A Memorial For Peter Porges; Early Gahan Wilson

There will be a memorial service on June 29th for Mad Magazine and New Yorker artist,  Peter Porges who passed away in December of last year.

Mr. Porges’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of July 3, 1965.

Sam Gross has passed along the details:

 

Peter Porges Memorial Service
 Thursday, June 29th
  Ethical Culture Society
  Ceremonial Hall
  2 West 64th Street, New York
  6 pm

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Dick Buchanan’s Cartoon Files is back on Mike Lynch’s site with a look at very early Gahan Wilson drawings, such as the one shown here from True, in May of 1955.  Check it out!

Here”s Gahan Wilson’s entry on the Spill‘s “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z”:

Gahan Wilson (photo above, by Michael Maslin, taken at The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, NYC, 2008) NYer work: 1976 – . Wilson’s website: http://www.gahanwilson.com/

Video of Interest: From 1997, ABC’s Nightline Looks at the New Yorker’s Cartoonists; Sam Gross on Jack Ziegler; The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna on Jack Ziegler’s Pivotal Role at The New Yorker

Way way back in December 1997, ABC’s Nightline broadcast “Drawing Laughter: the Cartoonists of The New Yorker” devoting its entire half-hour time slot to New Yorker cartoons and especially, its cartoonists.  The video from ABC’s vault takes us back to the Tina Brown era, the beginning of Bob Mankoff‘s tenure as cartoon editor (he’d only been at the big desk since August), and the  New Yorker’s first Cartoon Issue. The piece includes footage of the Arnold Newman photo-shoot for the fold-out group photo that appeared in that special issue (and in the Nightline piece), a photo-op at the Algonquin,  as well as short profiles of William Hamilton, Roz Chast and Michael Crawford.  Ted Koppel sitting in a cartoon newsroom is priceless. Among those seen in the piece, if far too briefly, are Mischa Richter, Lee Lorenz, Stuart Leeds, Leo Cullum, Al Ross, Bud Handelsman, Edward Koren, Liza Donnelly, Edward Sorel, Robert Weber, Warren Miller, Charles Barsotti, Frank Cotham, Peter Steiner, Frank Modell, Mick Stevens, Danny Shanahan, Mort Gerberg, Bruce Eric Kaplan, and Sam Gross. Bonus: a quick shot of Jack Ziegler (“It’s kinda quiet in here.”).

For more Ziegler on tape, here’s a link to his appearance with David Letterman, June 20, 1983.

 

 

 

 

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Ink Spill received the following from the great Sam Gross (left) about Jack Ziegler:

   

Jack took a fierce pride in his drawings. On one occasion the art director at Look magazine made the mistake of putting a pushpin in one of them and then mounting it on his cork wall. Every art director in those days had a cork wall. Jack went ballistic and wanted to kill him. I calmed him down by convincing him that the art director would burn in hell for what he did. I’m sure Jack has gone to the place where there are no art directors.

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From The Washington Post‘s Comic Riffs columnist, Michael Cavna: “How Jack Ziegler Became ‘The Godfather’ of The New Yorker’s Modern Wave of Cartoonists”

— Mr. Cavna on how Jack Ziegler midwifed the New Yorker‘s cartoons into its second Golden Age.

Stuart Leeds: An Ink Spill Appreciation

Stuart Leeds photo 2002?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It recently came to the attention of Ink Spill that Stuart Leeds, a long-time New Yorker cartoonist, passed away several years ago, in his mid 70s.  This then is a very belated appreciation of Stuart’s contribution to the magazine and its community of artists.

Looking through his New Yorker work, beginning with his first drawing published April 27, 1981 (shown at the very bottom of this post) one sees a New York City-centric world, with a number of city sidewalk drawings (many depicting the awnings of swanky addresses such as the ones dotted along Park Avenue or 5th Avenue), and drawings focused on coffee (Manhattan’s unofficial drink). There are excursions into the old New Yorker cartoon stand-bys, relationships and business, and a few — too few — stops in childrens literature.  One of those (one of Stuart’s  two Alice in Wonderland-themed drawings) is, to my eyes, a classic.

