This coming weekend marks the 120th birthday of the UW-Madison Daily Cardinal, one of the oldest student newspapers in the country, and the paper that launched me on the patch to my career.
True, I was cartooning for the Millfield Windmill, the bi-weekly newspaper of my old school in Somerset, England. And I did throw some cartoons the way of the Queen Mary College newspaper – don’t even remember what it was called, to be honest. And the UW-Parkside Ranger was pretty much where I hung out exclusively, when I was down that way.
But it was the Daily Cardinal – with the emphasis on daily – that really set me on the path I still trod today. The worst semester of my life? The one where I stopped doing cartoons when I’d occasionally feel witty enough for one, and started doing them daily. Day in. Day out. I may have been the first student in the UW’s history to attempt a daily comic strip. You could tell from the bags under my eyes, and my habit of rushing up to strangers, thrusting tiny scraps of paper with scribblings on them in their faces, and desperately screaming “Is THIS ONE funny? No? How about THIS ONE..?”
I suppose I should blame my Economics degree a bit, as well. Economics came preternaturally easily to me: I could quite literally skip two out of three classes, and still get straight “A”s. Indeed, during Microeconomics 201, taught by my favorite professor, I skipped every class between the 6-Week exam and the 12-Week exam.
I didn’t mean to, you understand. But blowing off school builds up its own kind of sick slacker momentum.
Two days before the 12-Week exam, I cracked open the class’ textbook, and read the appropriate chapters. Then took the exam.
I got an “A+.” The highest score in the class.
“John,” sighed my professor, handing back the exam – the kind of sigh that indicated he had just died a little, on the inside – “John, this sets a VERY frightening precedent.”
But I’m digressing. Bottom line: the power to skip class and still make the Dean’s List allowed me to hang out at the Daily Cardinal offices close to 24/7. This in turn let me meet some of the most amazing and influential folks I ever could have hoped to have hung around. Writers, editors, photographers, cartoonists – great, GREAT cartoonists. The kinds of cartoonists that make you not want to let down the team. “The usual gang of idiots,” yes, but a brilliant, talented gang that it was a privilege to work with.
Many ex-Cardinalistas will be showing up on campus this weekend, with armfulls of Emmys and Peabodies and Pulitzers. I guess I could drag my “coveted Origins Award” along, but “awwww…isn’t that cuuuuuute?” isn’t really the conversational firecracker you think it might be.
Anyway, Wild Life was my comic strip back in my college days, and here’s a WILD LIFE strip I did for the 110th Cardinal Anniversary, ten years ago.
Read it now, or wait another decade for its next appearance!
BIRDS week continues, as I continue with the reins of Robin Laws’ splendidly twisted comic strip. Click on it to get the larger version over at Pelgarne’s THE BIRDS site. New strips to be added every day this week.