A Free Press For a Paid Artist

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The New York Free Press (originally the Westside News) started as a typical neighborhood weekly newspaper that evolved into left wing underground paper in 1968. The art director at the time, J.C. Suares, hired me, and erstwhile cartoonist, while I was a senior in high school to do paste-ups and mechanicals. When, a few months later, he departed for greener pastures, I became the art director. I knew precious little about design, although I could cut and wax galleys pretty fast. I learned on the job, and it became my career.

The issue below, featuring one of my gore-toons in the “ear” (newspaper jargon for the upper left or right hand corner of the nameplate) featured the first drawings I ever published in the paper. It was a dream come true. Pulled, as it were, from the chorus (or bullpen) and featured as a real illustrator. I am well aware of how poorly crafted these pictures are, but they were mine and mine alone, and at the time I was proud of them. In fact, seeing them on this remnant of brittle newsprint, I take a certain amount of pride that I was published at 17 years old. My dreary drawings accompanied the poem “Freedom to Kill,” influenced by the Kennedy assassination five years earlier by the Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

This issue of the Freep was more important because Mark Lane was America’s leading Kennedy conspiracy theorist. This cover story was a seminal article read by people on both sides of the Kennedy assassination debate. In addition, this issue taught me the value of provocation. The Free Press sold moderately, but this very issue sold out of a second printing because of the headline and byline.


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