A Roomful of Cartoonists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  With the exception of our own work, our walls are covered with framed drawings by all the above, from an unpublished drawing by the relatively new New Yorker contributor, Charlie Hankin (a drawing of a clam on a lawn next to a sign that reads “Beware of Clam”  —  it cracks me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 Closer Look at Gardner Rea; More Arno in College Humor

1914+Gardner+Rea+MakioA 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]

 

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…and Attempted Bloggery continues its fascinating look at five issues worth of Peter Arno‘s work in College Humor.

 

 

It’s A Gift!

ColliersHere’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…”

Link here to Chris Wheeler’s wonderful site to see more Colliers cartoon collections.

 

Harold Ross’s Caption Contest

Judge cover 7:19:24

 

 

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.”

Judge contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Gardner Rea 1924_Judge

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The New Yorker before Addams, Steig and Steinberg

NY-albums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Eustace!

 

In honor of the very first issue of The New Yorker, dated February 21, 1925, I’m re-posting a photo I took for “Tilley Over Time a piece I contributed to newyorker.com back in February 21, 2008.

The cartoonists appearing in that first issue were Alfred Frueh, Gardner Rea, Oscar Howard, Wallace Morgan, Ethel Plummer and, on page 14,  an unknown cartoonist, whose drawing is titled Flor de Pince Nez. (you can find some brief biographical material on all of these cartoonists here). Below is the work of the unidentified cartoonist. If anyone can ID the artist, please contact me.

 

And finally, a big big round of applause for Rea Irvin, who brought us Eustace Tilley, and three cheers for Harold Ross, without whom…

Danny Shanahan: The Ink Spill Interview

Danny Shanahan,  Rhinebeck, NY,  January 2013  (Photo by Michael Maslin)

 

This year Danny Shanahan  celebrates the 25th anniversary of his first contribution to The New Yorker (the issue of September 19, 1988). He’s in that small group of the magazine’s cartoonists who’ve done just about everything that can be done in The New Yorker, cartoon-wise: spreads, single panel cartoons, covers,  and illustrations.

I’ve known Danny since he burst on The New Yorker scene in the Fall of 1988 — we met in the grand ballroom of The Pierre Hotel while attending the magazine’s anniversary party. Not too long after that Danny and his new family moved upstate to the town where my wife, Liza Donnelly and I had settled.

Having Danny ten minutes away has makes socializing a cinch;  we meet at a local coffee shop every so often where we discuss what most cartoonists discuss when they get together: work, The New Yorker, other cartoonists, The New Yorker, etc., etc.

On the occasion of his taking over the magazine’s Daily Cartoon I thought it would be fun to meet up with him electronically for a change and so I sent him a few questions to answer.

 

 

 

So how’s the Daily Cartoon assignment going for you?

 

It’s been going real well. I didn’t realize how much fun it would be

to write and draw with such immediate topicality. It can be a

challenge, especially at this time of year, but I’m enjoying it.

 

 

 

How has it changed your daily routine (assuming you have a daily routine)? Can you talk a little about what it’s like to work on a daily deadline as opposed to the usual weekly New Yorker deadline.

 

It’s changed my routine quite a bit, but for the better, I think. I try to work at least one weekend day, so I can send in 5 or 6 drawings by Sunday night or Monday morning; that gives me the luxury of responding quickly to breaking news during the week. The only problem has been, at times, the difficulty of deciding whether or not an idea would be better saved for the weekly batch or sent in quickly for a daily.

 

 

 

Looking at your Daily Cartoon work, the first thing that really stands out is that you’re not using wash  but are working in a  Thurber / Gardner Rea / Nurit Karlin school of ink line.   Any particular reason for the different look?

 

The real reason for no wash is expediency; I can get more pieces done and submitted much quicker. My roughs are quite finished, anyway, and are often published “as is” in other publications. Of course, the pay per cartoon is far less, which is also a consideration.

 

 

 

The Daily Cartoon, though new to The New Yorker’s site, seems to have a format, i.e. it’s tied in to commenting on current events.  Do you feel as if this is something you need to think about when working on ideas for it, or do you just do whatever you want to do?

 

I feel that I most definitely have to hone in on specific current events, but that there’s also always broader areas: seasons, weather, holidays, sports, etc. They’re also somewhat specific, but nothing different than what I’ve been doing for years.

 

 

 

How’s the cartooning world treating you otherwise?  Any projects to mention?

