Bob Eckstein Talks to Ink Spill About His 3-D Thanksgiving Cartoon in this week’s New Yorker

 

 

 

There are two firsts involved in this interview.  This the first Ink Spill interview of a New Yorker cartoonist and it was prompted by what I believe to be the first 3-D cartoon in the magazine’s history.  The cartoon, appearing in this week’s issue, dated November 26, 2012, is by Bob Eckstein.  Bob has graciously consented to my prodding him with a few questions about himself, and the cartoon.

 

 Bob, would you give us a mini-history of how and when you came to be a New Yorker cartoonist?

 

 In 2007, for my birthday, Sam Gross invited me to the cartoon Tuesday lunch.  I had befriended him, and the Cartoonbank staff, as I bought a bunch of cartoons for the Intermission section of my book The History of the Snowman.  I was a fan of Sam’s (I wrote for National Lampoon while he was there), Charles Addams, and Danny Shanahan,  who all appear twice in my book, but I didn’t know about the lunch nor was I a cartoonist, per se.  I did occasionally come up with cartoons for the Village Voice, SPY and other magazines but only where I wrote humor columns and only because I would never allow outsiders to illustrate my work.  It was a condition I started at Newsday back in 1980s when I realized I needed both incomes to make enough to live on.  But I had no interest to cartoon until that lunch and at this point I did not read the NYer except when I needed a filling at the dentist.  I did enter the caption contest once, which at the time was once a year (It was a Danny Shanahan with Quasimodo as a doctor.  My, “The name rings a bell.” got runner-up.).  Only after I ran out of money to spend on the book, which probably exceeded $25,000+ in reprint and quote permission fees, did I fill two empty spaces with two of my own snowman cartoons for my “Intermission” on the nudging of my editor.

 

So, anyhoo, I enjoyed the lunch, and in retrospect being there the week that Gahan Wilson happened to show up was significant. I grew up laughing to his cartoon collections and meeting him was a big deal.  At the end of the fancy exciting lunch I asked Sam about coming back and how to get in on this “thing.”  He just said, “Come back next week with 10 sketches.” 

 

Well, I didn’t return. First, I found it too difficult to come up with that many ideas in one week.  I didn’t know what I was doing and I decided to call Danny Shanahan, who was and still is a favorite of mine and I spoken to a couple of times before but strictly for business.  I (incorrectly) felt after sending some money his way it made it somehow okay.  I told him I was contemplating gag cartooning and now looking back, I just wanted him to say, “Oh, how wonderful, you’re going to do great, welcome aboard, etc.”  Instead he basically said forgot it, it’s a very difficult profession.  That was the extent of my pep talk. 

 

Despite that warning I went in on the second week since the lunch, going into Bob Mankoff’s (the magazine’s Cartoon Editor) office after Sam, who I assume put in a good word for me to Bob.  Bob explained it wasn’t necessary to write in big letters “SKETCH” on each drawing.  Nor did the captions need to be typeset.  Each sketch had a cover sheet like they were finals ready to go to print!  Most of them were moronic and too current-eventsy to be useful, like one with a cat on American Idol. 

 

That Thursday Bob left a message on my machine to tell me which one they bought.  I told my wife the New Yorker only bought one, sorry.  When I returned the next week with the final, I apologized for the others in the first batch being so bad–I assumed that everyone every Tuesday sold a few and I was a big loser.  I simply had no idea how difficult it was to get in or how many people submitted, I just didn’t know.  I assumed they bought most cartoons, paying like $50 or so a cartoon.  But I figured things will pick up and the following week I’d sell two or three, like everyone else.  It took a couple of weeks to quickly figure things out…and that my first sale was a fluke, beginner’s luck.  It would be almost a year of coming in every week with a batch before I sold my second cartoon.  During that time I devoured every book on cartooning and went back and looked at all the NYer issues.  My style had totally changed from that first effort which now looks inept.  I was also rethinking Shanahan’s warning, kicking myself for not taking it to heart and wondering if I was throwing away my illustration and writing career (I was. I did.).

 

Your drawing, titled The First 3-D Thanksgiving, is, I believe, the first 3-D cartoon in the magazine’s history (if anyone out there finds another, please bring it to my attention).  Is it actually 3-D?  If I was wearing 3-D glasses right now, and looking at your drawing, would it be appear three-dimensional?

