Home Book editor Danny Shanahan, cartoonist with absurd touch, dies at 64

Danny Shanahan, cartoonist with absurd touch, dies at 64



Danny Shanahan, a jolly cartoonist who had a comic book gift for the one-liners but whose long association with The New Yorker ended in a cloud last year, died July 5 in a Charleston hospital, SC. He was 64 years old.

The cause was a failure of several organs in the system, said his wife, Janet Stetson. He lived in Mount Pleasant, SC

From 1988 until last year, Mr. Shanahan published approximately 1,000 cartoons in The New Yorker. Drawn with a casual style and an absurd eye, they were populated by an array of characters, including clowns, snowmen, praying mantises, cats, dogs, cavemen, elves, monkeys, athletes, businessmen, politicians, Santa Claus and Elvis.

In a cartoon, a dog looks up from his menu in a restaurant and asks the waiter, “Is homework fresh?” In another, titled “Mr. October,” a headless New York Yankee searches his locker for his pumpkin head. In a third, titled “Batmom”, Batman reads a message sent to him in the sky that reads: “Your sister got another promotion!”

But Mr Shanahan’s long stay at the New Yorker ended with his arrest by New York State Police in December for possession of child pornography. Citing “deeply troubling” charges against him, the New Yorker suspended his contract.

Mr. Shanahan has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Phil Smallman, said the case had not been resolved upon his death, adding that a conference with the presiding judge was scheduled for Monday.

Michael Maslin, another New York cartoonist, said over the phone of Mr. Shanahan: “He was like a distributor of human Pez humor, his mind still working. It was funny, like his job. He had never left.

He was invariably stupid. In the first half of a two-part cartoon, Mr. Shanahan depicted a drowning boy shouting at a notoriously helpful dog, “Lassie! Get help! “In the second panel, Lassie lays down on a therapist’s couch – for help. In one of his many cartoons about clowns, Mr. Shanahan drew a clown giving advice to another, who wears a round nose as big as a bowling ball: “Ask yourself, ‘Does that make me a better clown?'”

And in his 2018 parody of “Christina’s World,” Andrew Wyeth’s painting of a young woman lying in a field and looking at a remote farm, Mr. Shanahan added a football goal behind her and put on red keeper on her hands to create “Christina’s World Cup.”

Bob Mankoff, former cartoon editor for The New Yorker, called Mr. Shanahan’s humor universal. “People will laugh at some of the cartoons in The New Yorker next week and next month, but they won’t be laughing at them in 10 years,” he said in an interview. “But in 10 years, they’ll be making fun of Danny cartoons.” He was a master of the cartoon joke.

Daniel Patrick Shanahan was born July 11, 1956 in Brooklyn and raised in Northport, Long Island, and Bethlehem, Connecticut. He was one of 11 children of Bernard Shanahan, director of electronics company Perkin-Elmer, and Kathleen (Novosel) Shanahan, a housewife.

“He was still drawing,” said Mrs. Stetson, his wife. “Her parents had a large family with a modest income, but they still had a lot of books and a lot of paper on the table. And he was still funny. He had a unique way of seeing the world.

Mr. Shanahan was largely self-taught; he took a course or two at the Paier College of Art in Hamden, Connecticut. He worked as a bartender while selling cartoons, mainly to small magazines but also to TV Guide.

“I’ve been drawing for over 30 years,” he told A Case for Pencils website in 2017. “I started, in the 1980s, as an unofficial cartoonist for the United States Tennis Association, thanks to a good friend who was editor for World Tennis magazine. Fortunately, he saw a glimmer of possibility in the Kliban and Larson knockoffs of this Bleecker Street bartender, ”referring to B. Kliban, known for his designs animated one-panel cats, and Gary Larson, the creator of “The Far Side”.

In 1988, Mr. Shanahan and Mrs. Stetson got married and were looking for a cheaper place to start a family. They moved from Rhinebeck, NY, to Corrales, NM Soon after he sold his first cartoon to the New Yorker: a visibly muscular little boy reading his essay, “What I did on my summer vacation To his classmates. The family lived in New Mexico for seven years, a time that Ms. Stetson called “the best thing that could happen” to her husband “because he was able to develop his style.”

In addition to The New Yorker, Mr. Shanahan’s work has appeared in Time, Esquire, Playboy, Fortune, Newsweek, and The New York Times.

He has published several cartoon books and two children’s books: “The Bus Ride That Changed History” (2009, written by Pamela Duncan Edwards), on Rosa Parks’ refusal to give way to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., In 1955; and “Buckledown the Workhound” (1993), which he both wrote and illustrated. He also illustrated “More Weird and Wonderful Words” (2003), edited by Erin McKean.

Besides his wife, Mr. Shanahan is survived by their sons, Finnegan Shanahan and Render Stetson-Shanahan; her sisters, Jane Petersen, Eileen Stevens, Kathryn DeAngelis and Celia, Rita and Lillian Shanahan; and his brothers, Bernard Jr., Francis, Matthew and Terrence. (His son Render gained notoriety when he was sentenced to prison for manslaughter last year in the stabbing death of his roommate in 2016.)

Mr. Shanahan’s last cartoon for The New Yorker was released in November. It shows a pilgrim holding a cooked turkey on a platter and telling another pilgrim, “He says my eagle tastes like fish, so this year I’m trying something new.