Cartoon Island

Aside from the artists and editors, there’s that big mass of readers out there who make the crucial decisions about what goes on their bulletin boards and refrigerators. Cartoons from elsewhere in the cartoon universe probably appear more often in these places, but a sizable amount of those pinups are work from my planet, The New Yorker.

When I lived up north, I saw a lot of NYer cartoons on refrigerator doors, then a couple of years ago I moved south. Down here, it’s mostly syndicated cartoon strips and kid’s drawings. I’m doing what I can to change that, but it’s proven to be a tough job.

I’ve gone to parties here where people ask the usual “What do you do?” question and when I say I’m a cartoonist, they assume I mean comics or animation. When I explain further that I work for the New Yorker, a lot of them confuse it with New York Magazine or the New York Times. The ones familiar with the magazine often say the cartoons are “over their head”, or just “not funny”. Some of them, I’m sure, decide that I’m a Blue state elitist.

For a short time, back when I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, I made an attempt at running a small gallery devoted to magazine cartoons, New Yorker cartoons in particular. I talked some of my cartoonist friends into sending me their originals and ended up with work by six or seven New Yorker regulars adorning the freshly painted walls. My gallery was in the front room of my studio, which was located on a main road between two tourist hotspots. In the summertime, the road was alive with the buzz of rented Mopeds and the zoom of cars. My potential customers were lured in by a sandwich-board sign out front. They often brought in their children, I guess thinking that the cartoons would serve as a distraction for their bored kids. The parents complained that the artwork was too high on the walls for the kids to see. When I explained these were cartoons for grown-ups, they said they didn’t get the jokes. They were aghast at the prices. (These were New Yorker originals, priced accordingly). Some of them didn’t see the profound differences in style among the various artists. They often asked if I had done all the cartoons myself.

Go figure.



  1. Anonymous says:

    Don’t you think a sense of humor should be required to vote? I would vote for you, Mr. Fancy-Schmancy Nyer Cartoonist!

  2. carolita says:

    I have heard the same observations about cartoons in TNY not being funny, or being “over one’s head,” and I usually don’t know what to say! These are obviously people who think The Onion is a strange newspaper.

    I have often wondered why I bust my hump coming up with cartoons for TNY when I could just do lowbrow cartoons that everyone would “get.” Why? Because the humor in the cartoons of TNY are supposed to be envelope-pushers, edge-breakers, pioneering, etc. Like SNL. If SNL were mainstream humor, it would look like the Carol Burnett show or something. But it’s not always “funny” because it’s experimental, and people watch it for that new twist, even when it flops.

    At least, I do!

  3. Roz says:

    I too was once asked by someone, after they found out that I did cartoons for The New Yorker, if I did “all the cartoons in the magazine”! After my eyeballs exploded and blood finished pouring out of my ears, I said, no, actually not.

  4. Sidbob says:

    Jeez Mick, I could have told you the only bright thing in Florida is the sun—-hey, there’s still a place for you up north here on the Vineyard [ Where you must be this tall—- to look at cartoons.]

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