The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of February 5, 2018

An ice skating cover (titled “Figured Skaters”) on this week before the magazine’s 93rd birthday issue. On the way to the cartoons I’m sensing less graphics and more text in the Goings On About Town section.  Or is it just my imagination. Take away the weekly near full page photograph and the magazine seems edging to its graphic roots. For an idea of what I’m getting at, here’s a GOAT section from the March 14, ’59 issue atop a couple of GOAT pages from the new issue.

  

Now on to the cartoons and cartoonists.  The very first cartoon, by Ellis Rosen, takes us to familiar territory for many a New Yorker cartoonist (including this one): the wise man on the mountaintop. Mr. Rosen gives us a competitive situation that includes further incentive for prospective wisdom seekers.  I would love to see what the other mountain top looks like once the pizza oven is installed.  

Four pages later, Liana Finck takes us to medieval times with another cartoonist favorite: King and castle.  Even better: King, castle and moat. I can’t quite make out what is in the castle window.  Is it the Queen, or a kitty? Maybe it doesn’t matter.  A drawing that looks as if it might be in color (the moat), but run in b&w.  

Five pages later, a Will McPhail drawing and it’s yet another cartoonist fave scenario: the house mouse.  This is the first white house mouse cartoon in my memory (versus the usual grey mouse) And I believe it’s also the first cartoon that shows a house mouse wearing what appears to be eye makeup (the makeup makes sense what with the lighted vanity mirror).  Then there are the high heels visible through the mouse baseboard hole. A lot of elements to pause and consider here, but I’ll leave that to the Cartoon Companion guys when they post their take on the new cartoons later this week. That minimal caption is short and sweet.

Ten pages later we are taken even further back in time than Ms. Finck’s drawing with a cave drawing by this cartoonist.  It’s a mash-up.  On the opposite page a William Haefeli drawing bookstore drawing. I’m a big fan of bookstores and bookstore drawings — glad to see this cartoon. On the very next page a David Sipress domestic scenario —  the subject is the upcoming Super Bowl.  I don’t know anything about the Eagles or the Patriots (other than the headlines)  but this drawing seems to be playing to the Greater Metropolitan NYC area football fan base. Could be wrong. (I feel badly for the child on the sofa. He doesn’t appear to have a drink or snacks for the big game). 

Five pages later, a Roz Chast woman on a sofa drawing. She shows us a stressful time, long long ago before we were able (sometimes) to know who was calling without answering the phone. Caller ID: great invention.

Three pages later perhaps my favorite Frank Cotham drawing ever.  Jack Ziegler once said to me  “it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw and give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”   Well Mr. Cotham has given us that.  Atmosphere to spare, and a splendid caption. Bravo.

Five pages later a Bruce Eric Kaplan drawing.  Politics finally enters into a cartoon in the issue.  Mr. Kaplan’s caption well-honed, as usual. On the very next page is a Pia Guerra drawing (she’s a newbie, but not a brand new newbie).  Curiously, a Terminator drawing.  I confess I had to check on the name, Sarah Connor after initially forgetting that that is the name of a main character in the series (sorry, my Terminator recall is rusty). Two pages later, Emily Flake gets all religious with a priestly drawing.  Clergy drawings were once a staple in the cartoonists kit (think Charles Addams and Peter Arno, among many others).  As with looking up Sarah Connor I looked up “sleeve” as it’s used in the caption.  Never really thought about how communion wafers were packaged.  You live, you learn.

Three pages later, Jeremy Nguyen does a take on an iconic television ad.  I like the way Mr. Nguyen has approached this drawing: clean and simple: books, typewriter, the ubiquitous potted house plant, the writer(?) sprawled on the floor. 

Six pages later a debut drawing by Olivia de Recat, whose work has appeared in the Daily Shouts in very recent times. This has the feel of a postcard (see the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s first album, Greetings From Asbury Park).  It has ripped edges, so maybe an old post card?  Having just read the large NYTs piece on postcard collectors, I have them on my mind ( postcards and the collectors).  

Finally, the last cartoon (not counting the caption contest):  Paul Noth does a bang-up job on a ventriloquist drawing.  I love drawings that come outta nowhere (well, it actually came from Mr. Noth, but you all know what I mean).

 

–see you next week for the big double anniversary issue. Will Rea Irvin’s classic Eustace Tilley return to the cover?  Pressing our luck, wouldn’t it be great to see Mr. Irvin’s classic Talk of the Town masthead return.  Here’s what it looks like so you’ll know it when you see it:

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of January 15 2018; Happy 114th Birthday, Peter Arno

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

 I don’t know about you, but after I’ve looked through the cartoons of each new issue of The New Yorker I have the kind of  immediate reaction I have after sitting through a movie. As I begin walking up the aisle, the verdict is usually already in: good movie, bad movie, loved it, hated it, so-so, etc.. I looked through this latest issue of the magazine and thought: good cartoons. Good cartoons from beginning to end, with a real gem mid-way through.  

