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Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder

Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meeting Cy Hungerford

An email from fellow cartoonist Justin Green recounted his first brush with a professional cartoonist when Justin was 14. An excerpt:

"How well I remember the cold December day in ‘59 when I marched through the golden revolving doors of the Tribune Towers and demanded to see Carey Orr, as if that was my birthright. I was only 14. It was so windy that I was literally carried aloft for a few steps by my gigantic portfolio on the bridge over the Chicago River. The kindly guard said that he would give my message to Mr. Orr. Fifteen minutes later, he brought down a finished panel with apologies from the old master. “Mr. Orr is not able to speak with you at this time, but he wants you to have this drawing.” I was as overwhelmed by the gesture as by the look of the thing: it was four times bigger than a published piece and it had little notations in the margins and visible blue pencil! I thought his front page cartoons were drawn to scale, directly in ink."

Justin's memory prompted my own equivalent:

A relative of mine in Pittsburgh learned that I’d been hired at the Enquirer and wrangled an invitation for me to visit with the ancient editorial cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cy Hungerford. Cy was maybe 85 at the time and continued to come to work and draw a tired old editorial cartoon daily, even after they’d thrown several retirement parties for him. I drove to Pittsburgh, heart in throat, as I’d never met a cartoonist of any kind before.

Cy was burrowed into this cave of an office like an old badger from The Wind in the Willows. In memory he was drawing with a quill pen, though that is almost certainly not true; but it is true that his inkwell was now a mound like an anthill with a hole in the middle, the result of years and years of dribbled ink. It reminded me of candlewax down the sides of a chianti bottle, or a stalagmite on the floor of a cave. Cy looked at me through his thick glasses and spent an hour telling me about his career: drawing on assignment at the coronation of Edward VI or somesuch, and the drawings he did when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated, Lincoln was shot, and Anne Boleyn was beheaded. I felt about three inches tall when he asked to see my work. He swept the Magna Carta and Treaty of Versailles off his desk to make room and I laid out the six drawings that constituted my lifetime output of published editorial cartoons. One, I remember, had Gerald Ford riding an elephant.

The sweet man suggested we trade originals. He picked one of mine and gave me one from his drawer showing his character Pa Pitt sitting atop the courthouse commenting on Napoleon’s retreat from Russia, I think. He allowed me to leave feeling almost like a colleague, which made the six-hour drive home seem like an instant.

Feel free to share any memory you might have of meeting your first cartoonist.


at 3/25/08, 11:47 AM Blogger Brubaker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

at 3/25/08, 12:59 PM Blogger Philip Shade said...

Hey, if you're going to do a Clooney, let it be Nick.

at 3/25/08, 1:17 PM Blogger Philip Shade said...

I met cartoonist Rick Beckrich when I started doing design and layout at a weekly, B2B trucking tabloid. He was their circ director and doubled up as their editorial cartoonist - One of his cartoons is here.

One week when he and he cantankerous publisher couldn't come to agreement I drew a piece of fluff to fill. And when he left the paper, I took over the weekly toon altogether.

Rick was a great guy. IN a previous life he worked for a newspaper syndicate as liaison to the cartoonists. He told me how many of these guys rarely left the house. And he would go and have a few drinks, remind them about deadlines, poke fun at their editors and trade spoofs of each others work.

Rick's a great guy, without him I wouldn't have ever drawn an editorial cartoon, let alone a few hundred of them.

at 3/25/08, 2:09 PM Anonymous mr. whig said...

The first cartoonist I ever met, in the late 80s, was Jerry Dowling, so you can imagine what an impression that made.

at 3/25/08, 4:09 PM Blogger Weekly Cartoonist said...

"How To Murder Your Wife" had a big impression on me when I was seven! (Jack Lemmon was the husband in that movie and all I can recall about the story was that he was a cartoonist.) When I was a teenager I heard Bill Mauldin speak at a college in Kentucky. And finally, I met Jim Borgman in Cincinnati when I was in my twenties!

at 3/25/08, 4:13 PM Blogger Weekly Cartoonist said...

There is a superb new book about the comic book controversy and crack down of the fifties: "The Ten-Cent Plague" by David Hajdu.

at 3/25/08, 5:27 PM Blogger EOCostello said...

