September 2006

Public Domain

Over the years, I've thought of gags that I considered clever and marketable, but which I didn't think I could pull off with my limited cartooning skill, so I never attempted to draw them.

(As I've often explained to anyone who would listen, I'm really a gagwriter who, out of desperation, turned to cartooning as the outlet for all the funny thoughts racing through my mind all the time. "Real" cartoonists are gifted, prolific artists who can intrinsically draw in a humorous vein.)

A gag that comes to mind, for instance, would have required both a title in a box above the drawing and the usual caption below. The title would have been MR. OTIS MAKES ANOTHER MOMENTOUS DECISION. The drawing would have shown the outside of the very first elevator, under construction, with a workman holding up signs below the button controls. The signs say FOR and AGAINST. And a very pensive Mr. Otis, standing nearby, is saying the caption: "No, it still doesn't look right to me. Let's try UP and DOWN again."

OK, maybe the first elevators didn't have button controls. To a gagwriter, that is immaterial (remember, dogs don't really have the ability to talk). If any of you "real" cartoonists want to take a crack at this gag, I'm officially putting it into the public domain. Go for it -- sell it to The New Yorker. See if I care.

The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 1998

wsj021998.JPG A few weeks after this was printed in The Wall Street Journal, I received a letter from a Vice-President at IBM. She said she wanted to buy the original drawing "for personal use (non-commercial display purposes only)".

I emailed her that my fee for an original would ordinarily be $200, and if IBM were purchasing it, that's what I would charge. However, I added that since she specified it was strictly for her personal use, I would reduce the fee to $150. She soon emailed back as follows: "I did say that the cartoon would be for personal-internal display purposes only, however, I did neglect to mention that it is not for my personal viewing but for the IBM CEO and Chairman, Mr. Lou Gerstner. He enjoyed your cartoon and requested that we purchase if available. So I'm not quite sure how you want to handle the cost -- it's up to you."

Wow -- Louis Gerstner! I was suitably impressed.

I emailed her back and said that under the circumstances, we should split the difference and make it a fee of $175. And that's exactly what we did.

Chopped Liver?

On June 14, 1990, Julie Salamon, The Wall Street Journal's film critic, wrote a review of the movie "Dick Tracy", in which she made reference to newspapers that don't print comics, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I took umbrage at that remark and dashed off a letter to the Editor. In a few days The Wall Street Journal printed my letter and, of course, printed a cartoon of mine on the same page. wsjletter062290.JPG You can find the cartoon in my Wall Street Journal posting dated June 22, 1990

Management Accounting, September 1986


CAPTION: "Of course, that's using 1893 as a base year . . . "

Management Accounting is another publication that was printing many of my cartoons until a new "design team" took over. They decided that the monthly cartoon was a feature they could do without and so the editor (who stayed on) had to give me the bad news. What is it with these "design boys" anyway?

National Review, April 4, 1994

natrev040494.JPG Shortly after this cartoon appeared, I received a phone call from Michele Meny, on the staff of the Rush Limbaugh TV show (yes, Rush had a TV program in those days, in addition to his radio program). She said that Rush wanted to show the cartoon on the show, crediting both me and National Review. I don't agree with 99% of Rush Limbaugh's views or opinions, but since I HAD used his name, I didn't think I could refuse such a reasonable request. I simply asked to be informed when the cartoon would be shown and Ms. Meny got back to me with that information. The cartoon appeared onscreen for less than a minute, during a "break in the action", and as far as I know, Rush never commented on it.

Fifty Plus, February 1979


CAPTION: "Now, don't get upset when you see the kitchen."

National Review, December 13, 1985

natrev1213851.JPG This is the first cartoon I sold to National Review. The "Cartoon Editor" in 1985 was Priscilla Buckley, sister of NR founder William Buckley, and she wrote me a nice note saying she "couldn't resist" this one. We had a very cordial relationship (by mail) until she retired in 1992, and my cartoons continued to appear in NR on an irregular basis until 1998. At about that time, NR reduced its cartoon usage to a bare minimum, which continues to this day. I saw the handwriting on the wall and just stopped submitting cartoons for consideration.