 

Stuart was a Bronx native whose love of the New York Giants baseball team remained a preoccupation throughout his childhood and adult life (he was an active member of The New Yorker‘s softball team). He founded the New York (Baseball) Giants  Historical Society.  From City of Memory, a website funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, here’s what I believe is, in Stuart’s own words, a mini auto-biography addressing his love of the team:

Stuart Leeds was born in New York City on February 7th, 1939. His family, including his father Izzie and his grandfather lived in the Bronx and were avid New York Giants fans. Stuart went to his first game at the age of 5 — he remembers that it was threatening rain but it held off so he could watch. The Giants won! Stuart attended the last game in 1957 at the Polo Grounds, cheering, “Stay team, Stay!” Today, Stuart is part of  a community of fans who still cheer the San Francisco Giants and reminisce about the old days of the New York Giants. He pulled some grass from the grounds of the Polo Grounds and still keeps it in a jar at his home.

Other facts of Stuart’s life are fuzzier. We know he lived on 16th Street in  New York’s Chelsea neighborhood for years, and that he had a parrot named Harry.  A New Yorker cartoonist colleague, Sid Harris told me that Stuart once brought the parrot into the New Yorker‘s offices;  on another occasion, in what seemed like a page out of Thurber’s Pet Department, Stuart was quite distraught when the parrot began hanging upside down in its cage (Harry lived on). A New Yorker cartoonist, Nick Downes, told me that,  “You knew [Harry] accepted your presence when he let you scratch his head with a chopstick.”

Another New Yorker colleague, Sam Gross, told me Stuart spent many a  summertime on Fire Island, at first living in a home across from Sam, and in later years further away on the island.  Sam reminded me that Stuart had contributed spot drawings to the New Yorker. Here’s one from 1982:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We know also that Stuart taught humorous illustration at Cooper Union.  Here’s a piece on Stuart’s class that appeared in New York magazine back in 1994. It includes a memorable quote, “Humor is often about releasing anger in a socially acceptable way.”

Stuart Leeds Cooper Union piece 1994

 

 

Finally, and fittingly, in this video produced in 2009 we hear Stuart talk about New York, about art and about his attempts to sell his first drawing (below) to The New Yorker.

 

 

Cartoonists Gather for The New Yorker’s Holiday Party

new-yorker-holiday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once or twice a year New Yorker cartoonists gather to do something other than show their work.  Yesterday was one of those days — the annual holiday party (which includes all of the editorial staff, not just the artists). In years past the party has been mostly out-of house; this year it was in-house. Too-many-to-count boxes of pizza were spread out on long tables. Bottles of wine and large bottles (jugs?) of beer were here and there on other tables in a hallway and adjoining conference room. The place was packed.  The magazine’s editor, David Remnick was spotted wending his way through the throng, slice of pizza in hand.

A small framed copy of the cover of the magazine’s first issue hung in one of the hallways as well as a number of blow-ups of New Yorker covers. A good number of cartoons  lined the walls (some framed, some greatly enlarged). Was happy to see that Peter Arno’s “Well, back to the old drawing board!” continues to reside among the framed pieces. I paused to spend some time with the  wonderful  Thurber drawings, lovingly installed in these new digs.

Among the cartoonists present were Sam Gross, Joe Dator, Christopher Weyant, Robert Leighton, Liza Donnelly, Emily Flake, Edward Steed, Corey Pandolf, Bob Eckstein, Amy Hwang, Harry Bliss, Jason Adam Katzenstein, John O’Brien, Felipe Galindo (aka feggo), Drew Dernavich, Ben Schwartz, David Borchart, Mort Gerberg, and David Sipress.

A splendid time was had by all!

 

New Yorker Cartoons of the Year 2016 Index

new-yorker-best-cartoons-of-the-year-2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Ink Spill tradition continues with the posting of an Index for the Cartoons of the Year bookazine.   Why an Index you might ask.  Mostly because I always enjoyed seeing them in the magazine’s hardcover anthologies (the New Yorker‘s Cartoon Albums) and missed having an Index for these yearly bookazines (they started in 2010). I wouldn’t read too too much into the numbers of drawings you see listed for each cartoonist, but the Index itself is a reasonably good snapshot of the New Yorker‘s somewhat boisterous stable of cartoonists in these last few years.

You’ll see that few of the entries have a “(cc)” beside certain page numbers.  The “cc” refers to the Caption Contest.  So those particular drawings appeared on the magazine’s back page.  You might notice that there’s an asterisk next to Julia Wertz’s name.  That’s because her name does not appear on the list of contributing cartoonists found on page 4 of the bookazine. She is, however, included on the Contributors page (p.2).

