Friday, October 24, 2014

Gag Cartoon Questions: Cartoon Style/Number of Submissions

I'm on the road today, teaching some classes in Maine about graphic novels. I was recently in Atlanta, delivering the keynote address to the Southeast National Cartoonists Society chapter. During the Q and A, I was asked a number of questions, including the ones below. This is a rerun from some years ago, but the questions persist.


Time to open the email letter bag of cartooning questions. One email is about the number of gag cartoon submissions to send to an editor, another has questions about cartoon styles and, lastly, a question about selling to Playboy. My thanks in advance to those who have written in, asking me to answer them.


Here's a recent email about magazine cartooning:

How many cartoons do you really have to send to a magazine. I have read your blog's 'How to Submit to Magazines' and you mention between 10 and 20.

I've also read Randy Glasbergen's how-to-cartoons book and he says no fewer than six. Another book says between five and ten.

Now, I'm not submitting to any big magazines, like the Reader's Digest, Saturday Evening Post or anything like that--just little $25 ones.

And basically, I want to know how few cartoons can I get away with. I know I'm going to be rejected first off, and I hate the idea of doing up 10, 12, 15 cartoons for nothing. And I'm still practicing my art and it takes me forever to actually finish a complete drawing.

Will a magazine really dismiss a submission if they open it up and find only six or eight cartoons? Do I really look bad to editors if I send only that many?

You must be one of the few people out there who have recently decided to draw magazine gag cartoons. Congratulations and much good luck.

Please consider speeding up production. Taking forever to finish a cartoon is not going to make you a professional. You need to be able to come up with a lot of ideas regularly. I come up with 20-40 ideas a week, toss out about half of the weak cartoons, and draw up the rest. There is no magic, just the work of sitting down and drawing and drawing, until you can draw faster and faster.

I urge you not to limit your submissions. Consider all of the potential markets you want to cover. Make a list. The places that pay the most go on the top of the list; you send them the cartoons first. If there are no buys, then 30 days later you send the cartoons to the next lower-paying market, and so on, down the list.

I would not count on rejection. Yeah, it's likely, but you never know. A friend of mine got a sale the very first time he submitted to The New Yorker. So far as wanting "to know how few cartoons can I get away with" sending; gee whiz, you are working against your own interests. Editors want to see regular, quality material that's appropriate to their readership. If you can only get 6 or 8 out there every couple of months, that may not be a good sampling of your potential. An editor would look at it, but when you compete with someone like me or my pal Mark Anderson, you would have your 6 chances against our 10 or 20 chances.

Okay, here's some technique questions:


How do/did you decide on what style, medium and/or technique to use for rendering your cartoons? I ask because I have cartoon ideas but have trouble choosing what style I want to use. My style is always changing. It seems to depend upon what happens to be influencing my creativity that day. On some days my drawings are loose and free. On other days they are crisp and tight. Sometimes the lines are smooth and bold. At other times my lines are fun and artsy and sketchy. I've tried working with micron pens (crosshatch for shading), brush pens (grey scales for shading), pencils, china markers, ball point pens, and so on. I just can't decide which I like best. And the feedback I get from others doesn't help me narrow down my options much either because responses are split pretty evenly. 

So, none of this is problematic until it comes time for me to submit a cartoon to a publisher. It is clear that at this rate -- until I can decide upon a style -- I'll never submit anything. That's no good.

If you are in art school or drawing as a hobby, it's fun to talk about technique and try new materials.

You're right: it's no good to NOT begin presenting your work commercially because you are too unsettled about your technique to get on with it. If you want to draw for a living, you need to create work to submit.

I think it's okay to be unsettled. The work that you create changes through the years regardless. Mine did. Two examples:

I use Pigma Micron Pens on 24 lb. laser printer typing paper because the pens are permanent and the paper is decent and inexpensive. I usually do not pencil. This saves me time and makes my lines look like drawing lines, not lines that art statically tracing pencil lines.

Above: "The Pens on My Desk"

So, just as it's never the right time to move, to marry, to have a child -- it may never be the right time to pick a style. But, as you can see from the above links, a style can and will change.

One of my favorite quotes about style is from the late gag cartoonist Lo Linkert, who scoffed about style and advised to simply "draw fast" and the style will emerge naturally. I wrote more about Lo Linkert (1923-2002) during a guest blogging-stint at the Andertoons blog.

Here's a quote from Mr. Linkert:

“So if you want to be a cartoonist, be sure that there is nothing else in the world that you want to be, work hard and practice self-criticism to the utmost. Make sure every new cartoon you draw is better than the last one. Be sure that it will seem funny to most people. You can’t please them all. Work fast because speed gives you a distinct style. Slow lines look stiff.”
Do we have time for one more? I think so.

