The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of March 5, 2018; Cover Update: The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

Hooray for Hollywood?  This week’s cover (artist: Chris Ware) reminds us — not that we need reminding –that Tinsel Town is a troubled town. 

Shout out to the Cartier folks for the pretty street lamp that greets you as you open the magazine. Nice also to see the photo of David Bowie (however much I disagree with this current usage of the Goings On About Town opening page, i.e., with a nearly full page photo. It never fails to trick me into thinking I’m seeing an ad).

Speaking of being in disagreement, the stand-in remains in place for Rea Irvin’s iconic design for the Talk Of The Town.

Here’s what the original looks like:

And here’s the stand-in:

Alrighty then, on to the issue’s cartoons. 

The very first cartoon is by David Sipress.  A somewhat retired theme (torture) returns. Torture rack drawings popped up more ages ago, replaced (if my unscientific memory search is slightly accurate) with another kind of torture: prisoners hanging by handcuffs up on dungeon walls. I feel for the fellow in Mr. Sipress’s drawing who is about to undergo the “procedure.”

Five pages later a couple of “Casablanca”-era Humphrey Bogart-like fellas at the end of a pier, courtesy of Carolita Johnson. As discussed last week (Frank Cotham’s drawing of thugs planning just such a pier push) this is a standard situation a lot of cartoonists are attracted to (including this one). Here’s one more — a personal favorite of mine. 

On the very next page, a robot drawing by Navied Mahdavian, whose debut drawing was last week. I recall Zach Kanin bringing robots back into usage a few years ago (or maybe it was Roz Chast…or was it someone else. New Yorker cartoon robot aficionados please advise). In this particular case I was a bit worried that the scientists had their backs to the dancing duo. Perhaps it was this portion of the caption: “They [the robots] don’t appear to want to take over…” [bolded words mine]. Hmmm, if there’s any doubt, any doubt at all as to the robots’ intentions, perhaps it’s best to observe them in an fortified isolation booth or something.

Three pages later a Danny Shanahan drawing. Fun drawing perfectly synced with a wonderful Shanahan-esque caption. If I was awarding ribbons as they do over on the Cartoon Companion, I’d pin one on this drawing (and on the P. C. Vey drawing that we’ll get to in a minute).

Eight pages later, a Roz Chast NYC-centered alien “take us to your leader”-type drawing. I enjoyed examining the screens on the aliens’ chests. Would love to see Chastian aliens in color.

On the very next page (and I should say, very nicely sized and placed on the page) is a terrif Chris Weyant drawing. The caption’s sterling construction reminds me of captions once written by the likes of James Stevenson, Donald Reilly, and Charles Saxon.  Applause applause!

Two pages later, a real gem by P.C. Vey. A cave couple. Mr. Vey’s world is such a fun treat (and isn’t that why we love cartoons?). I find it hysterical that:

1. The cave woman looks nothing like a cave woman (her hair’s perfect and she’s wearing a somewhat stylish shift).  

2. The cave man is so well-groomed (both hair and beard).

The next two drawings (the first by newbie Pia Guerra, and the next by veteran-newbie Will McPhail) reminded me, in their construction (not style) of ancient friezes:

If you placed a ruler along the base of the feet in each drawing, you’d see that every foot (and one paw) touches the edge of the ruler (with the exception of Ms. Guerra’s wolf’s right paw, and a kicked-up foot on the person to the extreme right of Mr. McPhail’s drawing). There is no reason to note this other than that I don’t recall ever seeing two frieze-like drawings back-to-back before.

Four pages following the second frieze  cartoon is a Maggie Dai Atlas drawing that sent me to the search box. Now I know what “leg day” refers to.  On the very next page, the instantly recognizable style of Drew Dernavich, who delivers an Oscars drawing.

Three pages later a delightful Barbara Smaller drawing. Nice to see bigger picture work by her. On the very next page, an Ed Steed sports drawing (basketball). Five pages later Paul Noth references  fine art.  I recall that  Roz Chast handled Venus on a cover not too very long ago.  My memory is that Addams liked to work with Venus too.  Am I wrong, but aren’t bathtubs the preferred bathroom fixture for home births rather than sinks?  Of course, it being cartoonland and all, anything’s possible.

Case in point: the last drawing of the issue, by JAK (otherwise known as Jason Adam Katzenstein).  We see a card game with a Wolf Blizter-like guy in an open collared rumpled shirt, a well dressed woman (she’s wearing pearls), and a wolf(?) in a tuxedo.

