Just got back from a ten day visit to Kuwait and Iraq, where the USO sent ten of us to draw for the troops. I’ll talk about the trip later this week, but first I need to introduce you to the “Band of Boneheads.”
They were an incredibly talented and fun group, with skill sets ranging from caricature to comic strip to editorial cartoons, and it was a blast traveling with them. They were as generous and giving to the troops as they were merciless toward each other. Somewhere along the way (I think it was right after they met an Air Force Colonel named “Camel”) they learned about callsigns, and they all wanted one. Here is the illustrious group, with a brief explanation of each cartoonist’s nickname:
Ray Alma, a fantastic caricaturist whose art frequents Mad Magazine, is from New York. For reasons unclear to the rest of us, he traveled with a G.I. Joe the entire trip. We were going to call him “G.I.”, but he liked that too much. Doll Face seemed right, but I have to admit it got a little awkward calling to him in a crowded room.
Chad lives in Alaska and draws “Tundra”, a cartoon strip about the north country that is sweeping the nation. His moniker was easy – he lives about a million miles from Iraq, and hasn’t worn short sleeve shirts in a couple of decades. We were going to call him “Ice Man”, but that was just too cool, so he became “Icebox.”
Dave Coverly, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, draws “Speed Bump” for hundreds of publications, including Parade Magazine. He received the Reuben Award in 2009 for being the top cartoonists in the country – maybe the world. He is friendly, mellow, and never gets flapped. He liked his original callsign of “Zen”, so it got changed to “Ghandi.”
Rob Harrell of Austin, Texas draws “Adam@Home”, a popular syndicated strip. He also draws a circus-themed strip called “Big Top”, but that’s not what earned him his nickname. Apparently, his head is so large that he had difficulty fitting it into a regulation-sized helmet.
Bill Hinds also lives in Texas and is one of the most prolific cartoonists in the business. He draws Tank McNamara, Cleats, and Buzz Beamer. He is as big as Tank, too. He asked a lot of questions during the trip, enough that the rest of us noticed. That was fatal.
Mason lives in New York and draws “B.C”, one of the most popular cartoons in the world, and he’s a soft-spoken, friendly bloke. He also has some sort of animal magnetism that drew women to him like bees to honey. Like a magnet.
Dave, a Kansas City boy, is licensed to draw some of the most famous cartoon characters in the universe. He can draw Bugs, Mickey, Tweety, Daffy, and just about any famous character you can think of. Accoring to Dave, “When we were ordering dinner at the hotel one night. I was asking the waiter if so and so ‘was good?’. The waiter didn’t understand. So I asked ‘Is this tasty?’ Again, a blank stare. I continued the investigation and conquered the language barrier with, ‘Have you ever had this to eat…Yum-Yum?’
“All the nearby Boneheads were shocked and thought I was too brutal. However, the waiter understood and replied, ‘Yes, veirdy goood’.”
Yum-yum is quite the linguist.
Ed Steckley is another incredibly talented caricaturist with ties to Mad Magazine, and he’s also from New York. The two caricaturists were swamped on this trip, and responded by making fun of everyone who sat for a picture, as only caricaturists can do. The troops loved it. Unfortunately, Ed has a troubling resemblance to Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats.
Tom Stiglich is a popular editorial cartoonist out of Philadelphia. He can draw just about anything, and he would show a sheet of popular cartoons to the troops and ask which they wanted to see. His drawings were a huge hit. But the purists among us penalized him for using reference drawings, so the name stuck. Of course, we all vowed to do the same thing on the next trip, but that is irrelevant.
I was flattered when I first heard what the others had decided for my callsign. Old Navy. That’s like Old School. The grounded, seasoned veteran. But then I found out that after one too many I-don’t-knows to their military queries, they began to suspect I had never served in the Navy at all. They believed that my only connection to the seagoing service was serving as a clerk at the Old Navy store.
So there you have it. We few, we happy few, we Band of Boneheads. More on the tour later this week.