Wertz Well Received; Attempted Bloggery with Leo Cullum on the Money, an Original Arthur Getz New Yorker Cover, and Arno in College (Humor)

From the New York Times, October 17, 2017, “A Graphic Novelist’s Passionate Anatomy of New York”  — this review of Julia Wertz’s Tenements, Towers & Trash (with Roz Chast content as well)

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Cullum, Getz and Arno on Attempted Bloggery

Head on over to Attempted Bloggery for an interesting variety of posts on Leo Cullum, Arthur Getz and Peter Arno.

 

 

 

Checking In: Peter Kuper Talks Spy Vs. Spy, The New Yorker, and So Much More

When I think of MAD magazine I think of Alfred E. Neuman, of course, and Al Jaffee’s Fold-In, and Spy vs Spy. For the past twenty years the latter has been in the hands of Peter Kuper.  His non-Spy work has been appearing more and more in The New Yorker these days, both the print version (an example above — a drawing from the March 6th issue this year)  and the non-print version — the Daily Cartoon.  Graphically, his work is a feast for the eyes, incorporating solid construction and style. And naturally, it’s very funny.

I only met Peter a year or so ago at a book event at Columbia University; we’ve emailed from time-to-time ever since.  I thought it was about time to officially check in with him; luckily he agreed to allow some Spill questions to fill his inbox.  We covered MAD, The New Yorker, and much more in the following conversation. 

Michael Maslin: So Peter, you’re a MAD person as well as a New Yorker person, but I also think of you as someone out there getting your fingers inky in a lot of projects.  True?

Peter Kuper: Yes, in the sketchy career as a cartoonist I juggle at a high velocity to make this work.

A new edition of my book Diario de Oaxaca, a chronicle of time I spent in Mexico from 2006-2008, was just published. I added 40 pages of new material and overall redesign to this updated edition.

I’m currently working on a collection of Franz Kafka short story adaptations titled Kafkaesque that will come out Fall 2018. I’m also co-editing a new issue of World War 3 Illustrated ,a political comics magazine I co-founded when I was in art school…a few years back. This is our 48th issue (due out in November) with the theme of fascism. For some reason that seemed like a timely subject.

Along with Steve Brodner and Andrea Arroyo I’ll be curating OppArt a site gathering work by a wide range of artists about our insane political climate. It’s hosted by The Nation magazine’s website.

Above: a page from Ruins

A Chinese edition of my last graphic novel Ruins is in the works and following Kafkaesque I will be adapting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. All of this, I hope, will  relate to commenting on the current presidency.

MM:  The current political climate must seem like a shooting-fish-in-barrel moment for you — evidenced by your work frequently showing up on the New Yorker’s online Daily Cartoon.  One of those drawings [shown above] received a good deal of notice . Can you describe how this drawing came to you? 

PK: There is so much material everyday I could just devote all of my time drawing about it, even if I had nowhere to publish them besides my own, very limited, social media. I’m very thankful for the outlet the New Yorker site provides so can address things as they happen and reach a pile of eyes. Doing these cartoons also helps me avoid the short trip to losing my mind over the news.
The “Five Stages” popped into my head thinking about how Trump was turning on even his closest supporters like Jeff Sessions. The timing was dumb luck given within the week Priebus and Scaramucci were booted. Since I’m interested in sequential art, doing this as a series of images was a nice fit.

MM: I really like the way that drawing is sequential within itself, if you know what I mean.  It’s not broken into separate panels, but seems animated.  The little clocks along the bottom tricked me into thinking the employee was on a conveyor belt.  Was that intentional?

PK: The conveyor belt was very much part of the idea, but I threw the clocks in last minute. I would have collaged in photos of real clocks, but I got word on my sketch at 9:30 and didn’t get to work until 10. The art was due at noon and I got it in at 12:01, so I ran out of time…hmm, how ironic. 

