Davis gets skewered with 'The Toad and I'

Conway cartoonist's work gigged by those who know him well; nevertheless, book signing is Wednesday

FRED PETRUCELLI
Log Cabin Staff Writer
Published Sunday, May 30, 1999

Fred Petrucelli

There are those who believe that Milton Davis enjoys being skewered by the usual characters (suspects?) in town. Why else would he have the sauciness to ask them to mock his persona?

But Davis, he of the securities world, has precisely done that, opening himself to editorial criticism or comment, if you will, while establishing his art in a book he put together titled, "The Toad And I."

In essence, Davis has problems separating himself from the symbolic toad, often coming out second best in comparisons between him and the leaping amphibian. Nevertheless, his book of cartoons pays homage to the critter that seems to give him diversion and enjoyment.

The man and his alter ego will appear at a book signing from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Buffalo Alumni Hall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. The epic event is being sponsored by erudite UCA people and the Log Cabin Democrat, where Davis' artistic skills and editorial expertise are prominently displayed.

The critic in the crowd may wonder about the symbolism here -- mixing buffaloes and toads -- but fear not, Davis can handle any juxtaposition. Yet, the notion persists that a book-signing would be more appropriate at Toad Suck Square, only a small leap from Davis' business address on the northeast corner of Oak and Front streets.

In what he believes suffices as a preface to his book, Davis reveals that about 25 years ago he inadvertently drew a cartoon during his doodling days and before he knew it he had achieved a real 'hobby."

The amphibian that made him famous came into his life some five years later.

"What a motivator," he joyously proclaims, heaping kudos on the toad. "He (she?) inspired me to name my cartoon 'Toad Suck County' so that I might be able to get it published." (And doesn't everything associated with a toad sell around here?)

Davis' toad is clearly in charge. He speaks for the man, reporting the news that he is featured in 20 newspapers in the state. He reveals that when Davis purchased the building at Oak and Front Streets, he suggested that it should take the name of Toad Suck Square. And overnight, the area immediately became historic, he said, ignoring a glaring contradiction.

The toad's tale continues:

"And a couple of years ago when I told Milton that the Toad Suck Daze celebration was not complete without a kazoo band, he enlisted the help of former Toadmaster Woody Cummins to organize the 'Awesome Toad Suck Drum and Kazoo Corp.'" A goodly number of folks, he avers, comes to the festival solely to hear the kazoos.

In his tome, Davis makes light in cartoons of the daily absurdities that occur in our veil of tears, adding to the fodder in a clever, inventive manner. The securities guru turned cartoonist pulls it off nicely, taking potshots at our foibles with nicely turned phrases and inimitable art while having enormous fun doing it.

The scoffers group, not surprising, has the last word in his book, since Davis opened it up to allow critiques. He learned that they had no fear of his attack toad.

What follows now are some critical comments about the man and his work. No, make that all critical.

Bo Thomas, the psychologist, says: "If you dream about Milton's cartoons, seek help immediately. You may be developing serious emotional problems."

From Mayor Tab Townsell comes this lament: "It is very difficult to sit in my gloomy office all day with the blinds pulled. If I opened them, all I see is that sign across the street flashing ... Milton Davis! ... Milton Davis! ... Milton Davis!"

The Devores, Bill and Sandra, bespeak a cruncher: "As Christians, we are directed to 'Love Our Neighbor.' Since moving next door to Milton, we are considering changing our faith."

Attorney J. D. Gingrich proclaims, "Europe gave us the old masters ... Toad Suck gave us Milton ... is there no justice?"

Sen. Stanley Russ believes he's on target: "Maybe someday the toad will kiss Milton. He may not become a prince, but any change would be a vast improvement."

The publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat puts his acumen (50 cents daily, $1 Sunday) to work when, Mike Hengel, allows that, "All I can say about Milton's cartoons is that they fill space and they are cheap! ... cheap! ... cheap!"

And the coup de grace: "Milton Davis graduated from UCA with a degree in business. I want the world to know that he did not, I repeat, did not, major in art at our fine institution." Win Thompson, president of the University of Central Arkansas.

The last word, though, is reserved for his wife, Claudia: "Over the years, I've had plenty of other projects for Milton to do, but he seemed to need this therapy."




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