Police-related cartoons have long been a New Yorker staple. The very first one, by Gardner Rea, appeared in the very first issue, and the magazine’s second cover, by Al Frueh, featured two policemen riding on a tiny car. Read more
As anyone could guess, a home inhabited by two cartoonists is bound to have a lot of cartoons around. Not just our own, but cartoons from our New Yorker family; cartoonists we’ve only known by their work, cartoonists we’ve just met, and cartoonists we’ve known for a very long time. With the exception of our own work, our walls are covered with framed drawings by all the above, from an unpublished drawing by the relatively new New Yorker contributor, Charlie Hankin (a drawing of a clam on a lawn next to a sign that reads “Beware of Clam” — it cracks me up every time I look at it) to Alice Harvey‘s first captioned New Yorker drawing, published in October of 1925.
In the photo at the top of this post, from top left, clock-wise, is a New Yorker drawing by Robert Weber, a Gardner Rea drawing, one by Jack Ziegler, and an oddity: a group drawing by Mick Stevens, Mr. Ziegler, Roz Chast and Liza Donnelly.
The Ziegler solo drawing, The Jungle Never Sleeps, hangs closest to my work room doorway; it appeared in The New Yorker as a half-page, July 28, 1980. It’s just one drawing in a career populated with many many funny and beautiful drawings, but, jeez, what a drawing. Needless to say, the idea is gold, and funny as hell. Jack went perfectly heavy on the speech balloons. The single line of smoke drifting up from the campfire changes from a black line to negative space and back to a black line as it moves through the silhouetted jungle to the grey sky. You can tell he was totally involved in working that out. The fellow who’s come out of the beautifully drawn tent is perfection. As Jack said to me in an interview last Fall: “…it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.” Well said, well done.
A very nice piece, “Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Gardner Rea” from The Stripper’s Guide. Gardner Rea‘s work appeared in The New Yorker from its very first issue all the way through 1965. [Mr. Rea pictured in 1914]
…and Attempted Bloggery continues its fascinating look at five issues worth of Peter Arno‘s work in College Humor.
Here’s a little gem of a cartoon collection I found not long ago. Colliers had the very good habit of collecting cartoons that appeared in its pages. It’s A Gift!, published in 1947, includes work by New Yorker contributors John Ruge, Gardner Rea, Virgil Partch aka VIP, Hank Ketcham, Larry Reynolds, Garrett Price, and Barney Tobey. The editor, Gurney Williams, tells us in the book’s “Prelude” that each contributing cartoonist has written a little piece informing us what “he’d much rather do than draw funny pictures…”
Less than a year before Harold Ross published the very first issue of his brainchild, The New Yorker, he briefly edited a well-established humor magazine, Judge. I recently bought a copy of the Ross period Judge to see what I could see (it’s the issue of July 19, 1924).
it was odd, but of course not unexpected, to see in tiny type across the bottom of the inside cover, “Harold W. Ross, Vice-Pres.” Unexpected was the cartoon caption contest that filled the rest of the page, “Judge’s Fifty-Fifty Contest No. 59.”
The “fifty-fifty” refers to the cartoon’s caption having two parts, with two individuals speaking. The first part of the caption is given — it’s up to the reader to provide the second part. New Yorker cartoon aficionados might recall that two part captions (sometimes referred to as “he-she”) were the go-to single panel cartoon format in the major humor publications of the day. That isn’t to say they were the only format. Captionless cartoons appeared as did New Yorker style single captions. As Judge’s caption contest reflects the format of its day, using the he-she caption, the current New Yorker caption contest reflects its time, asking of the readership to supply a single caption, with no lead in line.
Flipping further through this issue of Judge I came upon a good number of future New Yorker cartoonists: Milt Gross, Gardner Rea, Paul Reilly, Frank Hanley, Tousey, Walter J. Enright, Crawford Young, John Held, Jr., and Alfred Leete. Mr Leete and Mr. Rea would appear in the inaugural issue of the New Yorker in February of 1925. Paul Reilly would contribute twice to the New Yorker in 1925. Tousey just once in November of 1926. Mr. Enright just once in 1927. Mr. Gross just once in 1929. Mr. Hanley contributed six cartoons in the New Yorker’s first year, but none thereafter. Only Mr. Rea would go on to have a long career at The New Yorker (his last contribution appeared in 1965). Below is his “he-she” drawing from this issue of Judge (actually, it’s really she-he as the “Grim Lady” speaks first).
