The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of March 12, 2018

Despite the snow scene outside my window and the forecast for another wallopin’ of snow here in a few days, I know Spring is just around the corner. The latest New Yorker cover — the second by Jenny Kroik — is in the same realm of wishful thinking. Her cover is a welcome respite from politics, which are always just around the corner too. 

Paging through the issue, I noticed a photo under the “Videos” heading at the bottom of the “Contributors” page.  A new online feature: “The New Yorker Interview” — a swell idea.  I’m hoping future interviews will include the magazine’s artists.

Moving quickly now through pet peeves: the use of a near full page photo leading off Goings On About Town; the absence of Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk of The Town masthead. 

And now the cartoons: the first of the issue, a Frank Cotham drawing that on my tablet appeared to show a fellow running along a beach (I thought he was running near dune grass).  On the laptop it’s quite clear he’s running in a field.  The runner’s toned legs — a funny touch –are unexpected (in a Cotham drawing) but certainly do indicate this fellow’s been in training. 

Seven pages later, a Carolita Johnson bar drawing. I think this just might be my favorite drawing of hers. The caption is textbook (New Yorker textbook, that is), from the use of the name “Jer” to the mid-caption set-up use of the word “empty” to last word, “peanut.”

Six pages later, another new favorite by a veteran cartoonist.  Drew Dernavich‘s Batman drawing delivers: caption, the drawing itself. Wonderful (I would’ve loved to see the drawing occupy a larger space). Three pages later, Avi Steinberg gives us a turn-about on a favorite pastime for many: people watching. Mr. Steinberg has removed the generally accepted casualness of people-watching and turned it into people-staring.  Awkward.

Three pages later, a moment with an aging couple via Emily Flake. A few pages following Ms. Flake’s drawing, a Roz Chast drawing which made me happily recall cartoonists’ lunches of yore (and even more recently than yore). 

Four pages later, an Olivia de Recat drawing.  As with her two previous drawings, this is text-driven (a Tina Brownism, I think) but not as text-driven as her previous efforts. If Ms. de Recat’s “Big City Sound Machine” was actually being produced I might spring for one if only for the “Dump Truck in Rain” sound — what poetry.

Three pages later a drawing by veteran cartoonist, Mike Twohy.  I associate sack races with town picnics in summertime, but I suppose they’re not exclusive to a season (I played around with a sack race and a seasonal reference many years ago, It appeared in the New Yorker  June 21, 1982, to be exact. See below). I’m also reminded of Robert Day’s 1945 collection, All Out For The Sack Race! I know there’ve been a few other sack race drawings in the magazine but not yet enough to fill up a New Yorker Book of Sack Race Cartoons.

Three pages later a Bob Eckstein game show drawing. Without diving into the piece (that’s what they do over on Cartoon Companion) I really enjoyed the well-situated and funny Tom & Mom contestants.  We used to see game show drawings every so often; it would be great if we got to see more. They are silliness vehicles.

Directly opposite Mr. Eckstein’s drawing (and why it’s directly across is a puzzle — why not in the upper right hand corner?) is a beauty by Edward Koren. A lot to look at in this drawing, as is usually the case with Mr. Koren’s work.

The final drawing in the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings) is by Darrin Bell. Criminals on their way to a caper (there’s a word that’s been retired for at least 50 years). Two of the would-be robbers are masked. The driver — who’s quite a large fellow – is unmasked.  This reminded me for some reason of that great scene in The Town, when the guys don rubber nun masks — even the driver. I guess in these situations it’s up to the individual would-be perpetrator to make the masked or unmasked call.













At the Oscars! Liza Donnelly Live-Draws From the Red Carpet; “That Special Kind of Madness”: The Seventh New Yorker Album

At The Oscars! Liza Donnelly Live-Draws From the Red Carpet

 Back for her third trip to the Academy Awards, Liza Donnelly, is live-drawing for CBS News (she’s their Resident Cartoonist). You can follow her work tonight from the Red Carpet on Instagram (lizadonnelly), Twitter (@lizadonnelly), etc., etc.


“That Special Kind of Madness”: The Seventh New Yorker Album

The Seventh New Yorker Album, published in 1935 by Random House, features Peter Arno’s March 23, 1935 New Yorker cover as its cover (the third solo album cover for Arno, with two more to follow).  As I wrote in my Arno biography, this cover was “a quiet link between the old Arno style and what would become the new.”

