The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of September 18, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

 Visitors to the Spill (and social media) have already had the weekend to digest the cover of the latest issue — it features the looming top-noggin of North Korea’s leader. The cover artist, Eric Drooker told Michael Cavna in a Washington Post piece: “I came up with the concept for next week’s New Yorker cover when I realized how little I know about Kim Jong Un. He’s an enigma. Who knows what goes on under the hood?…All we can see is the tip of the iceberg — an incomplete picture.” Fair enough.

Before getting to the cartoons this week, and instead of zipping through the GOAT (Goings On About town ) section, I’d like to mention a couple of non-cartoon graphics that made me pause, for better or worse:  a painting on page 6 by the artist Brian Calvin and a (colorized?) photograph on page 12. I won’t say which made me pause for the better or which  made me pause for the worse; the Monday Tilley Watch is not my soap box — it’s the curb I sit on while watching a parade go by.  

Now on to the cartoons. It doesn’t take long to reach David Borchart’s C.S. Lewis flavored drawing (If I’m wrong about this, someone please speak up). (Above: an illustration from the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Mr. Borchart, who has been contributing to the magazine since September of 2007, uses one of the most reliable tools in the cartoonist’s kit: a mash-up of fantasy and the all too real. As with every new cartoon I come across I automatically recall some previous cartoon with a similar stand-out characteristic — in this case the unicorn. I cannot see a drawing of a unicorn and not picture this classic Charles Addams drawing. It appeared in The New Yorker, March 10, 1956.

Four pages later is a subway drawing by  J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein — his first New Yorker cartoon appeared in November of 2014. It’s not my imagination, the magazine has run a goodly number of New York City subway drawings in the past few months (I’m not going to go back and count them. Trust me). It has dawned on me this very second that I could probably summon up a Charles Addams classic drawing somehow related to every cartoon in this issue.  In this case, Addams had a number of subway classics (here’s one). But enough of that game. 

Seven pages later is a Joe Dator bar scene. Mr. Dator’s first New Yorker appearance was in August of 2006. It’s always a gift when the cartoon gods hand a cartoonist a one-word switcheroo to make for a successful caption: in this case using “stopping” instead of “starting.” Fun sidebar: Mr. Dator has a podcast,  Songs You’re Sick Of.

A Roz Chast three panel drawing is next (her first cartoon appeared in 1978).  I like that Ms. Chast has ventured out of what we’ve (perhaps?) come to think of as a Chastian living room setting. We get to see a kitchen and foyer.  I’d love even more of a tour around her cartoon environment.  For instance: let’s see the basement…or the attic  (It’s possible we’ve already seen these spaces… Ms. Chast has published well over a thousand cartoons in the magazine).

Ten pages later, after a long piece about North Korea, is a Stephen King-ish  Will McPhail drawing. I have great sympathy for Mr. McPhail’s cartoon pinata in this cartoon. I’m resisting the  temptation here to recall one of many many Charles Addams’ drawings featuring mischievous children (or a mischievous child). I think I can safely say that none of Mr. Addams’ cartoon children ever threatened to harm a cartoon pinata.  (Mr. McPhail’s first New Yorker cartoon: December of 2014).

On the very next page is a thief-in-a-in-home drawing by newcomer Maddie Dai. As mentioned earlier in this post and previous posts, I try hard to keep subjectivity in check  in the Monday Tilley Watch, but this drawing gets a check plus. Can’t wait to see what the Cartoon Companion boys say about it later this week (their stock-in-trade is cartoon dissection and evaluation).  Ms. Dai’s first New Yorker appearance was this past June.

Three pages later is a BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing.  Signature style, signature caption. Mr. Kaplan’s first drawing appeared in 1991.  Six pages later, an Emily Flake drawing, sort of in the area of Mr. Borchart’s: a mash-up of contemporary technology (texting) and slowing-moving-out-the-door lingo: actually hanging up a phone (and slowly-moving-out-the-door actual activity of hanging up a phone).  Ms. Flake’s first drawing appeared in September of 2008. Five pages later, a drawing by Barbara Smaller.  Like Mr. Kaplan: signature style, signature caption. Here Ms. Smaller avoids  the cartoonist’s go-to shrink’s divan for the patient and opts for a sofa.

 

Three pages later is the last drawing in the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings), and it’s by the ever reliable Paul Noth (in earlier years such cartoonists as James Stevenson, Frank Modell, and Donald Reilly were among the magazine’s sturdy cartoon oaks (seemingly) effortlessly providing us with good work week after week after week (after year after year after year).  Mr. Noth began at the New Yorker thirteen years ago.

See you next Monday.

