There’s an exhibition here in London on Ice Age art at the incomparable British Museum. There was also, at the time of the cartoon’s publication, a retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein at Tate Modern. The two must have coalesced in my mind as I was trying to come up with ideas. This cartoon is obviously a take off of Lichtenstein’s “Drowning Girl“. I have done a couple of cartoons now on Mr Licht, always avoiding the obvious dots angle. Actually if I could think of a dot joke that got more than a groan I’d be rushing to the drawing board. In this cartoon I like the thought that there could have been a “High Art” as opposed to popular culture back in cave man times. Perhaps there was. Maybe the stuff we dig up or stumble upon is just the rubbish and they made their greatest works of art out of paper.
(Yes, I know paper wasn’t invented then. It’s one of the many liberties I take – I bend logic to suit the outcome I desire. In my personal life this makes me a selfish liar and in my professional life unemployable. But it helps being funny.)
When I ran the idea for this artoon past a few friends I got fairly identical reactions – laughter followed by a grimaced “ooo”. Of course it’s a dicey area in which to be making jokes but all I really meant is that it’s nice to have an attractive woman around. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli depicts the birth not of a baby but of a fully grown woman – a fully grown woman (ok, goddess) who also happens to be the most beautiful being in the universe. Of course the guy is going to rethink his whole position on fatherhood. My original version didn’t make it past my editor. The last speech bubble read “Listen, Harry, we’re always happy to help so if you ever need a babysitter…” (still makes me laugh). I dutifully changed it – to something I now think can be read as even more off colour. But if you think I’m bad, the real myth of Venus’ birth is that the Titan Cronus took a great long sickle with jagged teeth, castrated his father Uranus (the Sky) and threw his lopped off genitals into the sea. White foam began to spread out from these floating testicles and from the froth emerged the newly born Venus. That’s not very nice is it? I bet the guy who originally made this up didn’t get pulled up by his editor! Or maybe he did. He rewrote it, then, a day later, the anguished thought took over: “Oh geez, I think that’s even worse!” It is quite off colour actually.
If you’re still unconvinced of my innocence (I’m not sure I am either) then read this recent blogpost by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, which is probably applicable.
Anyway, it’s just a joke.