Thursday, 25 March 2010

382: Gay Star Wars 1

"Star Spats"
By Laurence Gonzales
in "Playboy", December 1977

Back to the soul-sinking chronicle of fag jokes. I am Ixion. This is my wheel. If only I knew how to quit it.

The next few examples wouldn’t exist without Anthony Daniels’s performance as the android C3PO in “Star Wars”. A heritage of gay robot jokes is not quite the legacy any actor might hope to leave behind. Although George Lucas’s casting vision has to take some blame. Actually I was greatly tempted to give the following selections the overall title of “FAAAGS IN SPAAAAAAAACE!!!”, but that would be demeaning - to my childhood delight in the Muppets.

This parody is in the same vein as Harvard Lampoon’s “Bored of the Rings” and subsequent film parody franchises. Puns, heavy-handed sex jokes and contemporary life style references laboriously transposed into a science-fictionalised setting, while also deprecating the storytelling shortcomings of the original. Simply to cut down on space I left out all the Jewish and Yiddish jokes, though fans of Mel Brooks’s “Spaceballs” may feel deprived. The one atrocious racist joke I’ve left in for comparison.

Unsubtle probably best describes the overall impression. The title and picture pretty much let you know what to expect. Sissy gays don’t have wars, they have spats. I’m surprised they didn’t try to make Darth’s helmet look more like a penis, but then there are stories of Hefner getting weird about cartoons of penises in “Playboy”.

Discos, drugs, bitchy queens, s/m fashions, and hairdressers (“Mr” often being the title of choice for hairdressers). This is the contemporary Studio 54 lifestyle that the readers are expected to pick up on. With a “The Boys in the Band” allusion for those who can remember: “Who do you have to fuck....”

Suffice it to say this has never been collected in any anthology of gay science fiction.



Will Luke rescue Princess Orgasma?

Can a gay android find happiness in a bit part?

Will the universe be saved?

Does anybody have a valium?

Funny you should ask?

The erratic course of the galactic cruiser as it blasted through the constellation Tsooris was hardly intentional. Its captain had been hard by the Jack Daniel's for three days running. Coincidentally, this course was avoiding the long streaks of energy striking out from the Imperial cruiser. One of the beams touched the staggering, lurching ship and blew away its curb feelers and fender skirts. Then another distant explosion shook the ship and peeled away a layer of red-flocked wallpaper in the corridor - but it certainly didn't feel distant to Little Bo Peepio, the gay android, and his side-kick Panchoo DeeToo. To look at those two, you would have thought Little Bo Peepio, the tall, wispy machine wearing nothing but a necklace that said BITCH and a Porsche chronometer, was master of Panchoo DeeToo, the stubby, swarthy pistolero robot in the Two Fingers Tequila T-shirt; but while Bo Peepio might have thrown an absolute snit at the suggestion, they were actually equals in everything except that Bo Peepio gave better head and Panchoo DeeToo was the only Panchoo unit in the constellation of Tsooris that was running off a turquoise-and beaten-silver laser system.

Other explosions rocked the galactic cruiser. The low humming note that had been giving Bo Peepio a splitting headache suddenly stopped. Finally. Bo Peepio spoke:

"Who do you have to fuck to get a valium around here?" he asked.

Panchoo did not comment immediately. His barrel torso tilted backward, his three powerful hand-tooled leather cowboy boot gripping the deck. The meter-high Mexicano droid was suffering from severe postnasal drip sustained while sniffing some Peruvian graphite dust earlier in the flight, A series of short, chirping Spanish invectives issued from his speaker. To even a sensitive ear they would have sounded like just so much Third World gibberish, but to Bo Peepio they formed words as dear as a tequila sunrise.

"This butch captain of ours is definitely on a macho trip,' Bo Peepio said in a testy voice, thrusting out his metallic hips petulantly and patting down his chromium skullplate. "We're fucked for sure now.”

Suddenly a band of Imperial Storm Troopers appeared and began firing their weapons. One blast of energy threw Bo Peepio into a jumble of shredded cables, where dozens of currents turned him into a jerking, mincing, limp-wristed display of acrobatics.

"Help!" he screamed. "My servopelvic Accu-Jac!"

As Panchoo extended his switchblade mechanism to try to help cut away the cables, Bo Peepio's tone turned ultra-bitchy:

"This is all your fault! I should have known better than to trust the logic of an albino graphite-snorting, hand-held half-breed vibrator!"

Panchoo cut loose with a series of searching Spanish curses usually reserved for those who gang-rape your mother. One of them made an allusion to Bo Peepio's ancestral link to the Water Pik.

Then a violent explosion shook the corridor.

Two meters tall. Bipedal. Flowing black robes and a simple string of cultured pearls. Hair by Sassoon. Face forever masked by a black Tiffany breathing creation stunningly punctuated by pear diamond and rough-cut emeralds. A Dark Lord of Sith was a daunting shape as it snapped its tight little buns back and forth, heading down the corridors, glancing self-consciously at its reflection in the mirrored walls. Solidly into S/M, it normally sported heavy leather-and-chrome manacles and a set of expensive Spanish handcuffs. Once-resolute rebel crew members ceased resisting at the sight and threw themselves al its feet, crying:

"Where did you get your hair done?"

As it turned down another passageway, they could hear Mr. Darth's heavy breathing through the Tiffany mask. But who could resist?

Elsewhere, Bo Peepio and Panchoo were entering the lifeboat hatch. The explosive bolts fired after a loud warning and the pod ejected from the crippled fighter, sending the two droids to the surface of the planet below. Like much of the Promised Land, it was pretty grim compared with Fire Island.

Soon after Luke Starfucker had come into possession of Bo Peepio and Panchoo - and for no explainable reason - they were all fast friends, as if they'd known one another for eons. While Luke was valiantly trying to repair Panchoo, however, the little Latin pervert became horny and began showing dirty movies with his silver turquoise laser.

Luke who was only 20 years old, had lived a sheltered life and, consequently, was watching with rapt attention as Panchoo, who was a bit weirded out on some unnamed droid crystals, unabashedly flashed holographic movies of a beautiful young girl and her trusty exercise 'droid. She kept mumbling something about somebody's Kenobish.

"Boy," Luke said in awe, "look at the Kenobish on that dude."

Panchoo mumbled something in Spanish and kept showing the dirty loops.

"Oh, help me," the girl pleaded. "Slip me some Kenobish, Ben!"

"Who is that?” Luke asked Bo Peepio.

