The New Yorker’s Art Meeting: A Potted History

 

 

It’s tempting to believe that the structure of The New Yorker’s Art Department arrived fully formed in 1924 when Harold Ross, with his wife Jane Grant  began pulling together his dream magazine.  But of course, such was not the case.

 

What we know for certain is that once the first issue was out,  Ross and several of his newly hired employees began meeting every Tuesday afternoon to discuss the incoming art submissions.  The very first art meetings consisted of Ross, his Art Director, Rea Irvin, Ross’s secretary, Helen Mears, and Philip Wylie, the magazine’s first utility man.  In no short order, Ralph Ingersoll, hired in June of ’25  joined the art meeting, and later still, Katharine White (then Katharine Angell), hired in August of ’25, began sitting in.

From  James Thurber’s account in The Years With Ross we get a good idea of what took place at the meeting, which began right after lunch and ended at 6 pm:

In the center of a long table in the art meeting room a drawing board was set up to display the week’s submissions…Ross sat on the edge of a chair several feet away from the table, leaning forward, the fingers of his left hand spread upon his chest, his right hand holding a white knitting needle which he used for a pointer…Ross rarely laughed outright at anything. His face would light up, or his torso would undergo a spasm of amusement, but he was not at the art meeting for pleasure.

William Maxwell, who joined The New Yorker’s staff in 1936,  told the Paris Review in its Fall 1982 issue:

Occasionally Mrs. White would say that the picture might be saved if it had a better caption, and it would be returned to the artist or sent to E. B. White, who was a whiz at this… Rea Irvin smoked a cigar and was interested only when a drawing by Gluyas Williams appeared on the stand.

And from Dale Kramer’s Ross and The New Yorker:

When a picture amused him Irvin’s eyes brightened, he chuckled, and often, because none of the others understood art techniques, gave a little lecture.  There would be a discussion and a decision. If the decision was to buy, a price was settled on.  When a picture failed by a narrow margin the artist was given a chance to make changes and resubmit it. Irvin suggested improvements that might be made, and Wylie passed them on to the artists.

 

In a letter to Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney, Rogers Whitaker, a New Yorker contributor from 1926 – 1981, described the scene in the magazine’s offices once the art meeting ended:

The place was especially a mess after the weekly art meeting. The artists, who waited for the verdicts, scrambled for desk space where they could retouch their cartoons and spots according to what Wylie, or Katharine Angell, told them Ross wanted done.

Wylie was one of many artist  “hand-holders” – the bridge between the editors and the artists.  Some others who held this position were Thurber (briefly, in 1927), Wolcott Gibbs, Scudder Middleton, and William Maxwell.  According to Maxwell, Katharine White’s hand-holding duties were eventually narrowed to just Hokinson and Peter Arno, the magazine’s prized artists.

Lee Lorenz wrote in his Art of The New Yorker that, in the earliest years,  the look of the magazine:

had been accomplished without either an art editor in the usual sense or the support of anything one could reasonably call an art department.

That changed in 1939 when former gagman, James Geraghty was hired.  As with so much distant New Yorker history, there’s some fuzziness concerning exactly what Geraghty was hired to do.  Geraghty, in his unpublished memoir, wrote that he took the job “without any inkling” of what was required of him. There’ve been suggestions in numerous accounts of New Yorker history, that Geraghty was hired as yet another in the lengthening line of artist hand-holders, in this case, succeeding William Maxwell, who was increasingly pre-occupied with his own writing as well as his editorial duties under Katharine White.

Geraghty, in his memoir,  recalled his first art meeting and the awkwardness of sitting next to Rea Irvin: two men seemingly sharing one (as yet unofficial, unnamed) position: Art Editor.   While E.B. White and others continued to “tinker” with captions, Geraghty began spending one day a week working exclusively on captions.   He also adopted the idea that he was the Artists’ “representative” at meetings, following Ross’s assurance  that Geraghty was being paid “to keep the damned artists happy.”

