“A Very Complicated Thing”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wall-to-Wall Cartoonists at David Remnick’s Hello Goodbye Party

 The New Yorker‘s editor, David Remnick threw a Hello Goodbye party last night (Hello, Emma Allen, the magazine’s new cartoon editor; Goodbye, Bob Mankoff, the former cartoon editor). It was, by far, the largest gathering of New Yorker cartoonists since  1997, when forty-one gathered for an Arnold Newman group photo (it appeared in the magazine’s first cartoon issue, December 15, 1997). Here are a bunch of photos from the evening, courtesy of Liza Donnelly, the Spill‘s official photographer for the evening; additional  photos by  Sarah Booth, Marshall Hopkins, and Paul Karasik.

Photo above, l-r: Drew Dernavich, Sarah Booth, John Klossner, George Booth, Chad Darbyshire (back to camera), Matt Diffee, (New Yorker writer) Sarah Larson, Ken Krimstein, Bob Mankoff, Eric Lewis, Bob Eckstein

Edward Koren and Francoise Mouly (The New Yorker‘s Art Editor)

 

 

 

 

 

Emma Allen, The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Editor, and Stanley Ledbetter, the magazine’s jack-of-all trades.

 

 

 

 

 

George Booth and Roz Chast.  That’s Lars Kenseth in the background (photo courtesy of Sarah Booth)

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Karasik, Liana Finck and Gabrielle Bell (photo courtesy of Paul Karasik)

 

 

 

 

Jason Adam Katzenstein, unidentified, Roz Chast speaking with Sara Lautman (back to camera), and Chris Weyant far right.

 

 

 

Chris Weyant (partially obscured), Farley Katz, unidentified, David Sipress, New Yorker writer Matt Dellinger (in checked shirt), Andy Friedman, Danny Shanahan. The group in the back: Drew Panckeri, Mitra Farmand, Sara Lautman, Kendra Allenby

 

Sam Gross and Robert Leighton

 

Bob Mankoff and David Remnick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Cater, with the New Yorker‘s assistant cartoon editor, Colin Stokes, and Avi Steinberg

 

 

 

George Booth and David Borchart

 

 

 

 

 

Joe Dator and Peter Kuper

 

 

Felipe Galindo and Carolita Johnson

 

 

 

John O’Brien and Bob Eckstein

 

 

Three former cartoon department assistants: Marshall Hopkins, Emily Votruba, and Andy Friedman (photo courtesy of Marshall Hopkins)

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Weyant and Paul Noth

 

 

Matt Dellinger with  Stanley Ledbetter, and Matt Diffee (and way back by the window: Chad Darbyshire to the left, and Amy Hwang to the right)

 

 

 

 

P.C. Vey and Trevor Hoey

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Warp, Pat Byrnes, and George Booth

 

 

 

Sam Gross and Roz Chast

 

 

 

 

l-r: P.C. Vey, Liza Donnelly, Danny Shanahan, George Booth, and Michael Maslin (photo courtesy of Sarah Booth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Weyant and Liana Finck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Gross and Lars Kenseth

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Lewis, Andy Friedman, and Barbara Smaller

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pat Byrnes, Paul Karasik, and Peter Kuper

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marc Philippe Eskenazi and Ben Schwartz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Hankin, Amy Hwang, Kendra Allenby, and Avi Steinberg

 

 

 

Marshall Hopkins with Bob Mankoff’s first assistant, Emily Votruba (Mr. Hopkins was also at one time Mr. Mankoff’s assistant)

 

 

 

Far left: David Sipress speaks with Andy Friedman.  Foreground: Barbara Smaller, Emily Flake and P.C. Vey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

l-r: Felipe Galindo, Marshall Hopkins, Sam Gross, Mort Gerberg, and Ed Koren

 

 

 

 

 

Edward Koren, Michael Maslin, Liza Donnelly and a photobombing David Remnick. That’s Charlie Hankin in the back, far right.

