An Arnie Levin Interview; Never Judge A Cartoon Collection By Its Cover

An Arnie Levin Interview

In this latest installment of Gil Roth’s remarkable string of interviews with cartoonists and illustrators, he speaks with the great Arnie Levin, whose drawings and covers are in league with some of the best the New Yorker has published.   Below: a classic Levin drawing from the issue of October 5, 1998.

 

Hear the interview here.

Photo: Gil Roth and Arnie Levin

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Never Judge A Cartoon Collection By Its Cover

This book is probably the most tattered in the Spill‘s cartoon library, but it is also one of the most treasured. While browsing the humor sections of used bookstores I’ve a habit of looking at every cartoon collection on the shelf (or shelves), no matter the condition, and no matter whether or not I already have a copy at home — you never know what might be inside.  In this case, the surprise was an original signed drawing by James Stevenson.  The collection, Sorry, Lady — This Beach Is Private! was published by Macmillan in 1963. 

 

50 Years Ago in The New Yorker

Every so often I like to take a look at a random issue of The New Yorker from well before my time there, or well before my time, period. This issue, of April 29, 1967 is solidly in the former category. The New Yorker was not yet on my mind —  I was in fact, just about to begin transitioning out of comic books, and into underground comics. My last (non-underground) comic book bought at the time of its release was this one, Superman and The Flash, December 1970 (yes, I still have it — I don’t throw much away).

 

 

Flipping through this Spring-time issue of The New Yorker, the first thing I noticed, besides the lovely Abe Birnbaum cover, was the  very simple Table of Contents, when the magazine seemed intent on just offering up a few clues as to what was inside. No listing of artists or writers, just column headings such as “The Air” and “Current Cinema”  — we’ve come a very long way since then.

Of the seventeen cartoonists represented in this issue, not one was a woman. This was a time when only one veteran female cartoonist was still on the scene, the great Mary Petty.  But her run at the magazine had ended a year before in the issue of March 19, 1966 (she died in 1976). The next female cartoonist to show up was Nurit Karlin, and she wouldn’t begin publishing until 1974. 

These are the seventeen  cartoonists in this issue: Charles Saxon, Warren Miller, Lee Lorenz, William Hamilton, James Mulligan, Dana Fradon, William O’Brien, Edward Koren, Ton Smits, James Stevenson, Robert Kraus, Donald Reilly, J. B. “Bud” Handelsman, Carl Rose, Barney Tobey, Robert Weber, and William Steig. Many of these names will ring a bell with New Yorker cartoon aficionados, and some names will ring a very large bell.  Edward Koren and Lee Lorenz are still contributing to the magazine.  Dana Fradon and Warren Miller are still hail and hearty.  James Stevenson, Robert Weber, and William Hamilton  were among the recently departed slew of New Yorker cartoonists this past year. 

For me, the most surprising cartoonist to see  in the issue was Carl Rose (“surprising” because I unfairly tend to place his work more in the 1920s – 1940s). Mr. Rose contributed his very first cartoon to The New Yorker in the Halloween issue of 1925, when the magazine was about nine months old; his last cartoon appeared in the summer of 1971. (Below: Mr. Rose’s April ’67 drawing)

Though he had  a great run in the New Yorker,  he only published one collection, One Dozen Roses — but what a collection.

 And here, for a little more on One Dozen Roses and other noteworthy New Yorker cartoon moments in Mr. Rose’s career, I’m going to lift some of the info from his entry on the Spill‘s  “New Yorker Cartoonist A-Z” section: 

this collection contains essays by Rose on cartoon themes. Especially of interest is his essay concerning Harold Ross, “An Artist’s Best Friend is His Editor”. Carl Rose will forever be linked to E.B. White for the December 8, 1928 New Yorker cartoon of the mother saying to her child, “It’s broccoli, dear.” and the child responding, “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” The drawing was by Rose, the caption was adapted by White from Rose’s original idea (for a slighty expanded explanation go here). Rose also had a Thurber connection. In 1932, Rose submitted a drawing captioned, “Touche!” of two fencers, one of whom has just cut off the head of the other. Harold Ross ( according to Thurber in The Years With Ross) thinking the Rose version “too bloody” suggested Thurber do the drawing because “Thurber’s people have no blood. You can put their heads back on and they’re as good as new.” The drawing appeared December 3, 1932.