With these new components, the art meeting committee model stayed in place until the death of Ross in December of 1951.  When William Shawn officially succeeded Ross in January of 1952, he pared the meeting to two participants: Shawn, and Geraghty.

With Geraghty’s retirement in 1973, and Lee Lorenz’s  appointment as Art Editor, the art meetings continued with Lorenz and Shawn. Shawn’s successor, Robert Gottlieb and then Tina Brown, subdivided the Art Department, creating a Cartoon Editor, an Art Editor (for covers) and an Illustration Editor.  Lorenz, who was in the midst of these modern day changes,  lays them out in detail  in his Art of The New Yorker.

Today, the  Shawn model Art Meeting continues, with the current Editor, David Remnick, and the current Cartoon Editor, Bob Mankoff (and with a third editor occasionally joining the meeting) sitting down one day a week to look through the pile of drawings Mankoff has distilled from the mountain submitted to the magazine. The cartoonists no longer wait outside the Art Meeting’s door for the verdict on their work,  but I assure you: wherever they are on Thursday or Friday afternoon:  they’re waiting.

Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Barry Blitt; Where Else Are They Now?; Today’s Daily Shoutist: Julia Wertz

Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

A Trumpian intervention, Blitt-style. Barry Blitt has contributed to The New Yorker since 1992.  Visit his website here

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Where Else Are They Now?

Looking at a Weekly Humorist post this morning it occurred to me I was seeing a good number of New Yorker cartoonists represented.  With the stable of cartoonists at The New Yorker on the verge of a record-setting year, population-wise (once a stable of approximately 40 regular cartoonists, there are now, according to the magazine’s cartoon editor, Emma Allen, about 100) the number of cartoons bought per week remains at the mid-teen level (slightly more or slightly less). 

Let’s just play with made-up numbers for a moment to give you an idea of the odds these days for those submitting their work. Let’s just say each of those 100 cartoonists submits 10 cartoon ideas a week.  That’s 1000 cartoons. 1000 cartoons vying for the 15 (or so) weekly golden tickets (i.e., the bought cartoon, or in New Yorker cartoonist parlance, the O.K.). That leaves approximately 985 rejected cartoons with almost no place to go. And remember: that’s just one week’s worth of rejected work.  Most cartoonists send in a “batch” weekly, every week of the year there is an art meeting.

Supply has always well exceeded demand at The New Yorker, but with a more than doubled regular supply, things become more complicated for those submitting.  As has been the case for decades, cartoonists sell to other print magazines that are cartoon-friendly, but those avenues are few, as are the number of cartoonists used per issue (see Playboy, and Esquire).  There are at least three places where one can find a healthy population of work by New Yorker artists.  A semi-highly unscientific survey indicates that most New Yorker cartoonists (who flock anywhere) flock to these publications. 

Funny Times

The current issue includes these New Yorker artists: Darrin Bell, Harry Bliss, J.C. Duffy, Martha Gradisher, Peter Kuper, Mary Lawton, Carol Lay, P.S. Mueller, Drew Panckeri, Rina Piccolo, Ward Sutton, Tom Tomorrow, Chris Weyant, and Shannon Wheeler.

 The American Bystander

Issue #10) includes these New Yorker artists: George Booth, M.K. Brown, John Cuneo, Ivan Ehlers, Emily Flake, Drew Friedman, Sam Gross, Lars Kenseth, Ken Krimstein, Peter Kuper, Sara Lautman, Jeremy Nguyen, Rich Sparks, Tom Toro, and the late Charles Barsotti. 

 The Weekly Humorist.

Scroll down and you’ll find work by these New Yorker artists: Ellis Rosen, Peter Kuper, Bob Eckstein, Ivan Ehlers, Drew Panckeri, Evan Lian, Joseph Dottino, Lars Kenseth, Jason Chatfield, Rich Sparks, Ali Soloman, Eugenia Viti, Pat Byrnes, J.C. Duffy, and David Ostow (among others).

