The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of October 30, 2017

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

We are definitely in the Halloween mode in the new issue, and it all begins with Carter Goodrich’s cover; a scary clown looking remarkably similar to our current president peers out from the woods.  For some reason my thoughts drifted back to what I believe was the first appearance of the Donald on the cover way way back in 1992; the Robert Risko high-kickin’ chorus line cover was on the 13th issue of Ms. Brown’s tenure.

Skipping through GOAT (Goings On About Town), and, sigh, the redrawn Rea Irvin Talk of the Town masthead,  we come to page 18, and the first cartoon of the issue.  Zach Kanin is back with what at first might seem like a Halloween themed drawing, what with the full-face ski hats, but it’s not Halloween-related — it’s a pizza crime cartoon. Not the first pizza drawing in the magazine (for instance: who could forget Gahan Wilson’s 1997 classic), but possibly the first incorporating a stick-up using bank robbery terminology.  My one microscopic quibble with the drawing is not with the drawing at all, but the proximity of the Otto Soglow spot drawing just above it.  I’m firmly in the camp of letting the New Yorker‘s cartoons have plenty of breathing room. 

 Roz Chast’s gingerbread man drawing, appearing five pages after Mr. Kanin’s, is an example of plenty of breathing room.  A Danny Shanahan carrot cake man two issues ago, and now a gingerbread man.  Somebody should really do a book of pastry people cartoons.

Nine pages following Ms. Chast’s couch-bound confection (with a Trump illustration appearing along the way) is an Amy Hwang drawing that, at first glance, appears to be Halloween-related. But, like Mr. Kanin’s, it’s not a Halloween drawing (although I’ve seen situations like this set up in front yards of homes at this time of year). A buff executioner stands beside a rope-less(?) guillotine. Five pages later is a Will McPhail drawing with its figures in silhouette (guillotine, silhouette…what an issue).  Lovely night sky, Mr. McPhail. On the very next page is another William’s drawing (William Haefeli).  I should mention that all of the drawings, from Ms. Chast’s on, have been beautifully placed on the page. Mr. Haefeli delivers a principal’s office cartoon drawn in his trademark style. This drawing might even have more going on than the usual Haefeli contribution. I found myself enlarging the cartoon on my computer screen to see what was on the cartoon computer screen and what was going on out in the cartoon hallway.

Three pages later is a Julia Suits drawing that causes us (or maybe just me) to imagine another cartoon within her cartoon.  A fellow at a very long bar is thinking about a woman who’s walked into his wet cement. That’s what I was imagining — the walking into the wet cement scene.

On the very next page is — yay! — a Halloween cartoon, courtesy of one of our modern anchor cartoonists, Joe Dator.  Mr. Dator’s “last-minute” parade drawing made me think about the now famous Greenwich Village mega-parade, wherein gazillions of costumed folks gather together.  Mr. Dator’s less populated parade is appealing. Four pages later, a drawing by one of the most recognizable stylists in recent times, Seth Fleishman. Looking slightly Spy vs Spy in this drawing (it’s the hat, I think, plus the mash-up of black & white figures) Mr. Fleishman dips into mobsterville  — the fish wrapped in newspaper). 

On the very next page is a Drew Panckeri drawing of a reclined and relaxed member of the armed forces on his bed speaking with what I imagine is a counterpart from an adversarial country. I find the fellow’s coat interesting — it looks a bit like an Eisenhower jacket, but it’s not quite short enough. Several objects in the room caused me to linger on this drawing for awhile: the lava lamp, the large model (?) of a rocket, and the framed piece which looks as if it might be based on James Montgomery Flagg’s 1917 “I Want You poster (itself based on New Yorker cartoonist Alfred Leete‘s earlier work, shown below far right). The fellow in Mr. Panckeri’s  frame is definitely pointing at the viewer, but his clothing looks more carny than country.  

 

Fourteen pages later (following a photo essay) is a Bruce Eric Kaplan drawing of a woman in bed. As usual with Mr. Kaplan, a winning caption. Opposite Mr. Kaplan’s drawing is a wonderful bookend to Mr. Dator’s parade drawing (it being the Halloween issue): witches standing at a boiling cauldron.  This is a lovely drawing, with an Edward Gorey-ish feel to it.

