A Fine Dessert of Vengeance, Served with a Frosting of Comeuppance
Proving once again that comedy is tragedy experienced by someone else, I was amused to see that a bunch of former cartoonists for the New York Press, the right-wing alternative weekly in Manhattan, are bitching about how they’ve been treated in a whiny thread on The Comics Journal message board.
The Press has gone through a few changes as of late, having been sold by long-time owner Russ Smith. But some things never change: they’re a poorly-paying, arbitrary and capricious publication that loves, loves, loves you when they hire you and treat you like so much dog excrement when they inevitably boot your ass a few months or years later.
The paper did serve a purpose back during the early to mid ’90s, when it hired new artists and writers to do autobiographical essays about their sex lives or whatever, and also featured a lot of comics–about a dozen at one point–that were just starting out. While these were by no means the best the alternative press had to offer (those are now found in The Village Voice and like-minded publications), it was good to see a paper that understood that comics were a big reader draw.
I wrote a number of long cover essays for the Press, and eventually (I think it was 1997) Russ called me in to discuss running my cartoons. “We love the strip,” Russ said. Whatever. About six months later, he canceled it. That’s what the Press does.
The new editor, Jeff Koyen, is a real piece of work. I thought it would be amusing to send in a submission of sample columns–they don’t run in New York–to the Press a few weeks after they annointed me #2 on their list of “The 50 Most Loathesome New Yorkers,” ahead of Yoko Ono even! For some reason the editor of MAXIM made #1. Hey, they don’t like my politics, fine. No hard feelings from me.
Anyway, Koyen sends me a long suck-up email in response, promising to pick up my column and starts negotiations on how much he wants to pay. We go back and forth a bit, so I figure it’s time to call him on the phone to say hi. Which he does, but begs off for a few weeks because he’s busy doing something with another publication called Sports Express or something. Fine. I follow-up a few weeks later, he ducks my voicemails, I move on.
Then, in the Press’ “Best of New York” issue, Koyen publishes a screed full of lies, saying that I stalked his phones and how he never had any interest in my column, yadayadayada. Hey, he’s the guy who asked for rates. Bizarre. What was more telling, however, is that nobody mentioned it to me. New Yorkers don’t read the Press anymore. Still, I have to ask myself, what’s WITH this guy?
Part of me feels sorry for this batch of cartoonists getting screwed over by the Press. Then the other part remembers how they reacted when it happened to me. It only hurts, as Len Deighton said, when I larf.