Steve Martin dreams up cartoons. Harry Bliss gives them life on the page.

MOST nights from the witching hours of 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., Steve Martin finds himself awake, his thoughts spinning. He lies in bed and imagines absurd scenarios :

A family of cows sitting down to a fancy dinner; a duck carrying a rifle; a washed up Tarzan pitching reverse mortgages on television.

He jots the ideas down on his iPhone and turns the best ones into cartoons.

Martin - a comedian, actor, writer, producer and Grammy Award-winning bluegrass banjo player - is one of the entertainment world's most overachieving multi-hyphenates. He has written essays, a memoir, novels, plays, screen-plays, stand-up monologues, songs, sketch comedy and short fiction.

But cartoons, which he calls ''comedy's last frontier,'' were among few comic media that eluded him, in part because he lacks the essential skill.

''I can't draw,'' he said ''I'm one of the few artists where the paper becomes less valuable when I draw on it.''

As an aspiring cartoonist with no artistic ability, Martin was in a tough spot. So last year, he contacted the illustrator and cartoonist Harry Bliss and asked if he wanted to work in tandem.

Bliss was interested. Over the next six months, they created around 200 cartoons, many of which appear in their new collection, ''A Wealth of Pigeons,'' which Celadon Books released on Nov. 17.

The comics vary in style and tone, with absurd, silly and whimsical cartoons featuring talking animals and bored aliens and more meta, philosophical ones about the creativity process and the elusive, subjective nature of comedy.

One cartoon shows an astronaut planting a flag on Mars, thinking, ''I just hope this doesn't define me.' Another shows a scowling women with her suitcases heading out the front door, as a swamp monster looks at her sadly and asks, ''Is it the slime?''

In another, two moles stare at a mountain in the distance, and one says, ''It started out as a molehill, but then I just kept going.''

The medium's constraints appealed to Martin. ''What I like about them is they're so tight and they're so clean,'' he said. ''It works or it doesn't.''

For Martin, writing punch lines for cartoons was trickier, in away, than delivering a joke in front of an audience.

''You don't get to try them out. A joke onstage, you will go out and try it and it will work or it won't, and then you add something to it, but you have feedback,'' he said. ''Here, there's virtually no feed-back.''

The World Students Society thanks author Alexandra Alter.


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