Archive for the ‘Cartooning’ Category

Sketchy way to earn a living

July 17, 2022

Back to the ol’ drawing board? Nope.

Back in the late Seventies, when I was more yappy pup than Mad Dog, one of the editors at my second newspaper asked me why I was dead set on becoming an editorial cartoonist.

“I think you’re a better writer than you are a cartoonist,” he said.

Well. Shit. Nobody else around the newsroom seemed to think I was a fledgling Woodward N. Bernstein. Especially me.

I didn’t love reporting, which precedes writing and can be a very heavy lift indeed. When bored witless at school-board meetings I often doodled in my reporter’s notebook. As a consequence coverage could be less than comprehensive. And now here was this authority figure telling me that words, not pictures, were my forte, my future. Bad news.

This wasn’t the first “Check Fiscal Engine” light on my career dashboard, either. An adviser at my first college had told me how many editorial cartoonists were earning a living in the United States (not many then; even fewer now). Might want to cast a wider net, the adviser advised. Instead I dropped out and fished blue-collar ponds for a while.

At my second college another adviser advised that I’d never find any kind of work at a newspaper, unless maybe it was with Ed Quillen, who even then had a reputation for blazing his own trail. As it turned out, this wizard’s palantír was off by seven newspapers, and I didn’t do a lick of work for Ed until I had quit No. 7 and gone rogue. Those who can’t do, etc.

But I digress. Back to Newspaper No 2.

Your Humble Narrator at Newspaper No. 3, circa 1980.

The writing was on the wall, as it were. Happily, I could read. And even write, a little, as long as it didn’t involve first walking up to strangers like some Monty Python constable: “’Ello, ’ello, ’ello … wot’s all this then?” I didn’t care for regular haircuts or wearing a tie, and I only liked meeting strangers over drinks in some dark bar.

But a few years earlier, at Newspaper No. 1, where I was a copy boy, I got to sit in at the copy desk now and then, and I really enjoyed the work. It was why I eventually quit and went to College No. 2, the managing editor having advised that I would pretty much top out as a copy boy without a degree of some sort.

So at Newspaper No. 2, after scanning the writing on the wall for typos, grammatical errors, and AP Style violations, I petitioned to relocate from reporting to the copy desk. And I spent the next decade moving from one copy desk to another, editing other people’s stories, writing headlines and cutlines, sizing photos, laying out pages, and occasionally slipping a cartoon past an editorial-page editor.

And rarely — very rarely — I wrote something under my own byline.

Almost exactly 10 years after I read that writing on the wall, I found myself inching toward the exit at Newspaper No. 7, where I had bounced from the copy desk to the sports desk to the arts magazine to the features desk. There were no chairs left unoccupied and the music was winding down. The idea of courting Newspaper No. 8 — and then Nos. 9, 10, 11, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum —felt like a long pull into a cold headwind.

And yes, I had taken up bicycle racing a couple of years earlier.

Your Humble Narrator post-newspapering, in his second act as a pro cartoonist.

So imagine my astonishment when I stumbled across an ad in Editor & Publisher, the industry’s trade mag. Something called VeloNews wanted a managing editor. I applied. Got an interview. Didn’t get the job.

But I did get hired as a cartoonist. Finally! Pro at last, pro at last, thank God Almighty, I’m pro at last!

Cartooning for VeloNews was my first gig outside newspapering, and cartooning for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would be my last. The Alpha and Omega of my second act, as a freelancer.

In between I did a lot of other stuff, of course. Covered races and trade shows, wrote commentary, edited copy for print and online, dabbled in video and audio. But it was cartooning that brought me in, and cartooning that saw me out.

And you know what’s really funny? I retired six months ago and haven’t drawn a line since. But I just wrote 700-some-odd words, and for free, too, simply because I love doing it.

Maybe that editor was onto something after all.

’Tooned out

January 3, 2022

The Mud Stud, Dude, The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, and Your Humble Narrator bid adieu to their e-assistant and the bicycle industry.

• Editor’s note: Here it is, the first Monday of a new year, the start of a work week in which I will not. Work, that is. For the story, read on.

I never worked in a bike shop.

But I worked on “Shop Talk,” a comic strip about a bike shop, for 30 years.

And that was long enough, I decided. And so the strip ends with the January 2022 edition of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, coming soon to a shop toilet near you.

It was fun while it lasted. And it lasted longer than anyone expected. Especially me.

Entire magazines rose and fell in those three decades. But the Mud Stud, Dude, and a rotating, motley cast of supporting characters remained upright, or at least on their feet, mostly, until I pulled the shop mat out from under them in December 2021.

I nearly did it in December 2020, but BRAIN editor Steve Frothingham talked me out of it. He tried to do it again last month, but that time I stuck to my guns. Pens. Whatevs.

The first installment of one of my favorite “Show Talk” strips about the Interbike trade show. The Mud Stud is offsite at the show and confused, as usual.
• Part 2
• Part 3

It was BRAIN’s first editor, Marc Sani, who talked me into it.

Marc was in my cycling club in Santa Fe back in 1991, when I was leaving The New Mexican for the care- and cash-free existence of freelance journalism.

Recognizing desperation when he saw it, he asked if I’d like to contribute to the trade magazine he and some business partners were starting.

