“40 Years of Funny,” New Era, March 2018
Doodling cartoons on his math and spelling tests at school may not have earned Val Chadwick Bagley higher scores, but his teachers probably had a blast grading his papers.
“I’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist,” Val says. He would draw every chance he could. On his mission, for example, he kept a regular journal and four complete cartoon journals on top of that.
While serving as a missionary in Virginia, Elder Bagley mailed in a cartoon to the New Era. The cartoon was picked up and printed in the March 1978 issue, exactly 40 years ago this month.
“In my mind, I had reached the big time!” Val says. He’d grown up reading and loving the New Era, especially the cartoons. Seeing a cartoon of his own in its pages was a dream come true.
Val has been a regular contributing cartoonist to the New Era ever since. If you’ve read “The Extra Smile” (now included in “Fun Stop”), you know his stuff. He’s also done loads of other projects in his cartooning career, including publishing over 100 books, games, and other items. Yet whenever somebody asks Val what he does for a living, he always has the same answer.
“I always tell them that drawing for the New Era is the pinnacle of my accomplishments.” (The New Era thinks you’re awesome too, Val!)
It hasn’t been all fun and laughter, though. There have been some major setbacks along the way.
Val remembers hitting his own personal rock bottom. He’d been working for several years designing cheese and hot-dog labels for an advertisement company. Then that company went out of business. He’d attempted college four different times without finishing a single term. He was close to bankruptcy and running out of options. He didn’t know what to do next.
So he went to the temple for guidance. While there, he picked up the Book of Mormon and opened to Helaman 12:2. Val read about how the Lord prospered His people “in the increase of their fields, their flocks and their herds, and in gold, and in silver, and in all manner of precious things of every kind and art.” His eyes landed and stayed on the word art.
“It was an answer to prayer,” Val said. The next day, he launched his cartoon business. He’s been going strong ever since.
Val believes we’re all given gifts and that “you get to decide what to do with your talents.” Artists can portray literally any subject under the sun. For Val, he chooses to use his time and energy strengthening others in the gospel with his cartoons. “I’ve especially enjoyed working on anything that has to do with the Book of Mormon.”
For the past 40 years, Val’s cartoons have made you laugh, lifted your spirits, and brightened your days one punchline at a time. And that’s been his goal all along.
“I feel so blessed and fortunate that I get to do this,” he says.