And here you go:

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Darrin Bell   62

Harry Bliss 5, 12, 15, 45, 53, 57, 60, 77, 115, 142 (cc)

David Borchart 12

Pat Byrnes 32

Roz Chast 7, 55, 75-76, 89, 117, 138

Tom Cheney 9, 48

Tom Chitty 29

Frank Cotham 30, 34

Michael Crawford 78, 96, 133

Joe Dator 46, 120, 134, 139(cc)

Drew Dernavich 60, 90, 117

Matthew Diffee 138

Liza Donnelly  28

J. C. Duffy 59

Bob Eckstein 70, 102

Liana Finck 13, 37-40, 55, 95, 137

Emily Flake 26, 28, 87, 121

Seth Fleishman 79, 80

Alex Gregory 70, 124

Sam Gross 135

William Haefeli 22, 122

Kaamran Hafeez 74, 94, 123

Tim Hamilton 93

Charlie Hankin 6, 25, 36, 56, 88

Amy Hwang 21, 51, 54

Carolita Johnson 136

Zachary Kanin 11, 27, 59, 69, 93, 140(cc)

Bruce Eric Kaplan 14, 25, 67, 91, 123,

Farley Katz 11, 15, 24

Jason Adam Katzenstein 10, 13, 57, 62, 136

John Klossner 91

Edward Koren 8

Ken Krimstein 19, 82

Peter Kuper 17

Amy Kurzweil 122, 124

Robert Leighton 53, 72, 98, 101, 102, 104

Christian Lowe 78

Robert Mankoff 35, 119

Michael Maslin 80, 132

William McPhail 23, 42, 45, 63, 81, 98, 141(cc)

Paul Noth 61, 65, 71, 73, 74, 79, 83, 85, 92, 97, 135

John O’Brien 44

Drew Panckeri  88

Jason Patterson  86, 133

Victoria Roberts  120

Dan Roe  14

Benjamin Schwartz  13, 33, 56, 64, 83, 84, 101, 116

Danny Shanahan  8, 9, 23, 64, 141 (cc)

Michael Shaw  67

David Sipress 10, 24, 33, 52, 58, 66, 71, 116, 119, 134

Barbara Smaller  19, 22, 27, 30, 36, 54, 94, 118

Trevor Spaulding  43, 85

Edward Steed  16, 34, 43, 44, 49, 68, 86, 99, 103, 105-114

Avi Steinberg  96, 99

Mick Stevens  6, 47, 52, 86, 89, 103

Matthew Stiles Davis 18

Mark Thompson  61

Tom Toro 16, 21, 46, 48, 50, 69, 82, 104

P.C. Vey 31, 35, 90, 95, 137, 140(cc)

Liam Walsh 18, 41, 47, 49, 50, 84

Kim Warp 7

Julia Wertz * 125-131

Christopher Weyant  31, 42

Shannon Wheeler  73

Gahan Wilson  20

Jack Ziegler  63, 66, 100

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The Ink Spill Jack Ziegler Interview

jack-ziegler-1985

Jack Ziegler, recently referred to on this site as the Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists, has been contributing to the magazine since February of  1974.

Now in 2016 he is solidly in the K Crowd — meaning he’s published well over a thousand cartoons and one cover in The New Yorker (we’ll get to the cover later).  Considering that Jack has been the subject of former New Yorker Art Editor, Lee Lorenz’s The Essential Jack Ziegler and more recently as one of Richard Gehr’s subjects in I Only Read It For the Cartoons, I thought it would be interesting to talk about things that, for the most part, weren’t brought up in those books. I highly recommend seeking out both those titles for a full account of Jack’s personal and public shenanigans over the years.

This is Part 1 of my interview with Jack. Later in the week I’ll post Part 2, where we discuss a number of Jack’s favorite drawings, and a number of my favorite Ziegler drawings.

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I’d heard from Jack years ago that he was a CBS page during the Beatles historic Ed Sullivan debut, but what I didn’t know was that he also paged for the Jackie Gleason and Garry Moore shows. It seemed the perfect place to begin our interview.

MM: So, this inquiring mind wants to know: did you get to meet  “The Great One” (Jackie Gleason) when you were a page at CBS?

JZ: I never got to meet Gleason.  He wasn’t around all that much and when he was in the studio he was referred to as “God.”  I think we taped the show on Tuesday nights & he wouldn’t show up till sometime that afternoon so that he could watch the dress rehearsal.  That was apparently all he needed to absorb everything he needed to do onstage.  Barney Martin, who eventually played Jerry’s father on Seinfeld, was his stand-in.  It was a fat guy to fat guy transference.