The magazine would cover the bicycle industry, about which I knew absolutely nothing. Sure, I was a customer, but Wine Spectator doesn’t hire stew bums to crack wise about viticulture.

Happily, ignorance had never stopped me from sounding off before. And so, before you could say, “Duuuude,” the Mud Stud became the not-too-swift shop rat who partied in the back of Bicycle Retailer while the Suits conducted business up front.

The strip was developed on the fly. Pure anarchy, as represented by the tattoo on the Stud’s left shoulder. I had no idea who the characters would be, or what they would do, since the only part of me that had ever worked in a bike shop was my wallet.

The Mud Stud was the star of the first “Shop Talk” in BRAIN’s debut, the January-February issue of 1992. But then he vanished until August, pre-empted by a vaguely roadish, aproned, backwards-hatted wrench whose name was never revealed. Turns out, dude answered to “Dude.” Who knew?

As for the Mud Stud, that was never intended to be his name. It was a logo on the T-shirt he wore in his second appearance, and for some reason, it stuck, like the omnipresent X-shaped bandage on the left side of his head.

So did the Stud. After his early truancy, the Stud has appeared in BRAIN as regularly as bad news about Schwinn, which he once tried to buy with a Dave Wiens trading card and $6 in food stamps.

Other brainstorms to sweep from beneath the Stud’s greenish-blond Mohawk like tornadoes through cycling’s trailer park have included showing up in his baggies with a board on the day shop employees were to learn how to surf the Internet; turning a track pump into a bong; and engaging in a naked midnight mountain-bike ride down Deadman’s Dropoff with a water bottle full of tequila and a lawyer’s daughter on the handlebars.

Professor Stud never graded on a curve, but he was occasionally critical of a student’s hucking.

Longtime readers know that bandage on the Stud’s dome is neither decoration nor affectation. As the Stud’s slacker pal Biff Trail once noted, “He’s the only dude I know whose NORBA license has an organ donor’s release.”

Like the rest of the cycling industry, the Mud Stud was at his absolute best during the Interbike trade show. Appearing in a long run of special-edition “Show Talk” strips, he bought 6,000 Missy Giove™ nipple rings, then unloaded them at a discount to Roseanne Barr; gambled the bike shop away to a Vegas mobster, then won it back with the backing of a trustafarian inline-skater geek name of Slater the Skater; and failed to make the show at all one year when he mistook New Mexico’s Las Vegas for the one in Nevada.

Lest you dismiss him as dingbat, dimwit, or dufus, you should know that the Stud used to teach at Harvard. Either law or physics; we’re not sure. Hey, a lot of us took the scenic route to the bicycle business, among them at least one cartoonist.

In the glory days, I got to draw a full-page cartoon now and then.

Once he arrived, the Mud Stud learned to dine on Spaghetti-Os, shower by riding through the car wash, and make delicate adjustments to $5,000 bikes with a claw hammer. Where he lives remains a mystery. What he lives for is to ride, and to wrench, if only to feed the monkey. And maybe that’s why he managed to keep his job for 30 years.

Actually, the Mud Stud did get fired once, for spray-painting a filthy word on the shop manager’s car after the boss pretended to sack him in a practical joke. He was guilty, but also innocent.

“C’mon, dude,” said Biff, speaking for the defense. “It’s not like he spelled it right or anything.”

“Oh, OK,” grumbled the manager, as he relented. “Besides, without him, we got no comic strip.”

And now, after all those years, even with him, we got no comic strip.

But we still have him. So, look for the Mud Stud, Dude, Biff, and The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter — who wandered into “Shop Talk” after VeloNews shrank to such an alarming degree that it could no longer contain his bibs-busting buffoonery — to pop round here from time to time.

We’re old. We’re retired. But we’re not dead.

BRAIN Farts: December 2021

December 31, 2021

• Editor’s note: Here’s the last of my selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. And yes, as of 2022 it will have been 30 years since the first one appeared..

Signed, sealed, and delivered: The final “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2021.

BRAIN Farts: November 2021

December 31, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Now and then I make a personal appearance in the strip
in case someone is needed to say something particularly douchey.

BRAIN Farts: September 2021

December 29, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Two words you don’t hear much anymore: “instant gratification.”

BRAIN Farts: August 2021

December 28, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

How fat is the Fat Guy? So fat that I drew this cartoon last July
and it only just now uploaded to the Internet.

BRAIN Farts: June 2021

December 27, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Between the kinks in the supply chain and the Great Resignation
it was nearly as hard to find a burrito as a bicycle.

BRAIN Farts: May 2021

December 25, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Some shots come with beer backs, others with sore arms and side effects other than the ones that provide the shaky foundation of Irish literature.

BRAIN Farts: April 2021

December 24, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Bike parts will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no bike parts.*
* Apologies to Freewheelin’ Franklin of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

BRAIN Farts: March 2021

December 23, 2021

• Editor’s note: From now until New Year’s Day I’ll be popping up selected “Shop Talk” strips from this year’s run of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Vertical integration is all the rage. Alas, the Old Guy Who Gets Fat In Winter is more of a horizontal kind of guy, and the only “economy of scale” he knows is weighing himself at the port of entry to avoid breaking the AccuCheck in his bathroom.