This term first appeared in The Lexicon of Comicana, a book written by comics author Mort Walker in 1980 as a hub for all the devices that cartoonists used in their work. Many of the words were fabricated by Walker himself, but after extensive research into the illustrative techniques used by cartoonists from around the world, Walker’s contributions took hold within the industry and gained popularity. In his book, wafteron is expressed over a freshly-baked pie (Figure 1). The two lines that drift towards the end of the panel are drawn to indicate the delicious aroma rising out of the pie. Though are there no clear ways to differentiate between wafteron and indotherm, the purpose of these lines are usually made clear to the reader through context.
However, this isn’t always the case. In this panel from Bizarro Comics, writer Dan Piraro clearly pokes fun at the similarities between indotherm and wafteron (Figure 2). Because either term could be used to describe an object that might be hot and smelly (such as the gentleman’s soup), it’s possible for this illustrative technique to be interpreted the wrong way.
Of course, wafteron can also be used on living things that are odorous; these lines are not limited to inanimate objects. In this comic panel by Steve Moore, wafteron is used to show that the basketball player in the panel has offensively strong body odor which allows him to dunk on his friends (Figure 3).
To reiterate, wafteron is a simple technique used by comics illustrators to express the smell of something. Cartoonists that use wavy lines in this fashion make it possible for readers to infer that a particular object is smelly. Although this is similar to indotherm, the two terms differ by what the lines in the image indicate: for indotherm, it’s heat, but for wafteron, it’s smell.
Walker, M. (1980). The Lexicon of Comicana. Port Chester, N.Y.: Museum of Cartoon Art.