The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of March 26, 2018

The cat, or, uh, cover’s been outta the bag for several days now, so we can move right on to the cartoons in the issue. (I’ll mention Rea Irvin‘s missing masthead later on in this post).

Roz Chast has the first drawing (p.19). The setting of several folks lined up on a sofa hard up against a wall seems to belong to her.  It’s her signature, as much as George Booth’s guy-in-the bathtub scenario is his. 

Six pages later a Zach Kanin cozy-under-a-blanket-by-a-fire drawing (coincidentally, the action in the drawing is set on a sofa). The cartoon is anchored by the use of the word “breasts” in the caption.  A quick online search shows a modest number of New Yorker breast-related cartoons, with very few actually mentioning breasts in the caption. One that came readily to mind is this classic courtesy of Jack Ziegler from November of 1997.  

  Nine pages later, a fun Seth Fleishman drawing (captionless, of course. His specialty).  Succinct clean lines and ideas. The same could be said for the very next cartoonist: William Haefeli. Unlike Mr. Fleishman, he works with a caption. This particular drawing is textbook Haefeli. Even the inconsequential fruit in the bowl (in the foreground) is rendered as if it is essential to our grasp of the entire piece.

On the very next page is a grand drawing from Charlie Hankin, well-placed on the page. A crime scene by P.C. Vey is on the opposite page. I love how he’s drawn the victim. This compact set of drawings is one of my favorites in quite awhile (the set consisting of Fleishman, Haefeli, Hankin, and Vey).

Five pages later, the second New Yorker drawing from Bishakh Som, who delivers the magazine’s weekly subway drawing. Subway drawings are now certifiably the new crash test dummy drawings.  [a second subway drawing, by this cartoonist, appears as this weeks Caption Contest challenge] 

Fifteen pages later (following a photo spread) is a colorful and intricate drawing by Peter Kuper. An excellent piece of work. Five pages later, Carolita Johnson takes us to a concert hall. I like that she’s brought us somewhere we typically don’t go much (anymore) in New Yorker cartoons. Ms. Johnson’s handled the scene well, with the audience, drawn in grey, driving our focus to the sniffling quartet. I am curious about the tiny dash and “c”  appearing next to her signature:

Three pages later a well-drawn Tom Cheney cartoon (is there any other kind?).  NYC apartment seekers who don’t have money to burn will find this drawing especially hilarious. On the very next page, Emily Flake brings us a demographic not often seen in the magazine: senior citizens. It appears the fellow’s had enough and is taking a walk.  He can’t be planning on being away very long: he has no coat or jacket, and just one piece of luggage not much bigger than a bowling ball bag.

The last drawing in the issue (not counting those on the Caption Contest page) is by Edward Koren, who will, this May, celebrate his 56th year of contributing his drawings to The New Yorker.  No one draws birds like Mr. Koren, and, need I say it (sure, why not) — no one draws like Mr. Koren.

 Link here to see all of the drawings referenced in this issue.

And don’t forget to check out The Cartoon Companion (they usually post at week’s end) for their rated take on all the issue’s cartoons.

— See you next week

ps: Couldn’t help but notice that Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk of the Town masthead is still a-missin’.  There’s a substitute in its place.  This is what the real deal looks like:




Many Moons Ago At The New Yorker

A departure this Sunday from previous Sundays in that the book above contains only New Yorker covers, and zero cartoons. However, of the thirty-six cover artists represented in the book, twenty-eight also contributed cartoons. This seemingly lop-sided representation of the magazine’s cartoonists doubling as cover artists was not at all out of the ordinary in the pre-Tina Brown days (Ms. Brown inverted the cartoonist/strictly-cover artist ratio, reducing the percentage of cartoonists on the cover to a minimum. Non-contributing cartoonists have been in a wide majority since).   

The book, published in 1984 by United Technologies Corporation, with the heavy lifting done by the National Academy of Design, is a must have for any library stocked with New Yorker collections. It’s a coffee table book that doesn’t need a coffee table (measuring 10″ x 13″, but just 160 pages).

