Where are all the Veterinary Cartoonists?

Where are all the Veterinary Cartoonists?
DALL-E, are you my only companion out here?

If you really insist to ChatGPT that it gives you a precise number, it'll reluctantly speculate that there are probably 1-5 cartoonists per 100,000 population. Who knows what that means, but the point is, we're gonna have some fun with (crappy) statistics. Take that number and extrapolate from the US population (335 million and counting, btw), and you suddenly realize that there might be 3,000 and 16,000 cartoonists in this country. That's the size of small flyover town in the western hills, albeit one with a lot of coffee shops and art supply stores.

It's not a ton of people, but it is a lot of competition for an aspiring cartoonist. I've heard that The New Yorker gets anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 submissions per week. Yikes! But submitting to them is probably the highest echelon of the art form, there are other outlets and audiences for specialized cartoonists.

Take veterinarians, for example. Since there a little more than 100,000 veterinarians in the US, using reckless math, (1 to 5/ per 100,000 x 100,000), I suspect there are anywhere from 1 to 5 veterinary cartoonists (+/- a few) in the US. There may be several more than me (see my Insta, bruh). But where are they?!

My Cartooning Life

I've been drawing a lot of cartoons lately, which has been a nice reawakening. The earliest cartoon project I can remember was a group of super vegetables and fruits, probably sometime in early middle school. I drew some cartoons for the middle school newspaper (the only one I recall was "Welcome to Roswell, NM" sign reading "Population; Humans - 12,540, Alien - 4). Although I skipped publishing in the high school newspaper for some reason (read, Nintendo 64), I started back up in college, working on a series about a super-powered Corn Dog and his sidekick, a radioactive piece of bacon.

c. 2003. I eat healthier nowadays...

This, subspectacular series, Corn Dog & Bacon Boy, was rejected by The California Aggie, the UC Davis student newspaper, multiple years in a row. Because it was terrible. But it's not like the paper had a thriving cartoons page. They were all bad. Eventually, I changed tactics my senior year and came up with a series about a pair of hangry squirrels on the UC Davis quad*, which was accepted and published for a year. The most exciting moment of that journey, besides earning $10 every other week, was when I found a newspaper with my strip cut out. Someone had saved my art!

After floating around in the amorphous soup of post-graduation directionlessness, I started up another series, Fauna, while working as a Spanish-speaking tour bus driver at the San Diego Zoo (¡Bienvenido al famoso Zoológico de San Diego! ¡Mi nombre es Gregorio y hoy soy tu guía! Si miramos hacia el lado derecho veremos los osos panda y ¡Sólo comen bambú! ¡Que interesante!). I kept this single panel, wannabe Far Side project going through veterinary school, where it ran in the widely circulated (over 80 copies printed monthly) California Waggie, the student run veterinary school "newspaper".

Since this was a captive market of animal nerds, people seemed to like it. In fact, I ended up impressing one of the business reps that came to present on campus, and my work was forwarded along to the prolific veterinary cartoonist Robert M. Miller, who was nice enough to have a phone conversation with me and give me his input.

His sage advice, which I completely ignored, was to create cartoons for veterinarians. He said I needed to have an audience, and I was talented enough to create humorous content for veterinarians since I could see things from their perspective. What I was doing at the time, creating idiosyncratic jokes that required knowledge only a zoo employee would have, made no sense if I wanted to get my work out there.

This was great advice, and it took me over 10 years of failure to recognize it. Fauna was still semi-active until recently, but I was down to about one cartoon every other year. Other creative pursuits were still fruitful, but the cartoon call had dwindled to a soft background rustling.

Now, it just so happens that my neighbor, who's very successful in his non-cartoonist career, has been submitting to The New Yorker for years and years, and has started to get published pretty recently. We were chatting about illustration and cartooning, and it dawned on me that I was something of a dormant cartoonist. So after a few more conversations, the idea must have bubbled up in my brain, because I started sketching out thumbnails on post-it notes at work.

It started with amusing thoughts here and there, mostly from a veterinary perspective, but now I'm hacking my way into the fine art of getting rejected by the New Yorker (first batch officially declined, btw!). Along the way, I'm approaching things with a great deal more humility and professionalism since I now know that winging it on self-inflated sense of supermassive talent didn't work out. It's been extremely fun to explore as an art form, and I hope to get more cartoons out there.

In the meantime, I'll keep knocking out veterinary, non-veterinary, and sometimes occasionally even animal-less cartoons. If I can brighten someones day, or even better, get an actual laugh, it will have all been worth it!

*For my other signature take on the UC Davis quad, see Epic Quad Battle

Greg Bishop

Greg Bishop

A veterinarian with unquenchable creative impulses. Unquenchable? Hmmm... creative "tendencies"? Well, it depends on how well I slept last night. Also a writer, illustrator and whatever-elser.