 

It works, but not as well as it could, but that is by design.  When I showed it to Bob Mankoff, he asked if it worked but then quickly said, “that’s not the point” as we agreed that it was more important for the joke that it was inferred it was 3-D (after Bob shot down my suggestion of placing 3-D glasses in each issue).  It is 3-D but we reeled it back.  Knowing the reader wouldn’t have glasses, I went for the most readable degree of 3-Ding the cartoon so it still looked like a cartoon and not this heavy ominous image on the page which would have distracted from the joke.

 

How did the drawing come about? Do you have a special interest in 3-D drawings, movies, etc.?

 

I do not appear regularly as a cartoonist in the magazine (something I HAVE brought up with Bob), so I try to catch Bob’s attention with ideas that get away from the usual format and Bob has been supportive and receptive to me and my experimenting; I’ve done a lot of  cartoons with spot color, cartoons that have no punch-line. I’ve shown him captions that use the F-bomb, cartoons about The New Yorker, captions in Spanish, scratch ‘n’ sniff cartoons…and this 3-D was just one I gave a try.  Bob has called my stuff “loopy” which I think is code around the office for “nice try but doesn’t work.”  I do want to get in “regular” cartoons and not become the “Weird Al” Yankovic of the NYer cartoonist pool.

 

I had done 3-D illustrations for Vibe magazine and Sport magazine over twenty years ago so it was on my radar.  I don’t have 3-D glasses in my home, which I could have used because I just saw Hugo on Netflix.  I do recommend wearing 3-D glasses to get through a family Thanksgiving dinner — you eat less with them on (“I can’t eat all that!”).

 

We should probably give a shout-out to Norman Rockwell, whose famous 1942 Saturday Evening Post “Freedom From Want”  piece is obviously referenced in your drawing.  Did you have Rockwell’s work in front of you when you were working on your finished piece?

 

I had it in front of me, and underneath me, as I did trace most of the guy in the back and then glanced over to draw the rest of the set-up.  My initial sketch had the whole family shocked at the dancing turkey but it looked too forced and too different from the Rockwell iconic piece.  I realized Rockwell had it right the first time except he forgot the glasses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a little something extra as concerns a New Yorker cartoonist and  dimensional cartoons:

 

After seeing Bob’s 3-D drawing, I was reminded of a terrific Otto Soglow book from 1932, Everything’s Rosy.  Somewhat “naughty”  – the inside flap text suggests the book is “probably not suitable for Sunday School use…” —  it came with a “red filter” attached to the front inside cover and the following Notice and Instructions:

 

Notice

The envelope in the front of the book contains one red filter to bring out the double exposure of each picture in Everything’s Rosy….

 

Instructions For Use of Filter

Hold book in good light.

Look at each picture first with the naked eye. Then lay filter flat on page over picture and look again.

Cartoon Auction includes work by Charles Addams, Geoge Booth, and William Steig

From the Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman, “Art auction in Rhinecliff Saturday”

this news of a benefit auction of cartoons, including work by New Yorker artists  Charles Addams, George Booth, William Steig, Frank Modell, James Stevenson, Peter Steiner, Lee Lorenz, Harry Bliss, Barbara Smaller, Charles Barsotti, Joe Dator, Gahan Wilson, Robert Mankoff, Liza Donnelly, P.C. Vey, Roz Chast, Danny Shanahan, Carolita Johnson, Edward Frascino, Michael Crawford, Zachary Kanin, Pat Byrnes, Mick Stevens, David Sipress, Raymond Davidson, Robert Weber, Jason Polan, Henry Martin, and more.
In addition to the auction, a signed Charles Addams print will be raffled.

Link here to the Morton Memorial Library

 

 

Looking Ahead to 2013: New Books by Gahan Wilson, Pat Byrnes, VIP, Shannon Wheeler, and more

Too early to look ahead to cartoon books coming out in 2013? Nah!

Looking through Amazon’s listings for next year, the first title I came upon that caught my eye: VIP: The Mad World of Virgil Partch by Jon Baril (July 20, 2013, Fantagraphics).