As a page, or glorified usher, I did get to watch all the tapings from Studio 50, now the Ed Sullivan Theatre, at Broadway & 53rd in NYC, from the audience until the Gleason Show moved – lock, stock & barrel – to Miami.

[In Gehr’s book, Jack mentions an elevator ride with Jackie O.  I wanted details]

MM: What about the elevator ride with Jackie O.  Just the two of you?

JZ: I had sold my second book, Filthy Little Things, to Doubleday – and Jackie Kennedy happened to snag a job there around that time as an editor.  I had just dropped off a bunch of drawings for the book and then took the elevator down.  The car stopped at another floor and she got on and it was just the two of us, sans Secret Service escorts.  Then we rode that baby down another couple of floors before she hopped off, exhausted but elated (they tell me), and I stayed on till I hit the street, at which point I had a chance to exhale.

MM: Do you remember the first time walking into the New Yorker’s art department [the magazine’s offices were then located at 25 West 43rd St]  What was that like for you? Who’d you meet?

JZ:  It was a Wednesday in November of 1973.  There was to be an annual Cartoonists Guild meeting & cocktail party later and I was wearing a sports coat and a heavy sweater so that I wouldn’t have to deal with an overcoat later.  I thought I was just going to drop off my usual batch, but there was a note from Lee Lorenz included in my returns asking me to come back to chat about one of my drawings.  Oh, boy!  Natasha the receptionist opened the gates and pointed me in the direction of the Inner Sanctum.

new-yorker-hallway-25-west-43rd-st-ldLeft: the New Yorker‘s Inner Sanctum at 25 West 43rd St.

It was a warmer than usual Nov. day and I was starting to perspire in my excessive outfit.  The first person I saw in the office was Henry Martin, whom I’d already met at True magazine while on rounds.  Sam Gross was there, too; I’d met him a few weeks back at National Lampoon.  I was then introduced to the other people who were there: Dana Fradon, Donald Reilly & Charlie Sauers.  By the time I got to sit down with Lee, the perspiration had turned to flop sweat.  Lee asked if I was OK as he handed me my first OK.  Then he gave me a little pep talk and basically just said to make the drawing a little bit better.  I was a wreck, but in a good way.  When I got back down to earth, i.e., 43rd St., I headed for the nearest pay phone to break the good news to my wife.

MM:  How aware were you of the work of veteran New Yorker cartoonists who were around when you began at the magazine…for example: Frank Modell, Warren Miller, Dana Fradon, Charles Saxon, Mischa Richter and on and on.

JZ: I knew of them all.  When I was a kid, my parents subscribed to a lot of magazines, but not the New Yorker.  Fortunately, a friend of mine’s parents did, so from the late ‘40s, early ‘50s, I was a big fan.  Some neighbors down the block had a copy of the New Yorker 25th Anniversary Album, with which I was fascinated.

nyer-25th-anniversary-album  Every time I went over there, I’d head for a quiet corner with that book.  One day I asked if I could borrow it & the owner said if I could find it, I could have it.  I interpreted “have” as “keep.”  I still “have” it.  After that, I started buying the mag on my own.

MM: Let’s talk about your one and only (as of this week, anyway) New Yorker cover.  Curious as to why there wasn’t a bushel basket full of more Ziegler covers following that one.  You obviously submitted more.   Did more sell that didn’t run?

jack-ziegler-nyer-cover

JZ:  Selling that cover was very encouraging, and i submitted a lot of them, but that was the only one that got bought until 1991, when I sold a fall-themed cover.  They weren’t able to run it that year because all the fall slots had been taken, so it got pushed back to ’92.  Then editor Robert Gottlieb left and Tina Brown took over and killed everything that was scheduled to run.  It was the beginning of The Tina Years.  So – that was that.  It did eventually run inside as a full-color full-pager with the title, Fall Sweeps.  Oh, well.  But I’d love the chance to redo that one cover – ya know, just to make it right.

MM: What about the cover would you change?

JZ: I like the guy.  The bricks should’ve started higher, instead of going all the way down to the sidewalk.  I had to take 3 stabs at the sandwich board before Lee was satisfied and you can almost see that it’s pasted on.  The final (sandwich board) came out OK, though.