The first cartoon of the issue, William Haefeli’s on page 18 gets things going. Haefeli’s drawings never disappoint, and in this case caption and drawing are doing exactly what I hope for in every New Yorker cartoon (giving us Peter Arno’s one-two punch; in this case the one-two are so close together it’s a onetwo punch) If you have the issue in front of you (print or digital) notice the child’s body language. Mr. Haefeli has created a drawing that almost moves. 

Three pages later a drawing by Amy Hwang, who has become somewhat of a cat specialist. This is a lovely drawing, with a terrific caption. I predict it’s going to be reprinted on a lot coffee mugs and t-shirts.  

Four pages later a couple at a table by JAK (Jason Adam Katzenstein). Good caption. The woman’s expression is as the British say, “spot on.”

Five pages later a curio: a P. C. Vey  Christmassy drawing in the January 15th issue. It’s a very good drawing  replete with tree and one very large gift.  I’ll forever wonder why it wasn’t in the issue  of December 18 or the issue just after, January 1, 2018. A mystery!

Another five pages brings us to a Kim Warp drawing employing two of my favorite subjects: dinosaurs and space travel (in this case time/space travel).  Another wonderful drawing with a really good caption. 

Six pages later, the gem I spoke of earlier.  John O’Brien gives us a site (a work site) to behold —   it’s caption-less too (to me, caption-less cartoons are the most difficult to successfully achieve.  Mr. O’Brien’s batting average of success with them is crazy high). This is a high bar New Yorker drawing. And so: applause, applause.

 

On the very next page is a Matt Diffee cartoon.  He, like a few other cartoonists in the magazine use a box to frame their work (Jack Ziegler was King of the New Yorker boxed drawings). Mr. Diffee’s drawings are always easy on the eyes (the soft greys).  Here we have a couple of folks ice fishing. The idea centers on the use of the ice machine known as a Zamboni blended with the popular urban food truck.  As sometimes happens with drawings, I paused to consider an element (last week it was missing tent stakes). Unfortunately, this pause never fails to get in the way of the one-two punch.  Why, I thought, would a Zamboni be on an ice fishing lake?  I looked up Zambonis, and learned they are sometimes used on ice skating lakes.  But there’s no sign of skaters anywhere on Mr. Diffee’s lake. Perhaps they’re just off to the side, out of the box.  I’m fairly certain my fascination with cartoon details such as this comes out of my early cartoon education by way of New Yorker art editor, Lee Lorenz. He once returned a drawing to me and asked if I’d make the surf board in the drawing look less like a six foot cigar.  It wasn’t the most important element in the drawing, but if it appeared to be a giant cigar it would take the reader too much out of the  drawing. I guess that stuck with me — and now you’re stuck with me pointing out cartoon minutiae.

Four pages later, a Will McPhail nearly deserted beach scene. I like the caption. Mr. McPhail  shows us one of those funny umbrella tables you see in movies of places that resemble wherever this is.  What’s missing is only someone (or something) off in the distance splashing in the ocean. What can I say — I like graphic splashing. 

Three pages later, a color drawing from Seth Fleishman in a setting far far away from Mr. McPhail’s.  Subway rats playing a game.  Having just seen a photo in the Times the other day of a NYC rat dragging a moon pie, I’m wondering if NYC subway rats are now a thing.  I guess they’ve always been a thing, if you think about it.

On the page after the rats is a Roz Chast package drawing.  Ms. Chast excels at these, and this one’s right up there, laughs-wise. I haven’t examined a package of Junior Mints in a long time (not my theater go-to candy) but I do wonder if those boxes show the “Juniors” as human…probably not.  Six pages later a Brendan Loper Evel Knievel inspired drawing. We don’t see enough dare- devil drawings in the magazine. Interesting drawing. Good stuff.  

Thirteen pages later, the last drawing in the issue (not counting the Caption Contest pieces): Julia Suits provides a trope that seems to be off-again on-again in the magazine: the military officer pointing out a medal. By off-again on-again I mean we don’t see many for awhile and then they suddenly pop up like asparagus. Henry Martin did a number of these, as did a number of other colleagues.  I can’t recall ever doing one. Time to get crackin’.  

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Happy 114th Birthday, Peter Arno

Strange to think of Peter Arno, whose work seems so very much alive, as born 114 years ago. All the years I worked on his biography, from 1999 through 2016, he seemed somehow on the scene, at least the New Yorker scene. In early 2016, with the book wrapping up, I paid one last Arno research visit to Yale, where he spent one year, the Fall of 1922- Spring of 1923. I went there to look for possible Arno materials in a box of Thurber’s papers; it turned out to be a fun but wild goose chase.

