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If I think a cartoon that I have written is super funny or clever and I am just pleased as punch with it, almost invariably that is one where I get letters from people who don’t understand it. Either that, or they are offended by it. Conversely, if I think a cartoon I’ve written just sucks and I’m embarrassed for the day to arrive that it will run and I cringe whenever I think of it, ashamed that I just phoned it in that day? Well, that’s the day where everyone tells me how much they loved it, how they cut it out and put it on the refridgerator. How they emailed it to their friends. You’d think I’d be better at this by now.
…Sometimes, I really don’t think I can count on MY ability to tell if something is funny or not. Which is unfortunate, because I am writing mainly to please ME.
This has happened so many times that I know it’s a real phenomenon, and my best friend and I joke about it. If I tell her I wrote a cartoon that I just love, she’ll say, “Well, then I know I’M gonna hate it.” And then we laugh. Because it’s true.
You know my least favorite thing? When someone reads one of my cartoons (one that I like), looks at me very seriously and says, “I don’t get it.” I always find myself going, “But wait, see here? In the second panel when he gets the blood shrunken heads out of the drawer? THAT’S the funny part. See? Ha ha. The FUNNY part. Look at his expression and…” While they just stare at me like I’m sad and deluded and I’ve just grown two heads.
When I was syndicated this happened with my editor a few times. She’d email me and ask me what a cartoon meant. She’d say that no one in the office understood it. And then, after writing out a big explanation about what it meant and what the funny parts were, I’d realize that if I have to explain something, it’s NOT funny. That’s ALWAYS depressing. Weeding out gags at the writing stage was best. At the drawing stage was worse, but still ok. At the inking stage was always a pisser. But if I went to the trouble to draw, ink, scan and touch up a gag and THEN it was weeded out? That ALWAYS pissed me off. Not because I was mad at the person telling me it sucked (because it’s better to weed out weak gags than to let them run), but because I don’t have a lot of extra time and time wasted on a lame cartoon that will never see the light of day is time I’ll never get back.
But, if someone wants to tell me how much they love a cartoon of mine, I NEVER tell them if I secretly loathe that cartoon and really think it sucks. Nope. I’m not crazy. I’ll take my strokes where I can get ‘em, thank you very much! And if enough people tell me how much they like a certain cartoon I’ve drawn, I have been known to change my mind and come around to liking it too. But if someone tells me they hate a cartoon that I love? Well… that doesn’t change my feelings in the slightest.
One does want to be part of the crowd, but there’s no need to be a ZEALOT about it.