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More of When I was President

Here is part TWO of my three part account of my years as NCS president. Read part ONE and part THREE of the story. –Daryl Cagle

Jack Davis’ lovely theme art for the NCS 2000 convention shows King Kong on the World Trade Center towers, along with the comics characters waving goodbye as Snoopy flies off with the posthumous lifetime achievement award trophy for Sparky.

This is the story of my first Reuben Awards convention as National Cartoonists Society (NCS) president, in 2000.

We wanted to do a 50th anniversary of Peanuts celebration, but hotel construction put the plans for a Santa Rosa convention on hold. United Media, the syndicate that owned Peanuts, was located in Manhattan, and NCS conventions draw the biggest crowds when they are in New York City, so I decided to do the 2000 convention in New York. My wife, Peg and I flew to New York twice and visited a half dozen prospective hotels. We got competing bids from three hotels and spent a month haggling prices with all three before deciding on the World Trade Center Marriott in lower Manhattan, which gave us a great deal on Memorial Day weekend, when lower Manhattan is traditionally deserted. Before that, the NCS usually had their Reuben Awards on Mothers Day weekend. I got some angry blasts of criticism from old NCSers in New York who thought it was outrageous to have the convention in lower Manhattan because it should have been in Midtown, where it always used to be. “Nobody wants to go downtown!” they told me.

The convention was extra difficult because our previous management company had crashed and burned soon after I became president. I had just hired a new management company, but they didn’t want to run the convention because they hadn’t gotten to know the NCS yet; they wanted to come to their first NCS Reubens event just to observe. My wife Peg ended up doing nearly all of the organizing work that we would usually expect a management company to do: starting with handling registrations and tracking all the payments, making seating charts and dealing with menus, responding to the many special requests, arguing about hotel bills and comps, manning the convention registration desk throughout the weekend, and serving as the bouncer for those who overstayed their welcome in the Presidential Suite. I couldn’t have done it without Peg. (And the new management company folks were good sports; they ended up pitching in on site –more than they first planned.)

The convention would be a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Peanuts. Charles M. Schulz (“Sparky”) was on board with it; United Media was delighted and generously offered to cover the cost of a big Sunday brunch for everyone at the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the North Tower. Political cartoonist, Mike Luckovich stepped up and was a tremendous help; he did all the organizational work of getting the newspaper comic strip artists to draw 50th anniversary of Peanuts strips on the same Saturday that our banquet was held, when we planned to give our lifetime achievement award to Sparky.

All seemed to be going well when we received the terribly sad news that Sparky had died in February. With all the Peanuts celebration stuff planned for May, 2000, and with the commitments I had already made in the hotel contract, I thought we might be in trouble. We ended up having the biggest NCS convention ever, kicking off with a grand opening cocktail reception on the 2nd floor promenade of the North Tower lobby.

Mike Luckovich contacted all the newspaper comic strip cartoonists and got them to draw Peanuts “tribute cartoons” for that Saturday, rather than the Peanuts anniversary cartoons we had planned earlier. The tributes in the “funny pages” were great, and I was walking around the convention the whole time, with my cell phone on my ear, giving interviews to journalists who were writing about the big newspaper comics tribute. We gave the lifetime achievement award to Sparky posthumously.

Steve McGarry and Jeff Keane both have previous show business experience and ran the shows for the first time, raising our production quality to levels the NCS hadn’t seen before. Bil Keane, Jeff’s dad who drew The Family Circus comic, was a very funny guy; he had been the emcee of the Reubens for many years, but at his insistence, this was going to be his last year as Reuben emcee. Steve had the idea to do a Bil Keane Roast on the Sunday night, which led to a repeat of the King Features/Mort Walker kerfuffle, this time with King objecting to the Bil Keane Roast –Bil liking the Roast idea, and King adopting a positive tone again, becoming a second big sponsor, and paying for dinner before the Roast. Steve’s Roast of Bil involved lots of cartoonists doing skits and was great fun.