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Today’s Daily Shoutist: Julia Wertz

“Conversations With Ma: Prenatal Vitamins And Owl Pellets”

Julia Wertz has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2015.

Gag Writers and Cartoonists at The New Yorker: A Potted History

envelopeWord of a new blog by an 18 year veteran of the gag writing profession has caused me to ruminate on the long and winding road traveled by cartoonists and gag writers  at The New Yorker. 

When I began contributing drawings (cartoons) to the magazine back in the late 1970s  one of the unexpected and unsolicited consequences was the regular arrival in the mail of stuffed envelopes of ideas from gag writers.    I remember opening the very first one and finding a thick stack of index cards containing descriptions or set-ups for  drawings as well as captions. That was the first and last time I ever looked at a gag writer’s idea. The reason being I wanted to know that whatever ideas came my way, came out of the blue — from the Cartoon Gods. In other words, I wanted to do my own distilling. For me, it’s  the best part of this work:  the moment an idea presents itself. If ideas were handed to me (or more specifically, mailed to me), that moment would disappear. This attitude of rejecting ideas provided by others  came out of a then relatively new tradition at The New Yorker.

In the magazine’s earliest days, there was much collaborative thinking when it came to the cartoons. Ideas were sometimes suggested during the Art Meeting — editors working with other editors, tinkering with an idea provided by the artist, or coming up with a wholly new idea; some artists’ ideas were handed over to the magazine’s “cartoon doctors” ( Peter Devries was one, as was E.B. White, whose name usually pops up in this context for his retooling of Carl Rose’s broccoli caption); some artists worked steadily with a writer (Helen Hokinson and James Reid Parker, most notably); some ideas came (unsolicited) from outside the magazine; some artists did their own ideas ( Gardner Rea, and James Thurber to name two. I’ll add an asterisk next to Thurber only because of the unusual case of Thurber drawing a Carl Rose idea. Harold Ross thought Thurber’s style might be a better fit for Rose’s “Touche!”  as Thurber’s people seemed “bloodless”).  Some artists used their own ideas and supplemented with bought ideas (Peter Arno is an example); some relied completely on outside ideas, such as George Price.

Somewhere along the way though, collaboration began to be perceived by some of the cartoonists as a negative thing, and not business as usual.  It’s possible the seeds were planted in August of 1934 with the arrival of that month’s issue of Fortune magazine, with its  wide-ranging article on The New Yorker by one of its former editors, Ralph Ingersoll.  Ingersoll, pausing to throw a few darts at several of the magazine’s contributors, including Peter Arno, mentioned  that many of its artists relied on outside ideas. At least one of the magazine’s artists, Gluyas Williams, was displeased to be mentioned as someone whose ideas were, according to the Fortune piece, entirely supplied by The New Yorker. If you can get hold of Thomas Kunkel’s  Letters From The Editor, you’ll find on pages 85 – 87 a wonderful letter Harold Ross, The New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, wrote to Williams regarding collaboration. Here’s a snippet of what Ross wrote: “So help me, there’s no sin, no harm, and nothing unethical in drawing up an idea suggested by a man who can’t possibly draw it himself.”

Arno had no problem telling the world he used outside ideas along with his own, as he did in the foreward to his 1951 collection, Ladies and Gentlemen:

“For the first few years I did think up most of my own situations.  I had to. I was developing a style and a new kind of format, and there was no way anyone else could do it for me. But as time went on, and a distinct pattern for my work was set, it became easier for others to make contributions.”

With Ross’s death in December of 1951, and William Shawn’s appointment as the magazine’s editor in January of 1952, the Art Department’s collaborative ethos took a different path.  The practice of giving ideas to various established cartoonists remained in place (see “James Stevenson’s Secret Job”), but gone was the Art Meeting by committee; the new Art Meeting consisted of  just Shawn and James Geraghty, the Art Editor. According to Geraghty’s successor, Lee Lorenz, Shawn was a believer in the notion that the artists should write their own ideas. With that, the idea of providing cartoonists with ideas slowly began to taper off and came close, in the 1970s, to the point of extinction…but not quite. Some cartoonists, such as veterans Mischa Richter,  George Price, Whitney Darrow, and Charles Addams still relied on bought ideas (I provided an idea for Addams in the early 1980s and to Darrow in the late 1970s).