  The popped eyes and slack jaw suggest animation as inspiration, like so:


Cover Update: The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

If you’ve been following the Spill ‘s coverage of cover art (or lack of) for The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons (due in October from Black Dog & Leventhal) you might find it interesting that we now have the below image to contemplate:

















And In This Corner, At 656 Pages and Weighing 9 Pounds, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker

Wow. Seems like only a few years ago this heavyweight was published, not 14 years ago.  An undertaking so far unequaled (at least measured by heft) in the magazine’s history. The book weighs about 9 pounds and is 656 pages, with two cds containing every New Yorker cartoon in the magazine (up to that time).  A subsequent paperback edition, though 14 pages longer, isn’t as heavy, is smaller in size and contains just one cd.  There is, as Spillers know, an even lengthier New Yorker book coming at us this Fall, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons @ 1536 pages (Simple math tells us this new one is then more than twice as long.  Wow, wow.). 

So what to make of this 2004 giant album.  There was much to like about it, and some not to like. First, the good and bad (quibbles, I call them) about the enclosed cds. 

  The 2 cds, as advertised, gave us access to the huge number of cartoons published in the magazine. The cd database was not perfect.  There were some issues with cartoons assigned to the wrong cartoonist. There were omissions as well as questionable additions (my memory is finding what we would normally call illustrations included as cartoons).  But let’s be real: in a project this enormous, no one could expect perfection, and the final product should be applauded. Those issues with the database were overshadowed by the ability to see the work, anyone’s work, with a few clicks.

The arrival the following year of The Complete New Yorker with its 8 DVD-Roms made the Complete Cartoon discs, for me, obsolete.  Why? The Complete New Yorker‘s discs allowed one to see the cartoons presented as they were published in the pages of the magazine, and not isolated on the screen. The Complete Cartoons database presented the cartoons solo, sans surrounding text — to my eyes a cold environment.  For me, seeing the cartoons the way they appeared in the magazine (their natural habitat), and how they were presented along with text and other cartoons was (and always has been) the preferred way to experience New Yorker cartoons.

The book itself: 

Picking up a 9 pound book is a commitment — it’s best looked at while it rests on a coffee table or heavy-duty plank of wood. Once anchored, the page-turning experience is highly enjoyable. The large format (11″ X 13″) allows the cartoons a lot of breathing room on the page.  A very slight quibble: the format of 4 cartoons to a page or 3 could’ve used a little shaking up. Unless I missed it, there are no drawings allowed to carry over to the opposite page, no playful use of the all that space.  True, there are full page drawings sprinkled throughout, but variety otherwise (as in the much earlier albums) would’ve added to the layout. The paper quality is just good enough to avoid seeing through to the next page. 

  There are written pieces introducing the decades (some by such marquee names as John Updike, Calvin Trillin and Roger Angell) and short unsigned essays on cartoon themes (drinking, nudity, slipper dogs and cell phones, etc.). There are also  profiles of certain cartoonists — the flap copy calls them “key cartoonists” identified with each decade.  These include Arno, Thurber, Addams, Steig, Steinberg, Booth, Ziegler, etc.. One quibble with these key cartoonist profiles: out of 10 cartoonists profiled, only one is a woman. While doing research for my biography of Peter Arno in the New Yorker‘s archives (found at the New York Public Library) I came across an in-house New Yorker document rating the golden age artists;  two cartoonists were at the very top of the list in a class by themselves above all other artists: Peter Arno and Helen Hokinson.  Ms. Hokinson is not profiled in the book.  I would argue that Barbara Shermund and Mary Petty also deserved recognition.

It’s too late now, but if they had it to do all over again, I would’ve been happier if the editors had provided us with either more profiles of “key cartoonists” and less introductory text (it is, after all, a book of cartoons and cartoonists far more than a book about cartoons) or no profiles of key cartoonists at all.  Once you begin noticing who’s not profiled (Alan Dunn, for instance — whose work is in the top five of all-time published New Yorker cartoonists along with James Stevenson; Rea Irvin, Frank Modell, Robert Weber, Whitney Darrow, Edward Koren, Lee  Lorenz, Charles Barsotti, Danny Shanahan, the aforementioned Shermund and Hokinson — just to name a few) you realize you’re only getting part of the picture.  I’d argue that after the magazine found its footing in late 1926 or early 1927, it was a team effort that ultimately made the New Yorker cartoons great, not a team carried by less than a dozen.  

Final quibble: I’ve never been fond of the mini essays on drinking, cell phones and slipper dogs etc. —  why categorize unless you’re turning out a theme cartoon book ala The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons.  For me, categorizing takes away the organic punch an individual cartoon delivers.  Give us ten desert island cartoons in a group and they each lose a little something.  

