Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Iconography Part 2 - Visual Vocabulary of Graphic Novels, Comic Books and Comic Strips

Obscenicons (thank you Ben Zimmer) are cartoon cursing.

Rudolph Dirks created The Katzenjammer Kids in 1897 for the American Humorist. It seem as though Dirks may have created this cute cursing substitute.

These examples are from Barnacle Press,  a great site with early comic strips.

Take a look at last panel of this December 14, 1902  Katzenjammer Kids strip. The anchor is a nice touch. Swears like a sailor?

Here's an August 8, 1909 strip. In panel 9 we we see an asterisk. In panel 11 we see something closer to what we know today as traditional obscenicons.  Yes, they numbered panels during the infancy of comics to help people know what order they were to be read.

Here's a more inventive example from September 3, 1911 with a devil figure firing a cannon. He must really have a potty mouth.

Obscenicons today have degenerated to shifted keys on the keyboard @, #, $, %, &, !, ? and * . However, in the past they have included anchors, stars, swirls, tornadoes, squiggles, bursts, crescent moon, Saturn, cent sign, music notes, lightning bolts, division symbol, skull and crossbones, skull only, flowers, knife, candle, pitchfork, gun, bone, cloud, explosion and swastika.

to be continued…

read next - I'm Going to Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap
previous - The Cunning Linguist

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copyright 2013 H. Simpson

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