There were other fun things that happened. I’m a big David Levine fan, and he was a speaker, so I got to meet him. We had a panel of features editors from top newspapers across America talking about the comics (that’s something that would never happen today). There was an odd debate in the NCS at that time about seminars at the conventions, which were still a new part of the Reubens weekend; some old-timers thought the conventions should only consist of parties and objected to seminars. I was “pro-seminar” and pushed lots of seminars into the schedule. RJ Matson managed the many seminars and did a great job.

What is most fun about being the NCS president is that the president gets to “commission” the Reuben weekend artwork; I called my first choice, who graciously agreed, which gave me the delightful opportunity to serve as art director to the legendary Jack Davis. I love Jack’s work and I grew up looking forward to his art in each new issue of Mad Magazine; it was great fun to work with him on this. He was such a Southern gentleman. Jack Davis was, and always will be, my cartoonist hero.

My kids, Susie and Michael, were 16 and 10 years old at the time, and starting with the site visit, they had gotten to know the World Trade Center well, hanging around the shopping mall and becoming well acquainted with every nook and cranny of the entire complex. Susie danced with Jack Davis on Reubens night, and both kids went to most of the seminars.

This is how the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel looked for our convention in 2000.

There were also plenty of nervous moments. There were over 630 people at the banquet (a typical Reuben banquet size is half that size). Several local cartoonists waited until the last minute, that Saturday, to decide they wanted to come, and showed up at the hotel to register on site for the dinner. No one was turned away, though it meant continually juggling seating and adding extra chairs to numerous tables. The ballroom was filled beyond capacity and the new management company people got nudged out of the banquet, so more NCSers and guests could have their seats. We were lucky the fire marshal didn’t make a visit.

We always had a live band in those days, so I hired a band that the old-timers liked; one that had played for the NCS years ago when the Reuben Awards dinner was a single night at the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South. The band didn’t show up until the exact minute that the show was set to begin. I learned that if you want the band to be in place before the show starts, you have to pay them more for those few extra minutes.

The Sunday brunch at Windows on the World ran well over budget, with open bars and cartoonists who will drink everything they see. United Media contracted for the brunch directly, so the bill of well over $100,000.00 went directly to United Media (thank goodness). It was a great, boozy brunch, but chilling in retrospect. All of the staff at the Windows on the World restaurant were trapped above where the airliner hit the building on 9/11/2001, and the employees who served us brunch did not survive the attack.

This is how the hotel looked in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks.

When the Twin Towers fell, the entire 22-story Marriott was also destroyed. Most of the hotel staff got out safely, but forty people reportedly died there, primarily firemen who were using the hotel as a staging area. While it was a shock to the entire world to see the towers and hotel fall, the fact that this had recently been home to our convention and a playground for my kids made it feel personal. Marriott chose not to rebuild the hotel and the site is now a part of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

I look back on our convention at the World Trade Center with both warmth and chills.

Read more old stuff about my career as a cartoonist on

Still More of When I was President, PART THREE of three

More of When I was President, PART TWO of three

When I was President, PART ONE of three

Was I Sunk by Submarines?

Baptists, Gay Marriage, Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, Bert and Ernie

Genies Turned me into a Political Cartoonist

Muppet Mob Scene

CagleCartoonists in France


TRUE Color

TRUE Stupid Stuff 2

TRUE Stupid Stuff

TRUE Sex 3

TRUE Sex 2


TRUE Life Stuff

TRUE Crazy Stuff 4

TRUE Crazy Stuff 3

TRUE Crazy Stuff 2

TRUE Crazy Stuff

TRUE Devils, Angels and YUCK

TRUE Kids 3

TRUE Kids 2


TRUE Health Statistics 3

TRUE Health Statistics 2

TRUE Health Statistics 1

TRUE Women’s Body Images

TRUE History

TRUE Marriage 2

TRUE Marriage

TRUE Business

Garage 8: MORE!

