I didn’t plan to be a professional cartoonist.
In 1998, I started my campaign to cross a particular item off my life list: license a cartoon to The New Yorker magazine. I figured I’d draw 10 or 20, they’d pick one, and I’d move on to trying to host Saturday Night Live. (I’ve become more realistic in the years since and have therefore removed this goal from the list.)
However, I could be realistic then, too. Before my first submission, I reassessed the probability of making a sale quickly and decided I’d better prepare for some rejection. To better weather that, I made myself draw 100 cartoons before sending out the first batch of ten. That way, when that inevitable “no thank you” came, I would not let my disappointment impede my momentum. I’d have the next batch (and eight more after that) ready to go.
Thousands of cartoons later, still no New Yorker. (As a partial defense, I did stop submitting in 2002 to focus on my writing and have yet to get back to it. But I will.)
But sometime before that first 100 had been exhausted, I decided I was creating too much work for a single gamble. So I began to submit the cartoons The New Yorker rejected to other publications.
And four months after I drew the first one, I licensed my first one (which was not the first one I drew). And that began this unexpected side career that I sustain to this day, though it still takes a back seat to the time I spend on writing.
One of my earliest cartoon clients was one of relative few the average person has heard of: Barron's. (There’s a whole world that cartoonists license to that is largely hidden from the general public—non-newsstand specialty magazines, corporate newsletters, custom publications, company holiday cards, etc.)
Between 2005 and 2009, I did not regularly submit cartoons anywhere, but now that many publications finally accept submissions by e-mail (yes, for some it took a while), I’ve gotten back to it with select clients.
Here are my two most recent appearances in Barron's:
And quirkily, American Scientist recently contacted me to license a cartoon I’d sent them…in 1998. Yes, they wanted a cartoon from thirteen years ago, my first year submitting. It just goes to show that, whether cartooning or writing, you never know when you might hear from an editor.
By the way, I wasn’t quite accurate when I wrote I didn’t plan to be a professional cartoonist. I should have specified that, as an adult, I didn’t plan that.
But the first thing I remember wanting to be when I was a kid was indeed a cartoonist. Not a gag cartoonist, like what I became, but rather a strip cartoonist—the kind whose work appears on the comics page of the newspaper. Like many hundreds of others, my greatest influence in that regard was Charles Schulz (and, to a lesser extent, early Jim Davis).