"I really don't know. She was a passenger on our last voyage. Had her own dressing room. A movie star of some importance, I think. Bitchin' wardrobe."

"Some movies," Luke allowed. Then suddenly, Panchoo ended the performance. "What kind of shit is that?" Luke asked angrily, jumping up.

Panchoo screeched and bleeped in incomprehensible but dearly obscene Latin aphorisms. Bo Peepio winced and translated some of them.

"He says before she got into heavy S/M movies like this, she used to co-star with the stud of the entire constellation of Tsooris, one of the last surviving Jewish Knights, Bennie Wadd Kenobish. He also says you can pay him fifty Imperial monetary units for an instant re¬play or else blow it out your Imperial ass."

"Bennie Wadd Kenobish," Luke said with a puzzled expression. "He's an old man now. He couldn't possibly get it up. And what in blazes is a Jewish Knight?"

"Don't ask me, deary,” Bo Peepio said, rolling his eyes seductively, "but if you know this Wadd character, I think I'd like to tag along."

Inside the bowels of the Imperial battle station, Princess Orgasma – intergalactically famous porn star - was being treated to the thrill of her life with a set of chromium molybdenum shackles by Mr. Darth.

"Tighter, Darth! Tighter!" she moaned, as one or Darth's minions moved forward to increase the pressure of the shackles on her pale wrists.

"You are my prisoner," Mr. Darth said, swirling his cape and fingering his strand of pearls. "I think what you need is a Farrah Fawcett cut."

"No, not that! Anything but that!" Princess Orgasma cried.

“How about a Linda Ronstadt?"

(omitted assorted Jewish stereotype jokes........)

Without even asking for any trouble from these Jewish Knights and gay robots, Luke suddenly found it in the middle of a real mess. He was out; riding toward Moishe Eisley Spaceport, a pretty nasty place according to Kenobish. It was imperative that they not be suspected by the Imperial Storm Troopers while searching the spaceport a pilot who could take them to rescue Princess Orgasma. But, as Kenobish had explained, the Force would be with them if they got into trouble.

(omitted Jewish Force jokes.........)


"Double Shirley Temple," Luke said across the bar.

They had entered the underground cantina and while Kenobish was scouting around for a pilot, Luke busied himself surveying the clientele. It was a sight like none he had ever seen. Lined against the bar three deep were men in hideous Palm Beach and Brooks Brothers suits. some of them with lethal-looking Bell System beepers attached to their alligator belts in case the hospital called for an emergency Caesarean section. Others carried American Tourister attaché cases. And all of them were knocking back deadly martinis without blinking an eye.

The bartender looked at him strangely when he placed his order but served it up anyway. Suddenly. Luke noticed that he was the subject of some unwanted attention. It must be these beige robes, he thought, and tried to ignore the stares. Something shoved him roughly nearly knocking him over. He turned angrily and then stopped in astonishment. It a little, stooped-over Polish janitor, myopically pushing a broom, trying to clean up some of the cigarette butts and peanut shells left behind by the rowdy business lunch crowd. Luke motioned to Kenobish and the wily old Jewish Knight deftly whipped out his sacred shotgun and blew the pushy little fucker into a thousand pieces, splattering brain and bone across the cantina floor.

Acting as if nothing had happened, Kenobish ushered Luke over to a table where an enormous monkey was sitting with a young man who was somewhat older than Luke.

"Who's the shvartzer?” Kenobish asked the man, indicating the monkey, as they approached the table.

"That's my monkey," the man said. "Leave him alone or I'll have him pull your head off. I'm Solo."

"And I'm Hetero:' Luke snapped.

"Listen. you little starfucker," Solo said, reaching across the table, "if you want to get to diddle the princess, you'd better watch your star mouth or you're going to be in for some star difficulties."

However, in spite of that thorny first encounter, the entire entourage - Kenobish, Luke, Bo Peepio, Panchoo, Solo and one big fullback type badly in need of a haircut - took off for a rendezvous with the Death Disco, a planet-size night spot that even now housed the Imperial cruiser commanded by Mr. Darth and a large number of rotating punk-rock groups.

Once cruising in Solo's speedy starship, the Millennium Chicken, in the calm of hyperspace and free of pursuing Imperial cruisers, Kenobish had a chance to give Luke some lessons with his newly found sacred weapon. "Pull!" Luke called and a clay bird flew out of the trap and smashed against the interior walls of the intergalactic cruiser before he could shoulder the shotgun.

"No, no, no," Kenobish was saying in disgust.”Here, put this on," he said, taking a large trash can from nearby and placing it over Luke's head.

"Mrgf! Gnlt butlts hbthblwsh!" Luke's Screams were unintelligible from inside the container.

"See,” Kenobish said, "You're already learning a new language. Ah, the Force."

Luke called for another bird and began firing wildly, scattering hot leaden revolutionary death all over the interior of the ship and sending everyone diving under tables and chain.

Having counted on the eternally inferior intelligence of people who wear Tiffany breathing devices and their armies and strategists in much the same way Pentagon generals counted on what they referred to in private as "gook stupidity," the star entourage entered the Death Disco and rescued Princess Orgasma by tantalizing her with her favorite sexual foreplay: a group grope in a warm garbage bath. Then, having hidden the architectural plans for the Death Disco - somewhere on her person - they headed back to the Millennium Chicken, using the “ancient Eskimo" plan of escape. This calls for taking an elderly member of the tribe and setting him on an ice floe until the polar bears are distracted and eat him, thus saving everyone else. In this case, alas, it was the noble Jewish Knight, Bennie Wadd Kenobish, who was attacked by Mr. Darth and chafed to death by Spanish handcuffs.

Luke hung back at a safe distance while fighter after fighter was chewed into molecular bits by Imperial energy weapons. As a matter of honor, he let his best friends go first. And even though they were getting dusted by the score, they were doing serious damage to the Death Disco, and finally Mr. Darth, seeing that Luke was coming in for the kill, boarded his own combat fighter to chase him down and, as he put it, “slap that bitch’s wrists but good.”

But once Luke's friends were all dead, he knew one thing for sure and no limp-wristed hairdresser was going to stop him. Visions of that first pornographic hologram of Princess Orgasma swam in his head as he homed in on the planetoid. Back at command center, Orgasma was hunched over the radar screen, watching Luke's progress. He was confident of the Force that he wasn't even using his computer aiming device. He just placed a trash can over his head, as Kenobish had taught him.

"Don't worry”' Orgasma’s voice came over the radio, "Solo has returned and he’s, um, right behind me," she panted, hunching more eagerly over the radar consol.

