Jim Ivey was a charter member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists way back in 1957. In honor of his role in the founding of the organization Jim was invited to attend their semi-centennial convention in Washington. R.C. Harvey must be given huzzahs for his lobbying efforts which resulted in the invitation, and AAEC president Rob Rogers for getting on board with the idea with no reservations.
Jim did have some trepidation regarding the trip. He was worried that his role at the convention would be as a dinosaur on display. Being so long out of the profession, Jim quite reasonably wondered if he would be able to connect with his younger compatriots, few of whom with which he’d had any contact. So it was that he requested I operate as a one-man posse on the trip. The AAEC proved doubly generous in adding me to the invitation not only as Jim’s travel companion but with full privileges to attend all convention events. I suspect that the AAEC, recognizing that Jim is north of eighty years, might be in need of some assistance. Jim is, in fact, hale and hearty, but considering that he hasn’t done any major traveling in many years, and has a sense of direction rivaling Wrong Way Corrigan, I was thrilled to get the invite, but also relieved that Jim was to be afforded a wrangler for the trip.
We both dreaded traveling to Washington on July the 4th, especially right after the bombing attempts in London. Airport security is notorious for behaving like a bag of cats in proximity to such events. However, both the Orlando and Washington airports were, amazingly enough, a breeze. And Washington, famed for having some of the worst summer weather in the country, was actually quite temperate during our stay, and the summer storms all took detours in honor of our visit.
The first event on our itinerary was a cocktail reception. Jim and fellow founding members Jim Lange and Hy Rosen were asked to say a few words. Unfortunately either the sound system left something to be desired or my tinnitus-inflicted ears weren’t up to the task, because I could only hear a few isolated sound-bites. Otherwise it was a delightful event.
I got to renew one old acquaintance, Lucy Shelton Caswell, the curator of Ohio State University’s Cartoon Research Library. She had me beet red with her extravagant compliments for my Stripper’s Guide Index project. We talked shop and she brought me up to date on the library’s progress in cataloging their huge Bill Blackbeard collection. To give you an idea of the massive undertaking, Lucy says that it took eight semi trucks to haul the materials from San Francisco. She assured me that the collection listings are now available on the OSU website — I’ll be looking further into that in coming days and reporting back here.
I met Lucy’s husband Jeff for the first time, and was fascinated to learn that his father was a salesman for Western Newspaper Union, a company that ran a syndicate for weekly newspapers from the 1920s-50s. Turns out that WNU apparently let the syndication business slide into oblivion because their main business by the 40s and 50s was selling newspaper supplies like paper and ink.
Also got to meet Tim Jackson, an editorial cartoonist whose work appears regularly in the Chicago Defender. Tim, in addition to his editorial cartooning, is a historian with a keen interest in the cartoonists of the black newspapers. We’ve corresponded via email in the past, and it was great to meet him in person. We had a little talk about the Smith-Mann syndicate, a subject of fascination for both of us. Unfortunately our time together was brief — Tim is a very soft-spoken fellow and I didn’t want to drive him to distraction with my incessant requests for him to repeat himself.
Also got to meet my very favorite of the new crop of cartoonists, Keith Knight of K Chronicles and Th-Ink. I was astounded to find out from him that his style, which to me is so obviously reminiscent of Harvey Kurtzman, owes no debt to that great cartoonist. Keith says that his style evolved without ever having heard of the great Kurtzman, and that it was only after his work started getting published that cartoon fans pointed out to him the resemblance. I was also fascinated to learn that Keith, a young whippersnapper by any measure, is a fan of pioneering great Clare Briggs. A further delightful bit of news from Keith (and I hope I’m not telling tales out of school) is that we will likely be seeing much more of his work very soon — I’ll not let the cat out of the bag any farther than that.
The one disappointment to me on this evening was that I missed meeting Ann Telnaes, who only attended this one event. Jim and I both agree that Telnaes is without peer in editorial cartooning (or for that matter, cartooning in general). Her one-two punch of hard-hitting ideas and powerful drawings sets her squarely at the very pinnacle of her profession. Jim was lucky enough to find her in the crowd and he reports that he fawned on her like a fanboy. Ann, if you happen to read this, everything Jim said goes double for me.
After the reception Jim and I went to dinner with R.C. Harvey. It turned into a bizarre affair when the eatery we picked had their fire alarm going off all through our dinner. The entire restaurant was bathed in the staccato drumbeat of strobe lights, and occasionally a siren was added to the mix. The siren was a fine counterpoint to the screaming babies at the next table. With all three of our group in the hard of hearing category we spent our time unsuccessfully trying to read lips.
Enough for today … I’ll continue my report tomorrow. Don’t miss the exciting tale of Holtz taking a snooze on the street in Washington DC!