The front jacket flap copy informs us that this album is a two-fer since there was not a 1934 album, and goes on to say, “Consequently, this edition not only contains more pictures by more artists, but the publishers believe that it marks a new high standard in quality for the series.”

A remarkable album in the series for one reason: it has dueling forewords: The Undertakers Garland (described as “A Dissenting Foreword By Lewis Mumford ” and Fresh Flowers (described as “A Partial Defence By One Of The Editors” ) .

Lewis Mumford, at the time the magazine’s Art Critic, didn’t sugar-coat his take on The New Yorker‘s current cartoons, writing, in part:

“…the jokes seem more interesting than the drawings; or rather, even when the drawings are most adequate, they remain a mere instrument of the idea….The comedy has that special kind of madness that springs out of  a rough day at the office and three rapid Martinis. It is titillating, but a little frothy; it tickles me but remains peripheral; it has flavor but lacks salt.”

Wolcott Gibbs, who wrote the “partial defence” was in his fifth year of acting, in his words, “as a sort of liaison officer between the editorial staff of The New Yorker and the artists who draw its pictures,”  addressed Mr. Mumford’s issues one-by-one and concluded with this “defence” of Mr. Mumford’s “three rapid Martinis” charge:

“This apparently refers to the work of a few artists whose characters belong to no particular land or time and are held to the world only lightly, by the pull of tempered gravity. They are the wilder shadows in the same wonderland that Lewis Carroll first explored, and they are valuable to this collection as lesser examples of the same universal and timeless comedy. It is, of course, important that this sort of humor, operating in its own particular vacuum, be used judiciously…”

And so, here we have, just ten years into the New Yorker‘s existence, a very public debate over what a New Yorker cartoon should be, and should not be.  If there’s a constant in this funny world of the magazine’s cartoons — now closing in on their 100th birthday —  it is that the debate has never ceased.

Here’s the list of the contributing artists in the album. 

Most of the names will be familiar to long-time New Yorker readers, with the possible exception of Eric Monroe Ward,  who is a certified member of Ink Spill’s One Club. The One Club is limited to cartoonists who have been published once and only once in the New Yorker.  This icon   identifies them on the A-Z. 

  Mr. Ward’s only appearance was in the issue of July 14, 1934. As his work likely has little opportunity to shine, I’m showing his one drawing below:

*Note: this very same issue with Mr. Ward’s drawing also contains James Thurber’s classic, “What have you done with Dr. Millmoss?”  — for me personally, a most important cartoon — actually, the most important cartoon.  Nice to run across it again in its natural habitat. 


For more on Lewis Mumford, check out Findings and Keepings: analects for an autobiography (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975).

And for more on Wolcott Gibbs, there is Thomas Vinciguerra’s wonderful Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (Norton, 2016).











The Tilley Watch Online; More Spills: A Charles E. Martin (CEM) Comic Strip, An Exhibit Down South

Gee whiz, it seems like the Olympics happened months ago, but last Monday’s Daily Cartoon by Pia Guerra reminds us that the torch was extinguished just a week ago. After the torch cartoon it seemed* to be all politics on the Daily, with work by Ellis Rosen, Julia Suits, Brendan Loper, and Peter Kuper.

*Ms. Suits’ drawing might be construed as political, but then again, it might not be.

Over on Daily Shouts, the contributing New Yorker cartoonists were Julia Wertz, Barbara Smaller, Christian Lowe, and special guest, Colin Stokes (Mr. Stokes is the New Yorker‘s Assistant Cartoon Editor and a co-author of at least one published New Yorker cartoon).

All of the work mentioned above, and more, can be found here.


…From The Stripper’s Guide, February 28, 2018, “Obscurity of the Day: The Scuttles”  —  a look at a single panel comic strip by Charles E. Martin, before he became a regular New Yorker contributor (covers and cartoons).

Mr. Martin’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Charles E. Martin ( CEM) (photo left above from Think Small, a cartoon collection produced by Volkswagon. Photo right, courtesy of Roxie Munro; a CEM New Yorker cover, July 18, 1977) Born in Chelsie, Mass., 1910, died June 18, 1995, Portland, Maine. New Yorker work: 1938 – 1987.


…If you’re down south you might seek out the Matthew Diffee exhibit at the Hickory Museum of Art.  It runs through July 8th.  Info here.  