"That's right, kid," Luke heard Solo say, “I had a change of heart. And I'll keep things warm back here while you shoot your load."

And then, in unison, Luke could hear their voices cheenng, "Go, go. go, deeper, deeper, put it in, ye, “ until – trash can totally obscuring his vision - Luke made a slight miscalculation in his steering and rammed a gun tower, disintegrating into microscopic silvery fragments.

"Tough shit, kid," Solo said.


Saturday, 20 February 2010

Ronald Searle 3

Largely unknown to the general public, Searle had been making extreme investigations into how far he could go in abstract representations of human beings. In 1962-63, he had worked on a series of ink and wash compositions he titled “Anatomies and Decapitations”. Exhibited in only a few galleries, they disturbed many of Searle’s firmest admirers and have never been published. They are the most abstract work Searle has ever done. They almost all either huge heads or a few distracted skeletal figures reminiscent of late period Picassos. Some are just splayed slashes of lines, others are circular or oval stains with blotches or sequences of scratches for features. A rejection of his apparently perfected professional style, they resemble nothing Searle had done before. Yet in each Searle is able to find a means of presenting a figure who looks beatific, moronic, anxious, prim, or explosive. It is tempting to detect the influence of Andre Francois in these works (as Francois’s work in “Punch” was a similarly intense influence on emerging graphic artists like Ralph Steadman, Gerald Scarfe, and Quentin Blake). In 1960, Searle’s Perpetua Press had published a collection of Francois’s work, “The Biting Eye”. Francois drawing style was scratchy, messy, blotchy. His deliberately rudimentary and scribbly figures were not the standard blocky cartoony figures. Despite being highly non-representative, Francois’s work captured something essential about humans and their behaviour. Likewise, “Anatomies and Decapitations” shows Searle discovering how he could convey complex emotions freed of the restraints of human particularity or the contexts of social customs.

The first real product of these investigations intended for a popular audience was Searle’s Cats (1967). Searle had previously worked with animals, illustrating Geoffrey Willans’s The Dog’s Ear Book (1958), but those had been cartoonish animals, akin to the trotting figures of the Molesworth books, shaggy human actors in human situations with human responses. Searle’s cats would be much more abstract in composition. As Searle’s humans become less figuratively real, so he uses his cats to represent human states without relying on reductive realism. Luckily there is always an audience to be exploited in the public’s affections for cats. In his cats Searle found a “convenient currency” and international success before Kliban and Edward Bond discovered their respective felines. Searle’s cats are preposterous, yet though them Searle is accepting though still pungent about human weakness. He gives these works titles like “A retarded cat trying to grasp a simple fact”, “Unusually repulsive cat startled by a gesture of affection”, “Circus cat rehearsing Hamlet”, or “Acrobatic cat suddenly discovering quite unexpectedly that it is too old for the game”. Devoid of any background, through the shape of the cats’ bodies and arrangement of the minimum of facial elements, Searle embodies mournful, complacent, persevering, avaricious, or aghast expressions to match his titles. Searle would later redraw many of the works in his first Cat book, but in the earliest edition, their origin in “Anatomies and Decapitations” is apparent. These were much messier creations in blobby inks, with rather splashy harsh gray washes like the blotchy faces of “Anatomies and Decapitations” spread out to occupy a theoretical cat-space with slashes for whiskers.

His most public works in the late 1960s, his animated titles for “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines”, “Monte Carlo or Bust” and “Scrooge” could mislead one into thinking Searle was as comforting as ever. Nostalgic excursions in comic catastrophe to match the films themselves, Searle’s designs captured the ludicrous and pompous costumes of the period (his style being less than ideal for sleek modern fashions), and Searle was to spend many years of work on a Gilbert and Sullivan animated feature “Dick Deadeye” (1975). In only one respect were these animated features representative of his current private work, since they withdrew from an explicit engagement with contemporary social manners and trends. Yet the sudden profusion of books at the end of the 1960s exploring unnerving and provocative material might be seen as Searle’s response to the upheavals and opportunities for artistic liberation that marked this period: The Square Egg (1968), Take One Toad (1968), Hello – Where Did All the People Go?, The Second Coming of Toulouse-Lautrec (1969), Secret Sketchbooks: The Back Streets of Hamburg (1969) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1969).

Their contents were neither respectable nor wholesome, and often intensely irrational. They collected troublingly ambiguous jokes about the torments of the flesh. When he explores the more distant past, Searle’s characters are rotting, deformed and diseased. Similarly, there is an interest in ripe female sexuality and nudity. The blubber-lipped dwarf Toulouse-Lautrec eagerly frolics with and subordinates himself to broad-hipped jutting-buttocked giantesses naked save for their stockings and high-heeled boots (as though Searle is channelling R. Crumb’s fetishes). The Secret Sketchbooks record the bodies on display in German brothels, and confront fleshly taboos beyond the normal artistic nude study. In Take One Toad: A Book of Ancient Remedies Searle illustrates maladies and agonies and the consequent infliction of torturous quack cures, but there is a delight in man’s casual cruelty, of violence in the service of man’s insufficient knowledge, that outstrips the gymslip horrors of St Trinians in their depiction of the weaknesses of the flesh. So too, the eruptions of irrational in the cartoons collected in The Square Egg go further in confronting death and disability, as cripples of all kinds lash out at statuary representing their defective anatomy.

Searle becomes more concerned about the nature and quality of representation. The drawings in Hello – Where Did All the People Go? explore, almost compulsively, every method of extrapolating snails into every conceivable medium and form. The innate disgust snails evoke is almost immaterial in these formalist exercises proclaiming the transformative vision of the artists. Snails are reconstituted in metal, vegetables, cloth, fur, bones, buildings, clouds, birds, sexual females, mother animals, and assorted artistic pastiches. His snail giving suck to piglets will not be easily forgotten, nor his paradisical Fragonard-scape of snails on swings. The scenery of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen are typical of Searle but Searle’s figure of the Baron is an abstract bristling detonation of ink. For all that his facial features present a recognisable goggle-eyed, manic grinning buffoon, his body is an almost indecipherable sequence of blobs, dribbles, slashes and angles – yet evidently tightly conceived and executed since the figure is always consistently recognisable in each illustration. By the late 1960s, Searle’s generic people have lost a little more of their humanity. They become a little more distorted, their torsos a little more swollen and limp, their faces a little more contorted, sagging and haggard. It is worth wondering whether Searle has grown tired or even disgusted with people and his burden of drawing them. Likewise, Searles’ concern for the overall appearance of his work on the page changes as his use of ink has become messier. This period marks the beginning of Searle’s work becoming ink-spattered. If Steadman and Scarfe generously scatter blobs and blotches across their pages, Searle’s are more like concentrated effusions of spores and rot. For the next decade or so, Searle will often lay down an intermittent but enormously thicker line for parts of his outlines, in some ways reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec, so that his forms seem further distended on the page.

