NCS Divisional Award Nominees; Polan continues to see things; Sutton on Mad Men’s future ; Paul Karasik curates

From the National Cartoonists Society,  the 2012 Divisional Award nominees include a number of artists from The New Yorker: Edward Sorel, Barbara Smaller, Glen LeLievre, Matthew Diffee, Zachary Kanin, Ben Katchor, and Bruce McCall.  Winners to be announced May 26th, 2012.

 

Over at The New York Times (online), Jason Polan has posted his second in a series of What I Saw…sorry, no link, just go to nytimes.com and look around.

 

From Paul Karasik this video tour of an exhibit he curated, “Graphic Novel Realism” (details found on the post).

 

And at The Village Voice, Ward Sutton gives us an “Unofficial Future History of Mad Men”

Otto Soglow’s Little King: “He just happened.”

Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow & The Little King (IDW Publishing, 2012)

Introduction by Ivan Brunetti

Foreward by Jared Gardner

 

 

What’s not to like about this handsome volume? If I had my way every cartoonist of note would celebrated thusly: beautifully reproduced work (both black & white and color), with a thorough and informed foreward.  Mr. Gardner takes us through Soglow’s transition from Ashcan school realist to cartoonist, with generous reproductions of the work. Also enjoyable are the reproductions of Soglow’s adwork, illustrations, and commercial products featuring the Little King.

 

Well before I became aware of The New Yorker, and its stable of artists, I was aware of Soglow’s Little King – what  postwar child reading comics and watching television wasn’t?  The simplicity of his work was immediately appealing as was the subject matter: a King who was human, not to mention comically rotund.

In The New York Times’ Soglow obituary  there’s this passage:

Asked how he happened to create “the Little King,” Mr. Soglow had very little to say. “He just happened,” and then he apologized for having nothing more dramatic to recount.

The Little King began life in The New Yorker in the issue of June 7, 1930 — a full page, no less. If you rewind to the November 14, 1925 issue of The New Yorker, you’ll discover Soglow’s first contribution to that magazine—it sits across the gutter from a drawing by Peter Arno, and believe it or not, it’s somewhat difficult to tell the styles apart.  Arno was still in his early pre-stripped down phase of drawing as was Soglow. Graphically, they make an interesting pair, both at the starting gate in the pages of The New Yorker, about to head off to their distinctly recognizable, and recognized, worlds.

(above photo: Little King toy / Ink Spill’s From the Attic section)

 

 

In Good Company: a look at the cartoons in Al Ross’s New Yorker debut issue

 

The news that Al Ross passed away last week got me to thinking about  his start at The New Yorker, way way back in the issue of November 27, 1937, when he was twenty-five years old. This morning I went to our cabinet full of bound New Yorkers, brought out the volume from late 1937 and began paging through the particular issue that contains Al’s inaugural drawing. It’s a wonderful snapshot of that time with an outstanding roster of cartoonists.

The issue begins with a Helen Hokinson cover,  one of those pieces capturing a moment. Beautiful. The first cartoon is by Charles Addams, done in his earlier style before his drawings became more defined. Next up is a Richard Decker drawing printed in step-ladder fashion – sitting atop two columns of type. On the opposite page, a Richard Taylor, also step-ladderish. Taylor had such an unusual style – it reminds me of P.C. Vey’s in a way. Turning the page we come to a beautiful full page by William Galbraith. On the opposite page a great spot drawing by Suzanne Suba – a Macy’s parade moment.

Next page, a Mary Petty that nearly eats up the whole page. Opposite that is a short piece by E.B.White titled “Small Thanks to You “(sorry, couldn’t avoid mentioning that). Several pages later a Syd Hoff spread along the top third of the page. Up next is one of the masters of the full page, Gluyas Williams. A few pages later the two Prices face each other: George and Garrett.

I have to take a break here just for a moment and comment on the way the make-up department handled the cartoons. With the exception of the full page cartoons, every single cartoon was awarded a unique space, meaning the shape of the cartoon is different for each cartoon. Even the cartoons that are rectangular are never the same size (the Hoff stretched out three columns wide, the Garrett Price two and a half columns wide).

Turning the page, a Robert Day cartoon (another rectangle, but nearly square). Two pages later, not a cartoon, but an Al Frueh drawing illustrating a current Broadway show.  Frueh does a terrific take on Orson Welles.  Would love to see a collection of his theater pieces in a book (there is a very nice catalog of his work, but so far, not a collection).

Two pages later we find Al Ross’s first New Yorker cartoon (caption: “Listen, Chief…”). Those familiar with Al’s later work would be hard pressed to recognize this cartoon as one of his.  It’s done in a somewhat early Addams-ish style. Across the gutter from the cartoon the name “Robert Benchley” appears at the end of his theater review.  Heady company!

