The ghost editor and the cartoonists

April 30, 2010 in Comment

Alan Coren, ex-Punch editor and PCO patron (Art: John Roberts)

Bill Stott is a cartoonist. A rather good one, actually. Even the great Alan Coren thought so. But then he loved cartoonists generally.

Like many cartoonists, Bill doesn’t change his trousers with unseemly regularity. It’s a working-at-home thing. Why bother when the ones you’re wearing have a perfectly serviceable extra few weeks in them … and probably a healthy supply of mints and pocket fluff? However, the recent change of season occasioned a re-trousering, whereupon one of the pockets yielded a piece of gold dust.

It was a short note from Mr Coren, penned a short while before he died, which Bill had rammed into the pocket for filing; a paean to cartoonists intended as an introduction to the website of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation, of which he had just accepted the title of inaugural patron. Bill hadn’t the heart to publish the piece because Coren died shortly after sending it.

In it, having left Punch, Coren mulls over what he misses. The limos, the yachts, the voluptuous assistants? No, he says, “None of these. What I miss most is those Tuesday mornings with the sadly late and very great Bill Hewison, my brilliant Art Editor, when we would sit at a huge leather-topped desk overlooking the complete absence of central heating, pull off our generously lent company mittens, and sift through the hundreds and hundreds of roughs submitted by the extraordinary numbers of extraordinary cartoonists which – and, remember, I speak as a writer – made Punch the brilliant and, most important of all, hilarious magazine it was.

“I miss the six hours of those golden-era Tuesdays when Bill and I would struggle – handicapped by constant helpless laughter – to choose, from 20 times as many, the 50-odd cartoons we needed to lift the readers’ spirits and break their ribs in next week’s magazine.”

He continues:

“Cartooning is the toughest art of all. A freelance cartoonist lives and works alone, staring out of the window in the fervent daily hope that something will begin to draw itself on the sky, then murmur its caption in his ear. He needs this to happen several times a day, every day, because he has not the faintest idea whether the editors who pay his rent will laugh at the same thing he laughs at, and therefore has to send them lots and lots of things, praying that they will laugh at at least one of them, and the cartoonist can get his shoes mended.”

Coren concludes that his greatest struggle was that “we couldn’t put a thousand gags in the paper, so how to select the best when ten are equally funny?” Enough, enough already. We cartoonists couldn’t possibly be so immodest about our talents. But … thank you, Mr Coren.

Declaration of Interest: Andy Davey is chairleg of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation which runs The Bloghorn (Editor: Matt Buck) and the print magazine Foghorn (Editor: Bill Stott).

He and the organisation welcome your comments, and your contact with us at our artist portfolio websites, through our social-media services, or via direct contact with our media team led by Pete Dredge.

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6 responses to The ghost editor and the cartoonists

  1. This is a disgraceful slur on my trouser management system.

  2. Mention of Bill Hewison had me scurrying to his definitive book ‘The Cartoon Connection’ Elm Tree Books 1977. In it there is a quote from the late, great journalist William Hardcastle who said “These cartoonists are men who, like lighthouse keepers, keep a glint of happy insanity shining in a dark and dour world. On the surface they are just like you and me. They betray no hint of the desperation that lives with them each day.”

  3. But a rather lovely tale all the same!

  4. With my editor’s hat on, I would like to applaud Mr Davey for kindly making this piece of writing (without fee) for the Bloghorn. This applies to all our fine contributors – most of whom you will find in our portfolio artwork site at – http://www.procartoonists.org

    Everything we do with the PCO is done by volunteers from the trade because we believe our skills have a practical, commercial and entertainment value.

    You will find the best professional British cartoonists at our websites and magazines. Please spread the news of our doings if you enjoy what you see and laugh at.

    Bloghorn Ed

  5. What? No fee, dammit? I don’t get out of bed for less than a jammie dodger, I’ll have you know.

  6. Thanks to Pete for mention of Bill Hewison’s book, although the Hardcastle quote about cartoonists not betraying hints of desperation certainly paints this cartoonist in a rather more noble light than is actually the case.

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