Garage 7: TV Toons

Garage 6

Garage 5

Daryl’s Garage Encore! (Part 4)

Still More Daryl’s Garage! (Part 3)

More Garage Art (Part 2)

Garage Oldies (Part 1)

29 Year Old Oddity

Daryl in Belgium

Cagle in Bulgaria

CagleCartoonists Meet in France

Cartooning for the Troops in Bahrain


Answering a College Student’s Questions about Cartoons

Punk Rock Opera

Blog Syndicate

Monkey on Your Back

I’ve enjoyed the recent back-and-forth sniping between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush about whether President George W. Bush “kept us safe.” Of-course the answer to that is that he kept us safe, here but not overseas, from September 12th, 2001 going forward – a couple of qualifiers that Jeb neglected to mention.

A “monkey on the back” is an editorial cartooning standard – in fact, my buddy Taylor Jones drew a better George W. Bush monkey on the back cartoon recently, that I noticed just now, after I finished my cartoon above. I might not have drawn it had I noticed Taylor’s excellent work first – oh well, there will be plenty of monkeys on the back to come.

Here’s President George W. Bush as a monkey on the back of John McCain back in 2008, by David Fitzsimmons.

This is one of my favorite monkey-Bush oldies, by Sandy Huffaker, from the good old days of 2005.


Cartoonists Look Back At 9/11

It’s an understatement to say that the events of September 11 will forever be etched in the minds of millions of Americans. As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of that tragic day, I thought it would be good to ask some of the top political cartoonists to reflect on that day and how it affected their creative process.

As cartoonists are masters at combining words and symbols into one single, powerful image in a small space, it’s an interesting look back at a day none of us will ever forget.

Mike Keefe, Denver Post

On September 11, 2001, as I walked into the service department waiting room at the Empire Nissan dealership in Lakewood, Colorado, five or six people were glued to the TV set on the wall. One woman had her hand clamped across her mouth. On the screen was the image of one of the Twin Towers in smoke and flames.

An elderly man told me a jet liner had crashed in to the skyscraper.

I called my wife and told her to turn on the television. I hung up and a moment later another aircraft slammed into the second tower. “Holy Shit!” “What the Fuck!”  Gasps filled the room.

When our shock eventually turned to silence, the same elderly man said, very quietly, “There will be war.”

Taylor Jones, Cagle Cartoons

I had just started work for the morning in my home studio on Staten Island, New York. Can’t recall if I was actually on deadline, but I might have been — for El Nuevo Día, in Puerto Rico. I was listening to NPR when they announced that a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. So I switched off the radio and turned on CNN. I saw a huge hole at the top of the tower, with flames and dense smoke. Mesmerized, I watched as, a few minutes later, a second jumbo jet sliced into the South Tower. About 10 seconds later, I heard the sonic boom — the time it took for the sound of the impact to travel across New York Harbor and reach my neighborhood on Staten Island.

I worked fitfully in my studio for much of the day — an ear tuned to NPR, an eye glued to CNN or one of the network news stations. Around 10 o’clock, I drove to the local elementary school to pick up my oldest daughter from her first grade class. The principal thought all of us parents were fools to pick up our children, who were assembled in the auditorium. He was yelling at the top of his lungs, claiming that the safest place for the students to be at that moment was in school. None of the parents were buying his commentary, and, by noon, every child who could be picked up from school was safely home.

The cartoon I drew for Hoover Digest, a few weeks after the attack, was roughly based on a neighborhood in Brooklyn. I added the flags. No such “brownstone” neighborhoods exist on Staten Island. By New York City standards, Staten Island looks like suburbia, mostly. It’s the reason Staten Island is so appealing to cops and firefighters as a place to call home: A bit of green to seek respite from the brown, the fire and the smoke.

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

After I drew the my ‘Firemen and Flag’ cartoon, there was such an overwhelming response that the newspaper ordered shirts with the image on the back. Below the image were 3 union logos- FDNY, NYPD, and FDNY-EMS. We raised $20,000 from the sale, with newspaper staffers filling the requests and mailing them out. We divided the proceeds 3 ways and mailed it to the Union Families Fund that gave it to the families who lost loved ones in 9/11. It felt good to do something to help in some small way.