One last thing about Carl Rose: there aren’t a lot of photographs of him around but when Irving Penn (whose work is now being celebrated at New York’s  Metropolitan Museum), photographed a number of The New Yorker‘s artists in 1947 for a spread in Vogue, an unassuming looking Carl Rose was right up there on the top-most platform with Otto Soglow and Alajalov, seated just behind Charles Addams. Among the others in the photo: Steinberg, Steig, Helen Hokinson, George Price, Richard Taylor, Perry Barlow, Barney Tobey,  Barbara Shermund and Whitney Darrow, Jr. —  an array, if ever there was one, of New Yorker cartoonist royalty. 

Getting back to Mr. Rose’s colleagues work appearing in the April issue, the magazine was, in 1967, still laying-out the cartoons with the graphic gusto it always had: a beautiful full page by O’Brien , an equally beautiful half-page Warren Miller drawing;  other drawings were run in various shapes and sizes.  The subject matter seemed to be bridging the older New Yorker art with the new: businessmen and housewives appear, as do people dealing with obviously modern cultural keystones such as  long-haired men and  hip young woman;  personal computers courtesy of Donald Reilly and  politics via Lee Lorenz, whose drawing depicts Robert Kennedy photo bombing a couples vacation picture. Dana Fradon’s drawing, about recharging electric cars,  could’ve run in modern times.  Needless to say (so why am I saying it?) that the issue was a blast to look through.  The cartoonists were in top form, providing us with a lot, a whole lot, to look at. As Jack Ziegler told me in an interview last year:  “…it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”

 

 

 

James Stevenson’s Life & Work Celebrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends, relatives, and colleagues gathered yesterday morning at the Century Association in Manhattan to honor the late New Yorker Artist & Writer, James Stevenson. Among those from The New Yorker were Danny Shanahan, Arnie Levin, Anne Hall Elser, Roger Angell, Kennedy Fraser, Susan Morrison, Anthony Hiss, Mark SingerThe New Yorker’s “Jack-of-All-Trades” Stanley Ledbetter, the New Yorker‘s former Television Critic, Nancy Franklin and the magazine’s former Art Editor/Cartoon Editor, Lee Lorenz.

A blow-up of one of Mr. Stevenson’s color pieces hung behind a podium where guests made their way to recall movingly and often hilariously, Mr. Stevenson.

On our way out, we were offered a jar of  Creamy Skippy Peanut Butter (a Stevenson favorite), as well as the booklet of drawings shown above, and partially below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mr. Stevenson’s entry on Ink Spill’s New Yorker Cartoonists 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 NYer 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.

A 2013 Ink Spill piece of interest: James Stevenson’s Secret Job

 

Swann’s Ad with Addams “Z” Subway Car; Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons; Book of Interest: Shannon Wheeler’s “Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was pleased and surprised to come across this full page Swann ad in today’s New York Times (the special “F” section devoted to Museums).  The Addams drawing, included in an upcoming auction, originally appeared in The New Yorker October 1, 1979. That issue, to me, is memorable. For starters the cover, by R.O. Blechman,  is one of my all-time favorite New Yorker covers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The roster of cartoonists in the issue included some heavy hitters from the magazine’s golden age, including George Price (whose drawing in the issue is three-quarters of a page), William Steig, Addams of course, and James Stevenson (represented by a full page drawing).  Also in the issue are some of James Geraghty’s best additions from his later years manning the art editor’s desk: Lee Lorenz, Warren Miller, Edward Koren, Robert Weber, and J.B. Handelsman.  And there are a number of the new kids brought in by Geraghty’s successor, Lee Lorenz: Arnie Levin, Jack Ziegler, Bob Mankoff, Roz Chast and yours truly (another reason the issue was memorable for me: it contained my first sequential drawing).

Looking through the issue at the cartoons one can’t help but notice how the  cartoons sit in a wide variety of space. Price’s three-quarters page, Stevenson’s beautiful full page, my own multi-panel spread bleeding onto a second page, Ziegler’s drawing (the first of two Zieglers in the issue) in an upright rectangle surrounded on three sides by text; Mankoff’s drawing and Arnie Levin’s as well as Addams’s allowed to spread across the width of the page. Weber’s gorgeous drawing run large, and  set so perfectly on the page. What’s even more remarkable about this issue is that it wasn’t unusual — this is what was normal in that time.

