Personal History: Tearsheets

Quite a while ago (decades, in fact) I began collecting tearsheets of my New Yorker work (and back then, tearsheets from other publications that would have me). The New Yorker drawings  were kept in the black 3-ring binders you see above (non-New Yorker work was placed in 10″ x 13″ envelopes).  The binders seemed like a great idea, as the only record keeping I knew of were the black books the New Yorker kept (and keep) of everyone’s work. Here’s a shot of my black book (book-ended by some recognizable names) in the New Yorker‘s library. 

For a very long time this household received two copies of each issue, making it easy to rip out my work (and/or my wife, Liza Donnelly’s work) from issues and save the other issue.  This practice went on until the early 2000s when I decided that the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank was, in effect, doing my work for me by running a well-organized easily searchable database.  While it wasn’t ever a complete picture (a hundred or more of my drawings never made it into their database), it was a good source.  Along with that was the publication of several databases: The Complete New Yorker‘s 8 discs, and The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker‘s 2 discs (just 1 disc in a later edition).

As all the work, up that time, was right there, all printable, it seemed silly to continue ripping out pages from the print magazine. The Complete New Yorker‘s discs covered February of 1925 through February of 2005 — with a promise to continue updating the work; The Complete Cartoons covered 1925 thru 2004.

Now some ten years after abandoning the tearsheet practice (the last tearsheet in my black volumes shown above is dated October 20, 2008), I regret not continuing.  There is currently no reliable contemporary archive online or on disc. The magazine’s online search function (available to subscribers) is inadequate.

I’d hoped that any forthcoming celebration of the magazine’s cartoons for The New Yorker‘s 100th birthday in 2025 might update the cartoon database. Heck, update the database for the entire magazine. If you own the aforementioned 8 discs from the Complete New Yorker, you’ll eventually discover that the discs will not work with modern computer systems. Luckily I have an ancient  iBook around and use that to search the database. 

So far, there is no mention in any of the promotional text accompanying the upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons that it includes a database — its interests seem to be fashioned around cartoon “tropes” — but we’ll see.

Interesting then that it’s back to where it started here: with collecting hard copies.  In my case, I held on to a large number of back issues of the magazine, but not enough issues to fill in these past 8 years. In the last year I’ve started ripping out tearsheets, but they’ve yet to be placed in the binders.  The chronologist in me wants to pick up where I left off, in 2008, and move forward. 

Perhaps I should’ve known better.  Having a binder in front of you, with everything in chronological order is the best way to go. I’ve used these binders as reminders of certain moments tied-in to the drawings (if there was something memorable to record). Here’s an example: a drawing published March 16, 1987.  As you see in the note attached, the drawing includes a nod to William Shawn. 

 

 

 

“A Search For Work ‘Funny, Beautiful, and True'”

In its final issue of 1992 the New Yorker published a remarkable piece, “Remembering Mr. Shawn”; thirty-three contributors recalling the late editor of the New Yorker who had passed away earlier in the month (one of them, Edward Koren, provided a drawing). I’ve read and re-read the piece a number of times and always come away with something by one of the contributors I’d missed before. But one recollection stuck from my first reading. Lee Lorenz, who served as Art Editor of the magazine from 1973 through 1997 (his title morphed to Cartoon Editor in the last five years of that span) wrote, in part, of his weekly art meetings with Mr. Shawn:

In a letter he [Shawn] wrote to me after he left the magazine he referred to these meetings as a search for work that was ‘funny, beautiful, and true.’ By “true” he meant not just true in its perception of the human condition but true to each artist’s vision.

I think Mr. Lorenz framed it perfectly.  When I think of “the New Yorker cartoon” as a distinct subset of American cartooning, and why it’s recognized as such, it’s due to the magazine’s long history of supporting its cartoonists and their work.

Of course there is and always has been disagreement over what is funny, and what is beautiful (and lately, more than ever, what is true).  For the four decades I’ve contributed to the New Yorker I’ve heard it said, at times, all along the way, that the cartoons aren’t as funny, or aren’t as good, as they used to be. I heard it said in the late 1970s, when I began contributing, and I hear it today.  Here’s a snippet from an article that popped up in my Google search just the other week:

Is the New Yorker magazine on the skids, or is it my brain that has lost whatever sharpness it may have had? I re-subscribed to the magazine a few months ago, and I seem to have detected a lower quality in its cartoons, which have always been its main attraction for persons of questionable intelligence, such as me.

What quality is, is also, of course, debatable. For every person who finds a particular New Yorker cartoon awful there’s another who finds it a work of genius (want to see for yourself? Go to the comments under any New Yorker cartoon posted on the magazine’s Facebook page).