With many, but not all, of the cartoonists arriving at the magazine in 1950s and  1960s, it had become standard practice to provide The New Yorker with a complete cartoon: idea and drawing.  By the time a wave of new cartoonists arrived in the 1970s, it was a badge of honor to do all your own work. Roz Chast wrote that using bought ideas seemed kind of “like cheating.”

In the Fall of 2000, when I interviewed David Remnick, The New Yorker‘s current editor,  I asked him about gag writers at the magazine. He told me he knew of just one cartoonist occasionally using outside work.  It’s likely there were a few others — some cartoonists don’t broadcast their use of gagwriters —  but the majority of New Yorker cartoonists were, and are today, still thinking up their own ideas. Some collaborations have cropped up in recent years, acknowledged on The New Yorkers Table of Contents as well as on the cartoons themselves — but these have been one-offs (or two-offs) and not long term collaborations like Ms. Hokinson’s and Mr. Parker’s.

While I remain in the camp that never uses outside ideas, my thinking on cartoonists using gag writers has evolved, most likely as a result of working on my biography of Peter Arno.  Without gag writers, we never would’ve experienced Helen Hokinson’s world, or George Price’s. We would’ve missed out on many gems by Addams, and Syd Hoff, Mischa Richter, and of course, Gluyas Williams. I’ve come to realize that these artists, and many more, were great interpreters, like great singers handed a song.

 

 

Collaborating Cartoonists; Video: Charles Addams

 

 

 

 

 

Collaborating cartoonists have been on my mind recently. Who are they, why do they do it?  Does it double the fun?  A spate of collaborations in The New Yorker within the past year caused me to dig into the subject and ask a few questions.

 

To begin with, here’re a few words on the subject, written sixty years ago by Peter Arno :

 

The ideal collaboration – and I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in several – consists of sitting down together, with lots of paper and pencils, and digging; staring into the microscope from all angles, till suddenly the elusive germ is spotted. And sometimes that is only the beginning.

 

And here’s how James Reid Parker, the New Yorker writer who doubled as Helen Hokinson’s collaborator for 18 years, described how they worked together:

 

We set aside Friday afternoons and evenings as definite work periods, during which we examined each other’s files, outlined future work for Helen, and studied rejections to see how they might be made acceptable.

 

Hokinson brought her drawings to these Friday meetings –- she seemingly sketched endlessly through the week.  Parker brought slips of paper containing stray thoughts or overheard remarks.

 

I’m not sure there’s since been a collaboration quite like what Hokinson enjoyed with Parker.  There were gag writers, like Herb Valen, who tried to “think like” Arno or George Price or whoever, but they didn’t meet with the artists to work out completed ideas. The king of ideamen (and a cartoonist himself), Richard McCallister, sent his work to the cartoonists (George Price and Arno among them).

 

One could argue that there was weekly collaboration from 1925 through 1950, the years the magazine’s founder, Harold Ross edited the magazine. Drawings were discussed and often “improved” by committee (see Ink Spill’s February 18, 2012 post, The Art Meeting). After suggested changes were made by the artists, the work was brought back to the the Art Meeting, for further evaluation. The process, for just one drawing,  could sometimes repeat itself a number of times.  James Geraghty, the Art Editor from 1939 through 1973, might explain to an artist how he envisioned a  particular drawing. In James Stevenson’s  new book The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell, Geraghty is quoted instructing a cartoonist: “Make it more …beautiful.” Ideas were sometimes generated in the art office and passed on to the artists ( these are often labeled “Office Idea” in the magazine’s archives, with no one person receiving credit).

