January 2009

"Soldiers Of The Day" -- 1954

This is going to be another reminiscence of my two years in the U.S Army.

Here's how it relates to cartooning: As I've written here previously, I first met pop-artist Tom Wesselmann in the army, and we hung out in the same M.I. outfit for about a year and a half (that's right, it was a Military Intelligence outfit . . . really!). Tom died in 2004 and, like me, he never achieved his ambition of cartooning for The New Yorker magazine. His pop-art work, however, now commands prices of $10,000,000 or so at the major auction houses. For my previous memories of Tom, and his cartoons, you can go to these links:

Tom Wesselmann painting reproduced in The New Yorker

"We All Have To Start Somewhere" Department. Case in Point No. 6

Living Cartoon -- 1954

Me and Tom

To get back to my story, the army, in typical gung-ho fashion, was constantly giving out awards, citations and plaques for "Soldier Of The Day" (or "Week", or "Month"), with great pomp and ceremony. Neither Tom nor I were ever in any way eligible for consideration for such honors, but that didn't stop us from holding our own awards ceremony. First, Tom constructed a very tacky, phony "trophy". Then we found a lectern (a surprisingly easy thing to find on an army base) and, with like-minded buddies in attendance, we proceeded to make our own awards and speeches.

In this photo, Tom, on the left, is awarding the trophy to me for something like "Sloppy Soldier Of The Day", or maybe it was "Screwed-up Soldier Of The Day". Note the upturned caps, stuffed pockets, raised pocket flaps, rolled-up sleeves, hand in pocket, etc.


In the next photo, that's me on the right, bestowing the trophy to Tom for some equally ridiculous honor.


And in this photo, I'm second from the left and Tom is on the extreme right. The four of us are all trying to look as unsoldierly as possible, and those are mostly unlit cigarettes dangling from our lips.


I came across one more photo of myself, not taken on "trophy" day, and it made me realize that I honestly did deserve the "sloppy soldier" honor. How would you like to have your country defended by this man?


And that is how some draftees passed their days in the peacetime army (the Korean War was officially over by this time).

Tom Wesselmann painting reproduced in The New Yorker

On page 67 of the January 5, 2009 issue of The New Yorker is a half-page reproduction of this painting by pop-artist Tom Wesselmann.

tom-nyorker painting.jpg

"Bedroom Painting No.6" (1968)

I have written before about my old friend Tom, who passed away in 2004. His life-long dream was to draw cartoons for The New Yorker, and he worked very hard at it. I also mentioned that, although Tom's cartooning dream never materialized, over the years The New Yorker occasionally reproduced his art as illustrations for articles. This is just another example.

For my previous musings about Tom Wesselmann vis-a-vis The New Yorker, and to see early photos of him and some of his cartoons, you can go to these three links:

Me and Tom

Living Cartoon -- 1954

"We All Have To Start Somewhere" Department. Case in Point No. 6

In The Twilight Zone

I was watching snippets of "The Twilight Zone" marathon (a New Year's Day tradition on the Sci-Fi channel) and realized that I actually have a connection to TTZ -- far afield, I admit, but a connection just the same.

A few years after Rod Serling's death, his wife Carol helped subsidize the publication of "The Twilight Zone Magazine", a monthly which started in April 1981 and continued until it folded in early 1989. It was primarily an outlet for fantasy and horror articles and fiction, but -- surprise, surprise -- it also ran gag cartoons.

I had this cartoon in the April 1988 issue:


The issue contained just six cartoons, including one each by New Yorker cartoonists Leo Cullum and Tom Cheney. I almost included Cullum's cartoon in my "We All Have To Start Somewhere" feature, because his drawing style has evolved so much since 1988. The Cheney, on the other hand, is instantly recognizable.


Also in this issue was a brief article on movie-going by New Yorker cartoonist Gahan Wilson, accompanied by this spot illustration by him.