Overlooked in all this public qualifying of what is funny, beautiful and true is the simple transaction between the artists and their editors: cartoonists do what we do as well as we can do it and send it to the magazine — the editors buy it or they don’t. The beauty of the New Yorker cartoon world is that cartoonists draw what they want. They are not assigned ideas by the editors. This total freedom allows the readership to see the work the cartoonists believe is funny, beautiful and true (i.e., their vision). It’s the not-so-secret formula for the now 93 year old success of the New Yorker cartoon.

Above: The inaugural issue of The New Yorker, cover by Rea Irvin; William Shawn, the magazine’s second editor; Lee Lorenz.  Photograph of Mr. Shawn by James Stevenson.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Not Only A Funny Book For Today, But A Funny Book for Tomorrow”: The New Yorker 1955-1965 Album: Fortieth Anniversary

The first time I saw this album I was rooting through boxes of books at a yard sale. My first thought, just seeing the cover (and before picking up the book)  was that this was a galley. The cover, mostly white and devoid of drawings except for Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley floating in an orange oval frame, reminded me of a New Yorkery version of the Beatles so-called White Album. The back cover, however, doesn’t continue the Beatles’ theme — as you see below it’s chock full of drawings. Captionless drawings are scattered about among the captioned (but the captions aren’t shown). So what you focus on is the art itself — the art of the drawing. And of course it’s great stuff.   

Looking at the list of contributors, one might notice that James Thurber’s name doesn’t appear.  The first time in this string of Albums that’s happened.  Thurberites will know that the master had pretty much stopped drawing by the mid 1950s. His last published drawing in his lifetime is said to have graced the Thurber cover story of TIME magazine in July 9, 1951. 

Also missing from the line-up is Rea Irvin.  Mr. Irvin’s remarkable presence as an ongoing contributor and art supervisor ended with the arrival of William Shawn as editor in early 1952 (for more on the evolution of the Art Meeting, please go to the Spill’s Posted Notes and scroll way way down to the February 18, 2012 entry: “The New Yorker’s Art Meeting: A Potted History”).   The decade of 1955-1965 saw a good number of additions to the New Yorker‘s stable of artists under the art editorship of James Geraghty: Robert Censoni (1963), Joseph Farris (1956), Robert Grossman (1962), J.B. “Bud” Handelsman (1961), Stan Hunt (1956), B. Kliban (1963), Edward Koren (1962), Fernando Krahn (1962), Lee Lorenz (1955), Henry Martin (1964), Warren Miller (1959), Robert Muccio (1964), Alphonse Normandia ((1957), Charles O’Glass (1960), Bruce Petty (1959), Donald Reilly (1964), Charles Sauers (1956), Francis Smilby (1962), James Stevenson (1956), Jack Tippet (1963), Robert Weber (1962), and Rowland Wilson (1961).  Some of these newbies only appeared once, while others went on to become core contributors.  Six of them are part of the Spill‘s K club ( a club of 23 members at present) with cartoons appearing in the magazine over a thousand times (Koren, Lorenz, Miller, Reilly, Stevenson, and Weber).

As usual with any album designed by Carmine Peppe, the layout of the book is great.  There is no introduction, just inside front flap copy that includes the quote I placed in the heading of this post. Mr. Peppe, whose sense of graphic balance is more than admirable, managed to fill the pages without crowding them.

Without counting spreads in previous albums, I feel as if this album has plenty more than usual, with Steig, Stevenson, Steinberg, and Saxon well represented.  Peter Arno also has a spread in this album, originally presented as a double page spread in the issue of September 10, 1960.

I think of this album as the linchpin connecting the founders’ era to the present.  The very next album, an anthology celebrating the magazine’s first 50 years, introduced the beginning of the modern era that included the Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists, Jack Ziegler

A benefit of taking another look through all of these New Yorker albums is the occasional discovery of someone somehow missed in the Spill‘s decade of cartoon detective work.  In this case, two cartoonists popped up who are not on the A-Z: Anthony Scott and Alphonse Normandia. Anthony Scott signed his drawings “Anthony” — unfortunately, he does not appear in the Complete New Yorker database and so I’m left in the dark as to the arc of his New Yorker cartoon career (anyone out there with info, please advise).  As for Mr. Normandia, his work appeared in the magazine three times, between December 28, 1957 and December 5, 1959.  I’ll be adding this info to the A-Z this afternoon.  

 

Their First Tilley Issues: Ross, Shawn, Gottlieb, Brown, and Remnick

With the New Yorker’s 93rd Anniversary issue soon on the horizon I thought it would be fun to take a look at first Tilley covers by Harold Ross, William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, Tina Brown and David Remnick. I’ve thrown in tidbits of Tilley trivia — mostly non-Tilley trivia —  along the way.    

February 21, 1925: Harold Ross

A no-brainer.   It was the very first issue of the magazine. We could’ve ended up with curtains being parted on a big stage (you know, sort of an unveiling thing), but Ross wisely decided to go with Rea Irvin’s mysterious dandy for the cover of his debut issue. 