Searle’s major work in the 1970s was an outpouring of hundreds of colour lithographs in which he established his own set of conventions. This work would be collected in his two large retrospectives, Ronald Searle (1978) and Ronald Searle in Perspective (1984). The colour in his 1960s travel pieces had been striking, but the intent of this new work was to go further with bold and fantastic effects exploring a surrealism that would only gradually be accepted by commercial magazines. The irrationality depicted in The Square Egg explodes all over these pages. Searle’s scenes are all set on great plains stretching away to distant horizons which, to quote J.G. Ballard, are “the deepest horizon lines since Dali”, although they may be reminiscent of Cambridge’s “low fenland skies”. Searle foregrounds on this stage his repertory cast of cats, other animals, occasional birds and humans, with backdrops of scrubby vegetation or else towering cityscapes. There now is less use of line so that the colour is more emphatic. Since his figures are less detailed, his intermittent thickening of line may have been a new development to suggest a physical complexity. His ascending tower blocks gradually become sketchier, until as intersecting cross-hatches in the sky they are no longer realistic but figurative shapes pressing in on one another to suggest some implacable metropolis that dwarfs his characters. It is the use of colours that is striking, particularly in the case of his skies which sometimes occupy over half the page: bright pinks and yellows, eye-popping reds and purples, and pale blues. Their frankly psychedelic impact has left critics unsure whether Searle is revelling in his new exploitation of colour, whether they are intended to be purely beautiful (and if so, does it reveal a previously unsuspected tweeness) or whether he is more ambiguous and possibly satirising our assumptions about colour.

The lithographs are distinctive for not being immediately explicated like some editorial cartoon. They exhibit concern over pollution, ecology, overpopulation and dehumanisation. But Searle’s development of a personal yet satirical format, his international language, with its appealing colours, cartoonish men, and affectionate animals, walks an ambiguous line between charm and satire. As fantastic metaphors, his rainbows, butterflies and flowers can be almost too extreme, like an incursion from some earlier hippy agitprop poster insistent on the purity of the child’s imagination. It is that reduction of abstract ideas into simple figurative encapsulations with connotations of sentimental whimsy which make some bemoan the loss of the social miniaturist of the 1950s. It is the correlating attention to grey colours, his inks spatters suggesting smog, urban filth and casual litter, and the almost unapprehended details such as tiny piles of discarded cans or foliage, which often offset and contain the lurid colours, revealing the greater controlling artistic vision and technique. His titles add a further dimension, for like his Toulouse Lautrec drawings whose titles alluded to biblical and classical scenes, they are often more suggestive and surprising than descriptive. There is an occasional recurrence of a large graphic ballooony question mark in his lithographs; as though to provoke questions about the meaning of meaning is one of the purposes of these works.

His human figures in the lithographs are purely satirical. They cannot help but seem ugly, wretched and squalid in comparison to Searle’s lurid swashes of colours. They have become subhuman, fraudulent Piltdown men. The slashes marking their facial features make them ravaged and gaunt spectres and ghouls. Eyes once so capable of expressing cunning, lust, sorrowful frustration and even occasional joy are now lost in brooding self-absorption. Their bodies have developed a curvature of the spine so they are now unfinished slug-like masses borne upon their long curvy legs. In his lithographs Searle only uses human figures when they can bear the brunt of his criticism. His travel pieces suggested a growing concern on Searle’s part about the cost and impact of humanity’s pleasures upon itself and the world. Often besuited in pinstripes (possibly unconsciously recalling his “Tribune” cartoons) his humans are either oblivious to the world through which they pass or else horrified when its irrational spectacles can no longer be ignored.

While his humans have become abject objects of judgment, delight and all the positive qualities and actions of mankind have been transposed onto his animals. Curiously, his cats have acquired the same shape as his human torsos – that same trapezoidal or pyramidal blob, but with two perky ears at the top. At first it approximated the impression of a cat when sat, but Searle gradually employed the same shape no matter what the cat was doing. His cat faces hover above their undefined abdomens like furry humpty-dumpties. Unlike his first series of cats in Searle’s Cats, these are not solitary figures in a void. They participate in Searle’s scenery, they interact with each other, ride bicycles and horses, romance and seduce one another, even retire to a comfortable urban home life. In this respect they are a return to the anthropomorphic creations in The Dog’s Ear Book. It is these cats which appealed most strongly to the public, made Searle famous again for his covers on “The New Yorker”, and are collected in More Cats (1975) and The Big Fat Cat Book (1982)

His works at the turn of the decade were varied character studies in anthropomorphic animals. Searle extends the lesson of his cat art, which is that that no matter how wonky or sagging these creatures are, anthropomorphism is charming in itself. As with St Trinians, an immediately beguiling appearance can function as the satirist’s Trojan Horse. Searle’s subtler colouring, with its internal visual rhymes between its characters and their minimal settings entices his audience rather than assaults them with satiric disgust. A charming stone is dropped in the observer’s mind with ever extending ripples of subversions. Rather than attempt grand statements as in the lithographs, Searle employs his animals to depict individuals stricken by personal malaise. Anthropomorphism allows him to delineate human weakness and folly without distractions of setting. Searle uses his animals as either fantastic metaphors or as bestiaries of befuddlement and deflated pretension, by employing all the symbolic connotations animals have in the popular imagination. In Zoodiac (1977) Searle gives us animals in usual humanised habits, a housemaid mouse, a suited bull putting the move on a cow in evening gown, or two lions as Charles II and Nell Gwyn. The creatures in The King of Beasts (1980) (published under the alternate title The Situation is Hopeless) are animals in their natural environment, whose human commentary is found in their dazed and delusionary correlation to Searle’s titles. “American bald eagle suddenly realising that its leanings are basically Marxist”. “Feeble-minded circus lion basking in the belief that it’s the King of Beasts”. In almost all instances these defective cases are solitary figures, and with the ink-splotched art these figures are situated in non-urban squalor. Ostensibly a manner a million miles from The Big City, these are Searle’s statements about the human condition, not the specific anomie of salesmen, prostitutes and refugees.

