Ralph Pekor: “Smiling Jesus” Artist, Folsom Prison Inmate #21692, Cartoonist

If you take a look at Ink Spill‘s “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z “ you’ll notice that there are, at present, one hundred and thirty-two members of the Spill‘s “One Club.”  One Club membership is limited to those cartoonists whose work appeared just once in The New Yorker (the One Club icon    appears beside each member’s entry).  Most of these One Clubbers have thin biographies; I’ve found over the years that it’s tough tracking down much at all about them other than their one cartoon appearance. There’ve been exceptions when a One Clubber went on to other things outside the New Yorker.  Ted Key, who created the comic strip character Hazel, would be an example. B. Kliban is another. Occasionally, a relative of a One Clubber will write in to the Spill and provide much needed biographical information. But mostly, One Clubbers are anonymous other than for their one cartoon that appeared in one issue of The New Yorker. Such was the case for Ralph Dubois Pekor, whose one cartoon (below) appeared in the issue of May 18, 1948. His entry (soon to be updated) looks like this:  Ralph Pekor NYer work: 1 drawing, May 18, 1946

Recently a gentleman wrote to me asking where exactly Mr. Pekor’s drawing was to be found in that May 18, 1946 issue. Mr. Pekor’s name appears in The New Yorker‘s database but he had signed his one New Yorker cartoon “Peek,” thus allowing for some confusion.

An email back-and-forth about Mr. Pekor’s past (once the Pekor/Peek mystery was solved) led to more information than I could’ve possibly imagined; I was provided links to newspaper articles, and a photograph. Not only did I learn when and where Mr. Pekor was born (Columbus Georgia June 14, 1901) and died (January 6th, 1957, Phoenix, Arizona) but discovered a fascinating television profile on him.

These pieces, and more information  found by scouring the internet provided a fuller picture of an artist with a developing career out in Hollywood in “theatrical public relations,” as a “bit player,” and as a published cartoonist. Within a decade of his arrival out west he was serving time in Folsom Prison for manslaughter.

The particulars of his case from newspaper accounts tell of a court case that saw Mr. Pekor draw the scene of what he described as an accidental shooting. In 1937, driving along a road in California, Mr. Pekor and William Williamson, “a movie-struck farmer from Missouri”  — commonly described in news accounts as a “cowboy” —  stopped to shoot at beer cans. Mr. Pekor told the court he did not intend to shoot the cowboy. The jury found that he shot and killed the cowboy on purpose.

While in prison, Pekor painted murals on the prison walls (including a take on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper;  Pekor was rumored to have used inmates as models for the disciples). Released from Folsom, Pekor wound up in New Mexico’s state prison (convicted of fraud) from which he eventually escaped. He then landed in Florida’s Raiford Prison, where one of his latest paintings, his “Smiling Christ” or “Smiling Jesus” (which he signed as “The Old Timer”) brought him a different kind of fame than the cowboy shooting. From the Pan American, October 1957: “In a short time the ‘smiling christ’ has attracted the attention of the world outside the walls of Raiford. Copies of Pekor’s work  has been sought by churches, magazines and individuals and have won international mention.”

Released from Raiford, Pekor was arrested in Tennessee on a larceny charge, then extradited to New Mexico.  Serving a life term there as a “habitual criminal” he was granted a mercy parole at age 56 when it was discovered he was dying of cancer.  He died just days after his release.





Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; Bob Eckstein’s Writer’s Digest Conference Graphic Account; Today’s Daily Shouts…And Yesterday’s

Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon: Teresa Burns Parkhurst on empty-nesting.

Ms. Parkhurst has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2017. See more of her work here.



A Graphic Account Of Interest By Bob Eckstein

Mr. Eckstein (aka the World’s Leading Snowman Expert) has graphically captured the recent  Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in NYC. See it all here on Literary Hub

Mr. Eckstein began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007. Visit his website here.


Today’s Daily Shouts

Ali Fitzgerald’s “America!: Prehistoric Political Ads”

Visit her website here.

And Yesterday’s : “Dating Material: Everything You’ll Need For Class This Year” by Olivia de Recat (who has been contributing cartoons to The New Yorker since 2018) and writer, Julia Edelman.

Visit Olivia de Recat’s website here.

…and Julia Edelman’s website here.



Product Watch: The New New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Game; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Product Watch: The New New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Game

Spotted on Facebook yesterday, this newest home version of The New Yorker‘s popular Cartoon Caption Contest. Shown is the “custom box” along with a screen grab with some of the product info.



The Caption Contest has spawned at least two other products of note: A book in 2008, and an earlier play-at-home version.


Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Bed bugs are back in the news. See today’s Daily by Emily Flake, who has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2008. Visit her website here.


Personal History: “It’s For You”; Article Of Interest: Pia Guerra; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Personal History: “It’s For You”

According to a quick run through of The New Yorker‘s archives, there have been at least ten cartoons published in its history with this exact caption: “It’s for you.”  The earliest belongs to Richard Taylor (it appeared in the issue of March 8, 1941). Charles Barsotti had one in the issue of May 18, 1987, Donald Reilly in September 10, 1990, Mick Stevens in June 13, 2011, and Danny Shanahan in the issue of June 11th, 2001 (below).











For whatever reason, the other five of the ten are my responsibility. The first, shown at the top of this post appeared in The New Yorker issue of October 10, 1983. The next four: July 12, 2010 (clown and pie), December 3, 2012 (clown and banana peel), and August 4, 2008 (fish and hook). The most recent was in the issue of June 24, 2019 (peacocks).

  As you’ll see below,  clowns appear twice, but otherwise the drawings have nothing much in common except the caption and the cartoonist.





One might think (and I’ve wondered it myself) if I’ve returned over the years to this caption because it’s been good to me. The answer is: mostly no. Obviously, I have returned to it, but not on purpose. All five of these ideas came to me, as ideas always do, unexpectedly, in a great rush, and outta the blue. Will there be a sixth “It’s for you.”  That’s for me not to know at the moment, and for me to find out.


Article Of Interest: Pia Guerra

From Michael Cavna in The Washington Post, August 23, 2019, “How Pia Guerra became one of the Trump era’s most moving political cartoonists”

Ms. Guerra began contributing to The New Yorker in 2017.  __________________________________________________________________________________

Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

David Sipress on Trump. Mr. Sipress has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1998. See some of his work here on The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Bank site.

Robert Leighton’s New Book; The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of September 2, 2019; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Robert Leighton’s New Book: Just out from Workman, Puzzlelopedia, by long-time New Yorker cartoonist and puzzle meister, Robert Leighton (with fellow Puzzability team members Amy Goldstein and Mike Shink). Spill visitors might remember this piece on one of Mr. Leighton’s classic New Yorker drawings (below).

Here’s Mr. Leighton’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Robert Leighton Born May 23, 1960, Long Island, NY. A puzzle writer as well as a cartoonist, Leighton is one of three partners who founded the puzzle-writing company, Puzzability. See: The New Yorker Book of Cartoon Puzzles and Games (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2006), authored by Puzzability. Mr. Leighton’s New Yorker work: 2002 – .  Website: https://www.robert-leighton.com/



                   The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of September 2, 2019

                         The Cover: Here’s Kadir Nelson on his latest cover (titled “Heat Wave”).

                         The Cartoonists & Cartoons:

Maggie Larson’s name isn’t listed above, so I’m mentioning her here as she contributes a two-column wide color Sketchpad drawing titled “The Subway Valley Floor.” Eighteen pages later is a  full page color Liana Finck Sketchbook contribution,“Some Relationship Models” (Ms. Finck’s name appears on the Table of Contents).

There are but nine single panel cartoon contributions in this issue (I think most would agree that Ms. Larson’s and Ms. Finck’s drawings fall outside of that classification by virtue of their assigned haedings). Illustrations, as has been the case in modern times, occupy more graphic real estate than the cartoons.  There are sixteen of them (including photographs), including four full pages.

                     Rea Irvin’s Talk Masthead: Switched out in May of 2017 for a redrawn version, Mr. Irvin’s iconic Talk masthead (shown below) sadly continues to collect dust. Read about it here.


Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Tim Hamilton on G7.  Mr. Hamilton began contributing to The New Yorker in 2016. Visit his website here.