Ten pages later is the last drawing of the issue (not counting the caption contest work on the last page).  It’s a Paul Noth word play drawing.  I see people at a table with the mention of wine and I cannot not think of James Thurber’s 1937 oft-reprinted classic drawing.

I can’t leave this week’s issue without a Charles Addams shout-out. If you have a moment, seek out his covers and drawings.  With Addams it was Halloween all year long. 

Til next Monday… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

84 Years Ago: The Sixth New Yorker Album of Cartoons

I love all of the New Yorker Albums that have come out in the magazine’s 92 years, but this one I like maybe just a teeny-tiny bit more than many of the rest (partially due to the fact that it was a gift from Jack Ziegler, back in the days when I was building a set of all the albums, with their dust jackets.  Jack’s copy arrived with a gold star on it, which, as you can see, is still there).

Published in 1933 by Harper & Brothers, the 6th Album sports a collage cover by Harry Brown (who contributed 18 covers to the magazine from 1931 thru 1937); the collage was a first — it was the first time the magazine allowed something other than a reproduction of one of its covers to grace an Album. I like the burst of color, but am thrilled the cover’s designer left the Thurber drawings, running up the strap, in black and white.

Starting top left on the cover, we see Otto Soglow’s Little King and his Queen and a couple of footmen in red with yellow sashes. Going clockwise, Peter Arno’s “Major” and his wife, then down at the bottom at the cover, Rea Irvin’s iconic Eustace Tilley. On the left is a William Steig father holding his son. In the middle of the cover, two Barbara Shermund ladies standing close to each other; directly below them, a classic Helen Hokinson woman (a so-called Hokinson “lunch lady”) holding her dog.

The inside cover flap shows us a partial list of the artists represented:

    

Looking through this Album I’m always struck by the variety.  Variety of sensibilities, of art, of subject.  Published just eight years after the very first issue of The New Yorker appeared on newsstands it’s loaded with artists whose work is instantly recognizable. It’s an excellent portrait of the New Yorker‘s first stable; a wealth of exceptionally talented artists such as Peter Arno, Helen Hokinson, James Thurber, William Steig, Barbara Shermund, Rea Irvin, Charles Addams, Otto Soglow, Carl Rose, Gluyas Williams, Whitney Darrow, Richard Decker, Syd Hoff, George Price, Alan Dunn, and Mary Petty.

Artistry was all over the place back in those early years (there’s a huge difference in Thurber’s work from Reginald Marsh’s, or Soglow’s from Perry Barlow’s). What a fun,  exciting, beautiful mix. 

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Note: you can sometimes find a copy of this collection in used bookstores, or here online (although I don’t see any listed, at the moment, with a dust jacket). With the dust jacket, or without, you’re still in for a real treat.  

 

Rea Irvin’s Talk of The Town Town Masthead: “A Mere Reassuring Blur”

I’m devoting today’s Spill to Rea Irvin’s long-running Talk of The Town masthead —  the one that appeared for 92 years, before being replaced this past May by a redrawn effort.   Tune out if you wish — at least I’m not talking about the two dots that sometime appear below certain cartoons.

I happened upon this passage about the Irvin masthead  (shown above) in Brendan Gill’s must-read memoir, Here At The New Yorker.  I haven’t read a better description. We pick up just after Gill has discussed Eustace Tilley:

“The drawing at the head of “Talk’ is in some ways ways more mysterious even than the cover and deserves examination.  The dandy is shown at the left-hand side of the drawing; he is in profile, wearing a high stock, with a monocle on on a ribbon screwed into his left eye. He is engaged in writing a missive of some length with a grotesquely exaggerated quill pen.  On the right-hand side of the drawing, full-face to the viewer, perches a plump black owl, roguishly winking.  Between the dandy and the owl rise some peculiar skyscrapers, topped by cupolas unlike any any to be seen in New York.  Rays of sunlight, or perhaps moonlight (for the owl’s unwinking eye is wide-open), stream from behind the skyscrapers.  Dandy, owl, and sky-scrapers are drawn along a single notched, curving line, under and over which float a number of wheels with sawtoothed  rims. What is this incoherent jumble? Nobody alive any longer remembers, and it doesn’t matter. There the heading is, and every week we see it and yet take care not to see it.; it is a mere reassuring blur at the top of the page as we settle down to our reading of Notes and Comment. As such, it remains a continuing witness to the almost total confusion  of purpose manifested in those early days by Ross…”

The new masthead — and I have to stress it is new — appears below.

