Friday, December 29, 2006

Cartoon Limbo Reception Friday, January 5, 2007

A week from today is the Cartoon Limbo opening night reception with lots of great cartoonists and illustrators eating wine and cheese and talking shop.

More here.

Justin Bilicki Blog

Editorial Cartoonist Justin Bilicki has a blog.

If you like to know more about the cartoon process (idea --> sketch --> finish), then this is a treasure trove of off the cuff information from a rising star.

Justin, get well soon!

Hat tip AAEC site.

2 National Cartoonist Society Get Togethers in One Day

OK, usually I put some hyperlinks and more comments in the next couple of blogs, but it's getting late ....

It's been a really exhausting, but fun day -- with a cartoony confluence of two NCS get togethers -- but now it's time to go to bed. More anon.

Berndt Toast Gang Meeting December 28, 2006

Last month I asked for a show of hands: "Who's gonna be around in December? Who wants to have lunch?" I figured maybe 6-8 people would show for a get together that took place between Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year's.

I figured wrong!

We got 45 people to the Berndt Toast Gang lunch! Wow!

Mike Lynch, Adrian Sinnott, John Reiner and Stan Goldberg. (Look for linkies to most of these guys at our Berndt Toast Gang members page.)

On display: Early 1960s King Features Archie strips, courtesy of the collection of Joe Vissichelli.

An example of the lushness of these strips. Bob Montana is credited, but I have no idea if this was his work, or the product of a King Features ghost.

More Betty. See how the Zip-a-tone adhesive has stained the original.

Joe Edwards signs some Archies while Tony D'Amato looks on.

Marty Macalusco, Ray Alma, Ed Steckley and Steve Duquette

More items on display: a card that Al Scaduto did for his girlfriend Claire.

One of many recent model studies that Stan Goldberg shared.

Jerry Jurman: His hat can beat up your hat.

Question: Who is wearing THIS?

Answer: The guy on the right, Sy Barry; pictured with Sandy Kossin

Al Scaduto sings while Claire looks on.

Bill Kresse plays Auld Lang Syne. Bill's career will be the focus of a Hogan's Alley article in 2007.

Yukking it up from left to right: Adrian Sinnott, Stan Goldberg, Jeff Fisher, Sandy Kossin, Don Orehek

A couple of toughs: Arnie Levin and John Reiner.

NYC NCS Get Together 12/28/06

The NYC Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society got together the night of December 28, 2006, at the Society of Illustrators on East 63rd.

Dan Piraro adds a page to the NYC NCS sketchbook.

Mike Lynch, Irwin Hasen, Arnold Roth.

Chari Pere looks on as Nina Paley reads one of her own comics in front of her.

Tony Murphy and Dan Piraro

The SI has been around for many years, and the walls are full of wonderful items. Above, what looks like a program from April 17, 1917.

Some great WWII era cheesecake.

No ID on the above photo. My guess is that that's Osborn in the middle. I think there's a "loose lips" kinda message going on -- but that's just a guess.

Another piece in the hallway on your way to the bathrooms. Like I said, everywhere you turn there's a great piece of art.

Illustrators were better dressed back then.

And here's the gang at the SI bar/restaurant.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cartoonist Tax Deductions

I read this on a colleague's blog (which has now myseriously disappeared, otherwise I would link to it):

"I've heard that if you play your cards right, you can enjoy many benefits come tax season. I've heard you can write off supplies, rooms in your home, costs of printing, etc..."

These are good questions. I deduct these items from my US taxes that I need for my cartooning:

  • travel expenses (subway, cab fare, mileage) to and from any pro cartoon-related event;
  • related media (cable, newspapers, cartoon books, movies);
  • supplies;
  • subscriptions;
  • dues;
  • any meals that are had during a meeting with a cartoonist (unless the other cartoonist picks up the tab);
  • software/hardware;
  • postage;
  • a percentage of the square footage of my apt; same portion of utilities.

I think that those are the main things.

