Monday, May 14, 2007

Wednesday: Cartoon Look Day

It's a sea of crew cuts, horn rims and Botany 500 suits!

I know it's Monday today, but it's my blog and I want to write about Wednesdays ....

Veteran gag cartoonist Eli Stein at his Eli Stein Cartoons blog talks about "look day" and shares the above 50 year old photo of cartoonists from the Saturday Evening Post.

"Look day" used to be on Wednesdays; every Wednesday in NYC. That was the day when magazine cartoonists would walk from cartoon editors office to cartoon editors office (usually along Sixth Avenue). The practice stopped sometime in the 1970s. Of course, by that time, a lot of the magazines that used cartoons had either dropped them or the mags themselves bit the dust.

Although I'm too young to have been part of the Wednesday ritual, I love hearing stories about those days. (I'm fortunate enough to know a lot of gag cartoonists who have told me about those days. "There were so many markets, even a mediocre gag cartoonist could make a living!")

The only magazine to keep the look day practice going is The New Yorker. But, at some point, for some reason, they moved the day back to Tuesdays. And you can't just walk in off the street. You gotta be "approved" to get past security. In my case, this meant submitting by mail for a couple years before I asked if I could come in person.

Despite the happy faces in the above photo, doing this kinda thing requires some serious backbone. When you get into the editor's office, you hand him or her a batch (10-20 cartoon roughs). You sit and watch while the editor goes through them, one by one, separating them out into two piles. You look at those piles and hope that the larger one of the two are the "holds." After being handed your rejections, you walk out of the office, and up the street, to the next highest paying market. Your holds stay at the magazine's offices.

The next week, you do the process all over again. Hopefully all or some of those holds are handed back to you and you're told that they have gone from "hold" to "a buy." You can always tell a buy when you see the editor's "OK" on the rough. You, the successful cartoonist, will then be asked to do a finish by next week.

Above: an autograph from New Yorker cartoonist Ed Fisher, with one helluva kind sentiment. He wrote it in ED FISHER'S FIRST FOLIO, which I had brought in to the NYer office on one Tuesday some years back. FISHER is an unappreciated cartoonist in my opinion, who had a stellar style.


Party Peeps said...

I loved reading about Cartoon Look Day in Mort Gerberg's "Cartooning. The Art and the Business." A fantastic read. Perhaps it's true that "Wednesday's Child is full of woe."

V G Myers said...

Actually, the look days at many magazines continued until the mid 80's and truly tapered off around 1985-86. At that point any remaining markets were dealt with through the mail. Making the rounds was a fun time while it happened though. At the end of the day the best part began when you sat down with your cartoonist friends and talked shop for hours at a local restaurant, (much to the chagrin of an impatient waiter anticipating his tip.). V G Myers