MM: I’m going to ask you the same question I asked Woodman [Bill Woodman, who was the subject of an Ink Spill interview in September of this year]: when you began at the New Yorker were you aware your work was quite different than what the magazine had been publishing in its previous fifty years? (Ed Koren, who preceded you in the magazine by  a dozen years would be an exception).

JZ: I had no inkling of that.  I knew that I felt that I wasn’t quite seeing the type of cartoons I wanted to see in the magazine.  They were good cartoons, but too many of them weren’t making me laugh the way they had when I was a kid.  I wanted to do drawings that were funny to me, & not necessarily to anyone else.  I was out to please myself, so I never asked: Is this a New Yorker cartoon?  Who knows?  Is this a Jack Ziegler cartoon?  Yep.

MM: I remember the first time I saw you in person – it was an enormous book fair in midtown Manhattan, circa 1979.  That cartoon anthology Animals Animals, Animals had just been published and you were on a panel with Sam Gross out there on the street (West 50 something) in front of a large crowd.  Were you comfortable being in the spotlight?

JZ: It was probably either Doubleday or Rizzoli – also could have been part of NY Book Fair that year.  Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin were also there signing books, but hadn’t appeared yet.  I kept telling people that we had them both tied up in the basement & they wouldn’t be set free until the cartoonists had sold a certain number of books.  Oddly, some people were there to buy the Gordon/Kanin book and got pissed off.  So far as spotlight goes, I was never uncomfortable.  When I was a page at CBS we used to have to be front and center to give various little speeches and instructions to our captive audiences.  I was uncomfortable with that for awhile, but quickly got over it and began to tell them silly, made-up stuff, as well as the crucial info.  When you’re signing a lot of books for a crowd and the books are being passed around from cartoonist to cartoonist, the time goes fast and you start doing riffs on the little drawings that the other cartoonists have done before the book got to you.  It was fun.

mankoff-stevens-cline-ziegler-donnelly-1984Left: Bob Mankoff, Mick Stevens, Richard Cline, Jack Ziegler, Liza Donnelly. New York, 1984.

MM: The next time I saw you was in early 1985, at The New Yorker.  William Shawn had called in a bunch of cartoonists to talk about the impending sale of the magazine to Advance Publications. Besides us “kids” sitting on a table along the back wall, I only remember Steig and Barney Tobey. What do you remember from that somewhat historic meeting?  Besides Lee Lorenz, and the aforementioned Steig and Tobey, what cartoonists do you remember being in the room? And…what do you remember how you felt being there with Shawn, in that crowd?  Had you met Shawn before?

JZ:  I had met (or rather, seen) Shawn before, usually exiting or entering his elevator and sometimes in the hallway (rare).  He gave another speech to the assembled troops several years prior to Advance’s acquisition.  It was probably late ‘70s, when a group of New Yorker employees were attempting to unionize the workers.  The unionization never happened, but as a result, we were promised health insurance and a pension plan.  Not a bad outcome at all.
I sort of remember the Advance meeting being in Lee’s office, but that’s probably incorrect – there were a lot of people there.  I noted it in my desk diary as Black Wednesday, 2/13/85.  Other than those you mentioned, also present were gagwriter and sometime cartoonist Richard McCallister, cover artist Gretchen Dow Simpson, Charles Addams, George Price, Frank Modell, Joe Farris, Roz Chast, Al Ross, Ed Frascino, George Booth, Ed Fisher, Bud Handelsman, Arnie Levin, Henry Martin, Bob Mankoff, you, and I.  I was quite impressed with Shawn’s lucid presentation of the complicated takeover process.

MM: It’s risky talking about current New Yorker cartoonists, unless you’re all nicey-nice, so I’d like to ask you to comment, however briefly you’d like, about some of our departed colleagues. Either comment on their work, or them personally, if you knew them.
> Richard McCallister
> Charles Saxon
> Steig
> Charles Barsotti
> Al Ross
> Chon Day
> William Hamilton
> George Price

JZ:  When I first moved to New Milford, CT, in 1975 I used to mail in New Yorker finishes from the local PO.  One day there was a gentleman in front of me who was also holding a manila envelope addressed to Lee Lorenz.  I tapped him on the shoulder and introduced myself, told him that he had to be either Richard McCallister or Stan Hunt (I knew that he, too, lived in the area, but had never met him).  It was McCallister.  We – my wife and I – became friends with him and his wife Alice and would occasionally socialize, at which times I would pump him with questions about the magazine and his (kind of) partnership with Peter Arno, for whom he supplied a buttload of ideas.