It’s entirely clear, after looking through Judge a time or three that Ross sponged-up the best of the publication (as he did with other humor magazines, including Punch and Life) imagining what kind of magazine he wanted, and what kind he didn’t want.
With the release this past week of The New Yorker’s Cartoons of the Year 2013 (a relative of a long line of New Yorker Albums seen in the photo) I thought it would be fun to leaf through The New Yorker‘s very first collection, simply called The New Yorker Album. published in 1928, just three years after the magazine’s debut. For starters, I love this part of the introduction (authored by “The New Yorker”):
The New Yorker has been dealing with artists for upward of three years. We are tired but happy. Our artists, we feel, have been worth the trouble. They have taken the electric and protoplasmic and comic town and reduced it to page size. To be merry and wise and subtle every week is scarcely possible; but there have been good weeks.
If you substitute the “upward of three years” to “upward of eighty-eight years” the excerpt could’ve easily introduced the 2013 collection.
The very first cartoon you run into in the 1928 collection is a full page by Peter Arno. This makes perfect sense as Arno was, just three years into the New Yorker’s life, already its star (his co-star was Helen Hokinson). Arno was fond of the full page cartoon, but paging through the Album, you’ll find he had plenty of company in that department. Ms. Hokinson, Rea Irvin, Gluyas Williams, George Shanks, Al Frueh, Gardner Rea, and Reginald Marsh, to name but a few, all worked well on a full page (you’ll find a number of full page cartoons in the 2013 collection, but none originally ran as such; full page cartoons in the modern New Yorker are rare, with Roz Chast’s work being one of the exceptions.
What might be remarkable to anyone looking through the 1928 Album is the absence of plenty of the marquee names we associate with the magazine’s past. Cartoonists such as Charles Addams, William Steig, Saul Steinberg, Thurber and George Price had yet to begin contributing drawings to the magazine (Thurber had begun contributing his writing in 1927, but The New Yorker’s founder & first editor, Harold Ross, wouldn’t publish a Thurber drawing in the magazine until 1931). Addams’ work didn’t appear until 1933, Steig’s not until 1935, Steinberg’s not until 1941, George Price’s not until 1932. The Album of 1928 was a blueprint for what was to come in later years on the magazine’s pages: a variety of styles, of cartoon worlds, beautifully co-existing.
Much as the 2013 collection is heavy on a handful of cartoonists, such was the case in 1928. The aforementioned Hokinson, Irvin, Rea, Frueh and Arno command the most space, with plenty of full pages. Alan Dunn and Barbara Shermund’s work is everywhere, but mostly half-page or quarter-page. Work by other familiar names (or soon to be familiar names) are sprinkled about the volume. There’s a single Mary Petty drawing (if my counting is correct) with healthier showings by, among others, Otto Soglow, Perry Barlow, Leonard Dove, Peggy Bacon, John Held, Jr., Alajalov (still spelled “Aladjalov”), I. Klein, Carl Rose and Garrett Price (in an early style, far less fluid than his later work). There are a few spreads in the Album (unlike the spreads in the 2013 Cartoons of the Year, which were created specifically for that publication, the 1928 spreads ran in the The New Yorker).
What struck me as I looked back and forth between the 1928 collection and the 2013 collection (much as a spectator watches the ball during a tennis match) is that here we are eighty-eight years after the magazine’s debut, still highly entertained, and yes, sometimes still puzzled, by the very simple format Harold Ross and company fostered and nurtured: a drawing atop a caption. Every week we continue to dive into each issue, turning the pages, eager to run into the next cartoon (and lately, the Cartoon Caption Contest cartoon). As someone commented on this site following a post on the Cartoons of the Year, “Can’t wait for the shiny new cartoons of 2014.” Me neither.