It’s that sort of interior logic that allows an elephant to wander unnoticed in the streets of New York City. On first landing Otto obtains some stolen clothing from the unclaimed baggage area, and after that, clothed only in a fedora and trench coat, he is now mistaken for merely a largish human. At least by the less-than-curious occupants of a big city.
The parrot is taken at face value because we all know parrots can talk. So it’s a small leap of logic that allows Crackers to have a conversation with a bartender. And other animals can always recognize and communicate with one another, despite the presence or absence of clothes, because of the universal bond of animalhood. Or something like that.
Okay. So it doesn’t make sense. It’s why I love this medium called “comics”. The reader is a willing accomplice in a suspension of disbelief. But dubious logic aside, the real challenges in anthropomorphism from a cartoonist’s perspective are simply those created by an animal’s physical characteristics. Crackers’ wings transform relatively easily into large fingered hands when necessary, but Otto creates more problems. I mostly imagine him as a person in over-sized oven mitts (without thumbs) which allows him to grapple with most things. Catching cabs, (literally) blowing his nose, holding a bowl. I’ve even managed to squeeze a pointing finger out of him, but not easily. (Fortunately elephants are one of the few animals that walk the same as humans, not tippy-toed but flat-footed, so at least his knees bend the right way, anthropomorphically speaking!)
|Parrot wings morph fairly easily into hands but the large saucer-like foot pads of Otto create challenges for even the simplest gestures, like pointing.|
|The stubby legs and long snouts of the alligators make hand to mouth gestures a bit tricky. It could only be managed by a hunching of the shoulders and getting the alligators to bend into the pose.|
But it’s the inconsistencies around anthropomorphism that can be the most fun. Maps mysteriously appear and disappear in Cracker’s plumage, but when he pulls out a bill to pay the cabbie, Otto really takes notice. His realization that Crackers is carrying around cash leads to the following exchange, as jet lag and the frustration of their search for Georgie finally blows the top off their collaborative efforts.
|The inked drawing for p. 52 of Big City Otto that I was working on this week. The bottom right panel is one of my favourites in the book, as Otto and Crackers square off eyeball to eyeball.|