Monday, May 08, 2023

Sam Gross 1933 - 2023


Sam Gross, a master cartoonist, a one of a kind soul, and a friend, has passed away. He was 89. 

(Photo of Sam Gross from the Virtual Memories site.)


His cartoons are outstanding and outrageous. I’m not even showing any of his shocking National Lampoon work. He was a typical New Yorker: grumbling on the outside, but a kind soul deep down. He was a businessman and he got projects for other cartoonists. 


He made sure I was welcome and was always there if needed. When I edited a book of cartoons Maine cartoons titled Lobster Therapy, he was happy to give me a cover blurb. (“Lobsters are funny looking. This book isn’t funny looking. It’s only funny.”)  

He helped me with advice on contracts, he talked to me about his process and was my conduit to meeting many of the New Yorker regulars. “Have you met Mike Lynch?”



For years, I was one of many contributors to the annual dog and cat cartoon calendars he edited for Barnes and Noble. 


When I moved out of Brooklyn to New England, he was the first cartoonist to call me. “So, you’re in the land of cheap booze,” he told me. (New Hampshire has no sales taxes. He had a sister who also lived here, so he knew.) 


There are a lot of tributes from friends and fans all ready. We all agree that Sam was the funniest and the best.

Michael Maslin:

Anyone who spent time with Sam found him to be an interesting blend of outspoken, kind, opinionated, and barrel-full of tales of the old days. All of this roiled around anytime one spoke with him. Oh, and I left out funny. Ofttimes — most times! — he hurled the f-bomb. I have not yet met a cartoonist who did not do an impersonation of him. The ingredients are as follows: a fast talking delivery, in a low gravelly voice, accompanied by a slew of f-bombs. 

The world of cartoon collections was enriched by Sam’s stewardship of a series published over the years (including Cats! Cats! Cats!, Food! Food! Food!, and Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!).That part of him that retained the bookkeeping DNA of his younger days made sure to keep the contributors informed of every penny earned and distributed. He was fair, he was businesslike, and he expected the same from publishers of books and magazines. He was the go-to guy for cartoon contract advice, and for so many younger cartoonists, he was the go-to guy for cartoon advice in general. 

If there was a Mt. Rushmore for cartoonists, Sam would of course qualify. Not just for the tremendous body of work (he kept track of, and numbered every drawing), but for his deep commitment to the art form, and to this cartoon community.    

Marisa Acocella:

Back then, Sam and I talked every Monday before our Tuesday meeting. Sam always believed in me, even when my belief in myself faltered. His great advice was “just show up”. He called his unbought cartoons his ”golden oldies”, and would often re-submit them with success. He told me to go back to them and re-submit them every once in a while.
I remember he would tell me to be a ”street rat” to survive as a cartoonist. Hit the street and go after the work. He was always a source of inspiration to me and gave the best advice. He’s a character in my graphic memoir Cancer Vixen and a major presence in my life. 
This past year, my father passed, and, although Sam was in the hospital, he always asked about my mother when we spoke on the phone. She would get on the phone with him and the three of us would talk. He was always so generous and concerned about other people, even when his own health was failing. I am grateful that every time I spoke to him, I had the opportunity to tell him how much l loved him. He would always tell me “I love you, too, kid.”
Sam Gross was the funniest of us. He was generous as an artist and as a friend. If you were a cartoonist, Sam had your back

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