Some clouds

Late Santa Rosa man's naughty look at the funny pages

  • Rose Marie "Rosie" McDaniel, holds a copy of "Naked Cartoonists." a book of nude, self-portraits by noted cartoonists which she had a major role in the publication of turned to the self-portrait done by Charles Schulz at the Charles M. Schulz Museum on Friday July 12, 2013. The drawings were requested and collected by Rosie's late husband, Mark Cohen. (Scott Manchester/For The Press Democrat)

Fifteen years ago, Rosie McDaniel's perpetually amused husband, a very funny guy bewitched by MAD magazine and newspaper funnies, did something characteristically silly.

The late Mark Cohen wrote to cartoonists to ask if they'd send him a caricature of themselves, naked. Dozens and dozens did, largely because they knew and loved the man behind the odd request.

That Cohen would collect whimsical nude self-portraits of cartoon artists makes perfect sense given the context of his life. From early on, his greatest fascination was with the clever, fantastic, insightful, perhaps even brilliant drawing and writing that goes into MAD and the funny pages.

As a 14-year-old in Stockton, Cohen began sending money orders good for a few bucks to newspaper cartoonists and requesting self-caricatures — regular, fully dressed ones. Junior Cohen would hop around the house when an artist's doodle of him- or herself arrived in the mail.

His collection grew to more than 400. Decades later, Ohio State University Libraries published many of them in a book, "A Galley of Rogues."

As a young man, Cohen also drew his own comics strip. One day, with great anticipation, he submitted his creation for possible publication in his hometown paper, The Stockton Record.

Rosie McDaniel said it was a harsh blow for her future husband when an editor at the paper looked him in the eye and pronounced, "Kid, you can't draw."

So much for Cohen's dream to make cartooning his livelihood. But he didn't allow the discouragement to stop him from making it his life.

He went on to amass a world-class collection of cartoon artwork and original MAD magazine art and memorabilia. He wrote gags for several strips, among them, "Gasoline Alley," "Wee Pals" and "Popeye."

And he not only befriended many cartoonists, including the king of them all, Sonoma County's late Charles M. Schulz of "Peanuts," he ultimately left his day job as Santa Rosa's most comical real estate broker to work as an agent and advocate for comics artists.

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