Back when Jimmy Carter was President, cartoonists could still experience what was left of something known as the “Look Day.” That was the day of the week cartoonists would make the rounds of magazines in Manhattan, beginning their day with showing work at The New Yorker, where the pay was highest, and then proceeding around town, dropping by other publications. In The Comics Journal last year, the New Yorker’s former Cartoon Editor, Lee Lorenz told Richard Gehr that in his early cartooning days, he’d make the rounds and eventually stop by “1000 Jokes, where you’d go at the end of the day with whatever you hadn’t sold.”
I recently unearthed some pages I long ago ripped from the 1973 Writer’s Yearbook. The article, “Cartoon Markets” lists 54 markets in the United States. Of those, 29 were in Manhattan.
By the time I moved to New York, in 1977, there were very few magazines left that allowed cartoonists to drop by and show their wares. The New Yorker was just about the last place where you could eyeball the cartoon editor, and perhaps get some feedback. Even at the New Yorker, only a select group saw Lee Lorenz – one had to be invited back to the Art Department.
In those first years I went to the New Yorker, I wasn’t asked back, but made the weekly trip uptown anyway; I enjoyed taking the subway to the magazine, riding the elevator to the art department’s floor, dropping off my work with the disinterested receptionist, stepping back on the elevator, and returning to my apartment in Greenwich Village. Unless someone had asked me for directions, I was silent for the entire round trip.
One afternoon, after dropping off a new batch at The New Yorker and picking up the rejects from last week, I decided, in a oh-what-the-hell moment, to bring the rejects over to a popular women’s magazine; I’d read there was a cartoon editor there who would see cartoonists. It was the first time I’d be face-to-face with someone sitting in judgment of my work.
After being shown into the editor’s office and invited to take a seat, I handed over my folder of cartoons and began settling in to my chair. Before I had time to pull up my drooping socks, the editor flipped through the drawings — this took at most twenty seconds — then handed back my folder and said, “There’s nothing here I haven’t seen before.” Then silence. No chit-chat, no helpful suggestions – just the cold hard reality of an editorial smack down. Following that episode I never brought my work to a cartoon editor again, preferring to let the US Post Office, and in recent years, the internet, act as my proxy; the internet handles rejection just fine.