 

As I wrote on the Spill back in May when this new masthead was installed (the redesign first appeared in the issue of May 22, 2017),  Mr. Irvin’s charmingly imperfect scroll-like line has met a white-out brush.  His owl has been re-drawn, his buildings re-drawn too (with the inclusion of One World Trade Center in this new assortment).  Tilley himself has changed just a bit.  The designery horizontal line running over the drawing (added in the issue of February 21, 2000) remains.

Let’s compare and contrast the Irvin masthead with this new one, which we’ll call the Niemann version (after Christoph Niemann, who was hired to redraw the masthead), incorporating some of what Mr. Gill spoke of.  The 92 year old masthead segments below will always appear on the left (you’ll be able to tell the difference because of the slight amber color of the older version); the Niemann redrawn masthead segments are to the right. 

Brendan Gill: “The dandy is shown at the left hand side…he is engaged at writing a missive of some length”

The dandy remains in Niemann’s version, although he’s lost many of the character lines in his hair, on his jacket and even his face. The white dots on his lapel have disappeared. His body has narrowed as well.  Tilley’s new face is smoother — not yet approaching the cartoony Tilley look the magazine has incorporated on its various online features, as seen here:

 

Brendan Gill: The “plump owl”:

The Irvin owl as been replaced by a slimmed down version and losing some of the woodcut-esque lines around its face. It somewhat resembles a rubber stamp.

Brendan Gill: The “peculiar skyscrapers topped by cupolas unlike any to be seen in New York”:

The new skyscrapers (seen on the right) are no longer peculiar; they are now a generic skyline, identifiable as Manhattan’s only by the addition of the World Trade Center, which, if we’re going to get technical (and I wish we wouldn’t) would rise far above its neighboring buildings. The cupolas are gone, as is the spacing of the buildings. The new buildings are huddled together. The building to the far left in the new version looks somewhat like Pisa’s Leaning Tower, except it’s not leaning. Irvin’s buildings had breathing space — something city dwellers cherish.

 

Brendan Gill: “Rays of sunlight, or perhaps moonlight…stream from behind the skyscrapers”

 In the 92 year old version, each of Irvin’s rays can be seen as an actual drawn line, with imperfections, even a blob or two of ink just above the owl. In the new version (on the right) the beautiful symmetry of the streaming lines has been off-set by the disappearance of a line shown behind the owl’s head. The hand-drawn quality of the lines has disappeared, replaced by perfect spear-like lines, each one just like the other.

 

Brendan Gill: The “single notched curvy line”:

The curvy line has completely lost its notches. The bare line in the new version seems drawn by a chiseled felt tip marker. Its end on the right  just tapers off. Irvin’s 92 year old version ends with a mysterious irregular line, that runs thin to thick, ending with what looks like the bumper at the end of a subway line. It’s quite beautiful in its own peculiar way.

Brendan Gill: “…a number of wheels with sawtoothed rims”

The wheels remain, yet they have been re-drawn. (Irvin’s on the left, Niemann’s on the right). Note how Irvin’s scroll has lost its flair as well as a couple of tiny scratchy lines just to the left of Tilley’s elbow.

The cleaned up wheels, shown in the screen grab below right are puzzling.  In the Irvin drawing on the left, we see what look like the artist’s expressions of the moment — stray pen marks around the small circle floating off to the right.  I’m a fan of imperfection.

 

And there we have it. Irvin’s “reassuring blur” has been transformed into something far less blurry, featuring crisp lines, a defined skyline with at least one identifiable building in it, and an 86ing of character lines.  Rea Irvin created a masthead drawing with charm, mystery, and grace.  It’s a pity that it no longer “remains a continuing witness to the almost total confusion of purpose manifested in those early days by Ross…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of October 16, 2017

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

Wowzers! 23 cartoons in this issue, and it’s not even a double issue.

The cover was mentioned here last week.  If you want to read what David Plunkert, the cover artist had to say about his design, go here

Without pausing at the renovated Rea Irvin Talk of The Town masthead (yes, that’s still an “issue” here at the Spill) we move onto the very first cartoon — it appears on page 22.  Bruce Kaplan’s been on a roll these past many weeks, with two covers and weekly appearances.  This makes sense to me, and reminds me of the system once in place at the magazine that kept us in touch with a number of artists over time. In this case, Mr. Kaplan gives us a Kaplanesque restaurant scene with a Kaplanesque caption.  Nice.

