Announcement of Interest: The James Stevenson Prize

From Broadway World, May 16, 2018, “Playing On Air Announces Celebrity Judges For Inaugural James Stevenson Prize”

— This news of “three monetary prizes for new short comedic plays that honor and perpetuate the spirit and wit of Mr. Stevenson.”

Mr. Stevenson’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

James Stevenson Born, NYC, 1929. Died, February 17, 2017, Cos Cob, Connecticut. New Yorker work: March 10, 1956 -. Stevenson interned as an office boy at The New Yorker in the mid 1940s when he began supplying ideas for other New Yorker artists. Nine years later he was hired a full-time ideaman, given an office at the magazine and instructed not to tell anyone what he did. He eventually began publishing his own cartoons and covers as well as a ground-breaking Talk of the Town pieces (ground breaking in that the pieces were illustrated). His contributions to the magazine number over 2000. Key collections: Sorry Lady — This Beach is Private! ( MacMillan, 1963), Let’s Boogie ( Dodd, Mead, 1978). Stevenson has long been a children’s book author, with roughly one hundred titles to his credit. He is a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, under the heading Lost and Found New York. Stevenson’s recent book, published in 2013, The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell, is essential.

The Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of May 7, 2018

A Sempe cover! And a bonus: a lengthier Cover Story than of late, with several photos (including one of Sempe and Ed Koren astride bicycles in NYC). Nice. Very nice.

On a run through this new issue the number of illustrations and photos seemed even weightier than the past few issues (and that’s really saying something). It’s likely due to Zadie Smith’s profile of photographer, Deana Lawson.  As the profile is of a photographer, using photographs makes sense.  Although, Brendan Gill’s New Yorker profile of the pioneer of celebrity photography, Jerome Zerbe included no photographs. Ah, but that was then (1973), this is forty-five years later.  Three cartoons (from William O’Brian, Stan Hunt and  Dean Vietor) and a hand drawn illustration by Silverman of Mr. Zerbe did appear within the pages of Mr. Gill’s piece. In true New Yorker tradition, the cartoons were unrelated to the content of the Zerbe profile.

A casual run-down of illustrations/photographs in this latest issue:

The usual close to full page photo on the Goings On About Town lead page.

3 full page illustrations

10 illustrations of various sizes.

Nearly 8 pages of photographs within the Lawson Profile 

Looking at that 1973 issue (June 9, 1973 to be exact) I was blown away by the number of cartoons it contained and the space they were allowed on the page. The only illustration was Mr. Silverman’s portrait of Mr. Zerbe (we’re not counting the “spot” drawings which are in a category unto them seIves). In other words: cartoons ruled. 

Below is a screen shot of pages 27-33 from that 1973 issue. Six cartoons in seven pages (cartoons by Warren Miller, Frank Modell, James Stevenson, George Price, William Hamilton, and Mischa Richter).

Two pages following Mr. Richter’s cartoon, this beauty by John Norment:

On the very next page following Mr. Norment’s drawing, this terrific multi-panel drawing by George Booth:

Following Mr. Booth’s piece are nine more cartoons by these cartoonists: Henry Martin, the aforementioned drawings by William O’Brian, Stan Hunt and Dean Vietor; Charles Barsotti, Robert Weber, Ton Smits, James Stevenson’s second in the issue, and Warren Miller’s second in the issue. Each is allowed generous space on the page. Oh, and Charles Saxon did the cover!

For a look at every cartoon in this latest issue I direct your attention to the Cartoon Companion blog. The bloggers “Max” and “Simon” (not their real names) go drawing by drawing, rating each along the way.  Look for the post covering this new issue either late this coming Thursday or Friday. I’m not always in agreement with the CC guys’ ratings, but anytime anyone is talking about New Yorker cartoons, I try my best to pay attention. 

ps: One year later, and Rea Irvin’s classic masthead still is a-missing. 

This is what it looks like:

 

 

 

A Visit to “Jim’s Bench”; Cartoon Companion Rates The Latest New Yorker Cartoons; Tilley Watch Online; Live New Yorker Cartoons Part VI on Late Night with Seth Meyers

A Visit to “Jim’s Bench”

The filmmaker Sally Williams recently asked me if I’d like to meet with her at “Jim’s bench” on Central Park West and 77th Street, right across the street from the Museum of Natural History. I couldn’t possibly resist the invitation. Ms. Williams has been working on a documentary about James Stevenson for quite some time now; we’ve had numerous conversations over the years about Mr. Stevenson and, of course, The New Yorker. 

