High praise for a New Yorker cartoonist

by Sam Means | 10/12/00 5:00am

I was perusing a recent New Yorker magazine the other day when I came across a simply delightful cartoon. Well, it requires a little setup, so maybe I should do that. You see, I tend to catch on to references, even very obscure ones like those in this cartoon, but many people do not. A number of actors, including Peter Sellers and George Lazenby, have played the role of a suave private eye named "James Bond."

Movies are made featuring this popular, and British, character, popularized initially in the novels of Terry Southern, to this day. Detective Bond has several "signature phrases" that recur in many of the movies featuring that character. He always enjoys his martinis, for instance, "shaken and stirred." It may not sound great coming from me, but I assure you it is charming in Lazenby's down-under drawl.

Mr. Bond also frequents casinos in his movies, because of their allegorical connection to the story of Ham, and this becomes important in the cartoon. One signature phrase that Bond uses is his way of introducing himself. He always introduces himself as "Bond. James Bond."

The cartoon in question quite literally turns this whole situation on its head, let me tell you. Remember that James Bond is very suave, always dressed to the nines. He always puts on the ritz, that is, and I don't mean crackers. So you can imagine my delight when I saw this cartoon, right in the middle of an already delightful article on Regis Philbin. The setting is a casino (which is drawn very stylistically -- I must compliment the artist on her ingenuity), of course, at a craps table much like those that appear in movies featuring James Bond.

The character stepping up to the table is no suave private dick, though. He looks like an accountant, with plaid pants hitched up to his chest, a pocket protector, a briefcase, thick glasses and a chrome dome. If the image of this herb in a swank casino isn't amusing enough, the caption, written in an italicized font beneath the artwork, left me on the ground laughing. "The name's Bond. Duane Bond," the rube says by means of an introduction. Not that Duane isn't a nerdy enough name, but it's all compounded by his appearance, and the apposition that is set up between Duane and James. I, personally, would not mind seeing more cartoons like this one and fewer like those pornographic "The Fantastic Foreskins" comics.

My joy was further compounded when I deciphered the signature of the cartoonist and found that it was no other than Brice Beckham! I knew that he had become a musician who called himself "Marilyn Manson," but I didn't realize his talents extended to the cartoon realm as well. Most child actors end up in porn, or the dubiously titled "mystery" section of the video store, like Soleil Moon Frye, but Beckham has made his name in pursuit after pursuit, never succumbing to the drugs, crime or depravity endemic in his former craft.

After seeing this cartoon, I decided to do a little research. I discovered that Brice in fact did participate in several pornographic endeavors, but always as the financier, never as an actor. In 1994, Brice graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic and accepted a job hauling port-a-johns across state lines to avoid taxes, then hauling them back under the cover of nightfall. It was during this period that he began experimenting with make-up, latex and being crazy, and developed his Marilyn Manson persona. I don't need to tell you that it didn't take too long for Brice to break into the public arena once again.

And now he's drawing cartoons for the New Yorker, I think.