Nine pages later, following David Remnick’s “Postscript” about the late Si Newhouse,  we come to a well-placed Mick Stevens caveman drawing. I wonder sometimes if we will ever reach the end of the road, cave people drawings-wise.  Hope not. Imagine how much material has come from so little: cave people, their caves and rocks.  Someone should really do a book of these drawings.  Five pages later we come to a Sara Lautman art museum cartoon.  From a distance (that is, viewing it on a tablet) its use of blocks of black ink resembles an Ariel Molvig drawing. As I’ve mentioned a few times on the Monday Tilley Watch, certain brand new drawings immediately summon up drawings out of the magazine’s deep catalog. I cannot see an art museum cartoon these days without recalling this (captionless) Helen Hokinson classic from the issue of February 6, 1926.

 

Three pages later a gingerbread man-inspired drawing by the one-and-only Danny Shanahan. I’m assuming the carrot cake man’s hair(?) is made of frosting. The world could use more talking cake drawings right about now; Mr. Shanahan is the cartoonist for the job.

Five pages later P.C Vey dips into the literary world as well as the world of apartment plumbing.  Men-in-bathtub drawings always make me think of George Booth’s recurring guy in a claw foot tub (usually viewed from an adjoining room).  Here, Mr. Vey takes us right into the bathroom. I particularly enjoyed the recessed soap tray.  

On the very next page is a Liana Finck drawing.  I needed to reach out to a family member in her mid 20s for help on this one, and here is what she emailed me, cautioning she is not an expert on the subject, having never used the app:

I believe it’s a Tinder thing. I think if you like someone, you swipe right. Then if you match (if they swiped right on you too) you can talk to the person. Some people swipe right for everyone just to increase their chances. I think that’s what she’s commenting on: people frantically, desperately looking for love on their phones to the point that they’re numb to Cupid’s arrows.

Three pages later is a drawing by newbie, Maddie Dai.  This is graphically ala Roz Chast, utilizing a magazine cover as a humor conveyance vehicle. There’s some pointed messaging going on in this cartoon.

On the very next page a drawing by Kate Curtis,  a not-so-newbie relative to Ms. Dai.  There’s some helpful color in this cartoon (pinkish chewing gum).  I’ve spent most of my time on this one trying to understand if the gum was pre-chewed. It looks pre-chewed. I hope it’s not though.

Five pages later, A Will McPhail drawing.  Somewhat atypical for this cartoonist (at least  of his work I’ve seen in the magazine), the drawing is not a close-up of an individual or individuals.  Even enlarging the drawing on my laptop, the mouth of the woman speaking seems a black-hole void. Is that intentional, or smudged ink, or or or…?  Bonus(?) element: a guy with a man-bun.

Three pages later a Zach Kanin drawing.  Having just yesterday driven past and heard some part of a marching band competition in a nearby metropolis, I’m delighted to see this drawing. Kanin cartoon children are always a treat.  On the very next page, a Trevor Spaulding drawing concerning 401(K)s. Interesting drawing style, sort of a mash up of Kim Warp,  Marcellus Hall and Herge (the fellow responsible for Tintin).

Four pages later, Roz Chast gives us a Trumpian geography lesson. This would’ve made for a good New Yorker cover back in late September when the president came up with the nonexistent country, Nambia.

A Tom Toro Frankenstein-related kitty drawing is next. As with all of Mr. Toro’s drawings, we get more than our money’s worth in the detail department.  Two Frankenstein-ish drawings in two weeks (Liana Finck’s drawing of last week had some  Frankensteinian elements) — we must be getting close to Halloween. Two pages later, a drawing I momentarily mistook (again, while looking at the small screen of my handheld tablet) for a Charles Addams drawing.  But it’s an illustration by Bill Bragg, not an Addams cartoon. It would’ve been quite a shock had it been a full page cartoon. As mentioned here from time-to-time, full page single panel cartoons are rarities in The New Yorker. 

