Bob Mankoff, the New Yorker’s cartoon editor has announced on his blog that long time New Yorker cartoonist, Ed Fisher has died at age 86. Mr. Fisher contributed over 700 cartoons to the magazine, beginning with the issue of October 27, 1951. His last cartoon appeared January 17, 2000 (this last cartoon appears on Bob Mankoff’s blog post along with several others). His New York Times obit (April 8, 2013) contains a good deal of biographical information.
The New Yorker’s former Art Editor/Cartoon Editor, Lee Lorenz, wrote in his book The Art of The New Yorker 1925 – 1995, that Ed was among the small pool of cartoonists once considered to succeed James Geraghty as Art Editor when Geraghty announced his retirement in 1972 after holding that position since 1939 (other candidates included Charles Barsotti and Donald Reilly). Lorenz was appointed by the magazine’s editor, William Shawn, to succeed Geraghty in 1973.
Ed was among the generation of cartoonists — those who began contributing to the magazine before Lorenz became Art Editor — whose cartoon ideas were often secured for the more established artists, like Whitney Darrow, Jr., George Price, or Peter Arno. In a letter dated September 2000, Ed wrote to me of his experience:
“…Geraghty would take one of my roughs and say ‘this one’s perfect for Arno.’ And sometimes I’d reluctantly agree and sometimes not. Jim harvested gags for several of the great masters from us newcomers…and now and then, leafing in one of the albums [those hardcover collections of cartoons the magazine once published] I’ll suddenly remember: that’s my gag!”
Four collections of Fisher’s work were published: Ed Fisher’s First Folio (Macmillan,1959), Wine, Women and Woad: A Tale of Decadent Rome (Macmillan, 1960), and Ed Fisher’s Domesday Book (St. Martin’s, 1961). He was also a co-editor of The Art in Cartooning: Seventy-five Years of American Magazine Cartoons (Scribner, 1975). Maestro, Please! a collection of musician themed cartoons was published by Applause Books in the 1990s.
In the Foreward to his Domesday collection, Ed wrote:
You can judge a man not only by the company he keeps but by the jokes he tells. Gather a bundle of his jokes, lay them out neatly, study them — and you will find his philosophy of life, revealed, as in an essay.
By the time I met Ed he was a twenty-seven year veteran at The New Yorker, yet his demeanor suggested he had just walked into the office for the very first time to present his batch of cartoons to the editor. Energetic, open, supportive — a fellow enjoying to the hilt the strange world and community he was devoted to.
Below: Donald Reilly, Warren Miller, Ed Fisher and Joe Farris during a much needed break at the Arnold Newman photo shoot along the Hudson River, NYC, 1997. (photo by Liza Donnelly).