All in all, with the above exceptions noted, the Complete Cartoons is a major effort and a loving tribute to the magazine’s artists and their art. Let’s hope we see it equaled, if not bettered, in 2025, when the magazine turns 100 years old.

The paperback edition of The Complete Cartoons, published in 2006, gives us a few more pages and a few more years of newer cartoons (and some newer cartoonists). As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot lighter than the hardcover so you can pick it up and sit back with it. No coffee table necessary. The single DVD-Rom adds approximately 1700 cartoons. 




The Tilley Watch Online; E. Simms Campbell’s 1933 Map of Harlem Night Clubs

A shortened Daily Cartoon week ( due to the holiday?) with David Sipress (a Trump drawing),  Brendan Loper (two gun control drawings), Jeremy Nguyen (a gun control drawing), Peter Kuper (a gun control drawing), and Barry Blitt (a Trump/Olympics drawing).

Over on Daily Shouts a lot of contributing New Yorker cartoonist activity: Liana Finck’s ongoing advice piece, Will McPhail on writers, and Olivia De Recat on pets.

See all the work (and then some) here.


E. Simms Campbell’s 1933 Map of Harlem Night Clubs

Stephen Nadler shows us a beautiful E. Simms Campbell piece on today’s Attempted Bloggery. Below’s a sample .  To see the entire piece go here.


Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons; E. Simms Campbell Fest Rolls on at Attempted Bloggery; A Thurber Original On Ebay Offered For $20,000.00

The Cartoon Companion‘s “Max” and “Simon” point their critical spotlight on the cartoons in the latest New Yorker (the issue of  February 26, 2018).  Read it here!


 E. Simms Campbell Fest Rolls On at Attempted Bloggery

Stephen Nadler’s Attempted Bloggery continues to highlight work by the prolific cartoonist, E. Simms Campbell. See it here.

For more on Mr. Campbell, link here.

(above, Mr. Campbell’s The Blues, from Esquire, 1939)


A Thurber Original on Ebay Offered For $20,000.00

From the Dept. of Hey Big Spender: an original Thurber that appeared in The New Yorker, May 21, 1938, and was republished in Thurber’s collection, Men Women and Dogs (Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1943) is up for grabs on Ebay with the asking price of…$20,000.00.

  I’m almost certain the aforementioned Mr. Nadler of Attempted Bloggery will let us know how this auction turns out (his site specializes in examining auctioned New Yorker art). Below is what the drawing looked like in the magazine way way back when it was originally published.




Marcellus Hall’s Debut Graphic Novel; Liana Finck’s “Passing For Human”Cover; A Passing of Note, 50 Years Ago Today

Marcellus Hall’s Debut Graphic Novel

New Yorker artist Marcellus Hall’s debut graphic novel, Kaleidoscope City will be out next month.

From the publisher:

“A lone man navigates the streets of Kaleidoscope City in the aftermath of a broken romance. Buoyed by his curiosity and a search for meaning, with sketchbook in hand, he finds inspiration in unexpected places, from far-flung neighborhoods to fleeting glimpses of a mysterious woman.” Info here!

Mr. Hall’s website


Liana Finck’ s “Passing For Human” Cover

New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck  has posted the cover of her upcoming graphic memoir, Passing For Human ( Random House, September 18). 

From the publisher:

“A visually arresting graphic memoir about a young artist struggling against what’s expected of her as a woman, and learning to accept her true self.”

Link here for more info.


50 Years Ago Today

I’m not one for remembering death dates, but this is one to note: One of the New Yorker‘s cartoon gods, Peter Arno, died 50 years ago today. Here’s the headline on the front page of The New York Times, February 23, 1968.


Surreal McCoy Pencilled; Even More E. Simms Campbell

Surreal McCoy Pencilled

A Case For Pencils, Jane Mattimoe’s wonderful blog offering a peek into New Yorker cartoonists tool bags, continues with The Surreal McCoy.  Read it here!


Even More E. Simms Campbell

Attempted Bloggery continues its Campbell fest with a look at original art from Playboy See it here!

(Above: Mr. Campbell’s one & only New Yorker cover)

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

E. Simms Campbell (photo above) Born, 1906. Died, 1971. New Yorker work: 1932 -1942. Key collections: Cuties in Arms (1943) – the earliest published collection of cartoons by an African-American cartoonist); More Cuties in Arms (also 1943); and Chorus of Cuties (1953)