Speaking of rarities, the very next cartoon is a duo effort: Emily Flake and Rob Kutner. Here’s a Spill post from 2013 about collaborating cartoonists. This cartoon, based on one of the classic scenes in the film, Casablanca, was also the subject of a Bob Eckstein cartoon not too long ago (November 30, 2015, to be precise):

Perhaps Casablanca airport farewell scenes will take the place of desert island cartoons.  Nah…

Two pages following the collaborative effort is a drawing by Frank Cotham. A sparser look than usual for Mr. Cotham, but the subject matter is as Cothamy as you can get.  As much as I love his horses I think I love the little hut in the background even more.

Two pages later, a cartoonist making his debut in The New Yorker (if I’m wrong about this, someone please advise).  Joseph Dottino delivers a prayer at bedtime cartoon;  a seldom seen scene (seldom anymore that is.  They were once nearly as plentiful as talking parrot drawings).   Again, my thoughts go to several from the archives, but I’ll mention just one, by one of the masters, Dana Fradon (from the issue of September 23, 2002).

 

Opposite Mr. Dottino’s drawing is a beautifully placed John O’Brien cartoon. Mr. O’Brien is the magazine’s contemporary master of caption-less drawings.  This time round though,  he provides a caption (in a speech balloon).  As I’ve said in almost every one of these Monday posts, I try to stay away from heaping praise on any one drawing, but I can’t resist applauding this particular drawing (there are a few others in this issue as well, but once I begin applauding this one and that one, or holding my applause for that one or this one, I’m well into Cartoon Companion territory).

Following Mr. O’Brien’s drawing is another reliable cartoonist scenario: human evolution. This one’s from J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein). I’m a big fan of evolution drawings having returned to the standard human evolution graphic (seen below) a number of times.

Five pages later, yet another brand new cartoonist (again, if I’m wrong, someone please let me know).  Sophia Wiedeman debuts with a drawing of a person experiencing a mole or crumb moment.   Five pages later, Robert Leighton has us in space. The floating woman astronaut is close to Thurber-like. Thurber-like is always a very good thing. Three pages later, is a William Haefeli  drawing, the polar opposite of Thurber’s minimalism.  Mr. Haefeli’s caption reminds me of Kevin Bacon’s line in the Chisholm Trail scene in Diner: “You ever get the feeling there’s something going on we don’t know about.”

Three pages later work by yet another newbie.  Teresa Burns Parkhurst brings us a touch of Fall with a farm stand-like setting featuring apples.  A nicely placed drawing. 

And lastly in the issue (not counting the contest drawings on the last page) is a Harry Bliss drawing incorporating Sherlock Holmes, Watson, and a missing, or misplaced  illegal substance.

–See you next week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker issue of September 25, 2017

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

As this is the Style Issue I decided to tackle the issue while listening to Starring Fred Astaire, a set of songs recorded by Mr. Astaire between 1936 through 1940. What a great photograph. What style. What a great top hat.

And now to the issue:

In the habit of expecting some political commentary on the cover of the new issue, I paused to examine the cover art, wondering if president Trump’s face was hidden in the leaves (ala the hidden Beatles on the Rolling Stones album, Their Satanic Majesties Request cover).  No such luck.

It takes seconds, once past the cover, to get to the very first cartoon.  If it’s a theme issue, there’s an excellent chance the first cartoon will tie-in to the theme. Bingo!  The first drawing,  by Carolita Johnson, whose first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of October 20, 2003, features Elton John-ish stage shoes. As is always the case, my mind associates what I’m seeing with what I’ve previously seen in the New Yorker, and the first thought was this fabulous Steinberg cover from May of  1993: 

 

Flipping through the Goings On About Time (or GOAT) section, page 28 stood out.  Why? It is a page completely devoid of graphics (no illustration, photographs, etc.). The layout is a throwback to what was once common place in the magazine. The only design element is the renovated Rea Irvin nervous horizontal line across the top (“renovated” in that it is slightly less nervous than his original lines).   Beautiful nonetheless. 

We don’t arrive at the next cartoon until page 40, where we’re greeted by Tom Chitty’s frankfurter-ish figures involved in the age-old scenario of a couple arriving at a home,  bringing a bottle of wine. Mr. Chitty’s first New Yorker appearance was in the issue of October 13, 2014. Nice use (essential use!) of the phrase “limited expectations” here. Four pages later is a David Sipress cartoon. I note that Mr. Sipress’s drawing and Mr. Chitty’s drawing share similar standard rectangular space on the lower left of their respective pages. The drawings have just enough breathing room on the page.  Mr. Sipress’s first New Yorker appearance: July 1998. Perhaps Mr. Sipress will someday give us a ten years later sequel to this drawing (it’s about a couple possibly about to explore the idea of whether or not to have children).  I’m curious if they had children and if they did, if it was the right decision for them. 

