Day: August 9, 2006

Me and Tom

x.jpg I met pop artist Tom Wesselmann in the army in 1953, and we remained friends until his untimely death in December 2004. What bound us together were 1) our similar senses of humor, 2) our love of "classic" country music and 3) our ambitions to be New Yorker cartoonists. Tom was from Cincinnati, Ohio, and after his two years of army service, he and his wife moved to NYC, more specifically to Brooklyn, where I was still living with my parents. The above photo, taken in my bedroom/studio in Brooklyn around 1956, shows me (left) with Tom sitting in my seat at the drawing table. We were either discussing gags, cartooning or country music.

Tom went on to become one of the pioneer "Pop Artists" in America and his work now sells at auction for about a million dollars apiece. But the desire to be a New Yorker cartoonist never left him. Over the years, he submitted many, many batches to The New Yorker (in the later years under a nom de plume), with no success. A couple of times in the fifties or sixties the editor offered to buy his gag only (they did that at The New Yorker in the good old days, but don't do it any more). The editor said he would assign the gag to one of their "regulars". Tom didn't like the idea, but caved in, thinking it might help his cause. It didn't. I remember that one of the gags was eventually drawn by Otto Soglow. I kind of lost track of the other one, but can probably track it down somewhere.

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Living Cartoon — 1954


This photo I took of PFC Tom Wesselmann, in 1954, was set up as a “living cartoon”. The caption was something like “What makes you think I'm bucking to make Sergeant?” (It looked better on paper, with the Sergeant's stripes drawn over and under the soldier's eyes.) We posed a few of these “cartoons”, and they helped pass the time during our 2-year hitches as draftees in the army.

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Welcome to the Eli Stein Cartoon archive. To begin, read my introduction and personal notes, and then please look at the cartoons, which are categorized by either decade, publication name or topic. I’ve included some personal comments, memories and photos below many of the cartoons. I’ll be adding cartoons, memories and photos ad infinitum. Remember, your comments are appreciated (just click on the “comment” link at the bottom of each post).