 

This variety of interaction gave way in 1973 when Lee Lorenz assumed the title of Art Editor. The cartoonists Lorenz brought into the fold showed up with the idea, the caption and the art.  This was an organic shift, tied into the times that were a-changin’, similar to the emergence of the singer-songwriter in popular music.

 

The influx of cartoonists with their own ideas was not the death of collaboration — collaboration continued on — but the notion that a cartoonist would regularly use outside help came to be seen, by cartoonists themselves, as somewhat unthinkable (Roz Chast likened it to “cheating”).

 

Throughout The New Yorker’s history, no ideaman’s/collaborator’s  name appeared on the work alongside the artist’s name.  When the magazine  opened up its Table Of Contents in the issue of March 22, 1969, listing its writers & artists, readers did not see ideamen co-credited with the artists.  Mischa Richter, for instance, continued to work closely with his long-time ideaman, Harald Bakken, but only Richter’s name appeared in the magazine’s Table Of Contents. Although a small handful of cartoonists continued collaborating,  collaborations weren’t noted on The Table of Contents until 1994, when Liza Donnelly and this cartoonist collaborated for a color strip about a visit to “Beatlefest” in the New Jersey Meadowlands.  Another married cartoonist couple, Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky Crumb received co-credit the following year for the first of a handful of pieces (color spreads) they contributed.

 

In June of 2010, Sam Means & Kate Beaton  began a New Yorker collaboration (it turned out to be a trio of appearances). Although they signed their joint efforts “Beans” their respective names appeared in the Table of Contents.

 

Very recently, a slew of collaborations have been published in the magazine, or in one case, on the magazine’s website. In all but one case, the collaborations have been acknowledged on the New Yorker’s Table of Contents.  Bob Mankoff’s assistant, Marc Philippe Eskenazi, who so far has had one cartoon published under his own name, collaborated with cartoonist Ben Schwartz.  Mr. Schwartz also collaborated with cartoonist Liam Walsh on a color piece for newyorker.com.  Cartoonist Bob Eckstein worked with comedian Adam Corolla for a drawing published in the magazine, and also with the actor/comedian, Len Belzer (in this case, uncredited in the Table of Contents).

 

Realizing that magazine was suddenly awash in public collaboration, I asked Liam Walsh, Ben Schwartz, Bob Eckstein, and Marc Philippe Eskenazi about their collaborations, beginning with the obvious, “Why collaborate?”  (I offhandedly asked Liza Donnelly if she could remember why she and I collaborated on the Beatlefest piece and she replied, “Because we wanted to.”).

 

Michael Maslin: Why collaborate?

 

Liam Walsh: I didn’t think about this very much beforehand, although it’s a very interesting question. (And one that I’m thinking about in relation to whether it’s something I want to do in the future.) I think the obvious reason would be if each person brought a different strength to the table but that doesn’t really apply to Ben and me. I think there is some benefit in the pressure of not wanting to let the other partner down. I’ve found the weekly deadlines for New Yorker cartoons to be really valuable because a lot of times if I’m writing or creating something speculatively I find that productivity suffers from my not being a strict enough taskmaster. Marc and Ben and I have been experimenting a little bit with using each other to help us make and keep productivity goals. There is probably a teensy element of fear in my desire to collaborate at this early point in my career, in the same way I might like to have a friend by my side when I walk past the graveyard at night. I also think that, at its best, collaborating can take you to places, creatively, you might not have gone on your own. My mind has certain tracks that it tends to stay in and working with another person can force me to venture outside of my usual thought patterns.

 

Ben Schwartz: The best answer is probably the simplest: it’s fun.  Collaboration allows me to get out of my comfort zone, explore new ideas, and gain insight into the creative process of others.  Having an engaged partner to share the workload keeps the pressure down and the enthusiasm up, all while creating a sense of accountability that ensures what we started actually gets finished.

 

Bob Eckstein: There have been a few reasons I’ve collaborated with different people in the past, some good, some embarrassing. I thought of the six last people I worked with and came up with: friendship, writer’s block, fun, to learn from, being star-stuck and an ice-breaker to date someone.

