Monday, October 24, 2005

New Times Swallows the VOICE!

I wish I had time to blog all day long, but as always I have been working, promoting, and trying to make the funny picture business pay, and it takes more hours than there are in the day. Of course the exciting news in my world today is the much anticipated acquisition of Village Voice Media by New Times, Inc. Now, seventeen weekly papers will be owned by one 800 pound gorilla. This brings out the paranoia in me because Troubletown hasn't had all that much success in New Times papers over the years: it ran in a Cleveland New Times paper for a little while, it ran in Broward Palm Beach for a little while, and until last week it had run in the Miami New Times since 1994. Yes, they canned me last week! Right before the merger. Coincidence, or something more sinister?

Actually I saw it coming. My editor, Jim Mullen, had been one of the first to discover Troubletown–– I didn't have many papers back in '94––and publish it in Miami, where it was instantly a favorite among the South Beach glitterati, the Versache crowd, Cubans, drug-runners, and Dolphin fans (I'm making this stuff up). Anyway, Jim retired last month, and the new editor, Chuck Strouse, canned Troubletown as one of his first orders of business. The reason I saw it coming was that Strouse is the former editor of Broward Palm-Beach New Times where, upon being hired, canned my strip there! Do I sense a Strousian bias against Troubletown? A one-man crusade to rid Florida of Dangle? Well, it looks like he has succeeded. For now. Hopefully Strouse's career will not involve bouncing around to too many of my other papers.

The swallowee, Village Voice Media is itself a chain of weeklies. I've had better luck there––except with the goddamn flagship. OC Weekly has run Troubletown for a long time, where the cartoon is a favorite target for venomous, fixed-income Republicans. OC Weekly is one of my favorite weeklies, not only because the editor and staff are sweethearts to work for, but because they fearlessly operate right there in the bastion of nutcase American conservatism. Over in Los Angeles they only run my strip occasionally in the LA Weekly.

The Village Voice, however, has always been a pain in my ass. I loved the journalism and comics in the Voice so much growing up in Michigan, where newspapers read like oatmeal, that it was 90% of why I moved to New York in 1983. I got myself hired and worked there for three years in the production department when the Voice was owned by pet food magnate Leonard Stern, trying in vain to get my cartoons in front of my bosses and published. Once in the middle of the night on deadline at "the plant," an old Voice art director, Wes Anderson, told me, "Your stuff is way too fresh for the Voice. Once your cartoons old and tired and boring the Voice will want you." That was so nice of him to say.

Years later, the slick, downtown, nineties-to-the-present art director, Ted Keller, told me at an AAN convention, "We want you in the Voice! We'll talk right after the convention." Finally, I thought, I'm either good or boring enough to get in!

I called Keller right after I got back and he sounded less enthusiastic. "What is it between you and Ted Rall, anyway? What has he got against you?" he asked.

"Huh? Ted Rall?" I had no idea what he was talking about. What did Ted Rall have to do with it?

Anyway, after that, Keller became mute and stopped returning my calls. Was it Rall who got me shit-canned from the Voice before I was ever in? Was Keller too weak-kneed to stand up to the meddling louse and second-rate hack Rall would be if he really interfered? We'll never know. I've talked to the editor, Donald Forst, on many brief calls to ask him to consider Troubletown again, so far without success. Well, they're all working for the Phoenix-based New Times company now. Forst and Keller might be looking for jobs, and our man Chuck Strouse may be packing his bags for Manhattan. This ain't no easy business.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You look like you live a fantasy life - dreaming up funny shit and drawing it all day, but in the end - like everything else - it's a business. My suggestion - give up this cartoon shit. Simply doesn't pay. What you need to do is write for a sitcom. Sit in a room with a bunch of 20 something guys getting stoned all day with no more responsibility than to be funny. The pay is great and the weather in L.A. is better than Oakland (or Ann Arbor for Christ sake). Yeah you'll be selling out, but you'll be doing so behind the wheel of an S-class Mercedes (note: get the AMG package). Who knows, maybe you'll even move to O.C.

Give me a call babe, you need representation!

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ted keller may be the biggest loser i have ever worked with. total egomaniac/ control freak/ sissy.

its unfortunate the good cop (minh uong) has to troll that beat. the new times/ voice never looked so bad.

7:54 AM  

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