At the recent event covered here on the Spill (“Wall-To-Wall Cartoonists at David Remnick’s Hello Goodbye Party”) Mr. Remnick said of the New Yorker‘s former cartoon editor, Mr. Mankoff:
“I want to tell you that Bob’s effort to bring not only the work of cartoonists and artists who’ve been around for quite awhile forward, and to put them in their best light, but also to bring new artists into the picture, which is a very complicated thing, has been an enormous boon to the New Yorker…”
Mr. Remnick’s focus on the magazine’s cartoonists was notable and welcome. It struck me while reading the recent news pieces about Mr. Mankoff’s departure as The New Yorker‘s cartoon editor that all of them focused primarily, and nearly exclusively on Mr. Mankoff himself and his work as a cartoonist, with nary an exploration of exactly what happened with and to the magazine’s cartoonists and cartoon department during the past 20 years during his watch. Of course it makes perfect sense to focus on him — after all, he was the cartoon editor, and his departure was news, but surely the greater part of his legacy are all those cartoonists that swelled the magazine’s stable these past twenty years. I’m slightly puzzled as to why several of these news pieces showed us, almost in the form of a greatest hits or a summing up of his career, a good number of Mr. Mankoff’s own cartoons — he’s not retiring as a cartoonist, and in fact has said he will continue to submit work. My puzzlement is over the absence of discussion of the 128 new cartoonists he brought in to the magazine (Mr. Mankoff mentioned, but only in in passing, 17 of his discoveries in one piece. That only leaves 111 more to talk about).
R.C. Harvey did a long piece that appeared in late March on The Comics Journal site looking at Mr. Mankoff’s editorship. Selfishly, perhaps, I’m hoping there will be more such pieces looking at how the New Yorker‘s cartoons changed, for better or worse, during these past 20 years; how Mr. Mankoff shaped those changes; and how those changes affected the culture of the New Yorker cartoon department and the cartoonists themselves. In other words, a critical examination of the Mankoff years. “A very complicated thing” is a thing worth exploring.