In a recent exchange of emails with a couple of fellow cartoonists the subject of the weekly batch of drawings came up. It’s not an unusual topic between cartoonists, as the batch is what binds us all together, weekly. The batch — “the batch” referring to the drawings you come up with and then submit to the New Yorker — is your grab for the golden ring, or, when things don’t go well, your ball and chain. Without the batch you have no shot at The New Yorker (you gotta be in it to win it!), and sadly, sometimes (or most times) even with the batch, you still don’t have much of a shot.
Every cartoonist has their own system of approaching Tuesdays, when the batch is sent in, or brought in to the magazine’s offices. On Tuesday mornings I take a long hard look at the work I’ve done all week and decide which of the new drawings are worthy to submit. Usually a few –- or on really bad days, more than a few — don’t make the cut. Either a drawing suddenly seems nonsensical, or not quite “there” or just plain awful. How could it be that a drawing that seemed so promising one day appears so worthless the next? I don’t know –- all I know is that it happens on a regular basis.
The awful drawings are never submitted. Instead they’re placed into a folder I’ve labeled “Bad Batch” – it’s my cartoon Siberia, or perhaps, cartoon Hell. I’ve rarely looked through that folder, but when I have, I’ve found myself saying, “And you call yourself a cartoonist!”
Perhaps, for me, the most interesting thing about this folder is why it exists. If a piano falls on me tomorrow, do I really want my children seeing these?
It may be that the Bad Batch exists as a reminder. The drawings within are the very bottom of my barrel full of monkeys (sorry, couldn’t resist). They are the product of muse-less days. I don’t need to look at these awful drawings -– just knowing they’re there is inspiration enough.