Article of Interest: A Wave of New Yorker Cartoonists; Cartoon Companion Rates Latest Cartoons; The Attempted Bloggery E. Simms Campbell Fest Continues

Article of Interest: A Wave of New Yorker Cartoonists

Graham Techler’s article in Paste, March 1, 2018,  “The Exciting New Wave of New Yorker Cartoonists” spotlights eight cartoonists — all veteran newbies (meaning they are not among the very latest cartoonists appearing in the magazine), and a few cartoonists who’ve moved beyond the newbie classification (I’ve provided the year each began contributing to the magazine): Charlie Hankin (2013), Paul Noth (2004), Jason Adam Katzenstein (2014), Tom Toro (2010), Amy Hwang (2010), William McPhail (2014), Maddie Dai (2017), Emily Flake (2008).  For what it’s worth, the eight mentioned are among the 128 cartoonists that have debuted since 2004, the year of Mr. Noth’s first New Yorker cartoon. More a New Tsunami than a New Wave.

A couple of Spill footnotes on the below segment of Mr. Techler’s piece:

“They [the cartoons] were never actually bad (I mean, come on, each era of the magazine was represented by everyone from Peter Arno to James Thurber to Bruce Eric Kaplan—legend has it that the improved quality of the cartoons in the 1940s was attributed to office boy Truman Capote throwing away the ones he didn’t like); they were just perceived as a little out of touch with what the rest of the comedy world was embracing.”

First: “…legend has it that the improved quality of the cartoons in the 1940s was attributed to office boy Truman Capote throwing away the ones he didn’t like)”:

Perhaps it’s time to retire the myth that Mr. Capote was throwing away drawings he didn’t like.  Mr. Capote worked as a copy boy at the New Yorker for approximately two years in the early 1940s (he was hired sometime in 1942 and left the magazine sometime in 1944). One of his responsibilities was going through the unsolicited drawings in the slush pile looking for anything with promise. The drawings with some promise were then gone through by the art editor, James Geraghty.  If he found anything worthy he’d bring it along to the art meeting. If you go to page 73 of Gerald Clarke’s biography, Capote (Simon & Schuster, 1988), you’ll hear find this passage with Mr. Capote talking about the lost drawings:

 “Sometimes I would get the cartoons all messed up and confused.  Then I would just throw them into one of those holes and say to myself, ‘Well, I’ll straighten that out later.’ I managed somehow to to lose about seven hundred of them that way. I didn’t deliberately destroy them, and I don’t know how I lost track of them. But I did…”

Second: “they were just perceived as a little out of touch with what the rest of the comedy world was embracing.”

I’m not exactly sure what Mr. Techler means.  Which era or eras is he referring to?  A specific era? All eras?  When were they “perceived as a little out of touch” (and who was doing the perceiving?).

(If Mr. Techler wishes to clarify, The Spill will gladly post his remarks). 


Cartoon Companion Rates Latest Cartoons

If it’s Friday (and it is), then a brand new Cartoon Companion awaits. The CC boys “Max” and “Simon” have run their trusty fine tooth combs through the cartoons in the latest New Yorker. Read it here.


The Attempted Bloggery E. Simms Campbell Fest Continues

Stephen Nadler has posted a lot of interesting pieces in the last few days, including cartoons appearing in a small promotional Esquire booklet (or sampler); a bunch of work by Dorothy McKay, and of course more work by his current fest focus: E. Simms Campbell. Go look!

Here’s Ms. McKay’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Dorothy McKay ( Self portrait above from Meet the Artist, 1943; Photo from Cartoon Humor, 1938) Born c.1904, died June, 1974 New York City. New Yorker work: 1934 -1936.

Interview of Interest: Chon Day

Courtesy of Mike Lynch’s blog, we are able to read what is surely an obscure interview with Chon Day that appeared in a publication from the early 1960s, Pro Cartoonist & Gagwriter

Here’s Mr. Day’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

Chon Day (self portrait above from Collier’s Collects Its Wits) Born April 6, 1907, Chatham , NJ. Died January 1, 2000, Rhode Island. New Yorker work: 1931 – 1998. Collection: I Could Be Dreaming (Robert M. McBride & Co., 1945). Brother Sebastian (Hanover House, 1957). 

Go here to Mr. Lynch’s blog to see the interview & more.  Mr. Day’s interview appears in two parts.