 

 

 

 

Here’s an  incomplete list of all the cartoonists who were there (if you were there and don’t appear on this list, please let me know)

Kendra Allenby, George Booth, David Borchart, Pat Byrnes, Chris Cater, Roz Chast, Joe Dator, Chad Darbyshire, Drew Dernavich, Matt Diffee, Liza Donnelly, Bob Eckstein, Mitra Farmand, Liana Finck, Emily Flake, Andy Friedman (aka Larry Hat), Felipe Galindo(aka feggo), Mort Gerberg,  Sam Gross, Charlie Hankin, Marshall Hopkins, Amy Hwang, Edward Koren, Trevor Hoey, Carolita Johnson, Paul Karasik, Farley Katz, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Lars Kenseth,  John Klossner, Ken Krimstein, Peter Kuper, Amy Kurzweil, Sara Lautman, Robert Leighton, Eric Lewis, Bob Mankoff, Sam Marlow, Michael Maslin,  Paul Noth,  Jeremy Nguyen, John O’Brien, Drew Panckeri, Corey Pandolph, Ellis Rosen, Jennifer Saura, Ben Schwartz, Danny Shanahan, David Sipress,  Avi Steinberg, P.C. Vey, Kim Warp, Chris Weyant.  

Bob Mankoff’s Third Act; An Update: Mankoff Puts the Kibosh on an Esquire Look Day

On his 73rd birthday, Bob Mankoff, newly un-hitched from his duties as cartoon editor of the New Yorker, let the word go forth he was immediately beginning a new job as cartoon editor (and humor editor) of the 83 year old men’s magazine, Esquire.  Pre-dating Playboy, Esquire was once one of the major markets in this country for cartoons embracing more risque work than The New Yorker (when Playboy came along in the early 1950s, its cartoons made Esquire’s risque cartoons seem tame).  When Esquire was reinvented in the late 1970s there was initially great interest in bringing back cartoons.  After I sold a bunch of cartoons to them during the planning phase, I was invited in to meet with Clay Felker, Milton Glaser and then Esquire cartoon editor, Harvey Kurtzman  — it was all very exciting,  but the excitement was short-lived as using cartoons was abandoned before the first new-look Esquire was printed (it was, after all, the age of illustration, ushered in by the success of Mr. Felker’s and Mr. Glazer’s New York magazine).  But that’s all ancient history. It’s 2017 — with new cartoon markets hard to come by.  If Esquire has its own Look Day, cartoonists can head uptown to the Hearst Tower after first seeing Emma Allen at The New Yorker.

UPDATE:

Shortly after the above Spill piece was posted, Michael Cavna posted a piece on Mr. Mankoff’s intentions, viv-a-vis an Esquire Look Day.  Mr. Mankoff now calls the “open call” Look Day he inaugurated and presided over during his  twenty year New Yorker stint as cartoon editor, “delusional”; Mr. Mankoff’s  “open call”  was in stark contrast to his predecessor’s Look Day, which was open only to veteran cartoonists.  He told the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna what his new approach as Esquire‘s cartoon editor would be:

The idea: What if he were to work closely with a handful of different cartoonists every issue, in a process that he says would “feel less hierarchical” and “more productive”?

The piece continues:

… Mankoff wouldn’t just work with artists, but also performers. “I want stand-up comedians to work with cartoonists, too, to [explore] what a stand-up sensibility could be in a magazine.”

That collaborative approach, he notes, is more like what the New Yorker was still doing a half-century ago, when illustrators and gag writers might be paired on a cartoon.

 Mr. Mankoff  would seem to be thinking of returning, in part, to an approach that began to lose favor at The New Yorker in 1952, when William Shawn  began encouraging the magazine’s artists to develop their own voice, rather than to rely on gagwriters.  While using gagwriters is still an approach a very small number of New Yorker cartoonists employ, it has been largely out of favor at the magazine since the early 1970s (Roz Chast, in a brochure for an exhibit of New Yorker cartoons,  wrote that she felt the use of gagwriters was “like cheating.”)

In The New Yorker‘s earliest days, working on cartoons was a collaborative effort carried on in the Art Meeting, wherein a number of editors (and Rea Irvin, the magazine’s Art Supervisor) joined in on helping sharpen work. When Mr. Shawn was appointed the magazine’s editor, he abandoned that collaborative effort.

