scottedelman (scottedelman) wrote,

Tom Toles and the Cosmos

Last year, I shared with you a superhero drawing by Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles which was done for one of my newspaper articles back when we were both attending the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1973. For Toles fans out there, here are a few more rarities which I doubt anyone has seen in more than 35 years.

At right is the cover Tom did for a magazine called Cosmos which was edited by Michael Stephen Levinson and paid for with student funds. How do I know that this periodical was put out with student funds? Because there's a letter printed on the inside cover damning Levinson's venture with faint praise from none other than Leslie Fiedler, author of the famed Love and Death in the American Novel and "Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey!"

Fieldler, who was teaching at SUNY Buffalo at the time as the Samuel L. Clemens professor, had this to say about Levinson's application for funding:

I think everyone is aware of his limitations and virtues, which are, in fact. two sides of the same coin. He is energetic, enthusiastic, devoted and will work hard; but, on the other hand, his magazine will reflect his own obsessive personal concerns.

If you give money to Michael Levinson, it will be spent for the purposes he states in his application, but I think you will have a hard time persuading him to open his pages to anything but the expounding of his own messianic ideas.

Regardless of what else made it into the pages of Cosmos, what's most important to me (and the reason I hung on to the issue) is that Levinson opened his pages to Tom Toles, who in addition to the cover, did three interior drawings which I've reproduced below. [Click on any of them to view the images at a larger size.]

We all know what happened to Tom Toles—but whatever happened to Michael Stephen Levinson? I haven't thought of him since those days back at SUNY Buffalo, but now that he's come to mind due to my discovery of this yellowed magazine in a box, a quick search online has turned up not only a website, but also a YouTube channel and a twitter feed. The site even has some of Levinson's poetry exactly as it appeared on page five of Cosmos. I remember Levinson as having been quite a character on the SUNY Buffalo campus in the mid-'70s, and based on his online presence, he seems to have kept that free spirit alive today.

Which is probably more than you needed or wanted to hear about the reason these early Toles drawings came into existence ... but history demands I lay it out here regardless.

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