As I mentioned in my journal entitled An All Around Nice Guy, my father-in-law had a quirky sense of humor. He found certain odd things strangely funny. I was newly married to his daughter Jen in 1979, when he started talking about how fun it would be to team up with his jokes and my art to produce cartoons for the New Yorker Magazine!
The New Yorker cartoons were known for their off-beat sense of humor and one had to usually think for a second or two in order to find the humor. Bruce thought we had a chance to get something published and I was ready to give it a go.
When I was a kid, I had a creative friend, Paul, up the road who also came up with cartoon ideas. He was the brains of the operation and I was the cartoonist. Nothing ever came from it. I can’t even remember what the cartoons were about. He’s still creative, having a long career in radio and TV. Even though I’m certainly no cartoonist, the early creative training was fun and challenging.
The first collaboration with Bruce was called Pie in the Sky. He thought it would be funny for two businessmen to be standing on the sidewalk, looking up at a plane skywriting the numerical Pi. The expression “Pie in the sky” became popular after WWII, figuratively referring to the unlikely prospect of future happiness.
We waited it out for a few weeks only to receive a letter of rejection! At least they were nice enough to mail it back to us.
Our next try was a tough, old-school boss saying to a long-haired kid/employee, “Frankly, Comstock, I no longer like the cut of your jib.” The humor was the glaring difference between the new generation and the old, what employers had to put up with. The young man without his jacket, his sleeves rolled up and his tie too short is the antithesis of old-school business. The image of the gruff boss declaring that he didn’t like the cut of Comstock’s jib caused Bruce to chuckle at his own joke! :-)
Rejected again! So far we weren’t making it in New York.
Our third attempt was based on Bruce’s continued frustration with cars and mechanics. Under the hood, cars were beginning to get much more complicated. Mechanics would say they fixed something, charge you an arm and a leg and invariably the problem was still there, causing you to have to take the car back into the shop. Bruce had a vision in his head of a so called “Master Mechanic”, a self-proclaimed auto guru looking under the hood of the car with his arms up in the air yelling “Heal!!”
I can still see Bruce laughing, describing the local gas station guy. My Dad had a mechanic named Carlos who owned the local Citgo. He was quite the character, so I modeled my drawing after him. I thought the Diehard battery would add a bit of irony.
The third time wasn’t the charm. Again we received the cartoon back in the mail with a nice letter of rejection. It was the end of my cartoon career. The use of pen and ink was always a little nerve wracking because every mark was permanent. Bruce saved the cartoons and I just came across them looking through storage. I thought you might get a kick out of some of my early work.
Art comes in many forms and cartoons provide all of us with much needed humor. Success certainly came to Charles Schultz and his Charlie Brown comic strip. Walt Disney turned Mickey Mouse into comics, movies, Disneyland etc…
Unfortunately, for Wallace-Beebe and our three attempts to get our cartoons into the New Yorker, it was all Pie in the Sky!!!!