The 1980s saw assorted retrospectives and reissues and Searle continued to produce personal and commercial work in abundance. The vast corpus of his commissioned commercial work is uncatalogued and uncollected, but it is worth recalling that it is work for which Searle was employed specifically because of his talent to charm and amuse. The art collected in The Illustrated Winespeak: Ronald Searle’s Wicked World of Winetasting (1983), Something in the Cellar (1986) and Ozzie Winespeak (1987) show him rediscovering some of the pleasures of purely humorous drawing in a series conceived to promote particular vineyards. In the case of “Searle’s Cats” and “The King of Beasts” it is impossible to know whether image or title has creative precedence, but in his Winespeak art Searle is inspired to interpret common phrases used to describe wines. From trite commonplaces like “full-bodied, with great character”, or “unpretentious” to pretentious evocations like “a little forward in character” or “fullish body, but beginning to fade”, Searle summons forth a metaphor in human form with glass or bottle in hand. They are ingenious deflationary literalisations of the original inept snobbish metaphor. Each is captured in situ. “Dry, nervous, vigorous” is an hysterical woman swinging over her head a large corkscrew embedded in a bottle. “Healthy but a bit sweaty” is an exhausted-looking gymnast in leotard doing a headstand over her glass.

They are a return to engagement with human figures, and since he is not presenting particular people Searle further develops his shorthand form. Their purpose is to present specific yet comic states: surprise, greed, confusion, smugness, lust, and so Searle establishes a strict abstract form which has served him to the current day. Their heads are either lozenges or ovals. His noses have become long, drooping proboscises, like a flaccid finger, at the top of which are placed two boggle-eyes, one usually significantly higher than the other, particularly when in profile (a last homage to Picasso?). Their outline is relatively simple, so Searle can work in his colours. He rarely makes this human format much more detailed even when intended just to be in black and white, so they are broad expanses of negative space contained by his messy lines. These lumpen creatures, which have largely moved beyond any representative associations of human ugliness, are the deterministic creations of human language, of casual meaning reflected in human form. As language has been used so haphazardly, so they are equally misshapen but boldly oblivious to their personal and physical shortcomings. Ronald Searle’s Non-Sexist Dictionary (1988)and Slightly Foxed, But Desirable: Ronald Searle’s Wicked World of Book Collecting (1989) continued to mine this whimsical vein of verbal fantasia. “Mad Magazine” regularly runs its own series of metaphorical menageries, but instead of “Mad”’s cliches as zany monsters, something pathetically or frenziedly human is apprehended in Searle’s application of visual wit to the pursuits of the nicer classes (a path Ralph Steadman would similarly follow to Oddbins).

Literary and high cultural symbolism were the spur for Searle’s series of “Crossed Paths” cartoons for the “New Yorker” in the early 1990s, collected in Marquis de Sade Meets Goody Two-Shoes (1994). All the hopes, allusions and pretensions of high art, music and literatures are fixed on this pages. In an earlier series, “Mislaid Masterpieces”, Searle had presented such fantasies as “Swine Lake” (pigs performing ballet) or Toulouse Lautrec painting a version of “The Raft of the Medusa” stacked with scantily-clad jolies femmes. “Crossed Paths” are fantasies of mortification and chagrin, about the ultimate incompatibility of great spirits, of a mankind driven to perpetual psychic warfare. Rembrandt is driven to despair trying to paint a minimalist Thurber-cartoon man. Omar Khyam tries to protect his loaf of bread, jug of wine and thou from the sandstorm kicked up by a triumphant Lawrence of Arabia riding past on horseback. Futile collisions between quintessential characters, they are the slapstick wit of a connoisseur. A deaf Beethoven at clavier cupping his hand to his ear and straining to hear Edward Munch whose own hands are clutched to his screaming face made me fall off my bed laughing. Searle’s proto-human style is just as capable of depicting a Hemingway shooting Poe’s raven, as his draughtsmanship of decades past, but now each character has its own special touch of dementia. These drawings demonstrate the same impulse to disruption, perturbation, and confrontation as Searle struggled to exploit in his ‘Orrible Albert cartoons of the late 1940s. But where they were an undirected, unsure flailing about, here the target isn’t a few irate adults but the entirety of western culture rendered absurd.

In 1995 Searle was invited to contribute editorial cartoons to the French newspaper “le Monde”. It was a further indication of Searle’s acceptance by his transplanted homeland. He has already had shows, been awarded honours, and been commissioned to execute a series of medals for the French Mint honouring the great cartoonists, caricaturists, and satirical artists. In the late 1950s “Punch” had allotted Searle a few editorial cartoons, in which Searle had satisfied his brief with Khrushchevs and Kenniedies in allegorical situations. Illingworth was “Punch”’s house political cartoonist at that time, and his dense executions in this mode admirably continued the tradition of Tenniel. Only one of Searle’s cartoons, a sketch of the African continent within whose confines one miserable African is hunched over demonstrates the power of Searle’s imagination expressed in a pure visual concept. Searle’s cartoons for “le Monde” are purely satirical images. There are few topical caricatures, slogans or tags to indicate what is being referred to. He discards his repertoire of personal images, save for his stage-like sets which emphasises the figurativeness of these cartoons. A rare appearance of the editorial cartoonist’s mainstay, a topical figure fitted out in conceptual costumer, with Saddam Hussein as Alfred Jarry’s Pere Ubu, is a reminder that absurdism is not whimsy but a rapacious and irrational humour deliberately undermining and disassembling the ignoble reason that conforms to the literary world of horror, brutality and venality. Instead of merely featuring political figures in dress-up to make his point, it is as though parading across his stage are not actors but embodiments of human concepts themselves. Commonplace concepts about greed, bureaucracy and warmongering are revivified by his decades of graphic experience in a sophisticated clash of symbols. Searle employs a pared selection of archetypes. Clichés such as thuggish soldiers, angels, doves, bureaucrats, women and children are engaged in duels, walking tightropes or posed on tottering pedestals. His rough brutish figures are comment in themselves. Often his scenes have a stark, ugly quality. Instead of using wash, Searle fills in part of his otherwise bare scenes with blotches of messy, scratchy cross-hatching, now more masterly and significant than his attempts in the 1940s. What may have originally accompanied a particular war or scandal, has been deliberately executed by Searle to ascend to a level of universal commentary. These are condemnations of violence, consumerism, inequality and human failure, yet leavened by his characteristic wry and gleeful humour.