Bill Steig also lived in the area, about 20 miles north of us in Kent, CT.  We used to meet up by happenstance in various restaurants and would join each others’ table for the meal.  Bill was always saying that no matter how old they get, he still always worried about his kids. One day I mentioned that I would occasionally send in some resubmissions to fill out the batch if it was a particularly dry week.  He was amazed.  “You mean you can do that?,” he said.  I was stunned that in all his years with the New Yorker it had never occurred to him to do that.

I had communicated with Charley Barsotti for years prior to my moving to Lawrence, KS.  He was living only about 40 miles away in Kansas City, so it was only natural that we get together for lots of lunches & dinners – and we did that a lot, until he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and then died about a year later.  The last time I saw him was for a sun-filled patio dinner at Axois, a great restaurant a block from his house.  He was frail that evening, but still full of spunk, and I’ve never seen a nattier couple.  In comparison, I looked like a dropout in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.  He wanted a side of potatoes with his meal, but his wife Rae told him they weren’t part of his strict diet.  He just looked at her and ordered the potatoes anyway.  He, as always, just wanted to have a good time.  He died about 2 weeks later.  And, no, it wasn’t the damn potatoes.

I still get together with Rae for the occasional meal and we talk about Charley and all the amazing work he left behind.

I would see Al Ross only occasionally at the magazine and he was always friendly and jovial.  I would see both Hamilton and Saxon at the mag, but they seemed more remote.  I never met Chon Day and only had a glimpse of Price once at the aforementioned Shawn meeting.

MM: Lee Lorenz brought you into the magazine. What was it like working with him? Did he just kind of let you do your thing once you began or was he working closely with you — a combination, perhaps?

JZ: My first meeting with Lee was when he invited me back into his office to “discuss” one of my drawings.  That was a big deal, a life-changing deal.  He gave me a few hints, very loose, very casual, about how to approach the finish.  I think I did 3 versions before it looked right to him.  After that, I sold sporadically for about 6 months before they started buying on a fairly regular basis.

Below: Mr. Ziegler’s first New Yorker drawing, published February 11, 1974

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I do remember having a hard time for some reason drawing older people – I was in my early thirties at the time and I guess I just couldn’t identify.  After several attempts with one idea, Lee gave up on me and had Whitney Darrow, Jr. do the finish. But I’ve come a long way now and drawing old codgers these days comes naturally.

“Hole: The Original Soundtrack” was a 3-page, 8-picture absurdist spread that the New Yorker bought.  Lee had spread out all the drawings on the floor of his office and we were crawling around among them trying to figure out various sizings.  Lee turned to me and mentioned what a ridiculous way this was for two grown men to be earning a living.  And it was.  He was serious about cartoons and great fun to work with.

MM: I know Charles Addams did at least two of your ideas. [Nevermore and the little mail truck…is that right?]  Were there more — and were there ideas given to anyone else other than the Whitney Darrow you mentioned?

JZ: Nope, that’s it.  Only those 3 – and they all looked great.  I couldn’t have done them better myself – I mean, the Darrow drawing I couldn’t do at all – his version is lovely.

whitney-darrow-idea-by-zieglerLeft: drawing by Whitney Darrow, idea by Jack Ziegler

MM: What did you think of Addams’ versions of your ideas?

JZ: Addams’ Nevermore drawing has a layout that closely follows my original (as I remember it – of course, I never saw it again) – there wasn’t anything much different you could have done with it.  His mail truck version is more elaborate and detailed and far, far better than mine.

MM: You began at the New Yorker with Shawn and you’ve seen Bob Gottlieb, Tina Brown and now David Remnick move into the big chair.  Have any of these changes meant some kind of change for you, your work?

JZ:  There’s always a worry when a new editor takes over, but I never had any major problems with any of them.  I didn’t have to make any adjustments, with the exception of the Gottlieb years.  For some reason, Bob G. didn’t like white space in drawings, so every square centimeter had to be filled with something, sometimes to the detriment of the drawing.  The words in a balloon caption had to rub up against the sides of that balloon.  No air allowed.  Seemed silly to me and the drawings of almost everyone suffered.

