I remember back in the late 70's when I was teaching a summer cartooning class at Portland State University, we broke for a lunch break and a guy in a wheelchair wanted to chat with me. His name was John Callahan, and he had some cartoons to show me. The guy was quadriplegic, from a drunken auto accident he had in 1972. As I checked out the cartoons, each one was funnier than the last. Even though he had very limited use of his arms, the graphic style was quite compelling and original because the line was so uncontrolled.
I asked John to stick around while I showed the class his drawings as examples of great gag cartoons. Afterwards, I encouraged him to send them to National Lampoon, The New Yorker, and all the men's magazines. After a few years, his cartoons went into syndication with the enormous help of my friend Deb Levin. Because of his acerbic, politically incorrect art and his living situation, he became a media sensation. He was covered in all the newspapers and even had a segment in 60 Minutes. Unfortunately, his health worsened and sadly, he died last week at the age of 59.
I fondly remember when he came to NYC back in the late 80's to publicize his book and I threw him a party in my loft. I invited all the great gag cartoonists – P.C. Vey, Jack Ziegler, Michael Maslin, and Sam Gross, amongst others. He was in Hog Heaven. At the end of the party, he wheeled up to me and said, “This is the happiest day of my life.” If you have time, please check out his hilarious books and animation – he was a true genius.