Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Out-Drawn by Kenneth Mahood

Back in 1990, I submitted a half-batch of original cartoons to the New Yorker. They were, I freely admit, not very good, and they were returned to me quite speedily and efficiently and without undo ceremony. I don't believe I kept my rejection letter, but who knows? I have not felt tempted, over the past 23 years, to try again, but the experience nevertheless gave me, some months later, the tantalizing sense that I may not have been all that far off in one of my efforts.

During the 1980's the stock market had shot up dramatically, and people were beginning to get the unrealistic sense that prosperity was going to continue unabated forever. My idea was to liken this attitude to that of the dinosaurs shortly before they became extinct. Totally original and hilarious, right? Maybe not. Well, anyway, this is what I came up with:

"To the glorious Jurassic period!  May it last forever!"
September 11, 1990

Notice that nothing in my caption or my drawing indicates that the subject matter is the economy. I was apparently counting on the viewer to be able to read my mind in order to get the joke. I had the self-assurance of youth that others' brain waves would be totally in synch with my own and that it wasn't necessary for me to clarify my brilliant social commentary in the slightest.

Of course, even if I had refined the caption to make it clear that I was referring to the soaring market, there was no guarantee that anything drawn this crudely could ever be published in
 The New Yorker. The anachronistic lifeboat (get it?) and champagne aren't necessarily the sort of things the magazine's editors find endearing. As with any of my dinosaur drawings, identifying the precise species they belong to is challenging, to say the least. This cartoon was a long way off the mark, and it's fruitless to speculate now whether fixing any or all of its flaws could have altered its fate.

The thing that tantalizes me to this day, though, is that Canadian cartoonist
Kenneth Mahood had a similar idea, and a few months later he had it published in the magazine. Unlike me, he seems to have gotten everything right in his cartoon The Age of Innocence! Mahood's word balloon discusses the ecology before going on to the food supply and only then the economy:"...we've got inflation licked"--no ambiguity there, and finally "...we can go on like this forever!" which drives home the point of their shortsightedness. In my caption, I seem only to have gotten the word forever correct.

Kenneth Mahood, The Age of Innocence
The New Yorker, December 24, 1990, page 44

Kenneth Mahood, The Age of Innocence
The New Yorker, December 24, 1990, page 44

Note:  So while I've been leaving the cartooning to the cartoonists, from time to time I have used this blog to publish examples of how the great illustrators run rings around me. It doesn't really bother me because I know I have only limited talent in this area and my amateur status seems to suit me quite well. You can see examples of how I have been stunningly out-drawn by James Gurney here and by Dr. Seuss here.