  Even though Arno only attended classes the one year (his father pulled the plug, financially) it was a launch pad year for his not-too-far-off entree to The New Yorker.  At Yale his cartoons became quite polished as they appeared more and more in the Record  (Arno did a few covers too). Besides drawing, Arno was fully engaged with his other love, music.

  He organized what he called an “orchestra” and found a place to play right across the street from the campus.  He mentioned playing there in a letter to his mother:

“…working in the Art School all day long and playing every evening in the Bull Dog Grille…”

 That last day I spent at Yale I took a walk along York Avenue, with the Bull Dog’s address in hand.  I came to the corner of Elm and York and could see some old buildings were right where I needed them to be, diagonally across the street. Crossing Elm I quickly spotted  #264 over one of two arched doorways on a three-story Victorian era building. The building had survived (!) but there was some kind of construction going on, with the front partially shrouded, and a dumpster parked out front.

The entrance to the Grille (it was upstairs on the third floor) was the door to the right, just behind the plywood wall behind the lone tree. I stood across the street for a bit, then crossed over to see what I could see close-up.  It was a wonderful moment thinking about the college-aged Arno heading through that door. I’d read in Dorothy Ducas’s great Arno piece in the March 1938 issue of Mademoiselle  that besides playing music upstairs Arno also drew on the walls (ala Thurber!). Standing in front of the building that day there was a lot to imagine. 

Here’s a photo I took that afternoon:

Before writing today’s piece I thought I’d use Google to see what had been done to the place a year or so later. Turns out it wasn’t construction after all — it was destruction.

Though the building is gone, those Arno moments playing music and drawing upstairs at the Bull Dog are not entirely forgotten.  Also not forgotten: the body of work Arno published in the New Yorker during his 43 years there, much of which can be found in the books below.

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ps: Rea Irvin’s classic Talk masthead (shown below) still missing from the magazine. Hope it returns soon.

  

 

 

 

 

 

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… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fave Photo of the Day: Edward Sorel & Company; Karen Green Pencilled; A Cartoon Companion Two-fer: Mick Stevens Interviewed (Pt.1) & The Latest New Yorker Cartoons Dissected; Tilley Watch Online

Fave Photo of the Day: Edward Sorel & Company

Edward Sorel had a few friends over for lunch yesterday; a splendid time was had by all.

Front row, l-r: Danny Shanahan, Edward Sorel.  Back row, l-r: Michael Maslin, a wooden St. Peter,  James McMullan, and John Cuneo

(photo courtesy of Danny Shanahan who used the time-delay function on his phone)

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Columbia’s Comics & Cartoons Curator, Karen Green Pencilled

Jane Mattimoe’s wonderful blog, A Case For Pencils features Karen Green, who is the Comics & Cartoon Curator at Columbia University.  A good read!

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Cartoon Companion Two-fer: Mick Stevens Interview (Pt.1) and the Latest New Yorker Cartoons Dissected

The Cartoon Companion‘s Max & Simon are back with a close look at the cartoons in the New Yorker’s latest issue as well as part one of an interview with veteran New Yorker cartoonist, Mick Stevens.  Read the Stevens interview here And read the CC’s take on the current issue here.

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…a Halloween video from the Cartoon Department…Daily Shouts from Ward Sutton, and Will McPhail (who seems to be in a Rear Window-esque mood lately — a recent piece for Esquire also featured a city building with individuals in various windows), and Daily Cartoons by, among others, Peter Kuper, and Kim Warp.  See it all here.  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker, October 9, 2017

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

The New Yorker has gone through a number of survivable events in its 92 year history. It nearly folded in its first six months of existence, but survived when Raoul Fleischmann, its original backer, suddenly turned white knight, decided to pump more money into it. The magazine survived when the magazine’s founder and first editor Harold Ross died too soon.  The magazine survived its transition from the Fleischmann family to the Newhouse family in the late 1980s, and all the hooplah that ensued when William Shawn was succeeded by Robert Gottlieb, and when Gottlieb was in turn succeeded by Tina Brown, who was then succeeded by its current editor, David Remnick.  It won’t go without saying that yesterday’s news of the passing of Si Newhouse, owner of The New Yorker caused a lot of ink to begin flowing (online as well as print) about what his passing means for the future of the magazine.  Perhaps it’s best to acknowledge that the crystal ball is cloudiest just when we want it to be crystal clear. 

And now on to the cartoons in the latest issue.  

Two BEK covers in the last six issues of The New Yorker. Amazing. I’m always thrilled to see a cartoonist colleague’s work on the cover, and am ever hopeful more and more will be added into the mix.

Following all the up front of the book graphics (ads, of course, and illustrations) we come to the calm spread of pages 28 & 29 with a well placed Liana Finck drawing on the upper right.  I like the use of the word “monsters” in the caption.  I think the word has also suggested (at least to me) that the fellow Ms. Finck has pictured resembles ever-so-slightly the Frankenstein monster (as played by Boris Karloff).  