It will be fascinating to see how Mr. Mankoff’s retro-collaborative approach plays out in the pages of Esquire

   

 

 

 

New Yorker Cartoons Golden Age Editor; Roz Chast in San Francisco; More Spills with Nguyen, Rosen, Eckstein, Flake, Finck, Donnelly and Arno

 

 

 

 

Rounding out this historic week for New Yorker cartoons and cartoonists as we say “Goodbye” to Bob Mankoff and “Hello” to Emma Allen is an article from the early 1970s as another transition was about to take place: long-time New Yorker Art Editor, James Geraghty  was beginning to think retirement, but his successor was not yet in place (the successor would be Lee Lorenz). See the Geraghty article here at Attempted Bloggery

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Roz Chast was recently out west for the opening of the traveling exhibit “Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs”– here’s a brief interview with her from The Jewish News of California, posted April 26th, 2017: “Life’s Funny Like That: New Yorker Cartoonist’s Memoir on Exhibit at CJM”

 

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Jeremy Nguyen and Ellis Rosen will be unveiling their rejected cartoons at the Downtown Variety Hour on May 1st. Details here. ________________________________________________________________________________

My favorite snowman expert, Bob Eckstein, has been out in the Windy City on a Spring tour promoting his lovely new book, Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores Here’s a short interview with him from The Chicago Tribune.

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…A reminder  that the upcoming Pen World Voices Festival of International Literature will present  Women In Ink, with a boffo panel featuring Emily Flake, Roz Chast, Liana Finck, and Rayma Suprani. Liza Donnelly will moderate. Details here.

 

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Finally, for those who enjoy the obscure: the Swann Galleries has a 1932 Peter Arno poster up for auction on May 25th.  A beauty! Details here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Passing of the Baskets

 

This week, as has been noted here, and plenty of places elsewhere, is Bob Mankoff’s last as the New Yorker‘s cartoon editor.  Emma Allen, who is the magazine’s Daily Shouts editor, will become the center of the New Yorker cartoon world next week, and as such, will automatically become the focus of all existing New Yorker cartoonists and all want-to-be New Yorker cartoonists on the planet. And along with all the perks and pecks of being cartoon editor, Ms. Allen will take the New Yorker cartoon version of the baton from Mr. Mankoff  — the baton in this case: three wire baskets —  the three most important baskets in the New Yorker cartoonists’ universe. The baskets, labeled Yes, No, and Maybe are brought to the editor’s desk every week along with a pile of submissions selected by the cartoon editor out of thousands that have come into the office.

  David Remnick, the current editor of the New Yorker, then sifts through the pile, selecting the chosen few that land in the Yes basket. These are the “OKed” drawings so valued by every cartoonist submitting to the magazine. 

In Mr. Mankoff’s twenty years, he’s carried those baskets to Mr. Remnick’s office countless times (there’s possibly or probably a log noting the date of every Art Meeting, so technically, they can be counted, but who’s counting). The Yes basket has been filled and refilled hundreds of times with  the work of veteran cartoonists and over a hundred new cartoonists Mr. Mankoff brought into the magazine. A couple of years ago, when I interviewed Lee Lorenz, Mr. Mankoff’s predecessor, he told me that he felt the most important part of his job was finding new artists for the magazine. Mr. Lorenz, who held the job for twenty-four years, brought in approximately forty cartoonists (I’ll list them someday.  And note, I’m only talking about cartoonists here, not artists who were strictly cover artists).  Mr. Mankoff, whose “open door” policy made it far easier to sell a cartoon to the magazine, brought in close to one hundred and thirty (by my unofficial but not too off the mark count). Cartoon scholars will no doubt debate the ripple effects of these two schools of introducing new cartoonists. 

If Mr. Mankoff was not a cartoonist himself and the originator of the Cartoon Bank, I’d say these cartoonists he brought in were his legacy at the magazine.  But the cartoonists he brought in are surely a big part of what he leaves behind (as is how their work changed the magazine’s cartoon landscape).  And so in the spirit of wrapping things up with a nice big bow, I’m listing all of those whose work first hit the Yes basket on Mr. Mankoff’s watch (it is possible less than a handful of these cartoonists were brought in by the magazine’s art editor, Francoise Mouly.  As always, corrections are welcome).  Ink Spill will of course carry on noting the new cartoonists brought in under Ms. Allen.  Exciting times ahead!

