Graphic novelist James Sturm wanted to see if he could get a cartoon into the New Yorker. To prepare, he decided to draw one “gag comic” a day until his 90-page sketch book was filled.
If making graphic novels felt like a staid long-term relationship, then doing gag comics is like playing the field. One day I could draw a fortuneteller; the next, an astronaut. I went from sultans to superheroes, robots to rabbits. I felt liberated. I refused to get bogged down or fuss over the drawings. I spent no more than an hour with any one cartoon, and many took far less time than that. For the first two weeks I was feeling my oats. I already had a half-dozen keepers and was confident there were plenty more winners on the way. It was at this point that I started dreaming of actually selling a cartoon to The New Yorker…
…By my fourth week of daily drawing, I hit a wall. It got harder and harder to generate gags, and I often found myself staring at a blank page at eleven o’clock at night, just wanting to get something down so I could go to bed. My measuring stick was the great New Yorker cartoonist William Steig. Besides knowing what made people tick, Steig possessed that holy combination of looseness and precision that gives great cartooning its casual authority. I knew I could never compare with Steig, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself, either. I had my pride, and if I was going to produce another 60 gags I needed to approach things differently.
James Sturm, Slate, How Hard Is It To Get a Cartoon Into The New Yorker?
Click through to see more of Sturm’s work, find out if it got published and learn about the inner workings of New Yorker cartoon culture.