Selected Cartoons by Joe Serrano
Sixty cartoons because we need a good laugh.
My father, Joe Serrano, was born in Columbia in 1912 and emigrated to the United States at age 9. He quit school in the eighth grade to go to work to help support his widowed mother and little sister. Even as a very young school boy, he drew cartoons, letting his classmates see them for a penny a peak. Always thinking about metaphysics, the meaning of life, and the nature of God, he drew the humors of everyday living into cartoons. Now over a hundred years since his birth, his cartoons resonate with the new realities of the 21st Century as if they were created just yesterday.
It was a long journey to the publication of World Out of Order. As a child, I was always aware of my father’s cartoons, even before I could read. He sat with pen and ink in hand drawing on a board.
In 1945, when my brother, Philip Serrano, was born after WWII, my father left his wartime draftsman job and declared himself a full time free lance cartoonist. The drawing board became a drawing table in a dedicated corner of my parents’ bedroom. It was equipped with drawing pens, pencils, brushes, a big stack of white paper, India ink and a stash of erasers. A guillotine paper trimmer (still in use in my home today) and a large powerful magnifying glass completed his drawing studio space.
Over the years he expanded to a whole room for his work where he conceived and drew 22 rough drafts a week to send out to magazines and trade journals. He would check his mailbox daily for acceptances and rejections then draw up the final drafts. He did this in New York, Massachusetts, and California for 47 years. When he died in 1987, the following day, in the mail came an acceptance of one of his rough drafts from a magazine he’d submitted to earlier. My life long friend, the artist Beryl Landau, kindly drew the finished version for him. He was able to end his career on a triumphant note with its publication. My brother and I and our spouses, Elizabeth Hickey Serrano and Paul Richards, gathered up all his files and stored them in Phil and Liz’s garage.
After my mother died in 1989, the four of us went through my dad’s cartoons and sorted them with hopes of making a book. That was already 30 years ago and then we forgot.
When my brother died, three years ago in 2017, the forgetting got worse. But the subject of my father’s legacy reawakened this year when I wrote a Father’s Day poem titled “Poem for My Father with Love From Your Daughter” which is in the preface of the book. I read the poem on the radio. Paul realized it was time to publish the book. We looked in our computers and everywhere for the cartoons, and not surprisingly could not find them. Fortunately, my sister law, Liz remembered and brought them over in a blue plastic covered bin filled with cartoons drawn on paper.
I could hear Paul laughing out loud as he was scanning, sorting, and editing hundreds of brilliantly drawn pictures with short humurous captions. Using just a few flowing black and white lines, my father captured settings, personalities, relationships and complex situations.
Although these cartoons were created long ago from 1945 to 1987, they still tickle our funny bones. Joe was a very modest and shy man. He would be so surprised and pleased that 33 years after his passing his works are now collected to be enjoyed at a time when the world needs to laugh more than ever.