Cartoonists are presented in order of the year their first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker

1997: Aaron Bacall

1998: Christopher Weyant, Pat Byrnes, Nick Downes, Joe Duffy, William Haefeli, Aline Kominsky (Crumb), Marisa Acocella Marchetto, David Sipress

1999: Paul Karasik, John Caldwell, Matt Diffee, Benita Epstein, Alex Gregory, Michael Shaw, Steve Way, Robert Sikoryak, Kim Warp

2000: Ken Krimstein, Eric Lewis

2001: Chad Darbyshire, Steve Duenes, Andy Friedman (aka Larry Hat)

2002: Jonny Cohen, Drew Dernavich, Felipe Galindo ( aka feggo), Robert Leighton, Seth

2003: Donna Barstow, Erik Hilgerdt, Carolita Johnson, John Kane

2004: Marshall Hopkins, Keith Bendis, John Donohue, Glen Le Lievre, Paul Noth, Jason Patterson, Emily Richards

2005: Zach Kanin, Rob Esmay, Arthur Geisert, Sam Means, Ariel Molvig

2006: Joe Dator, Pete Holmes, Evan Forsch, Martha Gradisher, Jason Polan, Julia Suits

2007: Farley Katz, Dave Coverly, David Borchart, Caroline Dworin, Bob Eckstein, Ward Sutton

2008: Emily Flake, John Klossner, Rini Piccolo, Michael Rae Grant, Jose Arroyo, Sean O’Neill

2009: Trevor Hoey, Karen Sneider, Shannon Wheeler

2010: Amy Hwang, Kate Beaton, Isaac LittleJohn Eddy, Kaamran Hafeez, Steve Macone, Mark Thompson, Tom Toro

2011: Corey Pandolph, Jennifer Saura, Ben Schwartz, Liam Walsh

2012: Avi Steinberg, Erik Bergstrom, Rich Feldman

2013: Liana Finck, Charlie Hankin. Julian Rowe, Ed Steed

2014: Tom Chitty, Jake Goldwasser, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Will McPhail, Jacob Samuel, Trevor Spaulding, Adam Cooper & Mat Barton, Chris Cater, T.S. McCoy, Jeanne Darst & Andrew Swift, Ali Rushfield, Peter Berkowitz, Michael Kupperman

2015: Zohan Lazar, Matthew Stiles Davis, Cameron Harvey, Mitra Farmand, Drew Panckeri, Dan Roe, Tim Hamilton, Julia Wertz & Josh Wertz, Colin Tom, Tom Hamilton, Dan Abromowitz & Eli Dreyfus, Brian McLachlan, Andrew Hamm

2016: Kendra Allenby, Seth Fleishman, Darrin Bell, Kate Curtis, Amy Kurzweil, Sara Lautman, Brendan Loper, Christian Lowe, John McNamee, Rich Sparks, Emily Nemens, Sam Marlow, Ellis Rosen, Lars Kenseth

2017: Jeremy Nguyen, Alice Cheng, Jim Benton

Note:

  • Bolded names: these cartoonists were at one time cartoon department assistants
  • If you see two names joined by an “&” it means they worked as a team, and were acknowledged as such in the magazine’s Table of Contents.

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Video of Interest: From 1997, ABC’s Nightline Looks at the New Yorker’s Cartoonists; Sam Gross on Jack Ziegler; The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna on Jack Ziegler’s Pivotal Role at The New Yorker

Way way back in December 1997, ABC’s Nightline broadcast “Drawing Laughter: the Cartoonists of The New Yorker” devoting its entire half-hour time slot to New Yorker cartoons and especially, its cartoonists.  The video from ABC’s vault takes us back to the Tina Brown era, the beginning of Bob Mankoff‘s tenure as cartoon editor (he’d only been at the big desk since August), and the  New Yorker’s first Cartoon Issue. The piece includes footage of the Arnold Newman photo-shoot for the fold-out group photo that appeared in that special issue (and in the Nightline piece), a photo-op at the Algonquin,  as well as short profiles of William Hamilton, Roz Chast and Michael Crawford.  Ted Koppel sitting in a cartoon newsroom is priceless. Among those seen in the piece, if far too briefly, are Mischa Richter, Lee Lorenz, Stuart Leeds, Leo Cullum, Al Ross, Bud Handelsman, Edward Koren, Liza Donnelly, Edward Sorel, Robert Weber, Warren Miller, Charles Barsotti, Frank Cotham, Peter Steiner, Frank Modell, Mick Stevens, Danny Shanahan, Mort Gerberg, Bruce Eric Kaplan, and Sam Gross. Bonus: a quick shot of Jack Ziegler (“It’s kinda quiet in here.”).