 

Don’t have a lot in the pipeline right now, other than the website. I do keep dreaming of some sort of memoir, now that I’ve been with The New Yorker for 25 years. It’s a nice, round number. I see it as a completely fictitious account of my time at the magazine, full of slander, violence, intrigue, and bad blood. And then Tarantino buys the film rights.

 

 

I know you’ve been working on your website. How’s that coming along?

 

The website will launch any day now…..Any day……

 

 

Finally, any Daily Cartoon regrets?

 

Well. maybe it’s a “grass is always greener” thing, but I wouldn’t mind having another shot at the daily cartoon during a different time of year. Maybe a time of Spring, Baseball, and Taxes, or a time of Beaches, Baseball, and Heatwaves. Of course, there’s always Back-to-School, Baseball, and Halloween. Sometimes it just seems like not much happens in January…

In Good Company: a look at the cartoons in Al Ross’s New Yorker debut issue

 

The news that Al Ross passed away last week got me to thinking about  his start at The New Yorker, way way back in the issue of November 27, 1937, when he was twenty-five years old. This morning I went to our cabinet full of bound New Yorkers, brought out the volume from late 1937 and began paging through the particular issue that contains Al’s inaugural drawing. It’s a wonderful snapshot of that time with an outstanding roster of cartoonists.

The issue begins with a Helen Hokinson cover,  one of those pieces capturing a moment. Beautiful. The first cartoon is by Charles Addams, done in his earlier style before his drawings became more defined. Next up is a Richard Decker drawing printed in step-ladder fashion – sitting atop two columns of type. On the opposite page, a Richard Taylor, also step-ladderish. Taylor had such an unusual style – it reminds me of P.C. Vey’s in a way. Turning the page we come to a beautiful full page by William Galbraith. On the opposite page a great spot drawing by Suzanne Suba – a Macy’s parade moment.

Next page, a Mary Petty that nearly eats up the whole page. Opposite that is a short piece by E.B.White titled “Small Thanks to You “(sorry, couldn’t avoid mentioning that). Several pages later a Syd Hoff spread along the top third of the page. Up next is one of the masters of the full page, Gluyas Williams. A few pages later the two Prices face each other: George and Garrett.

I have to take a break here just for a moment and comment on the way the make-up department handled the cartoons. With the exception of the full page cartoons, every single cartoon was awarded a unique space, meaning the shape of the cartoon is different for each cartoon. Even the cartoons that are rectangular are never the same size (the Hoff stretched out three columns wide, the Garrett Price two and a half columns wide).

Turning the page, a Robert Day cartoon (another rectangle, but nearly square). Two pages later, not a cartoon, but an Al Frueh drawing illustrating a current Broadway show.  Frueh does a terrific take on Orson Welles.  Would love to see a collection of his theater pieces in a book (there is a very nice catalog of his work, but so far, not a collection).

Two pages later we find Al Ross’s first New Yorker cartoon (caption: “Listen, Chief…”). Those familiar with Al’s later work would be hard pressed to recognize this cartoon as one of his.  It’s done in a somewhat early Addams-ish style. Across the gutter from the cartoon the name “Robert Benchley” appears at the end of his theater review.  Heady company!

A number of pages go by before we reach a fairly large and very funny Barbara Shermund cartoon.  Leafing through more pages, through the New Yorker’s holiday wrap up of children’s toys and books, we come upon a brief review of Dr. Seuss’s  And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street: “Slight but humorous. Spirited comic-strip pictures and a rhymed text show the power of exaggeration…”

And finally, a Perry Barlow cartoon to end the issue.  It’s a children’s book themed drawing running on the book review page.  If I’m not mistaken this is an unusual pairing. I’ve been under the impression for most of my life that the editors avoided tying the cartoons to the surrounding story.

Before we close the magazine, a treat near the end:  a full page ad for The 1937 New Yorker Album, published by Random House. A banner running across the page declares: “Just Published – bigger and funnier than ever.” Contributors include all the aforementioned in this post ( except Al, whose work would begin showing up in later Albums) plus, among others,  Peter Arno, James Thurber,  Rea Irvin, Gardner Rea, Otto Soglow, Alan Dunn, Barney Tobey, Alajalov,  Chon Day, Carl Rose, Whitney Darrow, Jr., and William Steig.  Wow.

 

For more on Al Ross, head on over to newyorker.com, where the magazine’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, has posted this piece (it includes a good scan of Al’s first cartoon).

And for even more: Mike Lynch has posted a number of Al’s drawings on his site. (You’ll need to scroll down a ways, past all the NCS business)