 

 

Marc Philippe EskenaziIn our case [“our” being Liam Walsh & Ben Schwartz- ed.], I cannot draw very proficiently, and don’t really have the patience to tidy up a drawing the way I would develop and refine a piece of music or writing.  But looking through thousands of cartoons each week, I couldn’t help but develop a few ideas here and there.  So I’d sketch them out in a notebook I had since high school.

 

MM: “How did the collaboration begin..,i.e., who made the first move and why?”

 

Eskenazi: Ben, Liam Walsh, and I often went to get coffee or lunch, and we would help develop each other’s ideas, theirs for cartoons, mine for stand-up.  Eventually I showed them my terrible drawings, and they liked some of the jokes.  Ben and I sold two, and Liam and I have sold one which may run around Halloween next year if it survives the harsh Summer.

Walsh: Tom Toro’s piece for the Culture Desk was a big inspiration to me to try some sort of longer-form piece. The Kurtzman exhibition seemed a promising subject and since we were both interested and spend a fair amount of time together anyway it seemed natural to do it together. Ben and I have been talking about working together for a long time. We are both big fans of comics, which are massive collaborations of writers, editors, pencilers, inkers, letters, etc so we might have had a different attitude toward the idea than someone who was a novelist or a “fine art” painter.

Eckstein: I’ll focus on two that specifically resulted in being published in the New Yorker. Len Belzer and I became best friends partly from trying to make each other laugh. We both came from a comedy background and he hosted one of the most important radio comedy shows in the ’80s, interviewing the biggest comics like Carlin, Cosby, Seinfeld, Robin Williams, etc.  I was also very close to his recently deceased wife and all of us sometimes critiqued the cartoons in the New Yorker. We also occasionally read our writing to each other, anything we might be performing or publishing. One piece of Len’s was about a poet’s reading. I thought it was pretty good and suggested he call it “Hecklers on Poetry Night.” I then commented that it would make a neat NYer cartoon. So we worked on the heckles and I did a drawing of our friend (artist John Kascht on stage).

  I recently did a cartoon with comedian Adam Carolla. I listen to his podcast and he once said something which I thought was possibly a good cartoon idea. Normally I consider that simply a dead idea since it was someone else’s  but  my caption idea was different enough that I figured why not do a cartoon with him. I forgot how I was able to contact him but I know a few people from the show…I’m in touch with comic Larry Miller…I know Adam’s assistant….I used to work for his co-host Alison Rosen from my days at TimeOut NY. (yeah, I know, it is all who you know. But having an opportunity to collaborate is a perk from many, many years of working at many places). Anyhoo, he was like, “sure” and that was it. We met in New York City but the cartoon was already done by then.

Schwartz: With Liam: He got the ball rolling, having been inspired by a Tom Toro piece for the Culture Desk blog.  We had recently viewed the Harvey Kurtzman exhibit at the Society of Illustrators together, and he felt that we could turn that experience into a comic for the blog.  I agreed, and we went from there.

With Marc: Marc had been generating gag ideas on his own for a while, but he didn’t think he was yet ready as an illustrator to take them any further.  I don’t actually remember if he asked me to draw some up or if I volunteered.

The larger context that applies to both cases, though, is that Marc, Liam and I are all friends with broadly similar creative sensibilities, and we often gather to workshop our individual projects and ideas.  Collaboration seemed like a natural next step.

 

MM: How did you decide who drew the work?(this question didn’t apply to Bob Eckstein as he was working with non-cartoonists)

 

Walsh: That was a little complicated. We considered a few different possibilities, but since drawing is our mutual strong suit it was clear that we both wanted to be very involved in that part. I did some early sketches, then together we worked out the final sketches, then I penciled the piece and inked my character before passing it over to Ben to ink everything else and do the colors.

