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Cartoonists pay tribute to Sept. 11 victims

"Where I'm Coming From" cartoonist Barbara Brandon-Croft and "Mutts" cartoonist Patrick McDonnell  

(CNN) -- Every so often the nation's cartoonists drop their individual punch lines or storylines and team up for an event. It happened more than a year ago to pay tribute to the late Charles Schulz, and it happened again on Thanksgiving 2001, as dozens of comic strips offered a salute to the victims and heroes of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

CNN anchor Leon Harris talked with "Mutts" cartoonist Patrick McDonnell and "Where I'm Coming From" cartoonist Barbara Brandon-Croft to see how things came together.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, folks, you may notice something a bit different about the comic strip section of your daily newspaper this morning. The cartoons are dropping their punch lines today to make a point. This is all a part of a salute to those who lost their lives in the 9-11 attacks, and it's a fund raiser as well for relief efforts.

Cartoonists Patrick McDonnell and Barbara Brandon-Croft join us now live from our New York bureau to tell us more about this.

Good morning and happy Thanksgiving to both of you.


BARBARA BRANDON-CROFT, CARTOONIST: Good morning, happy Thanksgiving.

HARRIS: Thank you.

All right, ladies first, my mom taught me well, let's start with you, Barbara.


HARRIS: "Where I'm Coming From" is the title of your -- of your strip, which I've read quite a bit. Listen, where did the idea come from for all of this?

BRANDON-CROFT: Well, Patrick sent out a word that cartoonists would have an opportunity to give our thanks, and that's what I did. I just started thinking about it, how I could be able to show my gratitude and so that's what I did.

HARRIS: All right. And how about you, Patrick, did -- are you the originator of the idea or are you the conduit, if you will?

MCDONNELL: Yes, well, I mean after September 11, a bunch of the cartoonists were talking and trying to figure out a way that we might be able to help. And last year we had done a tribute to Charles Schulz and "Peanuts" and so we thought the idea of maybe taking a special day and all doing a cartoon.

And we thought Thanksgiving would be the perfect day, you know a day of families getting together and giving thanks and just reflecting over the year. So we -- everyone jumped on board with it, did their cartoon in their own special way ... and part of it too is that there's a URL on the cartoons -- -- that if you go to that Web site, it links you up to all the different charities and you can choose where you would like to donate your money or volunteer.

The other interesting aspect of it, too, is that the cartoonists have donated their artwork and it's going to be auctioned off. And you can get there on the same Web site with Yahoo! Auctions, and the money is all going to go to the September 11th Fund.

HARRIS: No kidding, that's really a good idea.


HARRIS: Well how many artists in all are contributing?

MCDONNELL: I don't know the exact number, but I know it's over a hundred. I think some of them who do regular stories couldn't fit it in and some of them might have missed a deadline. We work five weeks in advance so it was a little tight, but I think when you open your paper a big majority of them you'll see have done the tribute.

HARRIS: Yes, it's nice. That's a very interesting idea ... and of course with that many artists it's going to be pretty much in every newspaper. There will be some element of this in every newspaper across the country.

MCDONNELL: Oh, definitely.

HARRIS: Yes. Well, Barbara, how long did it take you to come up with the idea for yours?

BRANDON-CROFT: Well, I -- it probably took me several days to come up with the idea, but once you get the idea and you start to put it down, it's a matter of hours.

HARRIS: How about you, Patrick?

MCDONNELL: You know it was a little tough. You want -- I wanted it to stay positive. You're doing a cartoon, it probably -- yeah, probably a couple of hours.

HARRIS: I would imagine that it's got to be a bit difficult to take something like a laughing matter like a cartoon strip and, you know, try to deliver a serious message in it?

MCDONNELL: Yes, well, you know, I mean if you -- if you read the papers, some of the cartoonists actually even managed to still put a smile on our faces, too, so I think every creator handled it in their own way.

HARRIS: There you go. Now one last question to both of you, now you both live in New York?

MCDONNELL: I'm in New Jersey.

HARRIS: You're in Jersey.

BRANDON-CROFT: And I'm in Brooklyn.

HARRIS: Close enough, Jersey and Brooklyn.


HARRIS: I have to ask you about this, was it tough for you to continue working after September 11? I would imagine that coming up with something insightful or something funny to say or whatever it had to be a bit difficult.

BRANDON-CROFT: Yes, I found it very difficult. I do a weekly strip, so it's every other week I send in two. And it was one of my weeks to send in my material that week and I found it very difficult for -- and I still sometimes do.

HARRIS: Really?

BRANDON-CROFT: Yes. I tend to -- what I try to do now is just look at what my experiences is going through this and I know so many other people are going through the same thing. And being able to put something down that could be insightful, could be funny, that's what I've been trying to do.

HARRIS: Yes. Patrick, did you get right back in the saddle?

MCDONNELL: No, actually I think about two days after September the 11th was when I had to start a new batch of strips and I think that's when I really realized how numb I was, just looking at the white paper and trying to come up with something. But you know what's nice about art is that it can really be a positive force, so I just kept on thinking to reinforce that in my mind and do something positive.

HARRIS: Well what you two have done is positive, and we thank you very much for coming in and sharing with us this morning and we wish you both a happy Thanksgiving.

And once again, what's that Web site again?

MCDONNELL:, and it should be on all the comic strips or most of them.

HARRIS: All right, good luck with that and everything else down the road. Take care.

BRANDON-CROFT: OK, thank you.

MCDONNELL: Thank you.


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