Cartoons

Stock Market, March 1981


stkmkt0381.JPG Am I the only person who saw any humor in the name of the securities firm "Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Beane"? And then, many years ago, they abruptly changed the name to "Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith", which really raised my gag antennae. The firm is now called simply "Merrill Lynch" -- a ho-hum name if I ever heard one.

Anyhow, I came up with this "OUT TO LYNCH" gag and Stock Market magazine was good enough to print it. Please don't go looking for any deep-South racial undertones in the cartoon -- this was simply a take-off on the countless "Out to Lunch" door sign cartoons that every cartoonist liked to draw, probably because they were so easy. Eventually it became such a hackneyed subject that no cartoonist would touch it anymore (also, for some reason, business people no longer seemed inclined to hang "Out to Lunch" signs on their doorknobs).

So these three partners, with their darkened offices, were simply out to visit with good ol' Merrill Lynch, whose office is still lit up.

One more historical note, for the sake of honesty in cartooning: there is no such person as Merrill Lynch, and there never has been. The firm was started as a partnership of Charles Merrill and Edmund Lynch, and the comma between the names was dropped in 1938 when Mr. Lynch passed away. Now you sticklers for the truth won't have to Google it.

The real question is, why in the world did I think this simple cartoon needed such a long explanation?






The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 21, 1990


The Chronicle of Higher Education is a weekly tabloid-size publication which I consider to be the newspaper of record for colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning. On March 21, 1990, the editors took five cartoons that they had previously purchased from me, and published them as a full-page spread, under the title "STEIN ON ACADEME".

A few weeks later, The Chronicle printed a Letter to the Editor from an Associate Professor at a well-known midwestern university. This is the entire letter. I am not identifying the name of the letter-writer or the university, for obvious reasons.

"I always enjoy the cartoons in your Section 2, especially Carole Cable's. They provide welcome comic relief from the depressing stories in the preceding pages on such matters as sex-discrimination suits, cases of sexual harassment, and the plague of racial incidents on campus.

Did anyone besides me, however, notice in the full-page of Eli Stein cartoons in your March 21 issue that of the 17 human figures depicted, all were white males except one, a white female cast as the stereotypical faculty wife, screening her husband's phone calls so that he can meditate uninterruptedly on his Next Brilliant Article? This page was dreary, if inadvertent, confirmation of the attitudes that generate those articles in your news section.

I am not amused."

When I read the letter, it blew my mind. For me, it was beyond comprehension -- I can understand "hate mail" and the driving forces behind hate, but this?? It was a real eye-opener for me to realize that there are actually people out there with nothing better to do than to note the gender and racial make-up of a pageful of cartoon characters and make a discrimination conspiracy issue out of it. (Also, remember, I didn't even have any input as to how the spread was assembled or laid out -- The Chronicle simply took five of my cartoons that they had on hand and put them together on one page).

After regaining my composure, I wrote a personal note to the Cartoon Editor and sent it with a new submission of cartoons. My note said, in part:

"What really disturbed me about [the Professor's] nitpicking letter is that when I showed it to my family and friends, it got more laughs than any of my cartoons ever did.

Be that as it may, [the Professor] is perfectly correct -- I don't much like to draw women. My forte is balding men with glasses, and I'm sure you'll find a fair share of them in the enclosed batch."

The Professor's letter didn't noticeably affect my relationship with The Chronicle, which continued to publish my cartoons for many years afterwards.

Here are the five controversial cartoons. What say you -- are we, or are we not, amused? chron032190a.JPGchron032190b.JPGchron032190c.JPGchron032190d.JPGchron032190e.JPGchron032190f.JPG






Food & Drug Packaging, September 1983


fddrug0983.JPG

The publication of this cartoon in the trade magazine FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING in September 1983 prompted a Letter to the Editor that was printed a few issues later. The letter was written by a packaging company executive, and I'm quoting it in its entirety, because it also helps non-packaging-oriented people to understand what the gag is all about:

"The cartoon by Stein in the September 1983 issue of FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING was well done. It points out the new packages available to the supermarket shopper; however, one package is not commercially available and is still under market test, in selected parts of the country, after five years. The retort pouch is not yet considered to be a widely used package in the United States and this is true even after 20 years of development. Giving the retort pouch "equal billing" with ovenable paperboard and seamless aluminum cans is an injustice to total market conditions. Perhaps, in the distant future, the retort pouch will become a viable supermarket commodity. But, it sure isn't now!"

And now, after all these years, I get to comment on this letter. Yes, I knew all along that retort pouches were still in a testing stage. But I used the term because I found "retort pouches" to be a very funny-sounding name for a package (even funnier than "ovenable paperboard containers" or "seamless aluminum cans"). To this day, I can't help smiling when I think "retort pouch" -- try saying it and see if you don't have the same reaction.

And, after all, humor is what it's all about.






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






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.






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.






Official U.S. Government Approval


In June 1981 I was pleased -- and surprised -- to receive the following letter from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige. mbletter.JPG I framed his letter and it is still hanging in my studio. You can find the cartoon he's referring to by going to the Publication posting under Wall Street Journal, April 29, 1981, or in the 1980's Decade or under the Topic of Business -- Board Meetings.

Mr. Baldrige, Commerce Secretary under Ronald Reagan, went on to create and endow the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards for business excellence. He died in 1987, but the Awards are still very much a factor in the business world. Congress passed legislation to perpetuate them and each year our President awards them to deserving businesses.






Mad, October 1968


Gagwriting is one-quarter of the thrill of being a gag cartoonist. The other three quarters are drawing the gag, selling it and finally, seeing it in print. In 1968 I came up with an idea that I couldn't seem to develop into a cartoon, but it occured to me that it could possibly become a pretty good spread in Mad magazine. I roughed out a layout, wrote a lot of copy, and sent it out.

I soon heard from Mad Editor Nick Meglin, who said he was interested in the concept and the writing, but he wanted to farm it out to one of his regular artists to draw. (See my posting about Tom Wesselmann -- the same proposal was made to him by The New Yorker.) I pondered for a while about what leverage I had if I were to insist on doing the artwork myself (absolutely none, I decided), so I said OK to Mr. Meglin's offer.

The two-page spread appeared in the October 1968 issue, illustrated by Joe Orlando. The images below were taken from the reprint of the article in the paperback book Steaming Mad, which appeared years later.

So I got paid the writer's fee instead of the artist's fee, and that's how I became one of Mad's "usual gang of idiots" and a hero to my little kids. mada1068.JPGmadb1068.JPGmadc1068.JPGmadd1068.JPGmade1068.JPGmadf1068.JPGmadg1068.JPGmadh1068.JPG






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