MM: Let’s talk MAD for a moment. Like a zillion other cartoonists, part of my earliest comic art education came from absorbing every issue of MAD. Spy vs Spy was a major piece of the experience.  Can you talk about about what Spy vs Spy meant to you as a kid, and how it came about that you inherited it.

PK: Mad was all that to me too. Really the first place I saw the intersection– or maybe more accurately– the collision of humor and politics. Of course I always “read” Spy first, you couldn’t help it. They only ran it periodically so seeing it was a real treat. In 1996 the editors called me in and asked if I was interested in taking an, er, stab at it.

I almost passed since it was someone else’s characters and I had lost touch with the material. I had been doing a wordless strip called Eye of the Beholder (It began in the New York Times  in 1993 and I had been self-syndicating to alternative newspapers) and I’d just finished a book called The System  which was entirely wordless, which I assumed was why they called me. I later learned that the editor had discovered an oddball book I did called Comics Trips in a remaindered books bin (it was a collection of my sketchbook work from a trip through Africa and S.E. Asia) and that’s why he called. So to make a short story long, I said I’d do a sample story. I figured if I was to take it on I’d have to give it a personal touch, so I did the sample in stencils and spray paint figuring they’d say “thanks, but no thanks” and I’d be on my way. In doing the sample I realized what a big influence the strip had on my interest in wordless comics (along with Sergio Aragonés marginal drawings).

If I had wanted the gig, I’m sure I would have blown it. They were looking for a change and I turned out to be a good fit. I thought I’d do it for a few years and move on. That was twenty years ago.

MM: One of the Spy images we’re showing in this piece is of the 2 prong/3 prong optical illusion (or whatever it’s called). It’s so great it’s still being used. I remember as a kid being transfixed by that drawing [I feel as if I saw it on the back page, or near the back page] and learning how to make it work. Was that drawing specific to MAD — do you know its origin?

PK: It is called a Blivet it dates back to American servicemen in World War II. It refers to any unnecessary or superfluous thing. It may be a mixture of blip and widget–or so says Google.

MM: Is there a typical work day for you?  With MAD and the New Yorker Daily and the regular New Yorker batch to get in weekly, plus all the other things you’re doing, how do you arrange work? Are you incredibly organized?

Above: Kuper in The Nation

PK: Not much “typical” exactly and I’m certainly not crazy organized (fortunately my wife, Betty, is). I have a studio separate from my apartment, but only a few blocks away, happily. I tend to get to work between 9-10 and work until 7-ish. Sometimes I return to work after dinner and I work most weekends, but really that’s by choice. I love doing what I do especially comics and they take an absurd amount of time. When I was working on Ruins  (over a three-year period) at a certain point I brought a drawing table to the apartment so I would see more of my wife and daughter. Though fortunately freelancing does afford one the opportunity to speed up or slow down work. It doesn’t matter exactly when I work as long as it gets done, so I do end up getting to hang out, then race later to meet deadlines. I  swear, I wasn’t an absentee husband/father! (At least according to my autobiography, Stop Forgetting To Remember )

MM: You were first published in The New Yorker in 2011; some time passed until now when you seem to be in there more often. Any reason behind these better times at the magazine, or just one of those things?

PK: Actually, I pitched to The New Yorker from the beginning of my career back in the 1980’s to no avail. I was first published there in 1993 when Tina Brown came in. I did a number of illustrations for Chris Curry and a two page spread titled ” Masks of the Urban Jungle”  that I did for Lee Lorenz [one page of “Masks…” shown above]. I had a six-month run pitching cartoons to him and sold two, neither of which ran. I was doing them in stencils and spray paint which was probably too far from a New Yorker cartoon tone. Soon I found myself doing New Yorker-esque ideas and felt I was losing a sense of direction, so I started pitching multi-panel political cartoons. One that didn’t fly I pitched to The New York Times and it ran on the Op-Ed page. An editor from the NY Daily News saw it and I got a spot there doing a weekly five panel political cartoon titled “New York Minute” that ran every Sunday for two years. I concluded that was what all the pitching to The New Yorker had lead me to, so it had been worth it. My next round was in 2011. I had an idea and crazily on a Friday afternoon figured what-the-fuck and pitched it to Mankoff. It was topical and amazingly he bought it. So I was deluded enough to pitch for another six months and had zero sales.

