I rediscovered this week’s contest while catching up on a time-consuming but ultimately kinda fun task: to compile a booklet of the first 500 blots of ink awarded to each of our latest inductees into the Style Invitational Hall of Fame, Stephen Dudzik and Elden Carnahan. Steve and Elden both started entering the Invite in Year 1, 1993 — Steve got his first ink in Week 7, Elden in Week 22, and they’re both among the very few Losers to score ink in each of the past 20 years. Elden tore up proto-Loserland early on, scoring 151 inks in the first three years and 287 in the first six, while Steve also became a household name in the paleo-Invite, with more than 200 in those first six years. And so far, I’ve gotten through 1996 for each of them. Be patient, guys — you shouldn’t have written so many cartoon captions.
Thanks to the amazingly comprehensive Master Contest List that Elden has compiled, along with a searchable database containing virtually every word of every Invitational contest, it’s been easier to put these lists together than when I did the same exercise years ago for Hall of Famers Chuck Smith, Jennifer Hart, Russell Beland, Tom Witte, Chris Doyle, Brendan Beary and Kevin Dopart; back then, I had to call up each contest, one at a time, in which the person got ink.
But still, both Steve and Elden proved especially proficient at scoring ink for cartoon captions and other ink related to photos, which weren’t in his database. And so I started mining the ProQuest archive of DFs of The Post’s pages, which go all the way back to 1887 but stop at the end of 1996 (for now). It took a while to figure out how to get to them, but in the past few days I was able to send a whole pile of Invite PDFs to Elden, who’s putting them up as fast as he can on his Master List, with a WP icon you can click on to see them; as of this afternoon, he has the first 31 weeks up (along with many PDFs from later years; The Post’s own PDF archive starts in 2002, and I’ll continue to supply contests dating from them and later to Elden).
You should take a few minutes to look at the first weeks of Invite. One notable difference is that the cartoons for the first year were done by another freelance artist, Marc Rosenthal, whose style reminds me of engravings done by a madman wielding the burin. The Czar enjoyed Rosenthal’s art, but Marc had the misfortune to be unavailable for a few weeks in 1994, and the art department called up some wacky guy in St. Louis. In those weeks of working with Bob Staake, the Czar remembered today, “I began to realize I could use him not only as an artist, but to test contest ideas. If I had an idea and he couldn’t think of a good example, I knew it was probably not a good idea. Also, sometimes his examples were better than mine, and i used them.” Rosenthal — who’s a highly regarded cartoonist with at least one New Yorker cover to his name — was gracious enough to draw several cartoons for a “farewell contest,’ Week 61, which might or might not depict a cartoonist exacting bitter revenge. (How was there so much room for those big cartoons? Look at the winners below for Week 58: count ’em, nine entries total.)