Monday, February 22, 2016

John Caldwell 1946-2016

Above:  A photo of John Caldwell from Mad Magazine's "Idiot of the Month" feature. John was interviewed in Mad XL #21, June 2003. Doug Gilford has a scan here. 

John Caldwell died on February 21, 2016. The cause was pancreatic cancer. He was 69 years old.

A prolific cartoonist, his client list included the top markets in the industry: Mad Magazine, The New Yorker, Playboy, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, The National Lampoon and many others.

From the Times Union obituary by Lauren Stanforth:

"A graduate from Hudson Valley Community College who studied at the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan, he was a cartographer at the state Department of Transportation before he moved on to being an advertising illustrator and freelance cartoonist. 
"He joked on his website about how drawing maps for the state was not the creative outlet he desired. 
"'Indeed, you might still find an occasional topographic map of New York showing roads that never existed bearing names like HEY, IT'S ME JOHNNY AVENUE and HOW BORING IS THIS BOULEVARD. There's even a IF I LIVED HERE THIS WOULD BE CALDWELL LANE just north of Rochester,' Caldwell wrote in his online biography. "Realizing, under pressure from supervisors, that drawing maps was not the creative outlet he'd imagined it to be, Caldwell moved on to cartooning, an even more tenuous means of expression.'"

John was, in my mind, the consummate gag cartoonist, whose versatile style and sense of humor fit Mad Magazine as well as The New Yorker. He was a stealth cartoonist. He was someone whose work we all knew and who stayed by his board most of the time, creating his cartoons. He didn't go to many events. Maybe the Mad Magazine Christmas party, or a New Yorker event every once in a while. 

In 2005, he graciously made the trip down to New York City for a cartooning event I helped organize. Although we had chatted on the phone, it was the first time we had met. After a minute of talking shop in person, I felt like we had known each other for years. He was one of the last people to leave, catching a late train to his upstate home. 

We last chatted on the phone in November, when he told me about an editor who was looking for a cartoonist. John usually did this gig, but he told me on the phone that he hadn't been feeling well, and maybe I could do it instead. When I asked what was going on, he poohed-poohed his own bad health and told me about the job, the editor and the pay. He convinced me that he wasn't that sick. Another example of him not being interested in the spotlight. 

I will miss him and we are all the poorer for not having many more John Caldwell cartoons. 

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