Sticking points:

  • travel expenses for mileage can be written down and kept in a calendar for that purpose. I use Google to figure out the mileage to my home and the cartoon-related event since I'm always forgetting to look at the odometer;
  • related media is a sticking point. Since I track trends and what people are talking about, anything from a newspaper to a movie is fair game IN MY OPINION. I am prepared to argue this if I am challenged;
  • supplies -- and I deduct the mileage to and from the office supply store as well;
  • subscriptions -- for instance, I deduct a PLAYBOY subscription since it's one of my markets. Yeah, I only read it for the cartoons, etc;
  • dues (to professional and affiliated groups -- for instance, I take out my dues for the NCS as well as the Freelancers Union and so on);
  • meals are OK, as long as they're business-related -- but you can only deduct a portion of the actual expense on your taxes -- if you're doing your taxes with a tax program, the tax program will do it for you;
  • software/hardware related to your cartoon drawing -- I really could not figure out a valid way to deduct an iPod;
  • postage for submissions, invoices, etc., natch;
  • a percentage of the square footage of my apt. & utilities (any tax program/professional can easily guide you thru this and it's a lot easier than you think).

I have no idea if this will help you. This is all stuff I've been doing for years and I am no tax expert. Remember that! If you want a tax expert, go get one!

Regardless, it's easy to do. Or, I should say, easier than I thought it was. And the tax programs -- at least the Tax Cut from Kiplinger that I use -- can guide your through this and are available now.

There were always 2 reasons why I did not go freelance for many years: fear of no health care and fear of dealing with the paperwork. Those were dumb reasons.

Oh, and if I or this blog mysteriously disappears one day, then, well, heh heh -- I was all wrong.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Stephan Pastis Interview

"Q: You’re very upfront about not being able to draw. What made you think you could make a living as a cartoonist?

"A: I was crazy. I was nuts. I don’t know what I was thinking."

Good interview with PEARLS BEFORE SWINE comics strip creator (and lawyer) Stephan Pastis by Mindie Paget at the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World.

Hey, I went to elementary school in Lawrence! Good ol' Deerfield Elementary!

Kindly Midwestern hat tip to The Daily Cartoonist.

Chad Vader Day Shift Manager

Episode 5 of the Chad Vader (Darth's dumb brother) Day Shift Manager is up. Take a look here for all the episodes.

Cartoon Finishes for Wall Street Journal

This is one of these "process" blog entries, wherein I tell you in rather plodding step-by-step detail how a Wall Street Journal cartoon gets sold. Or, in this case, a couple of cartoons. And then, once a cartoonist gets the good news that their creation is sold to a big-time publication, what happens next.

Step 1: the batch is sent to WSJ. A batch is 10-15 cartoons, printed on typing paper, with my contact info. on the back, mailed in a 9x12 envelope. I always send photocopies. I enclose a self addressed stamped envelope. The first year, I sent a cover letter, telling them who I was, my Web site address and contact info. As the months went by, and I was getting published, I would tweak my cover letter, going from:

"My cartoons can be seen in publications such as 'Wankel Rotary Engine Quarterly' and 'The Dumpsville Picayune;'"


"My cartoons can be seen in 'The New York Daily News' and 'Harvard Business Review;'"

-- thus letting the editor know that I was some kinda serious up and coming cartooist, and that I was making progress from regional to national sales. Now, I don't bother.

The editors pulled 5 cartoons. When I say "pull," I mean that they took some cartoons that they were interested in, and mailed the rest back. After 2-6 weeks, they mailed me their buys. Above are a couple of the buys, with the editors' "OK" in the lower right-hand corner.

I have to do redraws. This is step 2. I hate redraws.

They bought 3 cartoons out the batch. (That's a real good ratio of rejects to buys. See "Rejection, Rejection, Rejection" for more on this.) The good news was that I did not have to redraw the "it's the maintenance I hate" cartoon at the top up there, by simple fact of its shape: it's square.

The WSJ prints their cartoons in a square format. So, that's why they asked for redraws for the more rectangular-shaped ones. The cartoon is published about 1.5 inches square, so having a "bold line" is good advice that they give you in their pre-printed acceptance note.

The reason I dislike redraws is that I've all ready drawn them. I mean, it's just not interesting to draw them over again. The helium's outta the balloon, if yaknowhuddImean. Regardless, he who takes the king's money is the king's man. So, the cartoons are redrawn:

Step 3: Print clean copies of the redraws, put them in an envelope, along with the "OKs," and mail them to the editors. If they meet with their approval, a check is forthcoming.

WSJ is a kindred market. I made on of my first ever national sale to them. But it took at least 6 months of sending in a batch every month (you do the math) before they bought one.