 

From the publisher:

VIP: The Mad World of Virgil Partch is the first time Partch’s life and career has been treated in full, collecting amazing artwork from the entire range of his inspired career and featuring his own writings. Reprinted from original art, primary-source publications, and collectors’ and family archives, VIP’s place in the world of cartooning and humor can finally be fully appreciated in this beautiful coffee-table volume. 120 pages of full color illustrations and 120 pages of black and white illustrations.

 

In June there’s Captain Dad: The Manly Art of Stay-At-Home Parenting by Pat Byrnes (June 4, 2013, Homegrown).

From the publisher:

Pat Byrnes worked at home and made his own hours. His wife’s job (Illinois Attorney General) was not so flexible. So when the first baby came, he naively volunteered to go where few men have gone before and stay home with the kids. On one condition. He wouldn’t be called Mr. Mom, but . . . Captain Dad.

 

In April, Cartoons of World War II, edited by Tony Husband (April 30, 2013,  Arcturus Publishing Limited)

From the publisher:

This book is a brilliant collection of cartoons from Britain, the United States, Germany, and Russia. It contains the work of all of World War IIs greatest cartoonists, including Bill Mauldin, Fougasse, Emett, David Langdon, and Graham Laidler.

 

On March 5, 2013, from Boom! Studios: I Thought You would Be Funnier Vol.3 by Shannon Wheeler:

From the publisher;

The third cartoon collection from the mind of Eisner Award-winning, Harvey Award-nominated and current New Yorker magazine cartoonist, Shannon Wheeler! It’s the best-of-the-best of what’s left on the cutting room floor from Wheeler’s cartoon submissions to The New Yorker magazine

 

And finally: On February 20th, 2013, from Fantagraphics: Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics

From the publisher:

Gahan Wilson Sunday Comics is Wilson’s assault from within: His little-known syndicated strip that appeared in America’s newspapers between 1974 an 1976. Readers must have been startled to find Wilson’s freaks, geeks, and weirdos nestled among family, funny-animal, and soap opera offerings. (The term “zombie strip” — a strip that has long outlived its original creator — takes on a whole new meaning in Wilson’s hands.) While each strip, at first glance, appears to be a standard, color Sunday strip (albeit without panel borders), each Sunday Comic is a collection of one-panel gag cartoons, delineated in Wilson’s brilliantly controlled wiggly-but-sophisticated pen line.

Naked Cartoonists; Raconteur #2; An Excerpt from Peter Steiner’s latest book

 

This coming October, Fantagraphics will publish Naked Cartoonists: Drawers Drawing Themselves Without Drawers. Gary Groth has edited the collection of self portraits that includes work by Lee Lorenz, George Booth, Eldon Dedini, Mike Twohy, Sam Gross, Gahan Wilson and Arnie Levin.  Amazon offers a look inside the book, including a full list of contributors

 

And available right now is Raconteur #2, the work of Mike Lynch, David Jacobson, John Klossner, and Jeff Pert.  See Mike Lynch’s site for ordering information.

 

From Criminalelement.com, this excerpt from Peter Steiner’s latest, The Resistance (Minotaur Books, publication date: August 21, 2012)

Gahan Wilson honored

 

Ink Spill’s Chicago correspondent, Ken Krimstein reports that Gahan Wilson received an honorary doctorate this past weekend from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That’s Gahan to the right in the above photo, with co-honoree, Eric Fischl.  Ken filed this report  :

Interestingly, not only did Gahan graduate from there, so did his mother. He was fabulous and very funny, quickly mocking a noose with his doctoral pendant on the stage. As the person who introduced him said, “Doctor Wilson you may now operate!”

Below photos from the program:

 

— All photos courtesy of Ken Krimstein

 


 


Tribeca Film Festival to show Every Tuesday; Gahan Wilson teaches; Slightly more on The New Yorker Big Book of Dogs

From EW.com, April 16, 2012, “Tribeca Film Festival: New Yorker cartoonists in ‘Every Tuesday'”

(with a brief clip of the film showing Zach Kanin at work)

 

From Gear Live, April 14, 2012, “Gahan Wilson Teaches”

 

From Library Journal, April 16, 2012, this trickle of information about the forthcoming New Yorker Big Book of Dogs (Random house, Fall 2012)