For more Ziegler on tape, here’s a link to his appearance with David Letterman, June 20, 1983.

 

 

 

 

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Ink Spill received the following from the great Sam Gross (left) about Jack Ziegler:

   

Jack took a fierce pride in his drawings. On one occasion the art director at Look magazine made the mistake of putting a pushpin in one of them and then mounting it on his cork wall. Every art director in those days had a cork wall. Jack went ballistic and wanted to kill him. I calmed him down by convincing him that the art director would burn in hell for what he did. I’m sure Jack has gone to the place where there are no art directors.

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From The Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs columnist, Michael Cavna: “How Jack Ziegler Became ‘The Godfather’ of The New Yorker’s Modern Wave of Cartoonists”

— Mr. Cavna on how Jack Ziegler midwifed the New Yorker‘s cartoons into its second Golden Age.

R.C. Harvey’s Trip Down Mankoff Lane

From The Comics Journal, March 27, 2017, “A Look Back at 20 Years of Mankoff’s New Yorker” — R.C. Harvey takes a look at Bob Mankoff’s not-quite 20 year term (August of 1997 – April of 2017) as The New Yorker‘s cartoon editor in this longish piece that covers much ground found in Mankoff’s memoir, How About Never — Is Never Good For You: My Life in Cartoons (Henry Holt, 2014), as well as the very current events surrounding Mr. Mankoff’s imminent departure.

There are a few things in Mr. Harvey’s piece I’m going to quibble with. I’ve reproduced them here, bolded and italicized.

New Yorker cartoons are topical (and always have been) but not as front-page topical as newspaper editorial cartoons. For decades, thanks to the magazine’s founder’s Puritan bent, sex was taboo as a subject for cartoons.

New Yorker cartoons can be topical, but they are not always topical, and they have not always been topical, nor are they all topical now.  For instance,  these two drawings, perhaps two of the most famous in the magazine’s canon: James Thurber’s so-called Seal in the Bedroom, and Charles Addams famous skier who has somehow managed to ski through a pine tree.  If there’s something topical about them, I don’t see it.

As for sex as a taboo, well what are we talking about here exactly?  Barbara Shermund’s and Peter Arno’s work mined the subject of sex in the New Yorker for decades on end.  Mr. Arno, of course, made quite a nice career out of providing the New Yorker‘s readership with sex-based drawings.

By the time Lorenz was cartoon editor, cartoonists were expected to both write and draw their cartoons. (In fact, to reveal an undisguised bias of mine, true cartooning, blending words and picture, can most happily take place in a cartoonist’s mind, not a writer’s. Which may account for the typically inert comedy that prevailed at The New Yorker for so many of its first decades. And, even—inevitably—into current decades.)

Not really sure where  “by the time Lorenz was cartoon editor, cartoonists were expected to both write and draw their cartoons” comes from. It is simply not the case.  As one who was brought into The New Yorker by Mr. Lorenz, the subject of what was expected never came up. The word “expect” just isn’t part of the New Yorker cartoonist/editor language. Forty years later, I can say that the subject never came up with Mr. Lorenz, or his successor.

As for “…the typically inert comedy that prevailed at The New Yorker for so many of its first decades” Mr. Harvey has a right to his opinion, of course, but “inert” is not a word I’d apply to the earliest New Yorker cartoons. In fact, if you look through the magazine’s first three decades  what you will see is plenty of cartoon movement across the page and within the cartoons themselves. Take a look at the work of Reginald Marsh, or Thurber, or Barlow, or Hoff or Johan Bull (I could go on listing names, but you get the point).   Mr. Bull was a frequent contributor in the magazine’s earliest days –his lovely drawings  were barely kept within the borders of the page. And Mr. Marsh’s drawings were electric.  There was a graphic  playfulness to much of the work then; it subsided, appropriately enough, with the advent of the second world war.  If you want to go looking for inert drawings, you’ll find them easily enough and in every issue, but I would say they did not prevail — they were a bit of balance, some down-time Harold Ross so wisely provided his readers.

“The Place Was Especially A Mess After The Weekly Art Meetings”

 

 

… “The artists, who waited for the verdicts, scrambled for desk space where they could retouch their cartoons and spots according to what Wylie, or Katharine Angell, told them what Ross wanted.”*

 

— So said New Yorker editor and writer Rogers Whitaker to Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney. He was describing a wonderfully fun and exciting time and place: The New Yorker in its infancy, ninety some years ago.