Schwartz: Liam had a few specific layout ideas that he sketched up and I immediately embraced, so that gave us our start. From there, we considered having him fully finish the drawings for the sake of efficiency, but we eventually decided that it would be fun to see both our styles merge on the page.  He ended up doing full pencils plus the finished inks for his avatar, while I inked the rest and provided colors.  Inking another artist’s work was a real treat, and something I had long wanted to do.

With Marc, our roles were pretty clear from the start—he was the writer and I was the artist.

Eskenazi: My contribution was only the idea, and the general layout of the image.  For our Oscars cartoon, I described the image and gave the wording of the caption.  For our caption contest, which Mayor Bloomberg purchased, I had drawn the image in the style of a third-grade

 

MM: Did you actually sit down across from each other and work things out, or was it done over the phone, or via the internet?

 

Eskenazi: I gave Ben my sketchbook, and he drew up a few, but the only ones that sold were from scans or emails.

Schwartz: Liam and I started by exchanging several emails discussing ideas and themes.  This was valuable, but we didn’t have a concrete plan until we sat down in person and mapped out our page together.

Marc and I worked together in a more assembly-line fashion.  He generated his ideas earlier, then passed them off to me.  He didn’t see the results until I was fully finished with the art.

Eckstein: With Len, I might show him what I’m working on when we get together. We play chess, we have lunch and sometimes we stop and he will help me with my sketches, throwing out a suggestion or two. Sometimes he’ll just come out with a great new caption I would have never thought of. We’ve been published in a few places. We[recently] had a cartoon in the Wall Street Journal and he called me with new cartoon idea he had which I’ll draw up and show him. Then we will decide what works and doesn’t work and I’ll make those changes before showing them to Bob at the NYer.

Walsh: We did some initial emailing, but it didn’t come together until we committed to sitting down and not leaving until it was done. We wound up writing every single word together.

 

MM: Any problems working together (decision-making; disagreements over what works, what doesn’t) or was it smooth sailing?

Walsh: Smooth sailing for us. We seemed to move pretty steadily forward–that is to say, each time one of us had an idea the other seemed to think it was an improvement over what we had so far. I’m sure this is not always the case. I can easily imagine having a great idea that I can’t live without and really having that bring things to a standstill; but it’s not like there is only one possible successful outcome and everything else is shit and you need to get there or fail. There are a million ways we could have done that piece and some are better, some are worse, and lots are probably pretty similar. If either of us had insanely brilliant ideas that didn’t make it into the piece I’m sure they will be put to use in some future project.

Schwartz: In both cases, it was nothing but a great experience.  With Marc, things were particularly easy because our roles were so well defined and we each allowed the other full control of his part.  Since Liam and I shared nearly every step of the process, we had more opportunities for disagreement, but it was never an issue.  I think we each had to give up a couple of ideas that we liked, but only because we believed that the other’s take was even stronger.

Eskenazi: I felt very detached and excited.

Eckstein: All the people I’ve been lucky to work with are very accomplished and very talented. I collaborate with Len so I can get better and learn how to be funnier. Our only problems (as far as I’m aware of!) are when one of us doesn’t get a reference the other is making but we just enjoy getting together whatever the circumstances.

 

MM: Did it turn out that one of you was stronger in the word department, the other in the drawing department?  By that I mean:  did either of you guide the text more than the art, and the art more than the text?”

Eckstein: In a perfect world I’d like to only do the writing and wish someone else would draw up the ideas.

Walsh: I’m not supremely confident about my writing skills so it was great to have an editor sitting right across from me. It was a true collaboration, 50/50, and I think we both agree that what came out of it was not something we would have come up with on our own.

Schwartz: I feel like Liam and I equally contributed to both the words and pictures of our piece, to the point where even I have trouble remembering which elements were his and which were mine.

Again, Marc had full control over the text for his gag, and I had full control over the visuals (though, of course, I had his text in hand to guide me).

Eskenazi: No we’re both equal on both fronts.  He[Ben Scwhartz] gets more credit as being a better artist, but it is very subjective.  I could draw as well as him if I wanted to, but I really just don’t care enough.  I could easily, though.  Easily.

