David Finally Makes It Into The American Bystander!


I had a very odd experience on Facebook a few months ago. I noticed an item posted by my friend Howard Cruse, about a new humor magazine called The American Bystander, which was mounting a crowdsource campaign to get into print. What struck me as odd was that I had been peripherally involved with a magazine by the very same name launched by National Lampoon editor Brian McConnachie in 1982 that never made it past prototype.

David Chelsea is listening to: M Train
by Patti Smith

American Bystander: The 1982 prototype
The American Bystander: The 1982 prototype

I was contributing illustrations to the Lampoon at the time (under my legal name David Celsi), and had heard about the project through the Lampoon grapevine. By the time I came aboard, the prototype was all full up, but I contributed to a group page of written-down dreams. I was promised space in the magazine one it began regular publication, which never happened.

My contribution
My 1982 contribution

I immediately posted a comment to the Facebook thread, asking Howard if there was any connection to the 1982 American Bystander, and he replied that the name was no coincidence- that McConnachie’s baby had risen from the grave after 34 years, with Brian very much involved. When I mentioned that I had contributed to the original issue, Michael Gerber, one of McConnachie’s co-editors, asked me to submit work, and now I have a page in Issue #2, which came out this month.

My page in American Bystander
My page in The American Bystander

Here’s what I wrote for the contributor’s page:

David Chelsea has lived in a state of suspended animation for the past 34 years. When THE AMERICAN BYSTANDER was in the planning stages back in 1982, David was tapped as a possible contributor, but the only work of his that made it into the prototype issue was a single paragraph in a group page of written-down dreams. Imagine his surprise at seeing an announcement on Facebook that THE BYSTANDER was finally beginning regular publication. All that has happened in the intervening years– the thousands of illustrations in publications like THE READER’S DIGEST, THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER, SPY, and THE NATIONAL LAMPOON, the awards, the world record sixteen 24 hour comics, the seven (so far) published books, 25 years of loving marriage with his wife Eve, the two brilliant and creative children they have raised, all of this has been mere prelude to David finally seeing his artwork in the pages of THE AMERICAN BYSTANDER.

Michael selected four of my ANAPEST strips, which all appear together on a single page. I am in extremely good company; the other contributors include not only Howard Cruse and Brian McConnachie, but two figures from my personal comics pantheon, Rick Geary and M.K.Brown, as well as an array of other heavyweights like Ron Barrett, Roz Chast, Shannon Wheeler, Peter Kuper, Jack Ziegler, Mimi Pond, Rick Meyerowitz, Shari Flenniken, and B.K.Taylor, many of whom also contributed to the 1982 prototype, and a few who were not even born in 1982, like Kate Beaton and Julia Wertz.

Pages from the American Bystander #2
Pages from The American Bystander #2

The American Bystander Issue #2 is available for $25 at better newsstands, and not at all in digital form! You can order it, and Issue #1, on The American Bystander website. No doubt a crowdfunding campaign for Issue #3 is gearing up, and I will keep you posted.