Yossarian, Matchless Cartoonist

The underground cartoonist known as Yossarian (after Joseph Heller’s character from “Catch 22”), whose real name was Alan Shenker, died on January 14. I hadn’t seen him in 35 plus years but he always stayed in my memories of the East Village Other, Screw and the New York Ace, to which he was an integral contributor—the go-to artist for wit, humor and sly commentary. He was also the founder of The Razor’s Edge, a zine about bald-headed women—something of a niche but very entertaining.

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Clockwise from upper right: Roger Tomlinson, Vincent Titus (Santa), Yossarian, Me (with finger), Coca Crystal, Ray Schultz, Stephen Cohen at East Village Other paste-up. (Photo by Joseph Stevens)

I was sad to hear he passed. I had hoped to see him at the East Village Other reunion last year. But fortunately Lynda Crawford, a former EVO writer, has written a piece and collected some tales about Yo for The Local East Village, which you can read online here. Remembrances were contributed by P.J. O’Rourke, Trina Robbins, Coca Crystal, Claudia Dreifus, Joe Kane, Rex Weiner and others. Hopefully, more will follow.

My own recollection is included. Here is an excerpt:

When [Bob Dylan’s] “Self Portrait” was released, Yossarian immediately bought the LP, ran back to the office, put it on the record player, lit up and began to listen. I could hear it from my adjoining office. Sounded weird. A lot of crooning. Not the old Bob that Yossarian loved so much. Next thing I hear is CRASH, BANG, BOOM. What the hell . . ? I ran next door to find Yossarian throwing his furniture around the room—the matches flying everywhere.

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For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility‚ one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.

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