The folks at the National Academy did a splendid job of designing the book, taking great care to present us with not only the covers as they appeared as New Yorker covers, but full page, sans New Yorker logo. The book is divided into the four seasons; the only non-seasonal cover is the magazine’s very first (by the incomparable Rea Irvin) beautifully reproduced on the page just before we enter Spring. 

The bonus material is right up front of the book.  Two introductory pieces: Brendan Gill’s “A morning light” and Charles Saxon‘s “A special moment, fleetingly observed.”

A declaration of interest from Mr. Gill:

“There is…no such thing as a New Yorker cover…If one can say there is no such thing as a New Yorker cover, one can at least say that there are three or four types of art work that appear with considerable frequency on the covers of The New Yorker: those that are purely decorative, those that are topical or seasonal, and those that contain a mild satiric swipe or possibly a small, covert joke.”

My my, how times have changed.  The are still “three or four types of art work” but covers that “contain a mildly satiric swipe” are now a thing of the past.

And from Charles Saxon, another that was then declarative:

“Artists are invited to submit their work. Nothing is assigned, nothing is directed. The work is welcomed or it is not.”



On a personal note, I was just into my seventh year as a New Yorker contributor when I received an invitation to attend the gallery exhibit of some of the covers in the book. Here’s a very short excerpt about my visit to the opening from my still in-the-works/ongoing New Yorker journal.  At the time I was living in upstate New York after having somewhat recently moved from Greenwich Village.

May 31, 1984

Perhaps missing some of Manhattan’s hubbub, I decided to attend the Seasons At the New Yorker opening at the National Academy of Design on 5th Avenue hard by Central Park — new-ish territory for me, other than my infrequent visits to the Metropolitan Museum. I was half-a-block from the party when I noticed the New Yorker writer Brendan Gill holding court out on the sidewalk. He was wearing a dark suit and looked to be holding a glass of champagne. 5th Avenue! Champagne! Brendan Gill! THE Brendan Gill — the man whose book, Here At the New Yorker helped drive me to this magazine. The idea of introducing myself to him that evening was out of the question: just to be here at this party was more than enough excitement.  

Surveying the crowd as I walked into the gallery I immediately felt out-of-place — I was dressed casually, in sneakers, jeans, a faded red shirt and a thrift shop seersucker jacket. Everyone else  was dressed, as my mother would say “to the hilt.”

After rounding the exhibition looking at the framed covers, I sat down for a moment on a circular stuffed sofa next to a very nice woman, somewhat older than me.  After some initial pleasantries, I discovered that she had been married to Robert Kraus, a former New Yorker cartoonist (and later owner and editor in chief of his own publishing house, Windmill Press, publishers of William Steig’s children’s books).

Eventually I made one more pass around the gallery space and found myself walking into the New Yorker’s art editor, Lee Lorenz and his (then) wife. I knew Lee wouldn’t know me by sight — we’d only met once before, but I thought it would be silly not to speak with my editor. As I suspected, Lee looked confused and slightly unhappy when I walked up to him, but was relieved and seemingly amused when I told him my name. Lee looked me over and said, “You look like an ice cream salesman.”  And perhaps following up on the theme, his wife said, “Oh, you’re the one who does all the ice cream cartoons.” My self-confidence at once damaged and lifted, I made small talk, then drifted back out to 5th avenue, and back upstate.

Below: From the Spill‘s files, the invitation (my friend, Jack Ziegler didn’t call me the “boy archivist” for nuthin).




The First New Yorker Cartoon Issue…and the Last

From 1997 through 2012, the New Yorker published a “Cartoon Issue”; that there was a special issue wasn’t news — the magazine had started publishing them in its new era of ownership under Conde Nast (purists might argue that the issue of August 31, 1946 was the magazine’s first special issue. Beyond the Goings On About Town section, the entire issue was devoted to John Hersey’s Hiroshima. There were no cartoons, and no illustrations — just spot drawings).  The first Cartoon Issue came in the year of more change: the cartoon editorship passed from Lee Lorenz, who had held that position for 24 years, to one of the magazine’s cartoonists, Bob Mankoff, who had been contributing to the magazine for 20. [The Spill will take a look at the How and Why of that change in editorship in a future post].

