I did this cartoon for a client of mine, The Automobile Association of America’s Home & Away magazine on the safety (of SUVs and cell phones). They found it distasteful so I tried selling it to Geico magazine. Not even the cavemen over there found it funny.
About 15 years ago, during a period when the NRA was in the news, I created the anti-gun cartoon below. At the time, seeing Andy Kaufman perform encouraged me to think out of the box. In this case having no punch line or real caption I thought was kind of untraditional.
This was typical of the gimmick cartoons I tried to come up with then. I did a series called Cartoons the Times Would Run If The Times Ran Cartoons (btw, now they do in their magazine). I did one spread for The Village Voice where every cartoon was in Norwegian (because the Winter Olympics at the time were taking place in Norway) about the hot scandal at the time, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. The jokes actually worked if you spoke Norwegian. Another project was Cartoons The New Yorker Rejected (this ran in Details magazine before the Rejection Collection–published now ironically by my publisher). Not that I got rejected by The New Yorker. I didn’t even try. Around this time I refused to submit my cartoons to any traditional places.
Why? Subconsciously, I was probably too insecure to compete straight up with professional cartoonists. It was easier to claim I wasn’t interested in the cartoon culture and have zero respect for the field than to play on the even playing ground. I wasn't a failed cartoonist because I wasn't a cartoonist. And no one could say my cartoons were not funny–of course they weren’t, “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
I didn’t even want anyone to think I was a cartoonist (at parties; “oh, I’m a writer slash [said with hand gesture] illustrator,” or better yet, “I’m a grand-prix racer in Europe.”). If you’re not Charles Schultz or Gary Larson and someone you heard of, saying you’re a cartoonist is like walking around with a sign around your neck that says “I’m broke.”
Only now will I admit I do cartoons for a living. Even my family knows now. Here’s the punch line. Back then I made a good living making cartoons but now that I’ve embraced this occupation, my annual income is a joke. It’s not rocket science. Humor magazines like Spy and National Lampoon have evaporated. The other reasons are boring.
Anyhoo, the hunting cartoon is a parody of sorts to cartoon great Sam Gross (who changed my view of the vocation last year and since talked me into being a New Yorker cartoonist. A lunch that changed my life.). Initially, it was to run in The Village Voice but instead ran in a tiny new wave magazine and then again in a newsletter I produced regarding land preservation in the region and scientific research being done at the Lacawac Sanctuary. After this cartoon ran I received angry letters from my Pennsylvanian neighbors who no doubtedly grew up with hunting as a family tradition. I’m still opposed to hunting but just recreational hunting, hunting for sport or machoism. Hunting for survival and with a purpose is different and I’m currently active addressing our deer population problem. Sadly, culling is currently the only practical solution and more humane than the deer starving.
OK, that’s just depressing. On a positive note, I do have an awarding back-story to the cartoon. It was relayed to me that at a luncheon art directors voted as to what was their favorite cartoon and this hunters cartoon was a serious contender. In this business, you have to take whatever satisfaction you can find…
I'll end this brief slice of my cartooning life with a pie-chart which, unfortunately, sums up everything I know about the business of cartooning.