Six pages later we come to a Jon Adams drawing (his first New Yorker cartoon appeared last week).  The desert island cartoon, once seemingly on the verge of retirement is as present as ever in the magazine.  I’ll be curious as to how the Cartoon Companion guys dissect this drawing (we’ll find out later in the week when they post). I’m reluctant to step on their turf, but can’t help but be concerned that the angle of the palm tree which is about to catapult one of the islanders into the ocean (presumably to safety) will throw the fellow away from the container ship off in the distance. This is part of what cartoonists do, I guess.  We worry about the fate of stranded cartoon characters on a cartoon desert island.

On the very next page is a Michelangelo moment courtesy of Julia Suits.  Her drawing is based on one of the master’s greatest hits within one of his greatest hits:  the “Creation of Adam” (seen below) on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ms. Suits has given us the origin story of a slightly shocking moment we’ve all experienced at one time or another. 

A couple of pages past the beginning of a Janet Malcolm piece on Rachel Maddow we come to a two-fer spread: an Edward Koren drawing on the left side and a Matthew Diffee on the right. Mr. Koren is our longest serving cartoon contributor, having first been published in 1962. It’s always a good week when one of his drawings graces the pages of the magazine. Selfishly, I would’ve loved to see this drawing run at least half-a-page.  But as the Rolling Stones so memorably sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.” 

A quartet of pages later we come to a drawing by newbie, Maddie Dai; the drawing itself carries a candidate for longest caption in a New Yorker cartoon.  I think of George Booth when I see a lot of caption. Here’s an example of a long-form  Boothian caption from The New Yorker, February 18th,  1985:

Strangely enough, on the page following Ms. Dai’s fortune teller drawing is another longish captioned drawing — this one by David Sipress. I like the whiskerless cat(?) on the floor of this drawing.  It looks a bit distressed. Four pages later a Roz Chast triptych incorporating the word “illuminati”;  I’m beginning to get the feeling this issue is thematic in a mystical, monstrous, space agey way (Ms. Finck’s monster, Ms. Suits Michelangelo drawing, Maddie Dai’s fortune teller, Mr. Sipress’s a newly discovered planet drawing, and now Ms. Chast’s illuminati).  Probably just coincidence. 

Two pages later, the theme goes up in smoke as P.C. Vey takes us shopping. I note that none of the products on the shelves carry labeling. I’m reminded of the books in Chairman Mao’s library. On closer inspection, there is writing present on Mao’s books, but the first impression is similar (for me anyway) to Mr. Vey’s supermarket shelving.   

On the very next page after Mr. Vey’s shopping expedition we’re thematically back to religion with an Adam and Eve drawing courtesy of Will McPhail.  I suppose it’s possible it’s not Adam and Eve as the female here has to my eyes a contemporary haircut. You can’t see much of Adam, as he’s behind a giant leaf that doesn’t quite cover the “all”  mentioned in his caption. Someone who knows leaves can set me straight if Mr. McPhail’s leaf is similar to this maple leaf I grabbed off of Google images.  

 

A couple pages later another relative newbie, Kate Curtis (her first drawing appeared in the New Yorker in January of 2016).  Back to contemporary life with an airline check-in moment. The drawing looks vaguely Kim Warpian (it’s the airline employee’s fingers I think that bring Ms. Warp’s work to mind). Seven pages later we’re whip-lashed back to King Arthur’s big sword in the stone moment with a contemporary twist, courtesy of Ben Schwartz. Lars Kenseth had a sword and stone drawing recently. I wonder if sword and stone drawings are going to give desert island drawings a run for their money.

Nine pages later, we remain (somewhat) in ancient times with a couple of medieval towers (sans Rapunzel…possibly), and a dragon…and a lawn mower?  All from Avi Steinberg’s pen. This drawing reminds me of the George Price classic below (published in The New Yorker June 3, 1939).  Both Mr. Steinberg’s and Mr. Price’s have guys outdoors doing something in the yard; both have woman in the window calling out to the guys; both have something wrapped around a structure: Mr. Steinberg has a dragon, Mr. Price has ivy.

On the following page a talking clock from Eric Lewis. I’m always reluctant to favor a drawing in the Monday Tilley Watch (again, that’s what they do over on the Cartoon Companion site), but I’m going to favor this, the last drawing in the issue. I see shades of various artists in the drawing itself — this isn’t unusual: I see some vague hint of various cartoonists’ work in every cartoonist’s drawing (including my own). In this case it’s a little Stuart Leeds, a little Gahan Wilson, and a shadow of Pierre Le-Tan.  Of course, the drawing itself is pure Eric Lewis — an excellent way to end the issue. 

— see you next week.