Tina Brown was different.  She was an anything-goes girl, the nuttier, the edgier, & sometimes the sexier the drawing, the better.  I submitted a rather rude cartoon, “I just did a huge one in my diaper,” a drawing for the hell of it that I knew the New Yorker would never buy.  But, to my surprise, Tina did and it made me very happy.  I love it when a surprise like that happens.

ziegler-huge-one-in

MM: So what’s the thrill, some forty-three years since you began at the magazine: is it that moment an idea works for you, the drawing itself, selling the drawing, seeing it published in The New Yorker?

JZ:  It’s always a blast when you come up with an idea that you know no one has ever come up with before.  Also, it’s fun just thumbing through a stack of old drawings and coming across something that you’ve totally forgotten about and it makes you laugh out loud.

Selling a drawing is always nice for the bottom line, but the choices of what gets bought are almost invariably a surprise.  Personal favorites rarely get chosen.  Sometimes the worst idea in the batch is bought – and then, once it’s published, it turns out to be a huge hit.  Seeing anything of one’s own in the magazine is always a thrill, no matter how many times it happens – especially if it’s sized correctly.  Judging the value of one’s own work has always been impossible.  And I’ll always have certain favorites among my thousands of children, no matter how crappy everyone else thinks they are.

MM: Not long ago someone asked me how I could come up with ideas without getting out in the world. Do you think it’s necessary to “get out in the world” for your work?

JZ: You certainly have to have some background of having been out in the world, but as far as a day-to-day thing, nah.  I have very little live contact during the week, except for dog walks and buying the newspaper.  I rely on the blank piece of paper on my clipboard to reveal the secrets within.  I had normal jobs and contacts for my ten years between college and cartooning, so I was aware of the ins and outs of daily workplace socializing, so I rely on those not-so-fond memories to get me through the batch.

MM: I know you read everyday before you begin working on drawings.  Does the reading actually translate into drawings or is it something that, let’s say, exercises the brain?

JZ: It’s more a case of getting the brain moving in the morning.  Sometimes ideas spring from that, but mostly not.  After reading, I check out the New York Times, just the first page of each section, to see if anything leaps out at me.  With all the budget cuts and downsizing of that paper over the past few years, there’s far less there, so that formerly useful tool has become kinda useless.  But I still look, just in case.  I rarely get to delve into the interior until lunchtime.

MM: Is there a certain cartoon scenario that your happiest working on/workin in? (marital situations, barbeques, the old west, business people, etc) or are you happiest with whatever you’re working on at the moment?

JZ: Whatever I’m working on at the moment, whatever ideas pop into my head, no matter the genre.  I do like drawing cowboys on horses and almost anything to do with the “Wild West,” however.  Whenever I’m stuck I invariably start drawing guys on horses, and ninety per cent of the time that leads somewhere.

MM:  I love your  drawing of the cowboy kissing the gal while covering his horse’s eyes.  It’s one of those not laugh out loud drawings (although it could be), but some other kind of humor.

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JZ: I really like that one too.  My memory of it is that it’s something that emerged totally out of a doodle that I just kept adding things to, including the frame.

MM: I’m not one for dissecting what’s successful, but I think of that as a very successful drawing, an evergreen. Any comment on that drawing, or evergreen drawings in general (as in: do you prefer them to topical drawings?). 

JZ:  I do like drawings where there really isn’t any joke — or kicker, as Sam Gross would say. The cannon in the bushes is like that.  I’m sure a lot of people scratched their heads over that one, but it’s just a cannon poking out of some suburban bushes and that’s all it is. There can be many interpretations.  It amuses me and I have no idea why. I far prefer these types of drawings to topical.  They have a longer shelf life, at least in my own mind.

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MM: The New Yorker‘s current cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff memorably said, “It’s the think, not the ink.”  Agree, disagree?

JZ: Agree.  But it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.

 

(Photo of Jack Ziegler at the very top of the piece, taken in 1985;  photo of the New Yorker‘s Inner Sanctum, taken in 1991: both courtesy of Liza Donnelly)

A Jack Ziegler selected bibliography:

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Hamburger Madness  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.

Filthy Little Things    Dolphin, 1981.

Marital Blitz   Warner, 1987.

Celebrity Cartoons of the Rich and Famous   Warner, 1987.

Worst Case Scenarios    Fireside, 1990.

The Essential Jack Ziegler (Edited by Lee Lorenz)  Workman Publishing, 2000.

How’s the Squid?   Harry N. Abrams, 2004.

Olive or Twist? Harry N. Abrams, 2004.

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