The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of December 4, 2017

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

Back in February of 1996, the New Yorker celebrated its 71st anniversary with a “Special Women’s Issue.” Of the 23 cartoonists in the issue, 20 were men. The three women cartoonists were Victoria Roberts, Roz Chast, and Liza Donnelly. The cover, a take-off on Eustace Tilley, dubbed “Eustacia Tilley” was handled by a man, R.O. Blechman.

Now, just 21 years later, we have what I believe to be a first: this is the first issue of the New Yorker where the number of women artists outnumber the men (if anyone can provide an earlier issue where this was the case, please let me know). Of the 14 cartoonists contributing to this latest issue, 8 are women. The cover is by a woman as well. 

Before heading on to the cartoons and cartoonists, I note this modern Tilley take (below left)  on page 4, below the list of Contributors:

Poor Eustace!  He’s lost most of his facial features, and he seems to have gained a large strand of red licorice around his shoulders. Just as a reminder, I’ve placed Rea Irvin’s original Eustace alongside, lest we forget.

Now on to the business at hand (at eye?). The first cartoon is the not-too-often-seen -anymore people-in-line drawing.  Memorable people-in-line moments that come to mind: the line waiting for soup in Seinfeld’s  “Soup Nazi” episode, and this classic  Woody Allen scene. Mr. Vey’s caption has a faint Horton Hatches The Egg-ness about it. The drawing itself features an abundance of stanchions that immediately reminded me of this wonderful captionless cartoon by Bill Woodman that appeared in The New Yorker, May 8, 1978:  

Five pages later is Sofia Warren’s second-ever New Yorker drawing (her first appeared last week). Sometimes New Yorker drawings drive me to the closest dictionary (via a search box) to clarify some word or phrase I’ve felt I generally understood (but didn’t really). There are two drawings in this issue that caused me to seek further definition.  The use of “vortex”  in Ms. Warren’s drawing was the first. Webster‘s defines it as “something resembling a whirlpool”  — Aha! That’s in the ballpark of what I thought it meant. Ms. Warren, confronted the challenge of drawing a stand-alone whirlpool by giving  us an energetic mass somewhat resembling birds nest pasta. Works for me (both the vortex and the pasta).

 

Three pages later a father/son factory “Someday this will be all yours” drawing. Updated, I suppose, with a reference to offshore shell companies.  In tried and true trope fashion, Mr. Noth has shown us framed images of the company’s previous generations of owners. Next up, a mash-up drawing by newbie, Jon Adams. Here we have the Michelin Man (in a sash). I had to look that up as well. I didn’t picture him in a sash — apparently, he doesn’t always wear one. The rubbery fellow is mixed up with the famous Michelin Guide. Also apparently, the Michelin Man is a Michelin Guide food critic who has been escorted out of a restaurant by a chef. The restaurant apparently (yes, the third “apparently”) does not allow customers to wear sashes.  An awful lot of apparentlys here. 

Three pages later another newbie, but not as new as the previous newbie.  In this Teresa Burns Parkhurst drawing both of the folks seem to be speaking (both have open mouths). I suppose it doesn’t really matter who’s doing the talking.  The caption works either way.  I was surprised that this drawing and the last were so close together as they are graphically similar.

In another three pages we come to the always welcome art of Joe Dator.  I can’t quite explain how (or why?), but I feel Mr. Dator brings a Mad Magazine/National Lampoon-quality to the New Yorker.  And that, of course, is a very very good thing. 

Four pages later is a Roz Chast drawing — it’s the second drawing of the issue that took me to the search box for a clear definition.  I’ve heard “life hacks” for awhile now, but never took the half-second to look it up. Well, okay…got it now.

Four pages later a Tom Chitty police line-up drawing. Mr. Chitty went at this head-on which almost (almost) makes the fellows in the line-up look like they in a painting or photo on the wall. Maybe they are, but I don’t think so. I wondered why it was possibly a #7 missing from the line-up and not #6.  Anyway, funny idea. On the opposite page is a Liana Finck drawing — the style recognizable from across the room. Nice grizzly bear.

Twenty-one pages later (!) is a Liza Donnelly drawing of an off the grid little piggy. I can’t tell if he’s happy to be off the grid or not.  Has he made the right decision for him or herself?  Only the little piggy knows. Opposite Ms. Donnelly’s drawing is a Frank Cotham drawing that caused me to, as Bob Dylan once said (in the song “Belle Isle”), “stay for awhile.” I couldn’t decide who was “clinging to territory”— the dog or the guy. I still can’t decide.

Four pages later a drawing by another newbie, Maggie Larson (but this isn’t her first New Yorker drawing). Ms. Larson’s style here reminds me of someone we don’t hear about much anymore: Charles Sauers. Both Ms. Larson and Mr. Sauers work employs a particular perspective as well as simple line drawing.   Here’s a Sauers drawing from the August 20, 1984 New Yorker:

And the last drawing of the issue (not counting the work on the Caption Contest page) is by Kate Curtis. A really well drawn piece, solidly in the Charles Addams school of everything.