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

The week begins with the eclipse eclipsing political news, if only for a moment. Good luck with that, eclipse.  As noted here last week the cover of the new issue (dated August 28, 2017) has received more notice than usual.  Read about it, and two covers from different publications, here. This is the first New Yorker cover for David Plunkert (it says so right on the  Contributors page in the issue. How did we ever manage before Tina Brown instituted a Contributors page many moons ago. Wait –don’t answer that.  It’s a rhetorical question).

I will briefly derail to mention that I often return to the contributors page that accompanied the very first Cartoon Issue (December 15, 1997). It wasn’t identified as the Contributors page — it simply said “Cartoonists” but you get the idea. It’s handy for tidbits of information not found elsewhere. A sample:

Back on track now and breezing through the front of the current issue.  After pausing, briefly, to stare blankly at the rejiggered Rea Irvin Talk of The Town masthead (sorry — this is very much a dog worrying a bone thing with me), we see several graphic eclipse references (one by the late great Otto Soglow, the other by the contemporary illustrator, Tom Bachtell).  I have to admit I was fooled into thinking that the Goings On About Town full page photo of the fellow very obviously pointing skyward was also an eclipse thing, but after reading the text, I was set straight.

Now to the issue’s cartoons.  Getting ahead of things, I noticed that the first three out of four drawings are death-or-injury related. An unannounced theme issue, perhaps? (Don’t answer that either.  It’s another rhetorical question).  I also noticed that the first cartoon didn’t appear until page 45. I don’t keep track of when the first cartoon appears in every issue (and I won’t start now, or should I?) but it’s noticeable. That first cartoon is a kitty drawing by David Borchart, whose first New Yorker drawing appeared nearly ten years ago (September 24, 2007).  Here’s an interesting piece about Mr. Borchart on Jane Mattimoe’s Case For Pencils blog. 

A few pages later a rats-and- sauna drawing by Will McPhail (first New Yorker appearance: 2014). I can almost guarantee that this scenario has never appeared in the magazine before. It’s a caption-less drawing, yet the rat to the extreme left appears to be speaking. Just idle rat chat I guess. I had to look up the spoon used by the third rat in from the left. My search tells me it’s a ladle used to pour water over hot rocks to produce even more steam. I was unaware that hot rocks figured into manhole covers. You live, you learn. 

A couple of pages later we come to a beautifully placed Roz Chast drawing (Ms. Chast’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1978). I’m a fan of Ms. Chast’s summertime drawings (and covers).  On the very next page is a Liam Walsh drawing (his first New Yorker drawing appeared in July of 2011) —  the third of the aforementioned death-or-injury related cartoons (the other two: Mr. Borchart’s elderly kitty, and Ms. Chast’s lottery winner).  There are an awful lot of caskets in this cubicle-related drawing. Someone should really do a book of cubicle cartoons (Harry Bliss authored a book of death cartoons, Death By Laughter, back in 2008).

Next up is an Ed Steed drawing (his first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 2013).  Mr. Steed recently had a run of death-or-injury related cartoons, but here the subject is Romantic Poets (that’s the title of the drawing).  I’m wondering (still) if the couple in bed are in one of those laboratories where people’s dreams, sex lives (etc.) are monitored. The large observation-like window suggests as much.  I like Mr. Steed’s sensitive lettering in this drawing.  Three pages following Mr.Steed’s drawing is newcomer, Maddie Dai (first New Yorker drawing appeared this past June). I wonder how many dentist offices will hang reprints of this cartoon.  The drawing seems firmly rooted in the school of Kanin (Zach Kanin), which was itself in the school of Addams (Charles Addams). Blue ribbon lineage. 

Three pages later is a Julia Suits drawing featuring crocs. (Ms. Suits first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 2006). I’ve a passing familiarity with crocs (in other words, I’ve seen them worn) but the use of “hosed off” caused me to go to Google for a refresher course. This passage in the article cleared things up for me, hosing off-wise:

“The shoes’ original home was Boulder, Colo. The early Crocs customer was probably a Pacific Northwesterner who liked to boat or garden…”

Next up is an eye-catching cartoon by David Sipress (first New Yorker cartoon: 1998).  I’m a sucker for animated luggage cartoons. I’m surprised that only one other person in the area — that fellow with a suitcase nearest the animated luggage — acknowledged the luggage was alive.  Following Mr. Sipress’s cartoon is another caption-less cartoon with a character who is speaking. In this case, the speaker is likely reading out loud from Stories About Crumbs (I would definitely buy that book). Someone should really do a book of park bench cartoons.  (P.C Vey is the artist here. His first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1993). A broken-record aside: this is another well-placed cartoon. It’s so great seeing cartoons sit on the page as they should.

Five pages later is the familiar boxed drawing style of Harry Bliss (first New Yorker appearance: 1998).  This drawing requires some familiarity with Scooby-Doo

Five pages later is a Barbara Smaller drawing with,  as you might have expected for this late August issue of The New Yorker, a back-to-school reference. Ms. Smaller’s first New Yorker appearance was in 1996. Following Ms. Smaller’s cartoon is a Carolita Johnson cartoon. Of interest:  this 2015 Case For Pencils post about Ms. Johnson’s tools of the trade.

