I found something I was looking for the other day: a log of cartoons I kept in my nascent years of cartooning. Looking through I realized that the only drawings I sold in the Fall of 1977 — right after breaking into The New Yorker — were to Esquire. During that year Esquire was being retooled by its new owner, Clay Felker, whose long career in magazine publishing included founding New York magazine.
Following the purchase of five of my cartoons, I was summoned uptown to Esquire’s offices to meet Clay Felker and Milton Glaser, who was redesigning the magazine. I don’t know why I was called in –- my memory is that it was a meet and greet and not really a meeting about cartoons. The old Esquire had a long history of publishing cartoons; the current thinking must’ve been that they’d continue the tradition.
Sometime after my meeting, I received, via mail, the bought cartoons. The legendary Harvey Kurtzman ( their cartoon editor, I suppose – it wasn’t made clear to me) included notes for me to follow as I did finishes for what the editors assumed were rough drawings (I thought they were already finished). Harvey had taped tracing paper over the drawings with his penciled edit instructions pointing to the required changes. He also told me I needed to put overlays on my work and add some kind of ink as wash (he was precise about the ink, I just don’t remember what it was called). I’d never heard of overlays, but my local art supply store was more than happy to sell me some. I was in the process of learning what to do with these overlays and the inky substance when word came to me that Esquire had decided not to use cartoons after all. Although there was the following in the notification: “We will continue to run cartoon material, such as strips and an occasional feature…” the Esquire single panel cartoon was history.
I must’ve sent some of my overlay attempts back to Esquire — only one remains in my files. I include it here, with and without the overlay. I’m still not sure what that red inky stuff is that I splashed all over the overlay. Whatever it was, it was more than I could handle.