End of lesson.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

DIY FREAKOUT! Groovy '70s Stuff

Yeah, OK, I'll admit that in 1970, when I was a kid, I had a black light and a couple of black light posters. But, that's where my cool act stopped, baby.

I gotta admit ,I was an ordinary suburban Midwestern elementary school kid who took a Peanuts lunchbox to school and collected Hot Wheels cars, and, therefore, pretty much a wee juvenile pimply poser when it came to being cool in the 70s.

Go and look at Johnny C's blog Hole in the Head, which nostalgically showcases a bunch of cool catalog pages from the whacky 1972 lifestyle. Black light Tweetie & Cool Cat posters that I get to paint myself?! Where's Mom's Mastercharge?! And look at the cool the inflatable furniture!

PS For more 70s fun, check out The Strata Action Team page from Adult Swim. It's a fun preview. Maybe not as good as the funny cheesy Tenacious D clip, but pretty retro hipster-doofus cool if you're into parodies of bad live-action kiddie shows of the 1970s.

Saturday Lunch with Frank Bolle, Orlando Busino, Ron Goulart, Lowell Hess, Bob Weber

Hey, let's all take the Metro North train from Grand Central to Westport, CT to hang out with some great cartoon artists, OK? OK!

Pretty much every Saturday, these guys get together for food and shop talk in this commuter town. This was my second visit with these guys since I've been blogging. More about them in this August entry.

Nice thing about Westport is that it's only about an hour from NYC, and the restaurant is an easy walk from the station. Over the years, many cartoonists moved to CT, commuting to "the city" in the 1950s, 60s and 70s to do the rounds. The Famous Artists School, a seminal learn-to-draw-by-mail course, was founded here.

Here's Walt Needham, Stephen Shoff, and Frank Bolle.

Frank Bolle, a veteran cartoon artist, is known for so much: comic books (Doctor Solar, Flash Gordon, all those Gold Key scary books I liked as a kid: Grimm's Ghost Stories, Boris Karloff's Tales of Mystery and Rod Sterling's Twilight Zone), Winnie Winkle, The Heart of Juliet Jones, Apartment 3-G, Golden Books -- well, you get the idea.

Above -- brazenly taken from his excellent Web site -- one of Frank Bolle's "Scouts in Action" pieces for Boy's Life. I grew up with these kinda features.

Ron Goulart, Mike Lynch, Bob Weber, Walt Needham.

Bob Weber pointed out that one of the cartoonists he admires is Bob Weber. Not HIM, but another guy with the same name as him: Bob Weber of the New Yorker. There are actually 3 Bob Webers in pro cartooning if you add Bob's son Bob Weber, Jr, whose Slylock Fox feature was launched by King Features in 1987.

Bob asked me if cartoonists still did the rounds. No, no magazine has those "look days," when cartoonists were welcome to come in and show their roughs in person to the editor. Except, maybe, New Yorker. But you gotta get their OK to get past the security phalynx at the Conde Nast building.

Frank Bolle, Orlando Busino, Ron Goulart.

I have a lot of books on the history of comics, but Ron Goulart's THE FUNNIES is one of my favorites. A list of some of his work is here. At more than 180 books to his credit, chances are that you've read his work as well.

Orlando brought in a couple of Boy's Life covers painted by Lowell Hess. Hess did 22 covers to this magazine. These 2 were pretty wonderful and so I grabbed my digital camera, plunked the covers on a clean nearby table and took as good a picture as you can in a restaurant. Thanks for bringing these in, Orlando!

Above: a November 1960 Hess cover. Click for the large size.

Above is a fun example from April 1959. This is a rebus-filled cover. Clicking on the it will get you an XXL view.

And above is the key. Click for a bigger version.

Here's Lowell Hess and Mike Lynch.

He told me that he wanted to be a cartoonist. He started out as a gag cartoonist, but couldn't sell. So, he went into illustration. "But really, illustrator or cartoonist or whatever -- we're all the same; wandering thie city with our portfolio -- alone -- looking for acceptance," added Lowell.

Illustrator Leif Peng has written about Mr. Hess. Here's one of his blog entires about him. If you do a search at Leif's site, you'll find more! Bookmark his Today's Inspiration site.

Double thanks to Orlando Busino. 1) For bringing in those great Boy's Life cover and 2) for shoving a couple of his (Orlando's) cartoon collections in my hands (Good Boy! and Oh, Gus!) as I raced out to catch the train back to NYC.