every child is born a cartoonist.
the age of two you know how to reduce a drawing to a
few simple lines. You know how to lay out a page to
make a coherent whole. You know how to chose colors
to express an emotion rather than give a photographic
reproduction of reality. You know how to draw a face
that expresses a certain personality. You know how to
make a picture tell a story.
the attack begins. Your parents, your teachers,
your psychotherapists (if you can afford them)
begin the lifelong struggle to cure you of being
you. Eventually your classmates enlist on the
of us surrender fairly early in the war. I didn't.
The adults wanted me to adopt a lifestyle based
on competitive sport. I wanted to adopt a lifestyle
based on drawing. I began by not wanting to compete
with other children in games. That meant I was
hanging around the house with nothing to do.
day my father was working at home and I kept distracting
him by asking questions. Finally he sat me down
in a sunny windowseat, gave me a crayon and a
ream of typewriter paper, and said, "Keep busy!"
I grasped the crayon like a dagger and slowly
dragged it across the paper. Then I looked at
the mark I had made like God looking at the universe
He had created and found it good. I made another
mark, then another. They too were good. I flailed
my arms with excitement. Those were my own marks.
I myself had made them. A kind of trance came
over me and I drew and drew and drew until evening
came on. I did not realize until I became an adult
that what I was drawing was the proverbial mark
in the sand.
that day I have never let anything stop me from
drawing. The first day of kindergarten arrived
like the crack of doom. At Physical Education
time the "coach" lined up all the boys in my class,
about twelve of us, at one end of the playground
and pointed to the other end of the playground.
of Ray's early work from "Space Warp"
he, "Now we're going to run a little footrace here.
I'm going to count to three and then say go. When I
say go you guys are going to run as fast as you can
and see who can get to the gate first. He'll be the
winner. The last one to get to the gate will be a rotten
egg." I looked over my competitors and figured the odds.
One chance to be a winner. Eleven chances to be a loser,
including one to be a rotten egg. Some of my classmates
looked pretty hunky, easily more muscular than me. The
coach counted. "One, two, three, go!" Eleven boys ran
like crazy. One boy, me, just stood there.
try that again," said the coach. He lined us up again and
counted down again, but this time he gave me a little shove.
Eleven boys ran. One, me, didn't. He looked at me, face brick-red
with fury and growled, "I'll tell your teacher." But my teacher
couldn't get me to run, the principal couldn't get me to run,
my parents couldn't get me to run, my parents' psychotherapist
couldn't get me to run, the sergeants at three years of military
school couldn't get me to run.
I write I have recently turned seventy years old. I still
haven't run. I had learned what no child is supposed to learn,
that if you say yes to the game you can, at best, win out
against a ragtag troop of little kids your own age. If you
say no you can win out against the entire adult world. They
can hurt you, even kill you, but they can't make you run.
1938, stimulated by the example of Superman and Donald Duck,
I began drawing comic books. My first creation was Petie Panda
because pandas were easy to draw and my brother had a stuffed
panda I could use as a model. I worked in black pencil on
white typewriter paper, showing the result to my classmates.
In gradeschool I drew in all about a dozen comic books about
fifty pages each, with colored covers. Only one of them has
survived to this day.
a freshman in high school I discovered Fandom, the world of
science-fiction fans. Fandom included many amateur authors
and artists who published, usually by mimeograph, magazines
which they distributed, free of charge, to other amateur authors
and artists. Borrowing my dad's mimeograph, I began publishing
a "zine" of my own, entitled "Universe", followed by another
called "Stupefying Stories", then co-edited with Art Rapp
yet another called "Spacewarp". Meanwhile I also contributed
cartoons and illustrations to many other amateur publications,
eventually being named Number One Fan Cartoonist in "Fanac",
the top newszine in fandom.
a college student at the University of Chicago, I contributed
cartoons to the student newspaper and student yearbook, also
producing by silk screen many posters for student organizations
and businesses. Before graduating I transferred to the Chicago
Art Institute, taking the painting and illustration sequence,
but was asked to leave because of my habit of challenging
Abstract Expressionism was the fad of the day, and I attacked
it at every opportunity. (I still think it is a hoax embraced
by snobs who like to appear superior by liking something nobody
else does.) On my last day at the Institute, I defended another
student who was being criticized by an abstractionist instructor
and ended by ducking as the disputed painting sailed like
a Frisbee overhead and crashed into the wall behind me.
Since my expulsion from the Art Institute I have continued
to do cartoons for amateur publications, but have also done
artwork for the Artcraft Poster Company in Oakland, California,
including a prize-winning design for a poster for the "Toys
for Tots" Christmas drive. My work has appeared in trade journals
all over the country and in several "alternate" comic books
including "Alien Encounters Comics", where my story "Nada"
was made into a hit movie for Universal Pictures entitled
Currently I am cartoon editor for a trade journal, "The American
Window Cleaner" and last year was a finalist for the World
Science Fiction Convention's Retro-Hugo trophy for top fan
cartoonist. (I had a heart attack when I didn't win.)
other people have their little footraces. I have my cartoons.
Even if nobody else liked them, I would still draw them. Indeed,
I have written two books on cartooning which nobody gets to
read but me. At best it is a satisfying lifestyle, at worst
the cheapest of hobbies. Drawing has the very great virtue
that nobody can stop me from doing it. I can always find an
advertising handout with a blank back. I can always find a
pen, pencil or bit of coal to draw on it with. I don't need
an expensive computer, fancy car, posh office or tailored
suit. I am a worker with his own means of production. I have
a weapon between my ears that I can carry undetected through
any metal detector or customs search.
If I don't like the universe God made, there are billions
of other universes waiting to appear at that point where
my pen meets a blank sheet of paper.
a look at some of Ray's Cartoons