 

What’s changed since then?  Well, the cartoonists no longer wait in the office to hear the verdict for that week’s submissions (email now alerts them to a sale, and more often, rejection). However, many cartoonists still head to the New Yorker every week to sit across from the cartoon editor. It’s a chance to connect with the editor, to get feedback, to discuss that week’s submissions.  It’s also a chance to socialize with colleagues.  Cartoonists, as has been said many times, are mostly solitary creatures, whiling away at their drawing boards or tablets without the company of other humans.

 

Using the clues of the personalities Mr. Whitaker mentioned we know that the artists (cartoonists for the most part with some cover artists tossed in) began showing up at the New Yorker from the very first days of the magazine. What we don’t know is exactly when the cartoonists began showing up to see the Art Editor — a ritual that began sometime during James Geraghty’s tenure as the magazine’s first Art Editor.

 

Rea Irvin, the New Yorker‘s Art Supervisor did not meet the artists flooding into the office. So who actually saw the artists coming in? It was, in the very beginning, Ross’s secretary, Helen Mears, who was soon fired and replaced by a young man named Philip Wylie. He was the unofficially titled artists “hand-holder” — the link between the editorial staff and the cartoonists.   Most importantly to The New Yorker‘s history, and to its success, Wylie is the person who, while looking through twenty-one year old Peter Arno’s portfolio one day in 1925  happened to spot a drawing Arno hadn’t intended to show: a sketch  of “two old bats about to charge obliviously into a trap — made by the rise of a sidewalk elevator. It [the drawing] greatly amused me.”   The  “two old bats” came to be called The Whoops Sisters, and also came to be credited as very likely rescuing The New Yorker from an early demise.  This moment was one of the so-called “happy accidents” that saved the New Yorker and propelled it forward. And it could have only happened because Arno came into the office and sat down with Wylie.

 

We know that upon James Geraghty’s appointment as Art Editor in 1939 he began working closely with the magazine’s staff cartoonists on Look Day (Tuesdays back then, and for many years after. Wednesdays now).  What has always endeared me to the editor/artist dance at the magazine is that editorial prompts are not directives — they are suggestions.  This practice continued on during Lee Lorenz’s twenty-four years as art editor after he succeeded Geraghty, and it continues right up to today.

 

Mr. Lorenz ran a very tight ship in those twenty-four years; artists had to be invited in to the office on Look Day.  Even some long-time contributors did not receive the coveted invitation.  They had to drop off their work at the receptionist’s glassed-in cubicle at the end of the hallway near the elevators. To be invited back was well-earned. And what you found once you were buzzed through the hallway door and then walked down the dog-legged hallway to the Art Department was a small cream-colored waiting room filled with cartoonists whose names would most likely be as familiar as the names of your family members. Their work, of course, would be familiar as well. The days of artists messing up the office were in the rear view mirror.  Some of the cartoonists actually had “studios” in the building (Charles Addams, Frank Modell, James Stevenson, Edward Koren among them).  Mr. Lorenz had an editorial light touch when working with artists — a shade lighter than Geraghty’s, or so I’ve been told; like Geraghty, Lorenz’s advice was succinct, and spot-on.

 

When Bob Mankoff succeeded Mr. Lorenz, he instituted what he called an “open door” policy,  saying, “I’ll see anyone.”  And in they came. To be sure, it created a different climate in what is called the cartoonists lounge.  Lots of new faces, many unpublished in The New Yorker, or anywhere, mingled with veteran contributors such as Sam Gross, George Booth, and Mort Gerberg. The scene wasn’t messy, as in the old days, but it was lively (they’ve had to be “hushed” on more than one occasion.  Dana Fradon, recalling the pre-Mankoff days, told Ink Spill: “Once, when someone down the hall voiced an official complaint about ‘noise’ coming from the cartoonists waiting room, Ed Fisher and I went out into the hall and sang, in close harmony, ‘The Beer-Barrel Polka’. “Roll out the barrel…”).

