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New Yorker cartoonist Leo Cullum passes at age 68

New Yorker cartoonist Leo Cullum has passed away last Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 68. The New York Times’ obituary notes that for most of his career, Leo was a TWA pilot but he will be remembered for his cartoons – some 819 of them.

The magazine rejected his early submissions but bought some of his ideas, turning them over to Charles Addams to illustrate. The first one resulted in a captionless Addams cartoon from 1975 of an elderly couple canoeing on a peaceful lake. Their reflection in the water, depicting the husband’s actual state of mind, shows him, in a homicidal rage, attacking his wife with his paddle.

After Mr. Addams encouraged him to strike out on his own, Mr. Cullum sold his first magazine cartoon to Air Line Pilot Magazine and soon placed his work with True, Argosy, Saturday Review and Sports Afield.

Before long he cracked The New Yorker. On Jan. 3, 1977, the magazine published his first cartoon, which showed a bathrobed businessman drinking coffee at his desk, surrounded by chickens and speaking into a telephone. The caption read: “No, you’re not disturbing me, Herb. I’m up with the chickens this morning.”

Mr. Cullum quickly became a regular. By the 1980s he was one of the magazine’s most prolific and beloved contributors. “Starting around the mid-1990s, no one was published in The New Yorker more than Leo,” Mr. Mankoff said. He also contributed regularly to The Harvard Business Review and Barron’s.

Community Comments

#1 B.J. Dewey
October/27/2010
@ 9:58 am

I’ve been saving Leo Cullum cartoons for years and will deeply miss his work. I do a Webcomic focusing on investing and personal finance and thought Cullum was one of the few cartoonists who truly understood Wall Street. Among my favorites was one where a financial advisor says to a potential client, “My fees are quite high and yet you say you have little money. I think I’m seeing a conflict of interest here.”

My condolences to Leo’s family.

#2 Doug Bratton
October/27/2010
@ 1:15 pm

I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cullum, but he was one of my favorite cartoonists. His work was brilliant, I’ll miss his gags.

B.J.–thanks for posting the description of one of my favorite Leo Cullum cartoons. A fitting way to remember a rare talent.

#3 Dave Stephens
October/27/2010
@ 2:25 pm

One of the all time greats in one of the all time great venues for cartooning… He will be missed.

#4 Scott Nickel
October/27/2010
@ 3:46 pm

Very sad. I enjoyed Mr. Cullum’s cartoons immensely and he was still very active in the biz. A great talent.

#5 Scott Metzger
October/28/2010
@ 10:21 am

I love Leo Cullum’s work. He was always consistently funny and clever. Sorry to hear of his passing.

#6 Scott Nickel
October/28/2010
@ 9:42 pm

Is that number — 819 — just New Yorker cartoons?

It seems rather low for a prolific career that spanned 35 years.

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