By Tom Lowry, New York Daily News Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News

Apr. 6--Tuesday morning is the weekly deadline at The New Yorker for cartoonists when artists, caffeine-fueled and haggard from all-nighters, submit hundreds of proposals. Most are rejected.

By afternoon, cartoonists head home with sheaths of work that for years they filed away into oblivion. That is, until 1991, when Robert Mankoff, a veteran New Yorker cartoonist, was hit with an entrepreneurial brainstorm to resurrect the dead.

Mankoff, 50, said he realized that New Yorker cartoonists were ``the cream of the crop'' and that their rejected cartoons were still some of the funniest and best work being done.

``These were the runners-up in the beauty contest,'' he said. ``And they had a market.''

So, in 1992, Mankoff launched The Cartoon Bank, an on-line depository of humor. He started it by collecting and then categorizing the rejected works of cartoonists into 100 theme areas, and then selling them to clients- from magazines to newsletters to textbook publishers.

For example, If a client wants a cartoon on the mass confusion over the burgeoning information superhighway, Mankoff can tap into his computer and pull up samplings on the topic.

As word spread about the Cartoon Bank, the phones never stopped ringing, Mankoff said. Revenues of The Cartoon Bank, which operates from a storefront in Hastings-on-Hudson, have grown in three years from $10,000 to $300,000. Regular clients range from Bloomberg Financial Markets to Reuters Health Information Services to Mr. Show-Biz, an on-line entertainment service.

In addition, The Cartoon Bank has put out two books, published by Simon & Schuster, a CD-ROM with Byron Priess and greeting cards with Foto Folio.

Bloomberg, an on-line service that has become the lifeblood for many in the financial industry, will begin using Cartoon Bank cartoons for its television broadcast. Bloomberg reports that 2,000 people daily will access on their Bloomberg terminals ``the Cartoon of the Day.''

``Cartoons do a certain something for a publication, if done right,'' said Mankoff, who abandoned a doctoral thesis in psychology in the mid-1970s to draw cartoons full-time. ``Cartoons can provide a wonderful pace.''

The Bank has 5,000 cartoons on filewith works from 50 cartoonists, including New Yorker regulars Jack Ziegler, Roz Chast and Mick Stevens.

Another 10,000 cartoons are waiting to be scanned into the Bank by Mankoff, who works with three part-time employees, including his wife, Cory Whittier, who also runs her own direct mail marketing business.

Prices for cartoons range from $150 to $10,000, a fee that an ad agency paid last year for a cartoon to be used by General Electric. Cartoonists typically get half the fee.

``The markets for magazine cartooning has declined considerably in the past several years, so our inventories of non-published work has grown,'' said Mick Stevens, a 15-year New Yorker cartoonist who refers to his Martha's Vineyard studio as ``a humble branch office'' of The Cartoon Bank. ``The electronic transfer by the Bank makes the work so much more accessible.''

Stevens has 865 cartoons in the Bank. Mankoff said even though the business relies on the technology of computers, ``in the end, it comes down to the talent. It's hard to mess that up.'' END!C9?NY-CARTOONIST

AP-NY-04-05-95 2226EDT

This material is copyrighted and may not be republished without permission of the originating newspaper or wire service. NewsHound is a service of the San Jose Mercury News. For more information call 1-800-818-NEWS.