Cam Cardow, Ottawa Citizen

I had been up late the night before and so when the call from editorial page editor came at 10 a.m., I was still sleeping. She said, “Well, of course you know what topic you’re drawing today” and I responded “no.” Shocked, she asked me if I had seen the news yet and I replied I hadn’t. She said, “turn on the TV” and I asked “what channel?” “ANY channel,” she replied.

Like everyone else, my jaw dropped at the surreal images of planes hitting the towers and then she said, “I’ll need a cartoon in an hour and a half.” I knew right away it had to be a good one.

It’s amazing the things you’re capable of when adrenalin kicks in and when you have no chance to over analyze. I was pleased with my final result, given the time issues of going from concept to final drawing in 90 minutes and importance of the topic. Plus, it was the cartoon for which I was nominated for a Canadian National Newspaper Award in 2001.

Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant

I was in my studio at home working up cartoon gags for the day when my son called. “Are you watching TV?” he asked. I told him I wasn’t. He said to turn it on. “We’re being attacked.” I turned it on just in time to see the second plane hit the tower and ran downstairs to tell my wife. We watched the coverage for a few minutes and I said, “I have to go to the paper.”

I stopped for gas along the way and a customer said that the Pentagon had been hit, too. I figured it was just a rumor, but when I got to The Courant, I watched the whole 9-11 story in the newsroom. As we watched the towers collapse, I was glad I was an editorial cartoonist. At least I didn’t feel completely helpless. I could do something, but if I had been a young man, I would’ve gone out and joined the Army that day.

R.J. Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2011, I was in my studio in Greenwich, reading the papers, wondering what I’d draw for the New York Observer that week. The Observer hit the newsstands on Wednesday each week, and I typically faxed sketches to my editor by noon, every Tuesday, and completed the cartoon by 6pm.

I happened to be watching CNN when the first plane strike was reported and I watch the days horrifying events unfold on TV. I immediately thought of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, which I learned about when my neighbor returned home from work mid-morning with a thick ring of black soot around his mouth. He told me about his harrowing evacuation down 80 flights in pitch black stairwells. A few days after that incident, I drew a cartoon for The Observer showing an anxious Wall Street executive at his desk on a high floor in one of the World Trade Center towers. Behind him, on the glass windows, a hammer hung by a chain and a sign read, “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass.”

I thought of that cartoon, and I wondered how people would escape the fires. I thought of my father, who ran a major company that was hired to improve the fire safety systems in the World Trade Center after 1993. The stairwells would now be lighted at least. I thought of my friends and colleagues who lived and worked downtown. I thought of my brother-in-law who was a bond trader working in one of the towers and I realized I had no idea what floor he worked on (I later learned he safety walked down about 25 flights to street level and then walked about 80 blocks north to his apartment, never looking back. He never returned to that job and moved to Denver within a week.)

I remember I was not able to reach The New York Observer by phone until late that afternoon. The Observer offices were nowhere near what we would later call Ground Zero, but I was not sure whether or not they would be able to publish that day.

Shortly after the second tower had been hit I got on my bike and rode a mile or so to a point on the Long Island Sound from which the twin towers were visible. I saw the smoke. My city had been attacked and I felt odd being thirty-five miles away. I felt I should have been there.

I returned to my studio. No word from The Observer. After the towers had collapsed, I sat stunned and absorbed the full enormity of that catastrophic day. Finally, not knowing what else to do, I started sketching and settled on this hopelessly inadequate idea which my editor saw for the first time about an hour before deadline.

Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons

I remember when I first heard any account of the 9/11 attacks, I was on my bedroom floor doing crunches. It was part of my morning routine before heading to work. The radio station, KMOX in St. Louis, first reported that a small bi-plane was reported to have struck one of the World Trade Center towers. As news came in, and it was verified that it was a commercial jetliner, I quickly headed to the living room, where I saw on the TV the second plane strike, and the incoming news about the Pentagon being hit.