The very first Cartoon Issue, dated December 15, 1997 was a celebratory explosion of the magazine’s signature art.  From the fold-out cover collage to the wonderful Jack Ziegler cartoon, “No comment” appearing where the “Comment” section would normally appear, it set the bar very high.  Also in this issue, the three section (originally planned as two section)  fold-out photograph of cartoonists taken by the acclaimed Arnold Newman, the mini bios of each cartoonist in the issue, Roger Angell’s Onward and Upward With the Arts piece (“Congratulations! It’s a baby”), Roz Chast’s graphic ode to Charles Addams, a double page photograph of George Price, a special feature by Richard Cline, Lee Lorenz’s “Cover Stories” …and more. 

In that first issue, the cartoons nearly took over the magazine. The majority of the pieces on the Table of Contents were cartoon-themed; 51 cartoonists were given brief bios.  In  the last Cartoon Issue,  28 cartoonists contributed and the issue’s special cartoon features were bundled together in the middle of the book, from page 60 to 76, with a smattering of single panel cartoons (16 cartoons to be exact) 5 multi-page spreads and 2 full page spreads, one of which, Joe Dator’s, “How We Do It: A Week In the Life of a New Yorker Cartoonist” is a classic piece of work.   As I wrote in 2012 when the issue appeared, “this Cartoon Issue veers from its predecessors in that its cover, cartoons and cartoon spreads are predominantly politically themed.”  

 Although all of the Cartoon Issues had elements that were exciting and fun — for instance, the Charles Barsotti cover on the second Cartoon Issue in 1998, and covers by New Yorker cartoonists such as George Booth, Ms. Chast, Harry Bliss, Edward Koren, Bruce Eric Kaplan, etc. —  that first Cartoon Issue, with its electric zeitgeist, remained the one to beat.  By October of 2011, when I mentioned to Jack Ziegler that the latest Cartoon Issue was probably due any week, he responded to me (via email) that it was “the moment we all dread.” By that time, the so-called “bookazine” Cartoons of The Year had already appeared and would shortly supplant the Cartoon Issue. On June 13, 2013, the magazine’s cartoonists received an email from the cartoon editor saying: “there definitely is not going to be a cartoon issue this year.” And that, as they say, was that.

(Below: the last Cartoon Issue, cover by Roz Chast)








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. 




American Bystander #7 On Its Way!; More Spills…Ken Krimstein’s New Book; New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons Cover (Cont’d)

Hungry for comic humor?  American Bystander, now up to its 7th number, will do it for you. 

  Here are just some of the contributors in this issue : Charles Barsotti, R.O. Blechman (who’s provided the cover for #7), Harry Bliss, George Booth, M.K. Brown, Roz Chast, Tom Chitty, Randall Enos, Drew Friedman, Rick Geary, Sam Gross, Tom Hachtman, John Jonik, Lars Kenseth, Stephen Kroninger, Peter Kuper, Sara Lautman, Stan Mack, Brian McConnachie, P.S. Mueller, Mimi Pond, Mike Sacks, Maria Scrivan, Rich Sparks, Ed Subitzky, Shannon Wheeler, P.C.Vey, and Jack Ziegler.

Think they don’t make magazines like this anymore?…well actually, they do.  

  Go here to find out how you can get hold of American Bystander  #7.



Krimstein’s New Book…Here’s New Yorker cartoonist Ken Krimstein holding a galley of his forthcoming graphic biography, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth.  Photos by Alex Sinclair. The book is due this September, published by Bloomsbury. Mr. Krimstein’s previous book was Kvetch As Kvetch Can. More info here on the publisher’s website.

Link here to see Mr. Krimstein’s work.


The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons Cover (Cont’d)…

I’m fascinated by the “journey” sometimes taken by a new book’s cover as it is listed online (my fascination probably began with the posting of a dummy cover for my Peter Arno book). 

