Bob Mankoff’s Third Act; An Update: Mankoff Puts the Kibosh on an Esquire Look Day

On his 73rd birthday, Bob Mankoff, newly un-hitched from his duties as cartoon editor of the New Yorker, let the word go forth he was immediately beginning a new job as cartoon editor (and humor editor) of the 83 year old men’s magazine, Esquire.  Pre-dating Playboy, Esquire was once one of the major markets in this country for cartoons embracing more risque work than The New Yorker (when Playboy came along in the early 1950s, its cartoons made Esquire’s risque cartoons seem tame).  When Esquire was reinvented in the late 1970s there was initially great interest in bringing back cartoons.  After I sold a bunch of cartoons to them during the planning phase, I was invited in to meet with Clay Felker, Milton Glaser and then Esquire cartoon editor, Harvey Kurtzman  — it was all very exciting,  but the excitement was short-lived as using cartoons was abandoned before the first new-look Esquire was printed (it was, after all, the age of illustration, ushered in by the success of Mr. Felker’s and Mr. Glazer’s New York magazine).  But that’s all ancient history. It’s 2017 — with new cartoon markets hard to come by.  If Esquire has its own Look Day, cartoonists can head uptown to the Hearst Tower after first seeing Emma Allen at The New Yorker.

UPDATE:

Shortly after the above Spill piece was posted, Michael Cavna posted a piece on Mr. Mankoff’s intentions, viv-a-vis an Esquire Look Day.  Mr. Mankoff now calls the “open call” Look Day he inaugurated and presided over during his  twenty year New Yorker stint as cartoon editor, “delusional”; Mr. Mankoff’s  “open call”  was in stark contrast to his predecessor’s Look Day, which was open only to veteran cartoonists.  He told the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna what his new approach as Esquire‘s cartoon editor would be:

The idea: What if he were to work closely with a handful of different cartoonists every issue, in a process that he says would “feel less hierarchical” and “more productive”?

The piece continues:

… Mankoff wouldn’t just work with artists, but also performers. “I want stand-up comedians to work with cartoonists, too, to [explore] what a stand-up sensibility could be in a magazine.”

That collaborative approach, he notes, is more like what the New Yorker was still doing a half-century ago, when illustrators and gag writers might be paired on a cartoon.

 Mr. Mankoff  would seem to be thinking of returning, in part, to an approach that began to lose favor at The New Yorker in 1952, when William Shawn  began encouraging the magazine’s artists to develop their own voice, rather than to rely on gagwriters.  While using gagwriters is still an approach a very small number of New Yorker cartoonists employ, it has been largely out of favor at the magazine since the early 1970s (Roz Chast, in a brochure for an exhibit of New Yorker cartoons,  wrote that she felt the use of gagwriters was “like cheating.”)

In The New Yorker‘s earliest days, working on cartoons was a collaborative effort carried on in the Art Meeting, wherein a number of editors (and Rea Irvin, the magazine’s Art Supervisor) joined in on helping sharpen work. When Mr. Shawn was appointed the magazine’s editor, he abandoned that collaborative effort.

It will be fascinating to see how Mr. Mankoff’s retro-collaborative approach plays out in the pages of Esquire

   

 

 

 

Making a Splash at Esquire

 

 

 

 

I found something I was looking for the other day: a log of cartoons I kept in my nascent years of cartooning.  Looking through I realized that the only drawings I sold in the Fall of 1977 — right after breaking into The New Yorker — were to Esquire. During that year Esquire was being retooled by its new owner, Clay Felker, whose long career in magazine publishing included founding New York magazine.

Following the purchase of five of my cartoons, I was summoned uptown to Esquire’s offices to meet Clay Felker and Milton Glaser, who was redesigning the magazine. I don’t know why I was called in –- my memory is that it was a meet and greet and not really a meeting about cartoons. The old Esquire had a long history of publishing cartoons; the current thinking must’ve been that they’d continue the tradition.

Sometime after my meeting, I received, via mail, the bought cartoons.  The legendary Harvey Kurtzman ( their cartoon editor, I suppose – it wasn’t made clear to me) included notes for me to follow as I did finishes for what the editors assumed were rough drawings (I thought they were already finished).   Harvey had taped tracing paper over the drawings with his penciled edit instructions pointing to the required changes.  He also told me I needed to put overlays on my work and add some kind of ink as wash (he was precise about the ink, I just don’t remember what it was called).  I’d never heard of overlays, but my local art supply store was more than happy to sell me some. I was in the process of learning what to do with these overlays and the inky substance when word came to me that Esquire had decided not to use cartoons after all. Although there was the following in the notification: “We will continue to run cartoon material, such as strips and an occasional feature…” the Esquire single panel cartoon was history.

I must’ve sent some of my overlay attempts back to Esquire — only one remains in my files. I include it here, with and without the overlay. I’m still not sure what that red inky stuff is that I splashed all over the overlay. Whatever it was, it was more than I could handle.