In 2015 I got another bee in my bonnet, and the fickle cartoon Gods have seen fit to throw me enough bones to keep me at it. I’m surprised to find that my drawing style morphed through the years into something that fits there, but isn’t forced.I had grown tired of the stencil work and was afraid that the toxic enamel spray paint would kill me.Doing this work brought me back to the  realization of how much New Yorker cartoonists have influenced me. Cartoonists like Charles Saxon and Arno (I’m not just blowing smoke here) Addams, Gluyas Williams, Rea Irvin, Booth and on and on were a huge part of why I wanted to be a cartoonist. So doing work for the New Yorker has been one of my life-long goals.

MM: Back to Spy vs Spy: spies are big news again what this period of almost daily talk of Russian spies; in your mind, who are your Spy vs Spy spies? 

PK: Bond’s the name, James Bond and whatever that recent movie Charlize Theron was in.

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Visit Mr. Kuper’s website for more on most everything discussed above. 

*While this piece was being put together, Mr. Kuper’s book Ruins received the Boscarato, an Italian award for best foreign graphic novel. The Spill extends its congratulations!

Of Note from yesterday’s OppArt press release:

Long a home to quality accountability journalism, The Nation broadens its horizons in this unprecedented political moment with OppArt, a new series of artistic dispatches from the front lines of resistance. Spearheaded by celebrated artists and illustrators Andrea ArroyoSteve Brodner, and Peter KuperOppArt will showcase fresh content daily as a diverse set of artists take aim and draw. The first installation of the series, “Nuisance Flooding,” launched today.

Curated with a singularly progressive and political point-of-view, OppArt will convene international artists with a broad range of talents, from comics and illustrations to street graphics and fine art. Their work will confront and expose power, while sustaining a wry humor in turbulent political times. The series complements The Nation’s longstanding ComixNation print feature.

Exhibit of Interest: Not OK: Great Cartoons That Weren’t Good Enough; Cartoon Companion Rates Latest New Yorker Cartoons; The Tilley Watch: Lillian Ross

Exhibit of Interest: Not OK

From the New York Times, September 21, 2017,  “The New Yorker Said No, But These Cartoons Just May Make Your Day” — this piece on tomorrow’s sure-to-be-fun show of rejected work. 

So what is an “OK”?  It’s what every cartoonist submitting to The New Yorker hopes to see in their inbox at the end of the week (sent by the New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Emma Allen).  A drawing that has been OKed is a drawing that has been bought by the New Yorker

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Cartoon Companion Rates Latest New Yorker Cartoons

The CC boys (they call themselves “Max” and “Simon”) are back with a look at the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.  Among the cartoons dissected are those featuring  beans, huddled football players, big shoes, E.T., and a hot air balloon.  I don’t always see eye-to-eye (or cartoon-to-cartoon) with many of their evaluations, but that’s part of the fun.  Read it all here.

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Word went out yesterday that Lillian Ross, long time contributor to The New Yorker had passed away at age 99.  Ms. Ross began her New Yorker career in 1945, and continued publishing there until 2012 (on the magazine’s blog). Her last piece in the print magazine, according to her New York Times obit, was 2011. 

Here’s a link to the Times obit.

And here’s a link to Rebecca Mead’s “Postscript” on Ms. Ross on the magazine’s website. 

