Delayed warning shot

rejectedI submitted this cartoon to the New Yorker in 2007 and it was rejected. It was an almost-but-not-quite kind of idea, but worth revisiting.

I finally got around to revisiting the idea a while ago, and came up with a much simpler and better setup, which appears in this week‘s New Yorker:




131223_cartoon_101_a17864_p465So it took six years to come up with a better cartoon for this one simple idea. The process wasn’t so simple, but as I retrace my steps in those six years, I can definitely see the formula for success. My approach was to say “whatever,” move on to the next thing, forget completely that I had ever done this cartoon in the first place, go to sleep, get up the next day and drink coffee, eat and drink as I usually do, work at some stuff, work at some other stuff, get up earlier some days and later some days, do social things every once in a while, try to eat healthy, go on vacation, waste time on the internet, try to lead a normal life, try not to lead a boring life, go to the doctor, return my DVD copy of the Wire Season 3 Episodes 1-2 because it was scratchy, decide to sign up for honors points at hotels in case I ever need to use them but then forget what my password is, have my appendix explode, have a bunch of relationship problems, drink a bunch of Shiner Bock one summer for some reason, go to a baseball game at Wrigley Field for the first time, buy long-sleeved shirts in the springtime when they’re cheaper because stores are trying to clear them out, do a Vine video, Google “Murray Head” because I didn’t know he was the guy who sang “One Night in Bangkok” because who needs to know that information, get rid of a bunch of books I don’t need anymore, upgrade my phone, and then wake up one day and then think “hey – I have a funny idea about warning shots that’s better than the one I had several years ago.”

This process was all pretty intentional, and it worked so well that I’m going to use it for every cartoon I do that gets rejected. But I don’t want to be protective of it. I’m happy to share this process with you for you to use in your work as you see fit.



Filed under Cartoons, New yorker

12 responses to “Delayed warning shot

  1. I don’t have a good reply. But I’m hoping to have one in three to five years.

  2. Ben

    Interesting differences between the drawings. In the first one, I thought the joke was that the third target on the wall was “warning shots” from the unseen Officer Salvati. The implied joke seemed to be that the “warning shots” weren’t warning shots at all but lethal shots. I didn’t even notice the target on the ceiling and it wasn’t clear that the second officer was looking up.

    Only after looking at the revised version did I realize the intent of the original version. In this light, I don’t think it’s that funny to have targets on the ceiling. It was funnier (in a disturbing sort of funny) to me when it seemed to say that the officers were firing warning shots intended to kill… which also has more social commentary. But maybe that’s just because I live in Northern California where we have a problem with police killing innocent and harmless people year after year.

  3. So basically, the first cartoon was just a warning shot to the New Yorker.

  4. Ron

    I thought the exact same thing as the commenter, Ben. In a way, it reveals another and more uncontrollable aspect of the creative process, the unintended reading of a work, which often results in a much funnier/richer/deeper/more clever statement than that which is consciously being made by the artist.

  5. Patrik

    Man, that was a Pynchon-ian list of things.

  6. Jeff

    I like the first one better, but not for the reason Ben states. It takes a little more effort to “get”, so the payoff is greater. In the second version, the joke is obvious immediately, invokes little reaction, and I quickly move on.

  7. Pingback: Friday Varia and Quick Hits | The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

  8. S

    Hi, I guess I’m slow or something, but I still don’t “get” the first one… but laughed at the revised/second one. Thanks for sharing your process! It think it worked well!

    • Mark Spyker

      Me too, S! I only ‘got’ the 1st one after seeing the 2nd one (I hadn’t even noticed the target above their heads)! I like his approach too because it validates the natural inclinations of ADD types like myself, who jump from project to project anyway, but now without the guilt!

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