Eleven pages later we come to a Charlie Hankin courtroom scene (Mr. Hankin’s first New Yorker appearance: August 2013). The drawing is given some nice breathing room at the upper right hand corner of the page.  I love courtroom scenes (Perry Mason, and all that).  The Monday Tilley Watch, as I keep reminding visitors (and myself), is not an overtly critical column. However, with a nod to my friends over at Cartoon Companion, I occasionally find myself wanting to applaud a certain drawing. This week I applaud Mr. Hankin’s drawing. There’s a (James) Thurber, (Charles) Barsotti feel to it — and that is always a very good thing.

Mr. Hankin’s drawing is immediately followed by a BEK drawing (and we’re back to the lower left rectangular space).  I think of every issue of the magazine as having at least one anchor artist, and hopefully three or four. Mr. Kaplan is the definition of an anchor artist. Contributing since 1991, his work does not disappoint.

Three pages later, given a full page, is the now much talked about Hillary Clinton cover that would have been had she, well, you know.  Two pages later, a cartoon by another anchor cartoonist: Roz Chast (first New Yorker cartoon: 1978).  With cargo clothing as Ms. Chast’s focus (remember, this is the style issue) I cannot help but think of the late Leo Cullum’s classic drawing from the issue of August 17, 1998:

 

Sidenote: good spacing (breathing room) for Ms. Chast’s drawing.

On the very next page is a Liana Finck drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2013). The subject is one of those “head-in-the-hole” props you see at carnivals.  Here’s an example I lifted off of (out of?) the internet:

Ms. Finck’s drawing has a decidedly Charles Addams quality to it (I was wondering if we could get through today’s Monday Tilley Watch without mentioning Addams).  I like that Ms. Finck’s cartoon camera has a strap. Three pages later is a well-placed Emily Flake drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2008).  I’ve never used Uber or their app-minded competition (cabs I have used), but I gather what’s happenin’ here. I wonder if the clown is a reference to the current clown film (It) scaring the pants off of everyone, or is it just a generic scary clown thing. 

Turning the page we have a cartoon by newbie, Curtis Edwards. I spent time examining the “vintage” clothing in this drawing, it being the Style Issue and all.  Note to myself: E.T. looks kind’ve like a turtle. I will remember that next time I’m drawing a turtle, or E.T..  On the opposite page from Mr. Edward’s drawing is a Will McPhail cartoon (first New Yorker appearance: 2014). Mr. McPhail’s is a romance tinged football drawing. Again, my mental library of imagery takes me immediately to this 2003 New Yorker cover  by Harry Bliss:

Next up is a hot air balloon drawing by Ed Steed (first New Yorker cartoon: 2013). I know zero about hot air balloons — was only up in one once.   I’m deeply sorry the  bearded passenger had to toss his musical instrument out of the balloon’s passenger basket.  My first thought — a typical cartoonist’s mash-up thought —  was that I would’ve tossed the actual speech balloon, say perhaps in the vicinity of where a caption would ordinarily go, thus saving a perfectly good cartoon accordion, but hey, I wasn’t there — it wasn’t my call.

Fifteen pages later we come to a domestic bean-centered P. C. Vey drawing, nicely placed. Mr. Vey’s been contributing to the magazine since 1993.  I hate to admit it, and I don’t like recalling it, but I’ve seen even bigger cans of beans than the one Mr. Vey’s cartoon character is eating from. Five pages later is a Sara Lautman energetic carnival drawing.  Her first New Yorker cartoon appeared in March of last year.  The way Ms. Lautman uses the word “things” — it’s printed as “Thiiiings”  — makes the word vibrate.  

And that is that until next Monday. By the way, I have not abandoned my campaign to encourage the return of Rea Irvin’s long running iconic masthead to the Talk of The Town.  I leave you with a common chant of wisdom, commonly heard on sports fields:

“Don’t mess, don’t mess with the best…”

Here’s the best: