20 years at the old drawing board

I spent about 20 years as a cartoonist. 1976 to 1995. For about 10 years I did it as a full-time job.

I considered myself an underground/alternative cartoonist. Whatever that meant. I always knew my sensibilities weren’t orientated for a mainstream audience. I couldn’t do a “Peanuts” or “Dagwood and Blondie” type of comic strip (and the one time I attempted to do one, R. Crumb himself mocked me: “I’m dizz-gusted!! There are a thousand candy-ass suburban cartoonists that can do that stuff better than you. Get thee back to underground comix.”)

Even as I felt I was so brilliant — self-centered egomaniac that I was — that I would find a mass audience anyways.

But it never really happened. With my Twisted Image comic strip I set my sights on the “alternative weeklies.” Papers like the Bay Guardian and the East Bay Express here in the San Francisco area. Or the Village Voice — the granddaddy of the alternative newspapers. But I could never quite break into those markets. My strip generally appeared in the second-rank alternative papers. One step below the big time. I always felt like a minor league baseball player who was a star on that level, but could never quite break into the Major Leagues. (Though this one, printed in color, was from HIGH TIMES magazine, which was as close as I’d get to a mainstream audience — I’d walk into a 7-11 and see HIGH TIMES in the magazine section and say to myself “I’m in there!” Ha ha)

And I always accepted that. The audience — not the editors — basically decides your fate. What level of success you succeed at. A mass audience either wants to read your shit. Or they don’t. They’d rather read some other cartoonist. And you end up, at best, with a certain “cult status.” And that’s about it. That’s the game.

2 thoughts on “20 years at the old drawing board

  1. I’ve tried to make it as a novelist for the past five years, so I feel the pain. Thirty-five novels in that time-span and I still can’t get anything but the lowest rates. Somethings don’t change.

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