Here's another:

Selling to Playboy Magazine

I would like to know if you could offer any advise on my work or how to get my foot in the door with Playboy Cartoon Dept. 

It took me years and many cartoon submissions before my first sale to Playboy, which is a coveted gag cartoon market.

Consider what the editor wants and imagine what they have seen already. Beware of cartoon ideas that are tired, or too easy. See what they are buying, read the magazine. Playboy publishes a variety of cartoons -- not just the sexy ones (as you know if you have read the mag). Persist.

Thanks to those of you who have written in. I don't know if these are the answers you are looking for, but I hope that they may have helped somebody.

Serendipitiously related: My pal graphic novelist Brian Fies gives Newbie Advice.


The above is a bloggy rerun from August 12, 2009.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Boulet: "The Pen Cap"

Boulet, a French cartoonist living in Paris, draws this terrific strip about caps and pens and losing the cap and why that's stupid and why THEY want you to lose it. Oh, go read it and you will see what I mean.

The Wally Wood "22 Panels" Exhibition

If you know comic books, then you know about comic book illustrator Wally Wood's "22 Panels That Always Work!!" It's a cheer sheet for artists showing layout choices to "get some variety into those boring panels where some dumb writer has a bunch of lame characters sitting around and talking for page after page!"

If you're in Sydney, Australia, stop in to the 22 Panels exhibition. Twenty two Australian cartoonists take on the iconic panels from Mr. Wood's guide. The show opens October 30th and runs thru November 16th.

Jorge Gutierrez and the BOOK OF LIFE Movie

(Photo of Jorge Gutierrez by Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

I first met Jorge a couple of years ago. Just the nicest fellow. He's an animator, as is his wife, Sandra Equihua. They co-created the Nickelodeon series EL TIGRE: THE ADVENTURES OF MANNY RIVERA.

Now he has directed a movie about the Mexican Day of the Dead titled THE BOOK OF LIFE. with Guillermo del Toro producing. It looks amazing and has gotten great reviews. But the first time Jorge met Guillermo, it did not go well. Go read.

THE BOOK OF LIFE opened October 17th.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Cavalcade of Collier's Cartoons

Some cartoons from the book A CAVALCADE OF COLLIER'S.

"Double Martini."

Virgil Partch, September 13, 1947

One of the great Partch's many bar room cartoons. He really was one part cartoonist and another part surrealist.

"Oh, no, I think you dance very well for a horse."

Irwin Caplan, September 27, 1947

Horse Joke #1.

I think he had the fanciest signature of any gag cartoonist.

CAVALCADE is primarily a collection of Collier's Magazine (b. 1888, d. 1957) articles, with some pages of cartoons tucked into the back. Kenneth McArdle, the mag's last editor, assembled this posthumous tome.

Otto Soglow, February 8, 1941

Horse Joke #2. Love Soglow's line. So nice to have a Soglow hardcover, high production value hardcover collection book on the shelf, CARTOON MONARCHSoglow was a New Yorker mag regular, had a syndicated strip and was there at the beginning of the National Cartoonists Society.

"Pssst -- alternately, Schultz!"

Virgil Partch, January 16, 1943

Another Virgil Partch cartoon. "VIP" -- one of the great cartoonists who died suddenly in a car crash  -- was another original cartoonist.  He got a handful of cartoons in the New Yorker mag, and was the cartoon editor over at True Magazine for a while. Like Soglow, he also was a syndicated cartoonist.

Eric Ericson, March 20, 1948

Makes me laugh every time. Another one of those prolific gag cartoonists who is all but invisible on the Web -- at least my searches come up nil.

Bernard Wiseman, January 11, 1947

Mr. Wiseman's name came up in conversation on Saturday. I only know the name from his cartoons, but Bob Weber and Orlando Busino knew him. This is a great pantomime gag. I needed a few extra seconds to get it.

It was my pleasure to be part of "The Funny Side of the Street," a 50 year retrospective of Wall Street Journal "Pepper .... and Salt" cartoons, along with many great gag cartoonists. Mr. Wiseman was among them.

"It's great having you home, Kilroy. Sit down and tell us where you've been."

Hank Ketcham, March 29, 1947

This joke depends on understanding the phrase "Kilroy was here." "Kilroy" is so old that the Google spellcheck does not recognize it, giving me the red wavy line under the thing every time I type it. Google suggests I change Kilroy to "Elroy," "Railroad," or "Uniroyal." For those who want to know, I pass along the Wikipedia entry.

