Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Catblogging

Way back before comic book artists at conventions charged high rates for sketches in order to offset or discourage the predatory practices of "fans" who then quickly turn around and sell the art they procure online, I was lucky enough to meet up with the cartoonist, the late B. Kliban, who was a guest at the 1981 San Diego Comic Con. We were lounging at the hotel pool (he was a guest, I was a Comic Con attendee pretending I was allowed pool-side with the celebrities). We talked for a bit and eventually I let him know my mom was a big fan of his work and that she had all of his books and several merchandised items.

Unprompted, Kliban asked for my convention art pad I carried around for autographs and sketches and drew a variation of his "Sneaker Cat" piece. I was prepared to pay a premium for the work but he refused any gratuity. What a gentleman. I had the sketch professionally framed and presented it to my mom for her birthday.

I heard from other people shortly after that meeting that Kliban would often give away his art. Sometimes when people asked Kliban to autograph a book of his strips he would take the book and tell the autograph-seeker to return sometime later that day. To their surprise, Kliban would have filled the margins and blank spaces of the pages of the collection with cartoons, notes and other drawings. Since Kliban was a big deal with best selling cartoon books and a licensing franchise in full swing that he could remain so approachable was pretty cool.

I'm not saying that the creators of today would not perform a similar feat for a real fan but certainly the market of today would make an artist think twice about giving away a sketch, because in many instances the artist would in effect be working for free for someone who is basically a reseller out to make a quick buck off of their work.

Thanks again, Mr. Kliban. Your gift adorns a wall of my mom's house to this day.



  1. My brother is a big fan of the Broom-Hilda strip. He sent a letter to Russell Myers saying how much he loved his work.

    Myers responded by sending him an original Broom-Hilda strip.

    It just goes to show that cartoonists are the nicest artists around.

  2. What a classy guy....and you as well, for framing it and giving as a gift.

  3. When I first went to conventions a sketch was exactly that. A quick, loose drawing that the artist turned out in a couple of minutes because there was a whole queue of other people waiting, and he wanted to give all of them a little something.

    Now it's like a whole finished piece and the artist has time to do like three before his time's up, and the rest of the queue is sent away disappointed after waiting 2 hours.

  4. Wow.
    That's awesome.
    Kliban was a big favorite of mine when I was a wee lad (well...he still is).

    One of my personal faves:


  5. Kliban was a real mensch. Saved my ass back in the big one by throwing himself on a pile of grenades. The pins weren't pulled or anything, but his heart was in the right place.

    We became fast friends and we'd often go to Vegas and pick fights with showgirls. We kicked so much lady ass it boggles the mind.

    He was a hell of a cartoonist too, and in addition to his own amazing work, he would ghost in many different styles if a fellow cartoonist needed some time off or needed a hand. At one point, he was the main artist on The Phantom, Mary Worth, Doonesbury, Hagar the Horrible and Ferd'nand. He didn't ever need to sleep and ate only one large meal every eight days, usually an antelope or an impala.

    Hail, Kliban. Did you know that he was cartoonist laureate during the Ford administration? It's true. Look it up. Did you know that he was supposed to be on the challenger shuttle the day it exploded, but at the last minute they decided to send a schoolteacher instead of a cartoonist. He said that at first he was disappointed, but after the disaster he would just laugh and laugh.

    Nice drawing, and you and your mother have a great story to tell about it. Thanks,


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