On a personal note, my interactions with Ms. Ross were always interesting.  I first met her at a New Yorker party back in December of 1999.  I summoned up my courage to walk over and introduce myself when I noticed she was sitting by herself at a small round-top table right behind me. I was on a mission in those years to interview everyone at the magazine who possibly could have known Peter Arno.  She looked puzzled at first as I approached, but she broke into a grin when I mentioned I was working on a biography of Arno.  She invited me to sit with her, and immediately launched into a wonderful very short Arno tale (it went into the Arno biography —  she repeated the story elsewhere in print). In short, she was at the big party held (in February of 1952) to celebrate William Shawn’s official appointment as Harold Ross’s successor. Peter Arno, in attendance, asked Ms. Ross if she wanted a ride home. Mr. Shawn leaned over to her and whispered in her ear, “He’s dangerous.” 

  Some weeks after I’d introduced myself to Ms. Ross we were on the phone discussing all sorts of New Yorker “stuff”– but mostly Mr. Shawn’s feelings (according to her) about the magazine’s cartoons and cartoonists in general.   “Ask me anything about what went on,” she said to me — “I know a lot.”

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Fave Book Find of the Week: Frueh On The Theatre: 1906 – 1962; Sam Marlow Pencilled; New Yorker Cartoonists in Life & Judge; Signed By The Cartoonist; Reading Every Issue of The New Yorker!

Here’s a wonderful collection of the late great Al Frueh’s theater work for The New Yorker and elsewhere. The New York Times had Al Hirschfeld, The New Yorker had Al Frueh.  Mr. Frueh’s New Yorker colleague, Brendan Gill provides an informative and insightful intro. For more on Mr. Frueh, here’s a Spill piece about him, “The First New Yorker Cartoon” — posted way back in 2011.

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Sam Marlow Pencilled

Sam Marlow, whose first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker May 9, 2016 is the latest subject of Jane Mattimoe’s splendid Case For Pencils blog.  See Mr. Marlow’s tools of the trade here.

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Buchanan’s Files Continue on Mike Lynch’s Site

If New Yorker cartoonists work not published in the New Yorker is your thing, then head on over to Mike Lynch’s site where you’ll find a number of Life and Judge cartoons from the 1930s. All the scans courtesy of Dick Buchanan, including the Ned Hilton drawing above (Life, 1935). Mr. Hilton’s cartoons appeared in The New Yorker from May 19, 1934 — June 15, 1957.

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Signed By The Cartoonist

Stephen Nagler’s Attempted Bloggery site has been posting signed books by some famous cartoonists, Peter Arno, Helen Hokinson, and William Steig among them.  Check them out here.

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Reading Every New Yorker

And speaking of Ms. Hokinson, here’s her beautiful New Yorker cover from the summer of 1928.  The fascinating blog, A New Yorker State of Mind takes a very close look within.  Read it here.

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of September 11, 2017

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

We’ve come to expect, in these modern New Yorker times, that the cover will likely be a graphic comment on the biggest news of the week, and so it is with this new issue, featuring Chris Ware’s reflection on Hurricane Harvey. On a week like this it’s not really a surprise what the magazine’s cover will be about — the only question is, who will have the cover. Selfishly, I would love to see what other artists had submitted (perhaps the magazine will provide a slide show?).

And now on to the issue’s cartoons. First, of course, we must page through the Goings On About Town (GOAT) section. As a sidebar, I clearly recall looking through the first copies of The New Yorker I found when I began collecting older issues (by older, I mean issues from the magazine’s earliest decades). A read through GOAT in those issues was (and can still be) a form of time travel. For instance: in the After Theater Entertainment listed in the issue of November 15, 1930 there’s this:

Grill Neptune, Hotel Pierre, 5 Ave. at 61. (Regent 5901) –- A new and unusual room for supper dancing. For the more fastidious. Must dress.

Wow, Peter Arno’s Manhattan did exist, once.

This morning, with my mission quite clear, there’s no time to pause to see what’s happening at the Metropolitan Museum, and yet, sheepishly, I do stop at the full page ad for Zabar’s. For a brief moment, I wish I was a hundred feet from the entrance to Zabar’s instead of a hundred miles away.