The upcoming heavyweight New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons cover went from its initial listing (“No Image Available”) to a dummy cover (in black) to the finished cover (in red), then back to its dummy cover, and now (at least on Amazon) back to “No Image Available”… like so:






“Not Only A Funny Book For Today, But A Funny Book for Tomorrow”: The New Yorker 1955-1965 Album: Fortieth Anniversary

The first time I saw this album I was rooting through boxes of books at a yard sale. My first thought, just seeing the cover (and before picking up the book)  was that this was a galley. The cover, mostly white and devoid of drawings except for Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley floating in an orange oval frame, reminded me of a New Yorkery version of the Beatles so-called White Album. The back cover, however, doesn’t continue the Beatles’ theme — as you see below it’s chock full of drawings. Captionless drawings are scattered about among the captioned (but the captions aren’t shown). So what you focus on is the art itself — the art of the drawing. And of course it’s great stuff.   

Looking at the list of contributors, one might notice that James Thurber’s name doesn’t appear.  The first time in this string of Albums that’s happened.  Thurberites will know that the master had pretty much stopped drawing by the mid 1950s. His last published drawing in his lifetime is said to have graced the Thurber cover story of TIME magazine in July 9, 1951. 

Also missing from the line-up is Rea Irvin.  Mr. Irvin’s remarkable presence as an ongoing contributor and art supervisor ended with the arrival of William Shawn as editor in early 1952 (for more on the evolution of the Art Meeting, please go to the Spill’s Posted Notes and scroll way way down to the February 18, 2012 entry: “The New Yorker’s Art Meeting: A Potted History”).   The decade of 1955-1965 saw a good number of additions to the New Yorker‘s stable of artists under the art editorship of James Geraghty: Robert Censoni (1963), Joseph Farris (1956), Robert Grossman (1962), J.B. “Bud” Handelsman (1961), Stan Hunt (1956), B. Kliban (1963), Edward Koren (1962), Fernando Krahn (1962), Lee Lorenz (1955), Henry Martin (1964), Warren Miller (1959), Robert Muccio (1964), Alphonse Normandia ((1957), Charles O’Glass (1960), Bruce Petty (1959), Donald Reilly (1964), Charles Sauers (1956), Francis Smilby (1962), James Stevenson (1956), Jack Tippet (1963), Robert Weber (1962), and Rowland Wilson (1961).  Some of these newbies only appeared once, while others went on to become core contributors.  Six of them are part of the Spill‘s K club ( a club of 23 members at present) with cartoons appearing in the magazine over a thousand times (Koren, Lorenz, Miller, Reilly, Stevenson, and Weber).

As usual with any album designed by Carmine Peppe, the layout of the book is great.  There is no introduction, just inside front flap copy that includes the quote I placed in the heading of this post. Mr. Peppe, whose sense of graphic balance is more than admirable, managed to fill the pages without crowding them.

Without counting spreads in previous albums, I feel as if this album has plenty more than usual, with Steig, Stevenson, Steinberg, and Saxon well represented.  Peter Arno also has a spread in this album, originally presented as a double page spread in the issue of September 10, 1960.

I think of this album as the linchpin connecting the founders’ era to the present.  The very next album, an anthology celebrating the magazine’s first 50 years, introduced the beginning of the modern era that included the Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists, Jack Ziegler

A benefit of taking another look through all of these New Yorker albums is the occasional discovery of someone somehow missed in the Spill‘s decade of cartoon detective work.  In this case, two cartoonists popped up who are not on the A-Z: Anthony Scott and Alphonse Normandia. Anthony Scott signed his drawings “Anthony” — unfortunately, he does not appear in the Complete New Yorker database and so I’m left in the dark as to the arc of his New Yorker cartoon career (anyone out there with info, please advise).  As for Mr. Normandia, his work appeared in the magazine three times, between December 28, 1957 and December 5, 1959.  I’ll be adding this info to the A-Z this afternoon.