the true artist

‘i know,’ he said. ‘you’re right. i’ve been a worthless piece of shit lately.’


‘ok. always. i’ve always been that way.’

‘you’re goddam right you have. and if you don’t put something on my desk soon–and by soon i mean TOMORROW–you can find yourself another knucklehead to peddle your garbage.’

‘oh come off it. so my latest cartoons have been a little–‘

‘a little what?’

‘well, they’ve… you know. they’ve lacked a certain…’

‘sense of decency?’

‘well i was going to say ‘spark,’ but.’

‘i can’t see how you look yourself in the mirror after writing yet another miserable cartoon about that stupid cat.’

‘i don’t like it anymore than you do. but he’s an institution by now. people look forward to him. he’s still got better distribution than other strips.’

‘well… hey, what’ve i always told you?’


‘you know.’

‘oh that? not now.’

‘yes, now.’

‘i’m not saying it.’

‘but you know it’s true.’

‘i was drawing him back in high-school and people loved him then.’

‘yeah. then you got to college, and who got you into the papers?’

‘we did.’

‘yeah. you drew him on every damn napkin you used to wipe your slobbering mouth and i got him in papers all across the country.’

‘he’s my character.’

‘he’s our property. remember? or have you been drinking again?’

‘you know what? i’m going to write a brilliant one tomorrow. i just got an idea.’

‘lemme guess: the cat is sleeping when, suddenly, he smells a lasagna!’

‘whose idea was the lasagna anyway? yours! and i never even liked the lasagna!’

‘the lasagna made him! without the lasagna, he’s just another stupid cat.’

‘tomorrow is gonna be gold. i feel inspired.’

‘you’re welcome.’

‘i’m not thanking you.’

‘well if you come up with something–anything–that exudes a pulse, you may as well thank me. how long has it been since you did anything worthwhile?’

‘there was the one about 9/11. the commemorative one where he woke up from his nap and saluted the flag? remember how he started crying when jon found out his coworker in the north tower?’

‘that wasn’t worthwhile. that was pandering. shameless pandering. and how the hell did an apathetic cat get so choked up over his owner’s co-worker?’

‘it was all patriotism.’

‘oh, please.’

‘you gotta at least admit i’ve had some moments.’

‘you’d better have more. otherwise they’re cutting you.’


‘i just got the call.’

‘how many?’

‘it’d be about a fourth of your circulation.’


‘that’s why i’ve been on you like i have today. i don’t want it to happen like that.’

‘well damn.’

‘that’s right. so go home. drink some coffee. and come up with something. and for chrissake, stay off the junk.’

‘what are you talking about?’

‘i know you been speed-balling again.’

‘i haven’t–

‘i hired a private investigator.’

‘i can explain.’

‘listen, i know you’ve got a lot going on. and you’re famous. i know celebrities are always getting into what they shouldn’t be. just don’t let yourself become one of them. i need you to keep pushing yourself to create the greatest comics you can. you know?

‘i can do that.’

‘i know you can. i remember your early strips. it was like reading tolstoy for the first time. i was blown away. but you got complacent.’

‘i know.’

‘you can’t get complacent. not in this business. you know what happens. just look at beetle bailey. hagar. blondie. worst of all, imagine yourself writing the family circus day after day.’

‘if that were to ever happen, you’d be finding me in my boxers hanging from a ceiling fan.’

‘don’t say that.’

‘it’s true. i’m not just a cartoonist. at least i don’t see myself that way.’

‘i know you don’t. you’re capable of so much more.’

‘fuck it. call everyone who’s thinking about dropping me and tell them i’ve got a dynamite new run planned.’

‘what should i tell them it’s about?’

‘just tell them i’ll send them some mock-ups by next week. it’s time to get back to work.’

‘jim. i love your enthusiasm, but you gotta tell me what to tell them it’s about.’

‘tell them it’s going to blow their fucking minds and that if they don’t like it, then they can suck my dick.’

‘if you think you can make it happen.’

‘fuck. i know i can. i’m jim davis, goddammit. and i’m the greatest cartoonist on the planet.’


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