 

Here’s what the Addams drawing looked like in that issue:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The only blog offering a critical take on each week’s New Yorker cartoons returns with a look at  cavemen pondering their wardrobe, a drafty Hades, a King’s best friend, King Kong’s mom & pop, and 8 more.   Read it here.

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Coming from Top Shelf Productions this summer, Shannon Wheeler’s Sh*t My President Says: The Illustrated Tweets of Donald J. Trump.

From the publisher:

Acclaimed cartoonist Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, God Is Disappointed in You, Too Much Coffee Man) transforms Donald Trump’s most revealing tweets into razor-sharp cartoons, offering a subversive and illuminating insight into the mind of the most divisive political figure of our time. Whether you love him or hate him, this take on Trump will help you come to grips with the man and his ideas thanks to Wheeler’s signature mix of slapstick and sophistication.

Details here.

Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated; Tom Toro Talks Trump; Messing Around With The New Yorker’s Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the latest installment of The Cartoon Companion:  Ed Steed’s fowl: chickens or ducks?…plus Dernavich’s refrigerator, Cotham’s stairway to heaven, and more.

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Tom Toro has been drawing a lot of Trumps lately.  He talks about the experience on the Huffington Post: “New Yorker Cartoonist Explains Why Humor is the Heartbeat of Democracy”

Link here to Mr. Toro’s website

 

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The latest New Yorker features a Russian-inspired Eustace Tilley and Rea Irvin typeface.

You might wonder when the magazine has played with its look before.  Here are just a few examples:

 

Rea Irvin (of course!) broke  the mold first. Jan 2, 1932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S. Liam Dunne in 1934

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rea Irvin (again) in 1947

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one-and-only Helen Hokinson in 1948

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Stevenson in 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Stevenson again in 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma Allen To Succeed New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a memo to all New Yorker Cartoonists this afternoon, the magazine’s editor, David Remnick announced that  Emma Allen, a New Yorker editor will succeed Bob Mankoff as cartoon editor in two months time.

In part, the memo reads:

The person I’ve chosen to be the next cartoon editor is Emma Allen, who has worked in recent years an editor of The Talk of the Town, a writer, and the driving force behind Daily Shouts, which is one of the best features of newyorker.com. Unlike Bob and Lee, she is not a cartoonist, but then neither was James Geraghty, who did the job before Lee. (Hell, William Shawn was not a writer, either, and he wasn’t too bad in the editing department.) Emma has a terrific eye for talent, knows the history of cartooning deeply, and is an immensely energetic and intelligent and sympathetic editor. She will work with Colin Stokes on selecting cartoons, running the caption contest, and creating a bigger digital footprint for cartoons. I am quite sure that we have only just begun to figure out new ways to explore and exploit digital technologies as a way to distribute your work to more and new readers. All of this is intended to stake out a healthy future for cartoons at The New Yorker.

Ms. Allen will be the third person in the magazine’s history in charge of editing its cartoons (Rea Irvin, who helped the magazine’s founder develop the New Yorker’s cartoon culture, was considered the art supervisor).  James Geraghty,  hired in 1939, was the first official cartoon editor (his title was Art Editor).  Lee Lorenz succeeded Mr. Geraghty in 1973 and held that position (as Art Editor from 1973 -1993 and then as cartoon editor from 1993-1997) until Mr. Mankoff was appointed in ’97.

Update: In a statement released to the press, Mr. Mankoff had this to say:

“My greatest gratitude goes to the cartoonists. I know how much easier it is to pick a good cartoon than do one, much less the many thousands they have done and will continue to do,” Mankoff said. “And, continue they will, with Emma Allen who now takes over this most iconic of all New Yorker features. I wish her and them the best of luck. And me, too—I’ve got to find that old cartoon pen of mine.” 

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The filmmaker Sally Williams has been hard at work on her documentary about James Stevenson. Here’s a brief clip from the film.

Link here for even more on Sally Williams

Link here to see some of Mr. Stevenson’s New Yorker work

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