February 23, 1952: William Shawn

Although Harold Ross passed away in early December of 1951, his successor, William Shawn wasn’t appointed until late January of 1952.  One of Mr. Shawn’s first issues following that stamp of approval from the magazine’s publisher, Raoul Fleischmann, was the magazine’s twenty-seventh anniversary edition. 

February 20, 1989: Robert Gottlieb

Robert Gottlieb officially began his tenure as the magazine’s editor, February 16, 1987. As the latest issue of the magazine is dated a week past its actual pub date (the day it appears on newsstands), the anniversary issue of 1988 would seem to have been the last edited by Mr. Shawn.  Thus Mr. Gottlieb’s first anniversary issue was the following year, the issue of February 20, 1989 (if anyone out there has a different take, please advise). What made news was the return of cartoons in color. Specifically, the cartoons in a four page spread by William Steig, “Scenes From The Thousand And One Nights.” As noted in the New York Times piece I linked to above, there hadn’t been color cartoons since a Rea Irvin double page spread in 1926.

February 22, 1993: Tina Brown

Ms. Brown allowed classic Tilley on a cover just once in her tenure at the magazine. The issue of 1993 was the last in an unbroken line of Tilley anniversary issues.  Ms. Brown’s choice for 1994 made news — how could it not.  It was a not-so-sly-nod to Eustace, titled “Elvis Tilley” courtesy of Robert Crumb.  Following Elvis we saw a gold(!) Tilley for the magazine’s 70th birthday; “Eustacia Tilley” by R.O. Blechman in 1996; “Dick Tilley” by Art Spiegelman in 1997, and finally, a complete departure from Tilley, Michael Roberts’ “California Sighting” cover in 1998.

February 19 & 26, 2001: David Remnick

Although David Remnick’s first shot at an anniversary cover came in 1999, it wasn’t until 2001 that he returned Rea Irvin’s classic Tilley to the cover.  What a long strange trip it had been for Tilley since we last saw him in 1993. 

Mr. Remnick’s first two anniversary covers belonged to Edward Sorel in 1999 and a William Wegman dog in 2000.

Since the classic Tilley cover in 2001, Mr. Remnick has put classic Tilley on the following covers: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007,2009, and 2011. 

For more on Eustace Tilley and the anniversary issues link here to “Tilley Over Time” a piece I wrote for newyorker.com in 2008, on the occasion of the magazine’s 83rd birthday. 

 

 

The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975 – 1985

With the publication of The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985, the word “Cartoon” makes its second appearance on an Album cover and in an Album  title (the first was on the cover of The Album of Sports and Games: Cartoons of Three Decades).  The magazine’s 60th anniversary not only saw this anthology published, but the magazine’s fans were treated to a fabulous show of cartoons and covers, curated by Barbara Nicholls, a former art assistant to James Geraghty (Ms. Nicholls went on to establish a gallery representing many of the New Yorker’s artists). 

Mounted at the New York Public Library, this was the show for anyone who loved the magazine’s art.  Following its run in New York, the exhibit went on the road across the country, and across the big pond. Here’s the brochure:

But now back to the anthology. You can see by the cover that the design is solidly in the school of the understated. The is no introduction within, no foreword, no dedication. Compare the cover to the cover of the 90th Anniversary Book of Cartoons (the Spill will eventually get to that on another Sunday) — you’ll see how graphic decision-making has changed.

The 1975- 1985 Album leads off with a spectacular full page drawing by Robert Weber, and it ends with a full page Charles Addams drawing.  In between you’ll find a rich array of the grand masters of the form: Steig, Steinberg, George Price, Dana Fradon, Warren Miller, Frank Modell,  the aforementioned  Weber and Addams, Henry Martin, Booth, Koren, Ed Arno ( but not Peter Arno, who had passed away in 1968), Whitney Darrow, Jr., James Stevenson, Ed Fisher…the list couldn’t go on and on — it was, after all, finite, but you get the idea.  Also in the Album, a new wave of cartoonists, including Mick Stevens, Leo Cullum, Liza Donnelly, the two Roz’s: Zanengo and Chast, Tom Cheney, Michael Crawford, Richard Cline, Bill Woodman, Peter Steiner, and Mike Twohy, among others (including yours truly). Jack Ziegler, who I’ve dubbed “The Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists”  was a late entry in the 1925-1975 Album (his first New Yorker cartoon was published in 1974. He’s represented in the 1925-1975 Album by one cartoon)Here, in the 1975-1985 Album his genius is on full display.  

This Album would be the last published during William Shawn’s editorship.  The next Album would not appear until the year 2000, the magazine’s 75th anniversary (in between was Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker: 1925- 1995). 

Below: the back cover of the The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985:

And the inside flap copy: