Lexicon of Comicana Review

By | Saturday, November 30, 2013 Leave a Comment
One of the strangely obscure books in comic lore is Mort Walker's The Lexicon of Comicana from 1980. Ostensibly, it's an art book detailing the different techniques comic artists use. In reality, it's more of a series of in-jokes among cartoonists.

While the book touches briefly on some cartooning basics, it spends much of its time annotating different types of lines frequently seen in comics. Walker calls that wavy line coming from a delicious smelling pie a "wafotarom." But the same squiggle drawn behind a paper airplane to show its flight path is a "sailatron." By the time he gets to drawing hands towards the latter half of the book, he's clearly poking fun at over-analysis of the medium by calling fingers "digitons." Perhaps because I was vaguely aware of the book and many of these terms before reading, this part came off as mildy amusing but I would have been disappointed had that been the extent of the contents.

There is, however, a more direct "how to" section at the end. How to draw a straight line, how to stipple, how to draw caricatures, etc. These are actually pretty funny, despite many of them taking on the same basic gag: step 1, draw a circle; step 2, add three lines coming off the circle; step 3, fill in all the details to make it look awesome. He uses the figure of Little Orphan Annie when he's showcasing how to draw eyes, for example. How to draw pretty girls consists of: start with a stick figure; add other elements; finish off full figure; reluctantly add clothes. I won't spoil all the jokes here, but they were pretty funny, as I said. A welcome surprise, and somewhat different style of humor than I'm used to seeing from Walker.

The original 1980 book seems to have had a pretty short press run, but there was reprint published in 2000 that should be easier to get your hands on. It is kind of an amusing anecdote to comics, and maybe Walker's career in particular, but I don't know that there's any huge need for people to go on a major scavenger hunt to try to find a copy. Kind of neat if you stumble across a copy in a used bookstore. Although it's short enough that you could probably read it pretty easily in the store, too, and that might be plenty enough for you.
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