No such luck with editorial cartoonists; the closest I've come is getting my entire set of Herblocks autographed. Artists don't seem to stroll by New York City that often, and I'm no fan of Sean Delonas (New York Post).

I did meet up with comic book artist Leonardo Batic, a charming and witty Argentine who's done a lot of work for DC Comics. I had the luck to hire him for two small comic book stories I wrote. He came to New York City to deal with Scholastic (for whom he was doing some work), and came by my house and did some sketching.

Some of Hungerford's books are kicking around occasionally on eBay -- I have three from the late 40s and early 50s. I suppose when you're in the twilight of a career, one's cartoons can seem old (I thought Herblock in his last few years had little to say). Many of the cartoons are lost in local Pittsburgh history, but others have a corny humour that, amazingly, stands up.

at 3/25/08, 7:32 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

you mean a real one? i met someone related to schultz, one of the greatest

at 3/25/08, 10:08 PM Anonymous tim of Sioux Falls said...

Although I didn't meet him in person, I spoke to Jeff MacNelly on the phone when I was the cartoonist for a student newspaper at Montana State University in 1984. The first cartoonist I met in person was Bob Taylor of the Dallas Times-Herald in 1986. He allowed me to sit in his studio while he drew a cartoon for the next day's paper. He and I shared an admiration for Roy Peterson, who mailed me one of his originals. Those were three of the most memorable moments in my life. I would be thrilled to meet Jim Borgman. I will be in Cincy Aug. 7 for the Reds-Astros game as part of a bus tour from South Dakota.

at 3/26/08, 12:20 AM Blogger Stacy Curtis said...

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky, and as a kid, I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist, but I didn't actually KNOW any cartoonists face-to-face. No cartoonists came to my classroom on Career Day and though I looked forward to seeing firemen and policemen I always hoped that there would be a cartoonist visit us.

My mom pointed out a newspaper article about a real-live cartoonist who lived in my town, so I picked up the phone, got his contact information, called him up and went to his house to talk to him. That day led to many other afternoons, sitting in his studio or his living room, showing him my work and getting tips on how to make a living as a cartoonist. He's one of the few people in my life who are responsible for helping my dream of being a cartoonist come true. He made being a cartoonist seem possible. And though no one may know his name, his guidance in a time when I needed it most was invaluable to me. His name is Jim Erskine.

Another great experience I've had was meeting Jim Borgman and Jeff Stahler during a summer internship as the editorial cartoonist for The Kentucky Post. It was the first time I had ever lived away from home and though I was extremely nervous about meeting two of my heroes, I was grateful for having these guys look at my work and sit and talk cartooning with me. It was one of the greatest summers ever. I went back to college that Fall fired up having met my heroes.

One of the things I have learned is you're never too busy to have a kid sit by your side and watch you draw. Even if it's only for twenty minutes, all it takes is a spark to create that fire inside a kid who never thought it was possible.

Anyway, that's my story.

at 3/26/08, 4:12 AM Blogger Brubaker said...

My first meeting with cartoonists was at the San Diego Comic Con in 2007. I think the first cartoonist I got to meet in person was Dave Kellett, creator of the popular webcomic "Sheldon." Nice guy, fun person to talk to.

At the same event, I also met Keith Knight, Ted Rall, Greg Evans, Daryl Cagle, Andrew Feinstein, and others. An event I'll never forget.

at 3/26/08, 9:04 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only ever met one cartoonist in my lifetime. He was not necessarily someone I agreed with politically, certainly not all the time, but it was immediately very obvious that he was a kind person with a warm smile and good sense of humor. Now I enjoy the occasional brag "Oh, I met Jim Borgman. He's a really nice guy!"

at 3/26/08, 9:05 AM Blogger Jim Borgman said...

It's interesting that, for many of us, the notoriety or fame of the cartoonist didn't matter that much. The impact on us came more from the quality of time and generosity of spirit that was shown to us.

I still try to pay it forward in that spirit.

at 3/26/08, 10:00 AM Blogger genkiboy said...

i knew stephan pastis growing up in southern california, long before "pearls before swine," without a clue that he even liked to draw...good guy even back then.

at 3/29/08, 11:44 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

well jim, i met you at the snoopy museum... happiest day of my life

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