The best definition of “poetry” I’ve ever encountered is, “Poetry is life condensed”. In a similar way, cartoons condense a slice of life into just a few panels.
All four of these reflect different aspects of dealing with the social world, from blocking off unwanted interaction to the absurdity of referring to being bullied as part of a student’s school “socialisation experience”. The characters pictured aren’t considered autistic, and one doesn’t need to be autistic to appreciate the experiences described, but such feelings often loom large in the life experiences of a great many autistic people.
“Rose Is Rose” is by Pat Brady
Description: A four-panel cartoon showing Three women standing at a bus stop. Our protagonist, Rose, is wearing a white suit with a dark polka-dot blouse, plus large sunglasses and a highly visible pair of large headphones connected to an mp3 player on her waistband. The woman on the left in the dark suit says, “Hi!” to Rose, and the woman in the middle in the grey suit tells her, “She can’t hear you with her headphones on!” In the second panel, the woman in the grey suit looks on while woman in the black suit tests this assertion by hollering at Rose, “Excuse me … there’s a BIG, HAIRY SPIDER CRAWLING UP YOUR BACK!” Rose makes no acknowledgment of this. In the third panel, the other two women stand there smiling and not saying anything, and Rose continues to ignore them. In the last panel, the woman in the black suit adds, “Just checking!” and Rose thinks to herself, (Moments like this separate the SEASONED no-eye-contacters from the beginners!)
“Peanuts” by the late Charles Schultz
Description: A four-panel cartoon with Lucy jump-roping down the sidewalk, with her brother Linus watching her. In the first panel, Lucy tells Linus, “YOU a doctor! HA! That’s a big laugh!” In the second panel, she stops jump-roping and says to his face, “You could never be a doctor! You know why?” In the third panel, Lucy resumes jump-roping down the sidewalk, adding, “Because you don’t love mankind, that’s why!” In the last panel, Linus turns to yell after her, “I love mankind … it’s PEOPLE I can’t stand!”
“9 Chickweed Lane” is by Brooke McEldowney
Description: A four-panel cartoon short-haired woman in a business suit is seated at a desk, with a frizzy-haired young man wearing crooked glasses, slouched in a wooden chair in front of her. Behind her is a door with “Guidance Counsellor” painted on the window in reverse lettering. In the first panel, he says to her, “My schedule? … Let me see … from 9:00 to 10:00 I have trigonometry …” and she notes on a piece of paper while commenting, “Okay … that’s your math.” In the second panel the perspective switches, facing him as he continues, “… and t 10:15 I go to French class …” to which she replies, “That’s your language arts.” In the third panel the perspective flips back facing her, as the young man adds, ” … then generally from 11:30 to 1:00 I’m tormented and beaten up by troglodyte jocks …” Taken aback, she simply says, ” … um …” and in the fourth panel we see them from a high perspective as she makes another notation on her paper and says, ” … Okay … right … that’s your socialization … “
“Jane’s World” is by Paige Braddock
Description: A five-panel cartoon showing Jane, a woman with short hair and glasses, who is wearing a dark turtleneck, seated at a table with her young niece, who has short hair and is wearing a tee shirt with a heart on the front. Jane is drinking a cup of coffee while her niece is working with her math text and spiral notebook. In the first panel, the girl says, “I sort of like math.” Concerned, Jane feels her forehead with a hand, and comments, “Hmmm … you could have a fever …” The second panel is a close-up of the girl who looks annoyed and retorts, “No, really … math is stable … not like emotional stuff, or social stuff that’s all over the place.” The third panel shows the girl looking down at her textbook, explaining, “Math is comforting.” A large question mark is over Jane’s head, indicating her confusion. In the fourth panel, the girl explains, “Because, in math, there is always a right answer.” In the last panel, Jane looks frazzled, her hair going in several directions, with her coffee sloshing from the cup, and she exclaims, “Who cares if there’s a right answer if I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS?!?” To which the girl says, “Aunt Jane, I was talking about me.”
Stay tuned for our next episode of “Slices”!