What is it about comic strips? Be it Tintin nearly 100 years old, or 50 year old Mad and still in print, churning out humour and satire loved by children and adults of every nationality. As a kid comic books were hard currency, you could trade Archie for Spider-Man. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on The Adventures of Tintin you held the bargaining chips! From loving these characters in our youth, now as adults we derive the same humour from our newspaper cartoonists. Zapiro in South Africa has kept us sane for years making it possible to laugh out very loud at the on-going political faux-pas of African leaders.
Tintin took Europeans by storm in the 1930s then humoured them through the Second World War. His creator, Georges Remi a Belgian cartoonist, who went by the pen name of Hergé has been praised for his work on Tintin as “creating in art a powerful graphic record of the 20th century’s tortured history.” People need to laugh. Especially when our daily lives are depleted of it. The worse our situation, the more we need laughter. Impossibly dark moments miraculously become stark raving hilarious! What paint stripper does to paint is what humour does to life’s middle finger. Strips us down to the bare bones until we see that gleam of steel and we feel what we’re made of. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad because we’re laughing. Because what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Because we’re alive. We have friends and bad things can hurt us, but not nearly as much as they can humour us!
One of these friends that I’ve laughed with through decades, debt and divorce is also a cartoonist. His work, Tadpohl, is illustrated here because as far as I’m concerned Bradley Pohl deserves his place on the comic strip podium. An unconventional life as the gay son of a conservative farming family in a red necked community has made him the struggling artist we all want to see fly. Grounded by a mindset that clipped wings, flying has not simply been flapping your arms and launching yourself. It has been to invent, to construct and to master the art of self expression. Of opening up, carving out, and building in between. Of choosing a course through the sky that was forbidden or deemed as unnavigable.
There is something in a dream, something in people who dare to dream, and the dreamers whose dream eventually spreads itself across an obstacled runway, stands on its tippy toes and lifts off.
We watch from below as this idea once wrapped in a mind discovers flight through courage. And still, with unsurpassed beauty these works touch our lives and sink into our hearts. We celebrate the artist, the adventurer, the ones who ‘break on through to the other side‘ whilst we stand with our faces pressed against a glassed electronic lethargy and marvel.
Artwork by Tadpohl