So that’s that for this week…other than mentioning my campaign to reinstate Rea Irvin’s Talk of the Town masthead.  Here’s Mr. Irvin’s original.  Perhaps someday it will get back to where it once belonged. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker, Sept. 4, 2017: The Television Issue

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

I can think of no better way to kick-off The New Yorker’s very first “Television Issue” than with a cover by Bruce Eric Kaplan who is in the New Yorker/Television Hall of Fame because he wrote the famous and exceptionally funny Seinfeld episode “The Cartoon”;  Mr. Kaplan has television creds to spare — he was a producer for “Girls” and “Six Feet Under”… learn more here. Wearing one of his other  hats — that of New Yorker cartoonist, he’s been contributing his boxed-in world to the magazine since 1991. Here’s Mr. Kaplan talking about this week’s cover.

No disrespect to the front of the book, but as our concern here is cartoons, we need to zip through GOAT (Goings On About Town) and get right to the cartoons…but first: a brief stop at The Talk of The Town. For those new to this site, let me explain: I’m trying to will the long-standing Rea Irvin masthead back home.  This is the one that greeted New Yorker readers every week beginning in the issue of January 26, 1926 through to this past issue of May 15, 2017.  It was replaced in the issue of May 22, 2017 by a revamped version. My potted history of Mr. Irvin’s masthead can be found here on an earlier Spill post where you’ll see all the incarnations of the masthead.

Okay, with that out of my system (til next week?), off to the cartoons. 

Last Monday I mentioned that that week’s first cartoon didn’t appear until page 45; this week’s first cartoon appears on page 22 — my gut tells me that this is in the range of the norm for first cartoons. The first cartoon (hey, it’s a Bruce Eric Kaplan-esque boxed-in drawing) is by T.S. McCoy, whose first New Yorker appearance seems to have been in the issue of August 15, 2014.  I say “seems” because I cannot locate any info on this artist on the Cartoon Bank site, nor in the database (someone please contact me and set me straight if I’m wrong). The subject of McCoy’s drawing is therapy, with the help of buffalo. From the number of Youtube videos showing people getting too close to buffalo, I’d suggest sticking with dogs, rabbits, birds, horses, cats, etc., as therapy pals. [Update: T.S. McCoy has reached out to the Spill, and confirmed that the Aug.15, 2014 drawing was this artist’s first appearance in The New Yorker.  I’ve added McCoy to the Spill’s A-Z under the cartoonist’s preferred moniker: The Surreal McCoy]

Five pages later we come to a title drawing  — that is, a drawing without a caption, but with the essential wording appearing above — or sometimes below — the drawing. In this case the title reads: The Annual Hamptons End of Summer Back-To-Wall Street Tie Fly. It’s by David Sipress, whose first New Yorker drawing appeared in 1998. I like the action of the blowing-in-the-wind neckties — very beachy. Unsure if this drawing was referencing a real Hamptons tradition I asked Mr. Sipress about it this morning. He said in an email:  “Not a real thing. In fact it’s one of those ridiculous, totally silly and meaningless ideas that begin as a drawing that I find funny and then the words pop into my head. A frisson of disdain for both Wall Street and the Hamptons is in there somewhere as well.”

Three pages later a full page Roz Chast drawing (in color).  Ms. Chast has, appropriately enough, a television themed drawing, “The Seven Ages of Me and TV” (for those who were reading the New Yorker pre-Cartoon Caption Contest you might remember there was a period when the back page was dedicated to full page color drawings by Ms. Chast).  Ms. Chast’s first New Yorker drawing appeared in 1978.

Four pages later, a Will McPhail cartoon.  At first glance, I thought the magazine had erred and rerun a McPhail drawing from May of this year. The drawing from the May issue is on the left, the current issue’s drawing is on the right:

 

But no, they’re two different drawings. Perhaps the woman splayed out on a chair will become a sort of (George) Boothian man in the bath tub thing for Mr. McPhail. Mr. McPhail’s first New Yorker appearance: December 22, 2014.

On the very next page is a Peter Kuper cartoon. Mr,. Kuper’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared June 6, 2011. I’m a fan of cops & robbers cartoons (no cops in this drawing, fyi). A number of colleagues have spent time graphically visiting the criminal underworld.  When the subject comes up nowadays, I’m reminded of the late Michael Crawford’s paintings.  

Five pages later, a restaurant scene courtesy of Avi Steinberg (note: if a cartoonist does not have a website I will link you to the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank site where filling in the search box and clicking on “Search” will take you to some of the artist’s work.  Here’s the CB link). Avi Steinberg’s first cartoon appeared in the issue of 2012.  About five pages later is a talking magic bean genie cartoon by Farley Katz,  one of the off-the-wall specialists in the New Yorker’s stable.   Not sure I’ve ever seen a talking magic bean genie drawing before.  I’m intrigued by the level of the woman’s head as it relates to the counter-top. Did she drop to the floor after the bean began to float and speak, then slowly rise up to counter level see what the heck was going on? I’m a fan of cartoon back stories. 

