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Student guide chapter 2: Every Picture Tells a Story

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Chapter 2 uses gag cartoons to show how image and text interact in comics. In this section you’ll find student gag cartoons for you to print out and add funny captions to. You’ll also find examples of the homework as well as a link to a gag cartoon contest.

Prep guide

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What are some of the ways words and images interact in comics?
  2. How might the meaning of a drawing change when combined with different words?
  3. How might a combination of word and image create humor?
  4. Think of some of the single-panel comics you've run across: What was their function (humor, political commentary, simple illustration, a combination, other functions)?

Supplies you will need

  • sheet of office paper or sketchbook paper
  • pencil
  • eraser
  • pen

Optional but recommended

Nothing extra this time


Gag reflex

Gag me

If you look ahead to the critique guide in Appendix B, you may be surprised just how much there potentially is to say about one-panel cartoons. These works are little, compressed stories. Give them the attention they deserve. Click to see examples of homework by students with some comments from Matt and Jessica
Once you get good at writing captions for your fellow students, try your hand with the big boys at the New Yorker—they run a cartoon caption contest every week.
Charles Addams, Chas Addams Happily Ever After: A Collection of Cartoons to Chill the Heart of Your Loved One Peter Arno, Peter Arno B. Kliban, Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head and Other Drawings Gary Larson, The Complete Far Side Joel Smith, Steinberg at the New Yorker Robert Storr, Raymond Pettibon

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