Since the turn of the millennium, Searle’s public output has lessened dramatically. He has illustrated books for private commissions like Jeffrey Archer’s Cat O’Nine Tails (2006) and Robert Forbes’s Beastly Feasts: A Mischievous Menagerie in Rhyme (2007). There have been a number of extensive gallery retrospectives and documentaries. As a result of his longevity it would almost be as rewarding to host an exhibition of every graphic artist who has followed and learnt from him. Yet, with every development in his style, even as it has bred imitators, Searle has then moved on, leaving them behind to exhaust his discoveries. Interviews reveal that everyday Searle still finds himself compelled to exercise himself at the drawing board in his home of thirty years in Haute-Provence. As he wrote in a 1969 profile, “To me line is something which one can explore endlessly, and which keeps me in a constant feeling of excitement and adventure. I know I shall never live long enough to say and do all I want in line.”

Ronald Searle 2

In his work of the 1950s Searle was employed to delineate all the multitudinous classes of Britain in all their unmistakeable manners and style. Thousands of faces in all attitudes would be traced in caricatures, reportage, cartoons and anatomies of society. It is a decade of intense work and almost all of it worthwhile anyone’s attention. By the beginning of the 1950s Searle was irrefutably himself and in possession of what is identifiable as his ever-maturing individual style. His earlier tremulous line has been condensed. His outlines are ever so slightly thicker which gives his characters a greater density of presence on the page. But it is the stuttering, rickety quality of Searle’s line which is striking. Previously, Searle drew in long freehand lines like loose strings laid on the page. Now Searle reduces the length of individual line strokes, so what was previously cascading and tremulous is now a stammer in ink on the page. Searle still has the overall simple flowing impression of form, but the effect of so many lines encroaching upon each other, with the slight flicked thickening as they abut and zigzag bestows an arresting subliminal complexity and control to his outlines (a discovery also made by Arnold Roth in the mid-60s). Furthermore, the element of action and motion, of vibrant immediacy and spontaneity trapped in this line suggest a new kind of motion on the page. From not knowing how much detail to put into a drawing, now the information of detail is conveyed through the technique of his line. The shabbiness, dilapidation, confusion and wariness of his people is conveyed in a frayed, bristling, ragged, rumpled, yet artistically controlled shapelessness. Searle no longer has to wrestle with detail, as he captures it eloquently in baroque curves, frills and waves.

The 1950s are largely remembered as the period of Searle’s work for “Punch”. Searle’s two and a half year stint (1949-51) as the pocket cartoonist for the socialist journal “Tribune” is largely forgotten. Some critics have analysed the St Trinians cartoons as an attack on the polite, decent traditions of a class-bound Britain by a cynical war-shaken soldier determined to breakdown the taboos of an outdated society. Other than a few editorial cartoons for “Punch” when Leslie Illingworth was on holiday and then the symbolic tableaux of “le Monde” in the 1990s, Searle has eschewed explicit political commentary in his work. Searle’s pocket cartoons for “Tribune” therefore constitute the largest body of forthright contemporary political commentary he has attempted. The pocket cartoon format typically eschews topical figures, instead offering gag situations in which the ordinary citizenry comment on the events of the day. Osbert Lancaster was the petit-maitre of the pocket cartoon, but he wrote from an absolute assumption of upper class mores. Searle’s cartoons relish the privations and indignities that a post-war Britain inflicts upon its toffs: haughty moustachioed plutocrats and cigar-smoking Tories in pinstripes or morning suits, whose spindly legs improbably support swag-bellies of barrage balloon proportions. Pondering too much about the political allegiances of a commercial artist can lead one down dead-ends, since 1951 also saw Searle contribute to the right-wing “Sunday Express”. The larger lesson Searle probably learnt from this work is that since it is in the nature of this humorous work to be dependent on current political ephemera, these cartoons are then equally ephemeral and consequently rendered almost indecipherable when that historical knowledge is forgotten. Since it lay within his power to embody and capture the contemporary scene in all its presentness, rather than merely executing a gag on some topical reference, his rendered artistic observations would in themselves be a sufficient criticism on the age and a more reliable and lasting achievement.

The early 1950s also revealed that if Searle wanted to develop his skills and diversify, he was not prepared to cravenly limit himself to his established audience’s expectations. For all that St Trinians brought him fame, it was of a limited sort and the monthly cartoon had become a chore. With his 1953 collection, Souls in Torment, Searle definitively killed off St Trinians in an atomic blast. This was to be the first indication that Searle’s artistic impulses would compel him to escape the treadmills of success for a more solitary path. His immediate obligations to his publisher did lead to a particularly fruitful collaboration which further exploited the humour to be found in the English public school, the “Molesworth” books in which Geoffrey Willans records the orthographically and grammatically idiosyncratic cynical diaries and observations of nigel molesworth the curse of st custards. Down with Skool! (1953), How to be Topp (1954), Whizz for Atomms (1956), and Back in the Jug Agane (1959) have become classics enchanting subsequent generations ever since (even introducing the world to Hogwarts). Searle’s figure of Molesworth is instantly recognisable, his cynical, jaded eyes lowering in his pug-like face. In St Trinians, Searle’s imagination had been constrained to malign or rowdy japes with rudimentary figure for the girls. In all the varieties of cartoonish attitudes to complement molesworth’s enumerations of schoolboy life, Searle could indulge himself in generous galleries of faces of fellow pupils, brothers, mothers, and school masters. His style also serves admirably for the historical, science-fictional or revenge fantasies of the young schoolboy.

This mastery of broad cartoonish expressiveness had been learnt during Searle’s employment as the caricaturist for “Punch”’s theatre column. Searle’s appointment had been a slightly unusual decision since Searle did not consider himself a natural caricaturist. Yet it served as an effective way of strengthening Searle’s ties to the magazine and was a function he was to perform from 1949 until 1961, accompanying Eric Keown’s theatre reviews, and so incidentally recording many of the great British actors and performances of that turbulent decade. Rather than employing the realistic physiognomical detail of his reportage, Searle learnt to essay human faces in a simplified cartoonish style all his own. He only ever offers a couple of the prominent actors in costume, bare of any setting. Again the upper torso is still dominant, so that these compressed figures come to resemble trotting dwarves. These faces are bolder and more simplistic for maximum effect, given his limited space. The emphasis is on the faces, with curving cheekbones or ballooning chins. The lines of his outsized heads swerve and swoop, yet Searle not only limns their features but also captures something of the nature of the performance and interpretation of the role.