A number of pages go by before we reach a fairly large and very funny Barbara Shermund cartoon.  Leafing through more pages, through the New Yorker’s holiday wrap up of children’s toys and books, we come upon a brief review of Dr. Seuss’s  And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street: “Slight but humorous. Spirited comic-strip pictures and a rhymed text show the power of exaggeration…”

And finally, a Perry Barlow cartoon to end the issue.  It’s a children’s book themed drawing running on the book review page.  If I’m not mistaken this is an unusual pairing. I’ve been under the impression for most of my life that the editors avoided tying the cartoons to the surrounding story.

Before we close the magazine, a treat near the end:  a full page ad for The 1937 New Yorker Album, published by Random House. A banner running across the page declares: “Just Published – bigger and funnier than ever.” Contributors include all the aforementioned in this post ( except Al, whose work would begin showing up in later Albums) plus, among others,  Peter Arno, James Thurber,  Rea Irvin, Gardner Rea, Otto Soglow, Alan Dunn, Barney Tobey, Alajalov,  Chon Day, Carl Rose, Whitney Darrow, Jr., and William Steig.  Wow.

 

For more on Al Ross, head on over to newyorker.com, where the magazine’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, has posted this piece (it includes a good scan of Al’s first cartoon).

And for even more: Mike Lynch has posted a number of Al’s drawings on his site. (You’ll need to scroll down a ways, past all the NCS business)


 

 

 

Al Ross: 1911 – 2012

 

The New York Times has reported that New Yorker cartoonist Al Ross has died.    Al, who was 100, easily held the title of most senior member of this cadre. He contributed over six hundred drawings to the magazine, from November 27, 1937 through February 18, 2002.

 

There were a number of veteran cartoonists who warmly welcomed me when I first began at The New Yorker.  Al Ross was one of them.  For a kid (I was 24) who suddenly found himself socializing with the magazine’s legendary cartoonists, Al’s upbeat vibe and amused expression was the perfect tonic for freshman insecurity. Al didn’t wear his seniority on his sleeve –- his warmth was inclusive, uncomplicated, and genuine.

 

If it wasn’t enough that Al was a great guy, he was also a superb cartoonist with a style to die for.  His fluid line, and the humor it incorporated seemed effortless.  Many cartoonists resemble their work and Al was no exception; he carried himself as his characters carried themselves on paper; he, and they, seemed always in motion (heck, even his signature seemed in a hurry).

 

The first time I met him, at a party following a gallery exhibit of New Yorker cartoons, I was leaving, heading into an elevator and he was coming out, about to throw himself into the throng. He paused to shake hands, and delivered what I’d see again and again whenever we ran into each other: a welcoming smile.

 

I interviewed Al back in 1999 as part of my research for the Peter Arno biography I’d just begun.  He told me, with much amusement, that he’d once been in room full of cartoonists, and overheard Arno say to colleague, “Where do half these guys get off calling themselves cartoonists?”   The last time I saw Al, at an exhibit of New Yorker cartoons, I was arriving and he was leaving. As he headed out the door, he paused and turned back to the room. Smiling broadly, he said with an air of mock sincerity, “‘Where do half these guys get off calling themselves cartoonists?”

 

 

Making a Splash at Esquire

 

 

 

 

I found something I was looking for the other day: a log of cartoons I kept in my nascent years of cartooning.  Looking through I realized that the only drawings I sold in the Fall of 1977 — right after breaking into The New Yorker — were to Esquire. During that year Esquire was being retooled by its new owner, Clay Felker, whose long career in magazine publishing included founding New York magazine.

Following the purchase of five of my cartoons, I was summoned uptown to Esquire’s offices to meet Clay Felker and Milton Glaser, who was redesigning the magazine. I don’t know why I was called in –- my memory is that it was a meet and greet and not really a meeting about cartoons. The old Esquire had a long history of publishing cartoons; the current thinking must’ve been that they’d continue the tradition.

Sometime after my meeting, I received, via mail, the bought cartoons.  The legendary Harvey Kurtzman ( their cartoon editor, I suppose – it wasn’t made clear to me) included notes for me to follow as I did finishes for what the editors assumed were rough drawings (I thought they were already finished).   Harvey had taped tracing paper over the drawings with his penciled edit instructions pointing to the required changes.  He also told me I needed to put overlays on my work and add some kind of ink as wash (he was precise about the ink, I just don’t remember what it was called).  I’d never heard of overlays, but my local art supply store was more than happy to sell me some. I was in the process of learning what to do with these overlays and the inky substance when word came to me that Esquire had decided not to use cartoons after all. Although there was the following in the notification: “We will continue to run cartoon material, such as strips and an occasional feature…” the Esquire single panel cartoon was history.

I must’ve sent some of my overlay attempts back to Esquire — only one remains in my files. I include it here, with and without the overlay. I’m still not sure what that red inky stuff is that I splashed all over the overlay. Whatever it was, it was more than I could handle.