Obama Limited Edition print

Obama Limited Edition print of 500 signed by the artist available now for $200.00

size: 8 1/2 inches wide by 12 inches deep with a two inch boarder. 

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Hauntingly Hysterical

"You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper."

Those were the final words spoken by convicted murderer Robert Alton Harris the day he was executed in California's gas chamber more than 15 years ago. Death by Laughter, the latest book by cartoonist Harry Bliss, captures that sentiment with more than 100 of his best and most irreverent single-panel cartoons collected from his daily strip "Bliss."

You'll undoubtedly find yourself identifying with many of the other disturbing problems that Harry parodies in this hilarious little gem: Infidelity, pollution, breaking-up, therapist visits and computer breakdowns are all turned upside-down and inside-out exposing truths no one wants to talk about.

Harry emailed us from his home in Vermont in response to a few questions we had for him, including how he got to know actor Christopher Guest, who wrote the introduction to Death by Laughter, and his favorite cartoon that he's drawn for us to date.

PLAYBOY: Not only did Christopher Guest write the introduction to Death by Laughter, he owns some of your original artwork. What was your first encounter like with him?

BLISS: It was great meeting Chris and his wife, Jamie Lee Curtis -- two wonderful people; smart, funny, and very, very kind. My girlfriend and I met them for lunch in LA and we talked about all sorts of topics: cartoons, films, yoga, kids, and hybrid cars! Jamie has bought Chris a few of my cartoons and Chris and I have traded cartoons (he draws too).

PLAYBOY: Is there a different artistic process involved when you create illustrations for the various mediums (books, magazines, websites) your work appears?

BLISS: These days, all I seem to be doing is black and white cartoons, like the cartoons in syndication, on my Web site and in The New Yorker, so the process is the same. My work for kid's books is always in color and each book takes six to ten months, whereas I kick out the single-panel cartoons daily. With books, I'm the artist illustrating an author's words, so I guess there's a certain limitation in that, but it's a limitation I'm quite comfortable with, in fact, and I've grown to enjoy the collaboration. As far as the panels go, I generally begin by drawing a scene, say, a couple in bed talking, and once the drawing is finished I begin to imagine a narrative or back story for the people in the drawing -- what are they all about? Imagining the characters' motivations will often inspire a caption. Working this way, I feel, injects a certain sense of humanity in the work, and this is an important aspect I try to achieve in the panels. And sometimes the panels are immature, like me, and that's okay too.

PLAYBOY: Many of the dogs in your cartoons are personified exhibiting just as much angst and strife as the humans in your cartoons. Do you own a dog?

BLISS: I do have a dog. Well, it's my girlfriend's puppy, named Penny, and she's a terrific animal. I have a deep affection for animals and anthropomorphizing them is my way of bringing empathy to their existence.

PLAYBOY: In 2000 you illustrated the cover of the book Madam President in which the authors predicted there would be a female president of the United States within the next decade. When Hillary almost won the democratic nomination this year, you must have felt that your illustration was prophetic. What did you think eight years ago when you drew it?

BLISS: I've always felt that a woman could be president -- even when I'd done that book jacket. Other countries have elected women as leaders, so it has always seemed odd that the United States might be wary of this prospect. I suppose that being a cartoonist and a solipsist I kind of live in a bit of a bubble in that I tend to reject racism and sexism. I know they exist, but I just can't get my mind to admit it. Hillary would have made a great leader. Sarah Palin is another story. I respect her accomplishments, but she's not ready to be president, and McCain really underestimated women in this country by thinking Palin could ease their Hillary pain.

PLAYBOY: Nearly 30 cartoons of yours have appeared in the pages of Playboy in the last decade. Do you have a favorite?

BLISS:My favorite Playboy cartoon is Dude Descending a Staircase, No. 1, which is a spin on Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. It's not a typical Playboy cartoon and I give Hef a lot of credit in giving me the OK for that one. Duchamp has always been one of my artistic heroes, even as a kid, so that cartoon stands out. It was difficult to do and when I do speaking gigs and that image shows up, it always gets a big laugh, which makes me happy. Penny is biting my toes, so I have to go now.

Harry responds to recent events

This week has been an illuminating one for me. Recently, I was accused by John Rau of plagiarizing one of his gags. I'd like my readers to know that this is not true. I'd never been to Rau's site, nor have I ever seen his cartoon. Ideas are transient, and if you are a creative person, you know that its not entirely unlikely that two people will have the same idea. To think that you, and only you are capable of coming up with an idea is frankly a bit naive. In this instance it appears Rau beat me to the punch. It happens. And will probably happen again. It's a bummer for me, but to write 10 gags a week that play off relevant things happening in the world, sooner or later I'm going to write something similar to something that has been done.

I would imagine if someone were to examine Rau's output, with a bit of time, similarities would occur. I'm sorry that Rau took it personally, and believe that the Jack Kirby attribution issue I recently had probably played a bit of a role here.

As to that, well... its been stated more than once by the NYer, I meant that as a homage to the King. The image I picked was not obscure. It was one of the 4 or 5 iconic pre hero Monster covers Jack did for Marvel, and I looked at it as fair game. If I were to use an image of the Mona Lisa, I wouldn't credit DaVinci. It's assumed the average Joe would know what it was.

In hindsight, given the way Jack has been treated over the years, I can certainly understand his fans coming to the rescue. Know that I too am a fan, and was doing something that I thought brought my hero into the limelight. I never thought for a moment that anyone would think I was somehow claiming that as my own work. I riff of popular culture. Without the refrences, nothing would work.

Harry Bliss

The Wildflower Group


'Bliss' will soon be Licensed by The Wildflower Group (New York, UK)


'What's So Funny?' 'Lecture series video

Hear Harry Bliss talk about his work from 'What's So Funny?' A lecture series at The Society of American Illustration in New York City.

To view the Video Stream: Click Here

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