I remember this feeling of anger, as if coming home and finding your house had been burglarized. This was our country, and some bastards were attacking it. One of my best friends at the time was a Muslim from India. So once it was determined that it was radical Muslims who committed the attacks, I was very conscious of possible retaliation in our country.

For me, as for millions of other Americans, the whole ordeal was a national nightmare come true.

The cartoon above is my commentary of local price gouging that occurred at some gas stations that tried to capitalize on the tragedy.

John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune

Watching the events of September 11, 2001, unfold, my initial reaction was one of anger. What unspeakable monster would do something like this to their fellow humans? What twisted logic underlies such an act. Thus my first cartoon depicted a scowling Uncle Sam towering over a smoke-shrouded Manhattan skyline, looking over his shoulder to suggest he’d be looking for those responsible.

But it wasn’t until a few days had passed that I began to digest the meaning of what had happened, and what the event meant to us as a nation. It definitely brought the various shades of the nation’s political spectrum together in various (and even touching) displays of bipartisanship. Hard to imagine that happening now. So above is the first cartoon about 9/11 that I actually was satisfied with, drawn roughly five days after the fact.

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

There was no work being done—the staff of the Salt Lake Tribune clustered in front of the televisions around the office. We quietly shared observations and information (“Could be bigger than Pearl Harbor,” “They say 20,000 people work in the towers”) as we tried to make sense of what we were seeing. We collectively gasped as the first burning tower collapsed. Then the second went down along with confused reports of other planes and other targets. When images of a jetliner smashing into one of the towers began to be played by the networks in a continuous loop, we began drifting back to our desks and work, or at least we tried to work.

I had difficult decisions to make about the cartoon for the next day. Given the day’s surreal feel, anything routine was out. There were already political figures on TV vowing revenge, but it was too soon for warrior bald eagles, steely-eyed Lady Liberties, or heavily-muscled Uncle Sams. What people felt at the moment was a need to share the tragedy and be with others. I reviewed and rejected employing a national symbol as a stand-in for our shared grief. Instead, the task seemed too much for any image and I decided on an unsigned black panel with the date. Hardly a cartoon at all, but then hardly an ordinary day.


Looking Back on 9/11

A disturbing old brochure, promoting the World Trade Center.

Ten years ago I was president of the National Cartoonists Society and I brought our annual convention to the World Trade Center, shortly before its demise. I was looking through some of my old files this morning and I found a disturbing brochure (right) promoting the World Trade Center. Oh dear.

With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 coming soon, I collaborated on a French book project with Le Monde’s front page cartoonist, Plantu. We had a 32 page “conversation” about the ten years since 9/11 in comic book format for an anthology called 12 Septembre published by the big Belgian graphic novel publisher, Casterman (they do the Tin Tin books). The cover (left) of the book was interesting, disturbing, perhaps offensive, and a surprise to me.  With victims and planes casually falling, or floating without emotion, and a cute, red lipped chick, big in the foreground. I don’t get it – maybe it’s a French thing. I know that cute chicks on book covers sell books … still …

The collaboration with Plantu was great fun.  Plantu is a big star in France, with his cartoons gracing the front pages of the national newspaper, Le Monde, for over twenty years. I’ve never heard of editorial cartoonists having a graphic conversation like this before.  We decided to bounce back and forth between two page spreads, working forward through the ten years. This was a pretty big project, and explains why I didn’t draw very many editorial cartoons back in January and February.

Le Monde is publishing excerpts from the book in their weekly magazine; a copy of a spread from my conversation with Plantu is below, and further below are a couple of my spreads in English, at a readable size.


One of the spreads from last Sunday's Le Monde, showing my graphic "conversation" with Plantu.



Scary Visits

Scary Visits COLOR © Daryl Cagle,,president bush, osama bin laden, ladin, twin towers, world trade center, terror, halloween, trick or treat, republican, elephant, costumes, scary visits


WTC Memorials Page 3

WTC Memorials Page 3 © Daryl Cagle,,World Trade center, Memorials, ideas, small world, Disneyland, Disney, Eternal Smoke, smoke, September 11th, 9/11, 9-11