 Mr. Stevenson is on a long list of New Yorker cartoonists who have lived and worked in New York City (some still do) and whose work reflected their city. I think also of Steinberg and Alan Dunn as cases in point.

Sitting on this bench near where Mr. Stevenson lived I couldn’t help but imagine him experiencing the traffic, the sounds, sights, types of individuals bicycling by, walking by, running by; the dogs and dog-walkers, the flurry of activity at the museum. I could see it all in Stevenson’s style: gracefully casual, with spark. Ms. Williams confirmed that Mr. Stevenson was, like so many cartoonists, a watcher (I once likened cartoonists to sponges. Consciously or subconsciously, we take everything in).  

If you find yourself near the Museum of Natural History, you might want to take a seat on Jim’s bench and spend a few moments watching Manhattan go by, Stevenson-style. 

  The bench is the one closest to the Humboldt StatueIt bears a small plaque:

 (I’ve written about Mr. Stevenson here on the Spill a number of times.  Here’s one piece which might be of interest). 

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Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons

Messrs. Max and Simon are back with thoughts & ratings on work by Frank Cotham, Carolita Johnson, Drew Dernavich, Avi Steinberg, Emily Flake, Roz Chast, Olivia de Recat, Mike Twohy, Bob Eckstein, Edward Koren, and Darrin Bell.  Read it here!

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Daily Cartoons this week by: Paul Noth, Mary Lawton, Kim Warp, David Sipress, and Lars Kenseth (4/5ths of the drawings were Trumpian).

And the contributing New Yorker cartoonists on Daily Shouts:  P.C. Vey, Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, Liana Finck, Emily Flake, and JAK (with Hartley Lin).  

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Live New Yorker Cartoons Part VI on Late Night with Seth Meyers

The New Yorker‘s editor, David Remnick returns to Late Night with Seth Meyers in the best segment yet. Cartoons by Carolita Johnson, Charlie Hankin, Will McPhail, Maddie Dai, and Ellis Rosen brought to life.   See them here!

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of March 5, 2018; Cover Update: The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

Hooray for Hollywood?  This week’s cover (artist: Chris Ware) reminds us — not that we need reminding –that Tinsel Town is a troubled town. 

Shout out to the Cartier folks for the pretty street lamp that greets you as you open the magazine. Nice also to see the photo of David Bowie (however much I disagree with this current usage of the Goings On About Town opening page, i.e., with a nearly full page photo. It never fails to trick me into thinking I’m seeing an ad).

Speaking of being in disagreement, the stand-in remains in place for Rea Irvin’s iconic design for the Talk Of The Town.

Here’s what the original looks like:

And here’s the stand-in:

Alrighty then, on to the issue’s cartoons. 

The very first cartoon is by David Sipress.  A somewhat retired theme (torture) returns. Torture rack drawings popped up more ages ago, replaced (if my unscientific memory search is slightly accurate) with another kind of torture: prisoners hanging by handcuffs up on dungeon walls. I feel for the fellow in Mr. Sipress’s drawing who is about to undergo the “procedure.”

Five pages later a couple of “Casablanca”-era Humphrey Bogart-like fellas at the end of a pier, courtesy of Carolita Johnson. As discussed last week (Frank Cotham’s drawing of thugs planning just such a pier push) this is a standard situation a lot of cartoonists are attracted to (including this one). Here’s one more — a personal favorite of mine. 

On the very next page, a robot drawing by Navied Mahdavian, whose debut drawing was last week. I recall Zach Kanin bringing robots back into usage a few years ago (or maybe it was Roz Chast…or was it someone else. New Yorker cartoon robot aficionados please advise). In this particular case I was a bit worried that the scientists had their backs to the dancing duo. Perhaps it was this portion of the caption: “They [the robots] don’t appear to want to take over…” [bolded words mine]. Hmmm, if there’s any doubt, any doubt at all as to the robots’ intentions, perhaps it’s best to observe them in an fortified isolation booth or something.

Three pages later a Danny Shanahan drawing. Fun drawing perfectly synced with a wonderful Shanahan-esque caption. If I was awarding ribbons as they do over on the Cartoon Companion, I’d pin one on this drawing (and on the P. C. Vey drawing that we’ll get to in a minute).

Eight pages later, a Roz Chast NYC-centered alien “take us to your leader”-type drawing. I enjoyed examining the screens on the aliens’ chests. Would love to see Chastian aliens in color.

On the very next page (and I should say, very nicely sized and placed on the page) is a terrif Chris Weyant drawing. The caption’s sterling construction reminds me of captions once written by the likes of James Stevenson, Donald Reilly, and Charles Saxon.  Applause applause!

