out an awful lot of graphic conventions used throughout many American comics – particularly strips – and makes a few interesting observations about them. Its by no means exhaustive, though it does have a surprising amount in it.

He also attaches a myriad of useless names to them, to the extant that you feel that his whole point for jargon is to be facetious (which it may well have been). You can tell that some of his terms have a logical origin to them, while others just seem made up because he wanted to give everything a name. I also have some discontent with his organization of these things, but for very specific structural reasons that I will bring up in some future writings of my own.

This organizational issue is related to my own attempts to compile a list of conventional signs in visual language. Many of the things he puts as separate signs I will include together in a larger category (like “smelly lines” and “sun rays” as both types of “path lines”). And while I’m at it… my list is ongoing, so please alert me to any more signs of this nature if you come across them. Perhaps someday I can compile them into more of a dictionary/wiki type project with examples and whatnot…


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