Eight pages later is a Liana Finck drawing (first New Yorker appearance: February 13, 2015. CB link here). Ms. Finck’s style is immediately and welcomingly identifiable — an achievement not to be pooh-poohed in this age of a gazillion styles. Five pages later is a subway themed drawing by Carolita Johnson (first New Yorker drawing: 2003). I am reminded of an exhibit some years ago of New Yorker subway drawings. Here’s a quick read about it.

Next up, a generously placed Ed Steed drawing (CB link here).  The second of Mr. Steed’s drawings in a row featuring a large rectangle.  In this case we’re looking out onto a field that’s sporting a huge ping pong paddle and a ping pong ball. There’s a heavy military presence in this drawing: the trucks on the field, the uniform of the fellow speaking, the matching outfits of three figures, the map on the table — the sign reading “Top Secret” strangely placed on the inside of the room, instead of outside where you’d expect it.  But why split hairs? And then there’s the guy wearing the hood and athletic footwear. I guess I shouldn’t ask why there’s only one paddle and only one (potential) ponger or player, or whatever. Mr. Steed’s first New Yorker appearance: March 4, 2013.

Sixteen pages until the next cartoon. There’s a television-themed photo essay in-between.  One of the photos is of Pete Holmes, who touched down, briefly, in the New Yorker, between 2006 through 2008, with three cartoons. Following the photos is a witch drawing by J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein). His first drawing appeared in the issue of November 17, 2014. Those are some happy/scary creatures bubbling up from the big pot. Mr. Katzenstein’s drawing reminds me ever-so-slightly of how the late great Donald Reilly handled witch drawings.  Here’s one of Mr. Reilly’s from October 17, 1988:

Six pages later, a socks and Spielberg drawing by relative newcomer, Maggie Larson (first New Yorker appearance in the double issue dated July 10/17, 2017).  As this is the last drawing in this televIsion issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings on the last page) I thought it appropriate to return to Jerry Seinfeld and his classic sock routine.

 — See you next Monday

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anatomy of The New Yorker’s Pig at the Complaint Department Cartoon

 

 

 

This week a familiar cartoon showed up on the The New Yorker’s last page as part of its continuing Caption Contest. The cartoon, of a pig at a complaint department, was drawn by Mick Stevens,  who has been contributing cartoons to The New Yorker for thirty four years .

 

Why was the cartoon familiar? Fans of the classic sitcom, Seinfeld, remember the episode “The Cartoon” (it aired January 29,1998) in which Elaine, inspired to submit a cartoon to The New Yorker, stays up all night working on cartoon ideas and finally comes up with the pig at the complaint department. (The New Yorker’s current cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff recently delved into the episode in great detail on his blog). In the episode, as Elaine hands her sketchbook to Jerry, we catch a glimpse of her pig cartoon.

 

So how did Elaine’s cartoon end up in this week’s New Yorker, some fourteen years after it appeared on television?

 

 

For clarity’s sake, Elaine’s cartoon – the one we see on her sketchpad, is not the cartoon in the current New Yorker. In an email conversation I asked Mick how he came to draw Elaine’s cartoon, and he wrote:

 

Bob [Mankoff] asked me to draw it up for a possible caption contest and/or use in his blog in reference to the Seinfeld episode.

 

I also asked Mick if he referenced Elaine’s cartoon, as there’s an undeniable similarity between the two.

 

I didn’t look at the Seinfeld cartoon first but it turned out to be similar.

 

Curious about the original cartoon that appears on Elaine’s sketchbook, I asked Bruce Eric Kaplan, the New Yorker cartoonist who wrote the Seinfeld episode, if he drew the cartoon we see on Elaine’s sketchpad.  I also asked if he still had the original – I thought it would be fun to post on Ink Spill.  Bruce replied in an email:

 

I didn’t draw it!

They asked me to but I didn’t want to.

Someone in the art department did it.

I don’t know who has it or if it still exists!

 

You might wonder why this flurry of detective work on my part about a brand new version of a fourteen year old drawing of a pig. Much like Elaine’s pig, I have a complaint.  A number of news stories that appeared following the publication of Mick’s version of Elaine’s cartoon,  such as appeared on Gawker and Yahoo News suggest that The New Yorker has “republished” Elaine’s cartoon. Hmmm, maybe I should write them a letter…

 

Dear Gawker and Yahoo News:

 

I really enjoy your sites – I’m a fan! – but Elaine is a fictional character who submitted her drawing to a fictional New Yorker.  The real New Yorker never published Elaine’s cartoon.

Regards,

Michael Maslin

 

Many other sites ( and there are many) tell us that Mick’s cartoon is “the same one” or in at least one case “the very same one” as seen in the Seinfeld episode.

Well, no, actually it isn’t.