Onward to the Talk of The Town — there’ll be a Spill “Posted Note” one day soon about Rea Irvin’s classic masthead — and to the first cartoon ( like last week’s issue, it doesn’t take very long to come upon: page 28). The cartoon is by newish-comer Jeremy Nguyen (recently a subject of Jane Mattimoe’s Case for Pencils blog). It opens up a whole new situation for cartoonists to mine: artists in cages. Mr. Nguyen’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine February 7, 2017.

Flipping through to the next cartoon I can’t help but notice a Personal History piece by  Calvin Trillin (now in his 54th year of contributing to The New Yorker).  Note to myself: read later! Several pages later is a John McNamee Garden of Eden drawing. Mr. McNamee’s first New Yorker work appeared in June of 2016, unless the magazine’s search function is mistaken.  I’ve just realized Mr. McNamee is not on The Spill’s A-Z.  My only excuse is that his work appeared in the year when more new cartoonists appeared (16) in The New Yorker than in any other year in modern times. Things were a little nutty then. [I just added his name. Again, my apologies to Mr. McNamee].  Here’s the Case For Pencils post on him and his tools of the trade.

Seven pages later we come upon an Amy Kurzweil drawing nicely situated in the upper right hand corner of the page. Ms. Kurzweil’s graphic memoir, Flying Couch  (Black Balloon Publishing, 2016) was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.  In this issue  she visits one of the cartoonist’s tried-and-true situations: the boardroom. I’ve scurried around my memory library for sterling boardroom cartoons and two immediately came to mind, but I’ll mention just one, by the late great Charles Saxon,  published May 25, 1981. “Of course, honesty is one of the better policies.” (also the title of a wonderful 1984 collection of his work).

Five pages later is another standard situation and character utilized by scores of cartoonists: the King on his throne (I’ve done way more than my share).  The curtains In this drawing vaguely remind me of this classic scene from Monty Python’s Holy GrailThe cartoonist, Kaamran Hafeez, first published in The New Yorker in 2010 (you can see his work on the Cartoon Bank site here). For me, Mr. Hafeez’s cartoon (both the setting and the caption itself) is, in a way, a step-child to many drawn by master cartoonist,  Dana Fradon over his long New Yorker career (Mr. Fradon, now in his 90s, is still drawing and occasionally posting the drawings on social media).

Four pages later is a well-placed Tom Chitty drawing of two businessmen. The anatomy here reminded me of those plastic cowboys from the 1950s or 1960s who were designed to sit on a plastic horse.

Mr. Chitty’s work began appearing in the magazine, October 13, 2014.

Three pages later, a Barbara Smaller back-to-school drawing sans Smaller people(!).  Ms. Smaller’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine in 1996. (Ms. Smaller’s work can be found on the Cartoon Bank site). A few pages later is a Robert Leighton drawing that takes place at some sort of event that involves a dais.  It’s fun when a cartoonist widens the scene and gives us a lot to look at. Mr. Leighton’s first drawing in the magazine: 2002. (See his work on the CB site). 

Next up is Liana Finck drawing.  I appreciate the Thurberesque framed piece Ms. Finck has placed on the wall and the electrical socket near the floor. Somewhere in my research for the Arno biography I ran across a cartoonist discussing how, in ancient times at the magazine, certain cartoonists were allowed or not allowed to show plugged-in lamps, depending on their abilities (or was it seniority?). Thanks to Thurber’s influence,  I’ve always drawn sockets and plugged in my lamps — how else would they work?  Ms. Finck’s work first appeared in February of 2013 (visit the Cartoon Bank site to see more).

After a page-and-a-half color politically-themed spread (called a”Sketchbook” on The Table of Contents) by the great Edward Sorel, we come to a Will McPhail drawing based on the ever popular Whac-A-Mole.  I did not know, until this moment that Whac-A-Mole was invented in 1975.  An unscientific survey of Whac-A-Moles images show most moles with their mouths closed.  Mr. McPhail’s mole’s mouth is open, suggesting the mole is speaking. I suppose that makes sense as the seated fellow pictured is trying to understand the mole. How I wish I knew what the mole was saying. (Link here to Mr. McPhail’s website.  His first New Yorker appearance was in 2014).