Two pages later, a real gem by P.C. Vey. A cave couple. Mr. Vey’s world is such a fun treat (and isn’t that why we love cartoons?). I find it hysterical that:

1. The cave woman looks nothing like a cave woman (her hair’s perfect and she’s wearing a somewhat stylish shift).  

2. The cave man is so well-groomed (both hair and beard).

The next two drawings (the first by newbie Pia Guerra, and the next by veteran-newbie Will McPhail) reminded me, in their construction (not style) of ancient friezes:

If you placed a ruler along the base of the feet in each drawing, you’d see that every foot (and one paw) touches the edge of the ruler (with the exception of Ms. Guerra’s wolf’s right paw, and a kicked-up foot on the person to the extreme right of Mr. McPhail’s drawing). There is no reason to note this other than that I don’t recall ever seeing two frieze-like drawings back-to-back before.

Four pages following the second frieze  cartoon is a Maggie Dai Atlas drawing that sent me to the search box. Now I know what “leg day” refers to.  On the very next page, the instantly recognizable style of Drew Dernavich, who delivers an Oscars drawing.

Three pages later a delightful Barbara Smaller drawing. Nice to see bigger picture work by her. On the very next page, an Ed Steed sports drawing (basketball). Five pages later Paul Noth references  fine art.  I recall that  Roz Chast handled Venus on a cover not too very long ago.  My memory is that Addams liked to work with Venus too.  Am I wrong, but aren’t bathtubs the preferred bathroom fixture for home births rather than sinks?  Of course, it being cartoonland and all, anything’s possible.

Case in point: the last drawing of the issue, by JAK (otherwise known as Jason Adam Katzenstein).  We see a card game with a Wolf Blizter-like guy in an open collared rumpled shirt, a well dressed woman (she’s wearing pearls), and a wolf(?) in a tuxedo.

  The popped eyes and slack jaw suggest animation as inspiration, like so:

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Cover Update: The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons

If you’ve been following the Spill ‘s coverage of cover art (or lack of) for The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons (due in October from Black Dog & Leventhal) you might find it interesting that we now have the below image to contemplate:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

50 Years Ago This Week: Peter Arno’s Last New Yorker Cartoon

Every so often the Spill likes to take a look at the last cartoon published by one of the magazine’s artists. This week it’s a drawing by Peter Arno — the cartoonist the New Yorker‘s Roger Angell called “the magazine’s first genius.”  I won’t go on and on here about why Arno is one of the magazine’s greatest — some say the greatest of the magazine’s artists, but if you want more on the subject there is a biography of him floating around (forgive me for lifting the bolded passage below from the aforementioned biography). 

(Above: Arno’s drawing as it appeared in the issue)

Sometime in the fall of 1967, Arno finished working on a full-page drawing of Pan blowing on his pipes as he frolicked through a glade.  In the forefront of the picture is a young, well-endowed woman, who says to him, “Oh, grow up!”  Brendan Gill [in his wonderful book, Here At The New Yorker] described the drawing this way:

“…in content and composition it was a characteristic piece of work…the drawing is a matter of some forty or fifty bold strokes of black against white, bound together by a gray wash; it has been built up as solidly as a fortress, though built in fun, and its dominant note is one of youthful zest.  Nobody could ever tell that it was the work of an aging man, let alone a dying one.”

“Oh, grow up!” wasn’t the last Arno published by the New Yorker.  His last cover appeared the following June, and the magazine has, from time-to-time brought out one of his older covers or drawings. But it was certainly the last published in his lifetime. The drawing appeared in the anniversary issue, dated February 24th, 1968. It would’ve been out on the newsstands a week earlier, the week of February 18.  Arno died on February 22. 

If you have access to the New Yorker‘s digital edition or happen to have a print copy, it’s certainly worth a visit to this issue — it’s a gem.  Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley is, of course, on the cover (and Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead for the Talk of The Town is in its place). The issue’s cartoons are by some of the greatest names on the magazine’s roster of artists (the magazine had a history of making sure the anniversary issue was loaded up with a good number of its big guns. In my Arno research I came across a note to Arno from the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross expressing concern he (Ross) did not have a Arno drawing available for the upcoming anniversary issue). 

In this issue you’ll find terrific cartoons by Robert Weber, Alan Dunn, George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Steinberg, Richard Decker, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, Syd Hoff, Charles Addams, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Lee Lorenz, Mischa Richter, and Barney Tobey. (At this particular time the magazine’s stable of cartoonists was all male. Mary Petty’s piece appeared in 1966, and Nurit Karlin’s work did not begin appearing until 1974).

Next week, the Spill will return with its usual Monday Tilley Watch.