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Pandemic Panacea is a collection of cartoons juxtaposing old magazine photos with crisp new captions. These absurdist cartoons are reminiscent of Gary Larson. Each cartoon first appeared as a postcard sent to a friend to share a laugh.
On March 12, 2020, I began self-isolation, sheltering from the Covid 19 pandemic. I set about on a bit of house cleaning, ran across a box of Popular Mechanics magazines from the 1940s and '50s. They were full of racy race cars, speed thrills, and most of all rampant hilarity. Not intentionally humorous but rendered absurd with the passing of decades.
So, I started to cut out vintage photographs and images to Scotch tape to an index card. At first, the cards were oddities—the sweeping fins on the cars or the peculiar fashions. Then I started adding captions.
I laughed more—an anti-pandemic laugh. Laughter is communal. So I decided to make other people laugh—write a caption, imagine a friend laughing, put a stamp on it, and send it off.
The first few months of isolation stretched into six months, 10 months, 12 months and more without a return to normal. I kept making postcards though—through the summer, into the fall and right into 2021. Eventually, I had sent a new postcard every day for a year, excluding Sundays.
The humor I drew from the old Popular Mechanics shifted during that time. I began to see each image as a moment in a story, tailoring the caption to capture the human characters in the scene: how did they reach this moment and why. Nothing is funnier than humans struggling through the comic absurdities of life.
I laughed alone when I made the cards, but I could imagine the laughter of my friends. For a postcard moment, I wasn't alone.
DAN HUNTER is a playwright, songwriter, teacher, and founding partner of Hunter Higgs, LLC, an advocacy and communications firm. Hunter is the inventor of H-IQ, the first assessment of individual imagination, h-iq His plays include Un Tango en La Noche (winner of a national Kennedy Center award) and La Mujer Sin Cara (The Woman Without a Face). His play The Monkey King was a finalist for the 2004 Heideman Award from the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Hunter's play, Red Elm, was nominated in 2005 for the Best New Play of the Year award by the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE). The Boston Globe called Hunter's Legally Dead, a black comedy, "uproarious" and "over the top." Legally Dead was produced by Boston Playwrights Theater. Hunter is also a columnist for the online journal Arrowsmith Press. He performed for many years as a singer, songwriter, and humorist known for songs like Walkin' Beans, Ballad of the Iowa Pork Queen, and Please Don't Burn Perry Como.