A collection of Hank Ketcham's gag cartoons titled WHERE'S DENNIS? (Get it? There's NO DENNIS in these panels 'cause they're Mr. Ketachm's magazine cartoons) will be out in August 2007 courtesy of Fantagraphics, the same publisher that's reprinting his DENNIS THE MENACE panels in hardcover.

And my friend Leif Peng has a lovely appreciation of the Ketcham line technique in his Today's Inspiration blog.

-- I'm prepping for a graphic novel workshop this weekend, so the above is a rerun from May 8, 2007.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TABOO Edited by Charles Preston

TABOO, an 88 page hardcover collection of gag cartoons, edited by Charles M. Preston, Trident Press 1966, New York, New York. Above is the dust jacket. Click to supersize so you can read the six gags ...

"Let's go out and count phallic symbols"

There are a number of censored cartoon books that are now in print, but this was the granddaddy to them. Most of the cartoons are not so edgy today, natch! A lot have to with racism, homosexuality, and, well, potty humor.

"And as you'll probably notice, I wet my bed."

From the cover:

"For the first time, an outrageous collection of iconoclastic hilarity -- these cartoons, hitherto considered unpublishable, mark a significant point in the struggle against censorship and prudery (and they're funny too)."

"Why, it's Ann Stalkley! I haven't seen you since we were in school together. How in the world do you keep yourself looking so young?"

The above cartoon made me laugh out loud. It's those pooch lips on Ann Stalkley that did it. A great, busy, sketchy city scene. I think I know who the cartoonist is, but I am not sure.

Above: an early Sam Gross cartoon.

"And after a long hot dusty nightride, I find Brito washes my robe whiter than white."

Above: Herbert Goldberg's cartoon isn't funny to me. It looks like to be a rough.

"Holy Moses!"

Above: Henry Martin's cartoon is silly, but it made me smile. I love what he does here with very basic lines and a touch of graphite on pebbled paper.

(Whenever I think of Moses, I think of the Mel Brooks bit from THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1.)

"It's a God."

Above: more holy humor. Seems harmless to me! Three little words is all it took to make a good gag -- made even better by the dead-on look of holy beatitude by Joseph.

Above: Interlandi's silent gag and excellent figure work seal a wonderful cartoon together. The look of realization on both of their faces in the penultimate panel is masterful.

"Draw me and try for a free two-year scholarship."

Above: The first of several from S. Gross. Gosh, imagine the upswing in enrollment at the Center for Cartoon Studies if this girl went door to door!
You can definitely see the Addams' impact in Sam's early work.
"Can I return this get-well card? She died."

Bo Brown's cartoon is great. Such a seemingly pedestrian couple of women in a benign looking picture. The gag line makes it all so hostile and funny.

"Is this where we take the 'A' train to Harlem?"

Above: a number of cartoons concerned the KKK.

"Damn the consequences! If they want her that bad, they can have her!"

Above: I'm a fan of Al Ross' loopy, sketchy style. It almost looks to "rough" to be a final finish!

Did anyone notice what happened to Al Ross' signature in the column of signatures from the book's cover?

"Bernice, just what is it you people want?"

Above: Erikson gives us elitist white humor! Yikes!
"So that's how Mary Poppins can fly! She's on the pot."

Above: Sure looks like those are Wednesday's pigtails! And the boy's built like Puggsly.

Above: Another Sam Gross cartoon. Nothing is sacred to this man. this is why he's so funny! Witness his 2008 cartoon book We Have Ways of Making You Laugh: 120 Funny Swastika Cartoons from Simon & Schuster.
"My doll is frigid."

Above: Well, it's probably better than a Bratz doll.
More KKK humor. Yeesh.

"You see dear, on opening day the Emperor throws out the first Christian."

Even the Christians are made fun of!

"Yes, it's nice, but won't it be kinda heavy to carry on a seal hunt?"

I love Reamer Keller's cartoons. His style is unmistakable.

"Hello there. I'm your friendly neighborhood tart."

Interlandi's great drawing skill is always delightful to linger over. I love her '60s bouffant.

Above: the hardcover has a column of cartoonists' signatures on the front cover. A great design touch! And something I didn't notice until today, when I took the dust jacket off the book!

-- This has been a blog rerun. It was orignally published January 23 and 28, 2008.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Photos of William Hanna

Some rare press photos from the 1970s to the 80s of American animator William Hanna (1910-2001).

More Cartoonist Photos:
Part one
Part two
Part three
Part four
Part five
Part six 
Part seven 
Part eight
Part nine
Part ten
Part eleven