Tag Archives: cartoon

Cooling it

It’s suddenly that time of year when my hand is sticking to the page, because of the humidity. It’s time to break out those cooling summer cartoons! An issue of the New Yorker makes a nice face shield. And you can use the back issues – you know you’ve got them lying around – to cover your other body parts.

I did this one a few years ago and am still waiting for the movie to be made about this summer superhero.

spf super heroFor this week’s issue I thought of a similar idea. Full disclosure: I got my grad school degree in drawing shade. My professors said it was at least 5 degrees cooler than the other students. So it seems like a good thing for me to focus on.








Filed under Cartoons, New yorker


Where did the last two weeks go?

Oh yeah – now I remember. I was in Austria, along with Matthew Diffee and Paul Noth. We were asked to come host a symposium in Wels with a bunch of other very talented cartoonists from Austria and Germany, and so we did, after one of us was – ahem – detained by the Swiss police over passport issues.

On the way there, we did our Fisticuffs! show in Linz, Austria, as part of the Next Comic Festival at the university.



Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 9.10.57 AM Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 9.15.54 AM Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 9.17.45 AM

And although the battle was fierce, we all lived. (Which is true, but we also suffered head wounds from getting kicked by a large cartoon boot).


So we moved on to our symposium in Wels. It was an honor, but also somewhat intimidating, to be “teaching” to people who were pretty accomplished in their own right.

IMG_4728Luckily, there was no awkwardness whatsoever. I think we all appreciated everybody else’s talents and it became a big, goofy hangout session, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, we had the theatre at the Medien Kultur Haus booked click here to finish reading this post


Filed under Cartoons, events, Uncategorized


What does this post have to do with R. Kelly? Nothing, really. But keep reading anyway.


Awkward situations always make great comedy. For my cartoon that appears in this week’s New Yorker, I was thinking about those performers who get right in your face on the subway and demand that you pay attention to them. Of course, you never ever want to do that. What would happen if one of them found a way to get sweet revenge, and to confront you in a place where you couldn’t merely look away or pretend that they weren’t there? I thought of a situation where a singer somehow followed a guy into his office building elevator, and I drew it up like this:


Good enough, but I wasn’t sure the drawing was getting the job done. I like how you enter into the elevator the same way this employee does; you identify with him and so you’re drawn into the scene. It’s a dramatic way to set it up. But I thought maybe it was too dramatic. I don’t like how you can’t see the rest of the elevator. It somehow makes it scary, like there’s something hidden in there, but that’s not part of the joke. Also, by positioning him outside the elevator, he looks like he’s maybe not going to walk in, and the whole point is that he can’t avoid the situation. And I didn’t want to draw both of them inside the elevator from this angle because it’s forcing them into a space that’s too small. The narrative element would be lost. So I drew it from another vantage point:


This was the one that the editors approved. It’s a little less dramatic this way because as the viewer, you’re now an outside observer instead of identifying with one of the characters, but it works a little better. I mean, they both work – look, we’re not trying to solve world hunger here! I don’t even know if we’re trying to solve world laughter. But even for cartoons, if it’s worth doing, then its worth doing well, because if even one person can spend money on a New Yorker magazine instead of spending it on food, then I will have done my job. (And now I guess we know where I stand on world hunger.)

Another issue was that the viewer’s vantage point is a little too high. The reader should be standing in the elevator with the two people, not hovering above it. So I experimented with perspectives. I know – so much to think about! When do we get off this ride, right?


And that kind of looks like a notebook page from anyone who took drawing 101 and had to learn about vanishing points. For some reason it took me more attempts than usual to nail this:


It’s still not perfect. It might be funnier if the space was tighter and a little more uncomfortable, and it might have been better to widen the room (in other words, making the perspective not technically correct) in order to more easily show that it’s an elevator door. But I don’t know if I could do both of those things simultaneously. And in trying, there would probably be some cartooning version of Occam’s razor that I’d be violating in overthinking it. So this is the way it appears: 


Man, I’m exhausted by that! Let’s all go eat something.

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Work in Progress

Orange-PylonThis pylon is going to be here for a long time, because I’ve only just started working on my first children’s book. Did you know that? I suppose I should have made some formal kind of announcement.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ve written a children’s book that’s going to be published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt, some time in 2015.

So yeah, that’s out of the way. I’m illustrating it, too, and I couldn’t be more excited to be doing it. It’s been fun working with Christy so far, even though we’re still in the early stages of nailing down the final product (Christy said “cartoonists are usually good with deadlines,” but I’m wondering if that’s an observation that’s not shared by all in the industry). It doesn’t sound like a huge step up – it’s a 32-page picture book – but it’s definitely a major transition from small black-and-white spot drawings to full pages in color. And at the end of the book the reader can’t say “I don’t get it,” like some people do when they read my cartoons… come on, nobody does that, do they?

I don’t want to say what the book is about, but I wanted to show a teaser of the first part of the process: writing, editing, sketching, rough layouts. There’s also a fair amount of coffee built into each step, but you already know what that looks like.

photo 1Even within the framework of a standard picture book, there are different layout options that are available, depending on what you want to do with the story. You can’t just add or subtract a few pages at the end. So that’s the first step. click here to see more pics


Filed under Children's book

Pizza time, right?

Pizza is a great subject for humor. Because it’s a classic food that can be personally customized, it’s got that “traditional vs. modern” dichotomy going on right there on top of the crust. And then there is the topic of pizza toppings, which lends itself to all kinds of ridiculousness. I answered the question this way in the book The Rejection Collection Vol. 2: The Cream of the Crap (a must-read if you don’t own it already):

nostalgiaand I stand by that, but that’s hard to put into a cartoon.

Metaphors are even worse pizza toppings, but I’ve long tried to get a cartoon published that accomplishes just that. I succeeded in this week’s edition of the New Yorker; the published cartoon is here, and this is the rough version I submitted:

couple agree pizza toppings solve problemsThe above cartoon plays off the same idea as this one, which I’ve had rejected a number of times:

pizza toppings all peopleBut that cartoon is at least better than this one on the topic of self-as-pizza-topping, which nobody will ever, ever see but which was thankfully rejected:

man pizza comfort food means something differentIn terms of what the worst-ever pizza topping is, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out. It already exists, and somebody has said it a lot better than myself:

grumpy cat




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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

Apostrophes: those naughty little buggers



You might think my cartoon in this week‘s New Yorker is a copyediting joke to appeal to the punctuation police, the nerds who are always getting upset about these things. That view is dangerous, because it overlooks the fact that punctuation can be objectively bad. They get away with it, because most of the time they’re so small that we don’t notice what they’re really doing. But if you are able to zoom in on your screen or with a pair of magnifying glasse’s ( <see what I mean? Stupid apostrophe inserted himself in there when i wasn’t looking) you will often be shocked at how horrible apostrophes really are:




apostrophe_mileyAnd it’s not just apostrophes. Quotation marks can be just as repellent:


Or, as T.S. Eliot wrote:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a misplaced semicolon;

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