The most lavish products of Searle’s exercises in caricature were his series of portraits, “Heroes of Our Time” for “Punch”. Appearing from September 1956 to March 1957, they were a follow-up to Searle’s Rake’s Progress, and his opportunity to record the most prominent British figures of the period. Centre-fold colour portraits, they have been largely forgotten, beyond the means of easy inclusion in his contemporary collections, and subsequently omitted from Searle’s lavish retrospectives of the 1970s and 1980s. Each was a famous person: an actor, a bishop, a lord, a judge, a conductor, a politician, Bertrand Russell, Princess Margaret, T. .S. Eliot. As selections they probably say more about the taste and concerns of “Punch” and its readership. Aside from his “Punch” covers, they were Searle’s only opportunity to work in colour, and he employs subtle, muted colours with an attention to depth and textures that will not feature in his later colour lithographs. Each is executed in a traditional formal portrait manner: torso and head with suitable attention to costume. Each comes with a mildly deprecating verse from the editorial table, but it is Searle’s faces which are arrestingly ambiguous. Searle’s caricatures are neither extravagantly distorted nor vicious, but Searle’s thrusting noses and buckled-up chins when executed in a portraitist’s pomp acquire a new unsettling dimension of realism. Arresting though they may seem, as stand alone images they suffer the same fate as his “Tribune” cartoons, hostages to the specificity of a forgotten history.

It is Searle’s attempts at exploring and capturing the stereotypes and manners of contemporary society which have proved more enduring. The title “Morbid Anatomies” would seem to play off the ghoulish humour for which he had become famous, but are really a series in which the clichés of a given profession are all collated into one big visual pun parodying its jargon and pretences, i.e., The Journalist with his “eye for the news”, “his finger for the pulse of the public”, “his coat for turning”. As a means of compiling social commentary it indicated a new explicitly satirical direction for Searle. Searle was trying to find a satirical/comic way of looking at people which would effectively bring different types and attitudes together. Searle had compiled cavalcades of classes and ages of Britons in varied pursuits: the reading public, on holiday, enjoying the arts, suffering the weather, etc., but they were too disparate and were only ever connected by their gag topic. Searle exhumed a format in Hogarth’s 18th century “Rake’s Progress” that would allow him to both concentrate his attack, while also broadening the material he could fit into a cartoon realism. Each “Rake’s Progress” typifies the career of a particular profession in one figure: doctor, poet, general, M.P., etc, within six tightly constructed narrative panels: Advent, Emergence, Success, Triumph, Temptation, Ruin. Appearing in 1954 and 1955, each “Rake’s Progress” lets Searle trace British history and culture from the turn of the century, including choice allusions and caricatures of the famous of the period. Taken in their entirety the “Rake’s Progress” constitute possibly the finest satirical panorama of the 1950s, from the humble to the famous, rising from home life and public venues to the private conclaves of the elect, everything that that the propriety of “Punch” can encompass is featured.

Searle was still dedicated to catching all the ephemera of British life in all its relevant quotidian detail. Look at London (1953) collected the best of his illustrative reportage for “News Chronicle”. They are his finest works of draughtsmanship, displaying absolute control, fully finished, and exceptional in terms of compositional arrangement and power of recording (possibly emphasised by the newspaper’s need for reproductive clarity). From crowded scenes at the tourist attractions to portraits of forgotten tradesmen in dens surrounded by their tools and bric-a-brac, each drawing has just the necessary degree of density of lines or white space to leap from the page and communicate a personal affect.Not only does he capture the character of the people of London, but also of the city itself, for as the critic George Melly noted, Searle has a “feeling for the personality of architecture”. Searle’s sympathy is caught in the lines and jowls of his subjects’ lived in features, as his hesitant line outfits their apparel with the frayed dignity of their labours. Even as Searle demonstrates his mastery of the individual human face, these drawings constitute his farewell to such pure portraiture.

The 1950s saw Searle stamp his imprimatur on London, but his people were now to be less verisimilitudinous, in differing degrees the more cartoonish figures of his imagination. Partly this may stem from the fact that many are the result of collaborations with other writers. His art is not intended as pure journalism in itself but to illustrate observations about the varied types inhabiting modern London. Bedsitters, prostitutes, teddy boys, office workers, salesmen, entertainers and their audiences, intellectuals, children and the new class of teenagers, a list as large as the population of London. But his figures are still distinctive, not merely humorous social types, but impressed by the wearying and melancholy effect of living London, yet still drawing upon and projecting reserves of pride and attitude: Modern Types with Geoffrey Gorer (1955) and The Big City, or the New Mayhew with Alex Atkinson (1958) both appeared originally in "Punch"; Mr Rothman’s New Guide to London (1958), an exercise in 1890s nostalgia; numerous illustrations of Charles Dickens; and The Shell Junior Guide to Exploring London (1965), a farewell to the fantasies and delights of historical London; all attest to Searle’s fascination with the capital. Ben Shahn, another social realist chronicler, wrote of Searle’s “infinite toleration and sympathy for the human condition…for all those crotchety, mal-shapen well-intentioned persons, labouring earnestly, arduously and with infinite difficulty through the barbed-wire entanglements of life, but never questioning their duty to go on”.

Even as Searle exhausted himself in the riches of the specific, his last major collaboration at “Punch” was to offer him a commercial and creative lifeline for later. USA for Beginner: By Rocking Chair Across America (1959) and its sequel Russia for Beginners (1960) were both written by Alex Atkinson as comedic travelogues employing all the clichés and commonplaces about the country under investigation without the burden of ever having to visit it. It was travel as a fantasia, a confection whipped up from the froth of the common imagination. Searle’s illustrations happily caricaturing American stereotypes were the perfect complement. Without the need for research and study Searle could draw comic cowboys, Manhattanites, prospectors, tourists, Southern generals and New Orleans jazzmen exhibited in a free and playful humour. Beside the central joke of each illustration, there was a new cartoonish exuberance in his drawings of Manhattan, Washington, D.C., forests and shacks, yet nearly as detailed as his serious reportage. It was a new mode of asserting his humour while addressing the world. Furthermore, it grounded his growing taste for the surreal and gave it expression within the main populist body of his work.

