Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Jules Feiffer

Now that I'm retired, one opportunity that has opened up is the freedom to attend cultural and intellectual events during the evening. When I was working, attending an activity in the evening would mean getting home late and getting to bed late which impacted my next morning — since I usually got up at 5:00 AM in order to work out and yet get to work on time. And with Arizona State University in nearby Tempe, I missed many interesting events.

So when I saw the notice in the newspaper that Jules Feiffer was going to lecture on his Life and Funny Times — I had to go — he is one of my most favorite cartoonists ever. Some of you may not be familiar with his cartoons — and even those who know his work may not know what he has been up to lately.

He is most famous for his cartoons, both political and non-political, which ran for some 42 years in the Village Voice but were syndicated and re-printed in many newspapers. He is 77 years old and although he looks like a 77-year-old man, his mind seems as sharp as a 20-year-old.

He began cartooning at age six. In those days, he told us, the Sunday Funnies were large, richly drawn works of art and literature. A cartoon strip such as Flash Gordon would fill an entire newspaper page. Even in the daily paper, a single cartoon strip ran all the way across the page. So young Jules mimicked that style — and fell in love with the medium.

He was desperate to be a cartoonist and got a job as an assistant to Will Eisner who was the cartoonist behind The Spirit. He wasn't very proficient at inking or backgrounds so he was a gofer. Of course, he got to know Will Eisner and eventually criticized one of his stories. Feiffer told us that he loved that comic and felt that Eisner was not living up to his previously established high standard. Eisner told young Feiffer that if he thought he could do better then to write a storyline for Eisner's review. It turned out that Eisner liked Feiffer's story, published it, then turned over the writing to Feiffer.

Eventually, he began experimenting with his own style and submitted cartoons to the Village Voice and thus began the long-running Feiffer series. He brought an entirely new approach to cartoons — turning the anxiety he saw everywhere into witty, revealing cartoons. His political cartoons poked fun at both Republicans and Democrats — an equal-opportunity satirist. Eventually, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his cartoons. The following cartoon seems timeless, even today some 35+ years after it was published.

In addition to cartooning, he has written several plays (including the Obie Award-winning play Little Murders), movie scripts (Carnal Knowledge and Popeye), a short subject animation (Oscar-winning Munro) and more recently children's books. He is also illustrating several children's books written by other family members.

At the end of the lecture, he took questions — one of which was about his creative process. He said that when he sits down to draw a cartoon or write a story, he really doesn't know how it is going to turn out. He starts writing and drawing — and it sort of writes itself.

I really identified with that because I feel the same way about creating my little Life After HP essays. I have a general idea of a topic and start writing and adding pictures — and before I know it, it is complete.

One final item. He was asked a question about why he does not do the political cartoons any more. He said that it is a younger man's game — and pointed out that Steve Benson (editorial cartoonist for the Arizona Republic) was in the audience — and mentioned that he (Benson) had received a Pulitzer Prize for his cartoons.

But Feiffer may be selling himself short — because he shared with us a cartoon he had published recently. It refers to some Democrats' infatuation with Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois. The words can be sung to the tune Maria from West Side Story. What can I say, the man is sharp and his satiric wit is as strong as ever.

And to think that I have been missing these opportunities — because of work. No more.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com