Immediately following Mr. McPhail’s mole drawing is a beautifully placed color piece by Roz Chast with a political twist.  Ms. Chast’s work first appeared in the New Yorker in 1978. Five pages later is a full page Ed Steed piece about the eclipse.  Responding to this piece just graphically, it seems like a page out of The National Lampoon (sort of a graphic mixture of Mark Marek‘s work with Randall Enos’s and Charles Rodrigues’s). Mr. Steed’s work first appeared in The New Yorker in March of 2013.  You can see more here on the Cartoon Bank site.

Five pages later is an Avi Steinberg drawing incorporating boxing and music. My personal laugh-o-meter responds well to this drawing even though the “kid” looks like he’s well past a career in boxing. Mr. Steinberg’s work first appeared in the magazine in December of 2012. His work can be found on the CB site.

In the final cartoon of the issue, not counting the Cartoon Caption Contest work on the back page, is a David Sipress drawing (first New Yorker cartoon: 1998…see his work on the CB here). Mr. Sipress mashes tennis with Shakespeare. The caption immediately  takes me away from the tennis court to the televised court of public opinion, to the  McCarthy era and to William R. Murrow’s famous use of the line.  None of that had anything to do with tennis, but then again — and here we return to Mr. Ware’s Hurricane Harvey cover — everything is political. 

 — See you next Monday.

 

 

 

Two Blog Posts of Interest: A New Yorker State of Mind & Attempted Bloggery

Two favorite New Yorker-related blogs making for fun Saturday reading.

First, A New Yorker State of Mind: Reading Every Issue of The New Yorker with its look at the issue of June 30, 1928 featuring the ever pleasing work of Helen Hokinson on the cover. Work shown in the post: Alice Harvey, Al Frueh, and Peter Arno. 

And then there’s Attempted Bloggery, frequently mentioned on the Spill, and for good reason. Stephen Nadler, who runs the site, tirelessly examines all kinds of New Yorker cartoon and cartoonist related angles (original art, auctions, obscurities, etc). Right now he’s looking at the work of Gregory d’Alessio, a somewhat forgotten figure.  Mr. d’Alessio contributed a handful of covers and one cartoon to The New Yorker

Shown above: on the left is the June 30, 1928 New Yorker. On the right, a drawing by Mr. d’Alessio from the May 1937 issue of College Humor.

The Spill’s A-Z entries for cartoonists mentioned:

Peter Arno (Pictured above. Source: Look, 1938) Born Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr., January 8, 1904, New York City. Died February 22, 1968, Port Chester, NY. New Yorker work: 1925 -1968. Key collection: Ladies & Gentlemen (Simon & Schuster, 1951) The Foreword is by Arno. For far more on Arno please check out my biography of him, Peter Arno: The Mad Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist (Regan Arts, 2016).

Gregory d’Alessio (Photo above from College Humor, 1938) Born Sept. 25, 1904, NYC. New Yorker work: 1934 -1940.

Al Frueh (pictured above) Born, Lima, Ohio 1880; died, Sharon, Connecticut, 1968. New Yorker work: 1925 – 1962. Here’s a good piece about Mr. Frueh’s life.

 

 

 

Alice Harvey  (above) Born 1894, Austin, Illinois. New Yorker work: Oct. 17th,1925 – May 1, 1943.

Helen Hokinson (above) Born, Illinois,1893; died, Washington, D.C., 1949. New Yorker work: 1925 -1949, with some work published posthumously. All of Hokinson’s collections are wonderful, but here are two favorites. Her first collection: So You’re Going To Buy A Book! (Minton, Balch & Co, 1931) and what was billed as “the final Hokinson collection”: The Hokinson Festival (Dutton & Co., 1956)