Such pure gag and joke cartoons as Searle had been drawing at this time had been increasing self-referential, an artistic turning in upon himself, examining the irrationality of representation in art. If he wasn’t alluding to other contemporary artists, or eliding the barriers between the work of art and its audience, then his people were finding themselves assaulted by signs and notations. Cartoons about the unrealistic nature of cartooning have always been a staple of the medium, but there was a glazed intensity reminiscent of the dislocated cartoons Howard Shoemaker was also producing during this period. Eyes, legs and other features are paradoxically separated from his characters’ bodies. Throughout the 1950s Searle paid semi-regular homages to Picasso, which at the time appearing in “Punch” were more likely interpreted as complacent humour at Picasso’s expense, but in retrospect suggest Searle’s own admiration and his Modernist inclinations in his later and bolder use of line, form and colour. When discussing his work, it is to the likes of Modigliani and Giacometti that Searle is most likely to refer, with talk of taking a line for a walk and the struggle to realise on paper the feel of the image in his head.

Despite breaking free of the prison of St Trinians, the career Searle had built for himself only served to immure him in further and greater demands. Searle had signed a contract with “Punch” whereby all his work published in England would only appear in its pages. However it had now reached a point where “Punch” was no longer certain what Searle could do for it, only that it wanted more of the same. It had neither the means nor the inclination to encourage his best work, whatever that might prove to be. Commissions were now coming from America, but they followed the pattern of work he had done for English audiences. Searle had latterly discovered American markets which would commission him to survey Germany, France and America itself. These efforts, collected in Which Way Did He Go (1961), were not humorous, and were slightly sketchier in manner than his “News Chronicle” works, yet his relish for all the garish urban spectacle of vertiginous signs and advertising is evident as his lines criss-cross in perspectives of boulevards, city-blocks, markets, pubs and arrondissements. The framing and perspective lines were now visible through the grids and baroque curves of his observations like fleeting thoughts caught on paper. This style is probably best employed in the series of spare ghost-like drawings evoking the isolation of refugee camps for a U.N campaign, the becalmed refugees almost transparent and spectral against their confines. He reported for “Life” magazine on the Nixon-Kennedy presidential campaign and the Adolf Eichmann trial. >He was in demand for film animation designs (and note the belated Searle influence in the Disney films of the early 1960s). He had even been forced to anonymously contribute to British propaganda during the 1956 Suez War. His facility was prodigious, capable of executing a densely detailed comic illustration of an old Bailey trial in barely six hours. Simply because he could do it, it did not mean that the doing constituted an opportunity. To judge that his style was perfect meant he had completed his development, and consigned him to nothing more than a career recapitulating his own clichés.

In September 1961, Searle made the most definite and slashing change in his life. Just as a collection of his work stated that “mid-century Britain is a Searle-haunted land”, Searle was preparing to abandon it. He left his family, moving from London to be with his new lover Monica in Paris. It was as importantly a liberation from the confining domestication of his art, and he would rarely visit England ever again. Instead of tailoring his art to the demands of his life, he would tailor his life to the demands of his art. Searle also saw Paris as the centre of a new movement in graphic art. Searle’s intention was to find ways of making his art more international. Firstly, this meant taking more foreign reportage assignments which could pay him to travel the world. Secondly, it meant developing an art that would dispense with purely parochial references and concerns, and by analysing his methods of representation could communicate universally.

His last sequence of works for “Punch” signify Searle’s growing prioritisation of his imagination over painstaking realism. Removed from the facts of England, he offered a series of caricatures of famous people, “The Searle’s Eye Views: as the imagination sees them”. He deliberately rejected any attempt at capturing a literal likeness or physical features. Instead, they were fantasies on the subject’s character and reputation, comic exaggerations of stereotypes like his “Rocking Chair” illustrations. Walt Disney is a fat, aged, bewhiskered Mickey lost in satisfied reverie. Ingmar Bergman is a gaunt skeletal face hidden behind a rickety fence, with one immense eye staring through a gap in the slats. Writers are portrayed as projections of their work’s subject matter: Robert Graves is an heroically-thewed and bearded Greek, C.S. Forester is a pipe-smoking, peg-legged sailor.
More conceptual are Angus Wilson as a lofty brain surgeon delving his instruments into the flip-top head of a bored suburban matron, Aldous Huxley as a man whose head, an immense latitude-lined globe marked with worry, is clasped in concern, or John Betjeman as an Edwardian fighting a rearguard retreat with his umbrella-cum-rifle. As in his theatrical caricatures, Searle eschews almost any background scenery, except in the case of some of the absurdist writers like Samuel Beckett and Ionesco. These he places on stages whose boards extending into a far distant horizon are the first use of what would become a trademark setting.

It is a similar insistence on his powers of creative invention that would vivify his reportage work for commercial magazines. Where his drawings of Paris, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco had been scrupulously detailed, now he became to execute his commissions as explorations in fantasy. Americans had been flattered and charmed by the imaginative manner of his “Rocking Chair” illustrations, and in 1960 he had been voted Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society, the first non-American to receive that honour. Continuing in that vein, applying humour to his capacity for painstaking observation of scenarios would be the foundation of some of his finest achievements. Rather than just being an amusing illustration to accompany an amusing article, Searle’s works would be commentary in their own right. Inadvertently, it was also a necessary commercial development, as magazines’ ability to reproduce lavish colour photography meant pictorial journalists were about to find themselves outmoded. Searle’s humour, however, meant he possessed a unique selling point and was therefore able to compete with the camera’s eye. Furthermore, lucrative assignments for American magazines meant he could also finally extend himself in colour work. It was this mode of humorous transformation of the real world that would be his characteristic commercial style for the next decade, as he found himself in demand at “Holiday” magazine and “TV Guide”.

The best of this work is collected From Frozen North to Filthy Lucre (1964) and Haven’t We Met Before Somewhere? (1966). The full-page work is as detailed as before but now it has a two-fold purpose – to accurately represent each new venue, and also to support the gag which Searle has envisioned. Some compositions are gags contrasting the humans with their scenery. Against the splendour of the Library of Congress, a teenager is engrossed in his comic book. Some are humorous situations: on a Provincetown pier, an artist fights off the flock of birds intent on his painting of a fish. Some are visual puns: a spectral bear and bull waltz together over the stock exchange, or a modernist building is drawn to resemble a crocodile about to snap shut on its tourists. Some are wholly figurative: dollar bills overlie the towering cityscape of Wall Street. At the same time there is some loss of human individuality. The human figures are there to contribute to the scene and the gag, but not to distract from it. So many of the sights he visits are largely populated by the older, affluent population of Europe and America, tourists and businessmen. Searle develops a generic cartoony face composed of descending bulges and curves to represent jowls and protuberant heads with rolls of fat on the neck, with scratchy vertical lines for facial wrinkles.