 

It was recently announced that a New Yorker editor, Emma Allen would replace Mr. Mankoff in May. A Cartoon Department email soon followed announcing that Mr. Mankoff would not see cartoonists on Look Day in these last weeks of his editorship.  How eerily quiet it will be around the cartoon lounge on Wednesday mornings!  I imagine that come May, the non-existent doors to the cartoon department will swing open again (there are waist-high partitions everywhere now, and just a few doors) and the cartoonists will flood in, as lively and boisterous as they’ve been for over ninety years.

 

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*A Who’s Who of those mentioned above

Emma Allen:  Ms. Allen has worked as an editor of Talk of The Town, a writer, and editor of Daily Shouts, and as of May this year, The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Editor.

Ed Fisher: Mr. Fisher’s first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker October 27, 1951; he went on to contribute over 700 cartoons. He died in 2013.

Dan Fradon:  Mr. Fradon, whose first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker, May 1, 1948,  is the doyen of the magazine’s artists. He has published well over a thousand cartoons in the magazine.

James Geraghty: a former gag-writer, hired in 1939, he became the magazine’s first Art Editor.  Before Geraghty, there was no one single person at the magazine dedicated to overseeing all the art (Harold Ross was the overseer of everything in his magazine).  Ross’s successor, William Shawn said of Geraghty: “Along with Harold Ross…he set set the magazine’s comic art on its course and he helped determine the direction in which the comic art would go and is still going.”  Mr. Geraghty was the art editor from 1939 through 1973. He died in 1983.

Rea Irvin: Mr. Irvin is a huge part of the New Yorker’s DNA as he’s responsible for the New Yorker‘s first cover (featuring the fellow referred to as Eustace Tilley); Mr. Irvin adapted the typeface that we now call the Irvin typeface; he contributed a record number of New Yorker covers, and last but not least, he helped “educate” Harold Ross, art-wise. He died in 1972.

Harrison Kinney: A reporter for The New Yorker from 1949-1954; his massive biography of James Thurber: His Life & Times was published in 1995.

Lee Lorenz: Geraghty’s successor as Art Editor (and later, under Tina Brown’s editorship, as Cartoon Editor).   He began as editor in 1973, handing over the reigns to Bob Mankoff in 1997. Mr. Lorenz is also one of, if not the most prolific New Yorker cartoonists. He is also the author of numerous books about New Yorker cartoonists, including the must-read history, The Art of The New Yorker:1925- 1995.

Bob Mankoff: Mr. Mankoff, also a cartoonist for the magazine, has been its cartoon editor for over nineteen years.  His memoir, How About Never — Is Never Good For You?: My Life In Cartoons was published in 2014.

Helen Mears: Harold Ross’s first secretary and the first person delegated to be a go-between the editorial department and the artists. She was fired by Philip Wylie on orders from Harold Ross. Mr. Wylie then assumed Ms. Mears duties.

Harold Ross: The founder and first editor of The New Yorker. There are three biographies of Mr. Ross. Thomas Kunkel’s biography Genius in Disguise is essential reading. Mr. Ross died in 1951.

William Shawn: Appointed in January of 1952 as Harold Ross’s successor. He remained editor until 1987. He died in 1992.

Rogers E. M. Whitaker: hired in 1926 he headed the checking department and later the make-up department.  Mr. Whitaker went on to become an editor and contributor to the New Yorker, working under various names:  “E.M. Frimbo”  (“The World’s Greatest Railroad Buff”) for pieces chronicling his journeys on the nations railways; “J.W.L.” for his pieces about Ivy League football; “The Old Curmudgeon” when he wrote for The Talk of The Town.   Mr. Whitaker died in 1981.

Katharine White: Hired in August of 1925, Ms. White (then Angell) was the magazine’s first Fiction Editor.  According to the New York Times: she…”exerted a profoundly creative influence on contemporary American literature…having transformed The New Yorker from a humor magazine into the purveyor of much of the best writing in the country.” Before James Geraghty consolidated the Art Department, the art was under the umbrella of the Fiction Department.  Lee Lorenz has written of her that “she was a powerful voice in the selection of the magazine’s art.” She died in 1977.  Linda Davis’s biography, Onward & Upward: A Biography of Katharine S. White is essential reading.

Philip Wylie: “The New Yorker‘s first bona fide applicant” was the magazine’s second artist hand holder.  He attended hundreds of the magazine’s first art meetings.  His short stint at The New Yorker was followed by a long and successful career as a writer including the best-selling Generation of Vipers.  He died in 1971