On the following page is the last drawing of the issue (not counting the Cartoon Caption Contest drawings appearing on the very last page). I can’t think of a better way to end the issue than with   a truffle-related cartoon by Joe Dator (his first New Yorker appearance: 2006).  I really do not want to get into “liking” certain drawings but since the die was recently cast when I liked a Bruce Kaplan drawing,  I’ll admit this drawing registered quite high on my inner laugh-o-meter.  For evaluations and ratings of every drawing in every issue I recommend going over to Cartoon Companion. They usually post their ratings for each new issue by the end of the week. I’ll say this about Mr. Dator’s work: for me, he is representative of that wonderful continuum of New Yorker artists who have their very particular world.  Think of George Price, or Richard Taylor, or Syd Hoff or Jack Ziegler.  I’m not suggesting that Mr. Dator’s sense of humor is similar to these artists (although you might be tempted to compare the senses);  I’m suggesting that he, like those artists, is as successful in providing us with a world of his own.  Good stuff.

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch (Part 1)

Double issues (as we’ve just experienced) have a way of creating the impression it’s been ages since the last new issue. So, yay, finally: the late August New Yorker (dated, for the record:  August 21, 2017). There are a lot of cartoons in this issue, so the Monday Tilley Watch will be broken up into two parts. I’ll post the second half in a few days…possibly tomorrow (a Tuesday Tilley Watch?)

The cover, by Adrian Tomine, is certainly summery (and a sort of summary of some summers). 

Skipping through the front of the magazine (this is, after all, a look at the drawings in the issue) I pause to note that Rea Irvin’s classic Talk of the Town masthead is still on holiday (wishful thinking that it might’ve returned!).  Now on to the cartoons:

The first, Mr. Tator Tot, is descended from the world of Mr. Potato Head and is pure Danny Shanahan.  I can see these being sold in nice little packages wherever toys are sold (with a warning that they should be kept out of the hands of small children).  As a side note, when Mr. Shanahan was discussing this drawing with me not long ago we went off into a brief recounting of the various potato-related drawings we’d both done.  Someone should do a New Yorker book of potato cartoons.  The next drawing (I’ll shorthand it as “hip disease”)  is by Jason Adam Katzenstein, who is closing in on his third anniversary of appearing in The New Yorker. I’m a big fan of doctor office drawings. The eye chart in this one really caught my…eye (sorry). I’d say someone should do a book of New Yorker doctor cartoons, but it’s been done, and done well. 

A few pages later we come to a summertime baseball in the park drawing by yours truly. For those who keep track of things, this is my second major appliance-related drawing in the magazine (there was at least one cartoon of mine featuring a small appliance (a blender) back in the 1980s).  Seven pages later we come to a Tom Toro desert island drawing (Mr. Toro was profiled here on the Spill not long ago, talking about his new book Tiny Hands, among other things). The desert island fellow, judging by his look, has somehow managed to survive on the island for a very long time. Good for you, island guy. I’m a little worried about the cruise ship being so close to shore, but then remind myself that this is a cartoon. (fyi: Mr. Toro’s been contributing to The New Yorker since 2010).  Next up is a drawing by newish-comer, Kate Curtis (she’s been contributing to the magazine for about a year-and-a-half).  I love set piece cartoons (folks sitting at a dining room table or a kitchen table, people in bed or sitting on living room sofas, etc.). Challenging, and so much fun when they work out well, as this one has. Several pages later is another newcomer, Maddie Dai (Her first New Yorker cartoon appeared this past June).  A hopscotch drawing! We don’t see many of those.  This one has a Charles Addams-ish flavor to it.  And speaking of Mr. Addams, who did a number of wonderful gingerbread house drawings in his time, our next drawing, by Liana Finck, is of a house made of kale.  Worth noting here: as has been the case for at least the past five issues of the magazine, the placement and sizing of most drawings has been splendid. (Ms. Finck’s first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker, February 2013). The next drawing, by Sara Lautman (first cartoon in The New Yorker: March, 2016) is a blast of color…and madras (!) — making for an exciting visual. A few pages later, and again, well-placed and sized, is an Ed Steed cartoon. Love the child-like house on the horizon. Mr. Steed’s first appearance in the magazine: March 2013. There’s a Sketchbook by Will McPhail a few pages following Mr. Steed’s drawing.  The use of the Sketchbook — and I could be very wrong — goes back to the Tina Brown era. Next up is a drawing by Emily Flake (like Mr. Toro, she was the subject of a piece on The Spill not long ago). Ms. Flake has been contributing to the magazine since September of 2008. This is a set piece drawing, with a lot of emotion.

Part 2 of The Monday Tilley Watch coming later this week…