Editor’s Note

The “Francis” strip is a three-panel comic that uses a formula familiar to most jokes: Setup, misdirection, punchline.

Feb 18, 2022

Pat Marrin ,NCR Cartoonist

Over the years, you may have come across the Francis cartoon strip which was initially featured on Page 10 and is now on Page 2 of the HERALD. What is the purpose of this cartoon strip you may ask? How is it related to our faith? Are there any lessons to be learnt from it? In this issue, we hear from the cartoonist himself (please see below).

Dear readers,

I realised early on that art was my speciality. My mother made sure that I had paper and crayons, and I responded with tons of drawings.

I doodled my way through grade school and spent high school and college filling the margins of my notebooks with cartoons. I later went to journalism school, where I focused on political cartoons. Only toward the end of my career did I get a chance to do a comic strip, when former NCR publisher Tom Fox thought one on Pope Francis would work and not get us all excommunicated.

People often ask cartoonists, “Where do you get your ideas from?” This is, in fact, the biggest challenge, and it can take days to corner and tease out a timely topic that can be honed into a visual comment.

The “Francis” strip is a three-panel comic that uses a formula familiar to most jokes: Setup, misdirection, punchline. For example, see below. Setup: Leo and Gabby are discussing voter suppression. Misdirection: The Pope enters and thinks they are talking about the United States. Punchline: Gabby tells him they are wondering if women will be allowed to vote at the upcoming synod.
The cartoon “works” if readers first share the misdirection, are surprised and then agree that women should vote. The message is tied to current news and the humour depends on the audience’s point of view.

Analysis can take the fun out of a joke or a comic strip, but this is a behind-the-scenes look at the process. The best cartoonists seldom explain, and use the fewest words. Their caricatures are funny, and good sequencing directs the eye through the little story. I am a true amateur in that my love of drawing exceeds my professional skill. The idea part can be nerve-wracking, but I enjoy doing the pencil sketches, recopying them in ink, then painting, scanning and saving the cartoons for use online and in print.

I have drawn more than 1,000 Francis cartoons since the strip began in 2013. The most fun is my interaction with the followers of “Francis”, who appreciate that I am trying to convey the real Pope Francis’ vision through the fictional characters in the strip. Lovable Brother Leo represents the Pope’s values without knowing it. Gabriella, a young Somali Muslim woman rescued from traffickers, reminds the Pope of what is at stake as he struggles to preach and live the Church’s mission in a dangerous world. — National Catholic Reporter (NCR)

Pat Marrin
NCR Cartoonist

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