Screwball Sunday: George Swanson on Screwball Cartooning, Part 2

In the fall of 1930, George “Swan” Swanson wrote and illustrated this essay on what he called a “bang finish,” but which is more commonly known as a plop take. Arguably, in Swan’s hands, the plop take – where a character flies out of the last panel – ascends to an art form in itself. A great deal of the fun to be found in Swan’s early screwball comics is in his creative variations on the plop.  

In the illustration below, the left column shows typical humor comics tropes and on the right, we see the jet-fueled version in classic high screwball style.

Chapter 12 in LOAC’s Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny details the life and work of George Swanson. Here, you can enjoy many Swan comics and the powerful plops he perpetrated.

The essay below appeared in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Record on Tuesday, October 21, 1930. A reprint of a second essay on screwball cartooning by George Swanson appears here.

Illustration by Swan for his 1930 essay on a “bang finish.”

“Bang” Finish is Necessary

 by George Swanson

In striving to become a comic strip artist the beginner should remember to end every strip with a “bang.” Your strip is no good unless in the last picture the joke is put over in a manner sufficient to make the point instantly clear to the reader.

In getting this “bang” finish, exaggeration of action is a great help. For instance in the first drawing upper left above, the character is just falling. But at the right above he has hit the floor with a crash. Thus the idea that he has fainted is made much clearer to your reader.

In B the tramp, at left, is just being kicked out of a restaurant and that’s all. But at the right his tattered clothes and black eye suggest to the reader that a terrific fight took place before he was kicked out, the point you want your reader to get. The first drawing fails to indicate that.

In C at the left the blow isn’t convincing while, with a bit of exaggeration, in the drawing at the right, we know a knockout has been scored.

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