The Giant Licking Machine

Carol Lay (born 1952) is an illustrator and cartoonist who has done a variety of work – some comic books published, collections of Story Minute (probably the strip she’s best known for), as well as illustrations for The New Yorker and such.

Her drawing style is easily recognizable (and not necessarily up at everyone’s street – some people can’t get past her highly stylized way of drawing mouths, for instance), but what makes her work most appealing to me is Lay’s sense of humour. I’m not even sure that “humour” is the right word for it – her stories have set-ups that are imaginative but often completely surreal, if not far-fetched; yet her characterizations of people ring absolutely true.

She excels at one-pagers, but longer stories are great, too. Here’s an example of the former, a typical Story Minute:


There are four collections of Lay’s weekly strips out there: three paperbacks, published by Kitchen Sink (Joy Ride, Strip Joint and Now, Endsville), are quite out of print, so keep an eye out for used copies in second-hand bookstores. The latest one, Illiterature, was published in 2012 by Boom!Town in hardcover (and I believe there was supposed to be a volume 2… still waiting for that one.)

The Kitchen Sink collections have beautiful painted covers, another reason for seeking them out. They also contain some longer (say, around 20 or 30 pages) stories, for instance one of my favourites, Joy Ride (that gave its name to the whole collection), set in a world where minds can be transferred between bodies, being fat is outlawed, and “drivers” are people whose job involves forcing fat people to get into shape by temporarily taking over their personality.


And this is the back:


You can read Lay’s webcomic (some of it includes coloured Story Minute strips – originally, they were black-and-white – and most of it is longer, new stories) at


~ ds

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