MM: Are there plans to collaborate again?

Eskenazi: I hope so, I need the money.

Schwartz: I would love to do more collaboration with Marc and with Liam, and with Marc and Liam.  We’ve been tossing around ideas, so hopefully we’ll have something to show for it soon.

Walsh: I suspect so. Ben and I are working on something with Marc right now (because a two-person collaboration wasn’t complicated enough!) and I’m sure we’ll work together again in the future.

Eckstein: The pay a cartoonist makes does not make collaborating practical. Ideally I’d love to collaborate with some of the comedians who I was influenced by growing up but even a-one-time-thing — that’s problematic… I’d like to see more cross-over of people who love comics and people who love cartoons. I’d like to see Demetri Martin cartooning for the New Yorker.

I was [recently] talking to [comedian] Larry Miller with hopes of collaborating on a cartoon and we exchanged jokes and captions to try to come up with something.

 

 

 This piece began with a dip into New Yorker history, so why not end with it too.  It’s instructive to remember that  collaboration likely brought the art of James Thurber to The New Yorker.  Had Thurber not contributed his art to Is Sex Necessary, his collaboration with E.B. White, it’s possible Harold Ross may never have thought twice about allowing Thurber’s “goddam seal drawing” into the magazine.

 

And…

This twelve minute video, “You Rang, Mr. Addams”

(Thanks to Mike Lynch for mentioning this on FB)

More MoCCA Today (With Photos) & “My First MoCCA”; David Sipress On A 1969 Harvard Protest

More MoCCA Today

At least three New Yorker cartoonist events scheduled today: Liana Finck in conversation with Gabrielle Bell; a “spotlight” on Mark Alan Stamaty; Emily Flake as part of a panel, “Narratives On Motherhood”; cover artist Ivan Brunetti in a panel on “Comics and the Teaching Artist” (right: Ms. Bell and Ms. Finck today. Courtesy of Stephen Nadler).

And more photos from today (all courtesy of Liza Donnelly, with the exception of the Mark Alan Stamaty photo.  That’s another courtesy of Stephen Nadler):

Top row, l-r: Peter Kuper, Felipe Galindo, Mark Parisi, Ellis Rosen.

Middle row: Arnold Roth & Caroline Roth, Liza Donnelly, Keith Knight.

Bottom: Mark Alan Stamaty (l), and Bill Kartalopoulos, who, among other things, is MoCCA’s Programming Director, and Series Editor for The Best American Comics series. 

My First MoCCA:  A Personal Take

Judging by the scene I dove into at yesterday’s MoCCA Fest, the appetite for, and practice of comics and cartoons is booming. The place (the Metropolitan West on West 46th Street) was at capacity, loud and energized. I took in the must-see Cartooning For Peace exhibit on the second floor (curated by The New Yorker cartoonist, Liza Donnelly) then immediately ran into Dick Buchanan (who for quite some time has been sharing his voluminous cartoon file via Mike Lynch’s site). Mr. Buchanan had told me earlier in the week  that he’d be at the fest, and would bring along a copy of a book I’d never seen before:  Bernard Wiseman’s Cartoon Countdown (published in 1959). Mr. Wiseman contributed 197 cartoons to The New Yorker, from April 19, 1947 – June 11. 1960.

In the pr copy on the first page:

This is the first book of cartoons devoted exclusively  to he Conquest of Space. Let the Russians Match That! 

(to the right: The Cartooning For Peace Exhibit)

With  thanks to Mr. Buchanan for Cartoon Countdown, it was on to a tour of the fest.

 

  The illustrator Tom Bloom was seen engaged in conversation with an exhibitor, the illustrator/educator, Steve Guernaccia blew by (he’s hard to miss, sartorially). The multitude of people, of tables laden with products bearing graphic images, posters, cards, etc., etc., was astounding. Along with me on the tour was one of my co-panelists, Danny Shanahan.  We were moving along at a good pace with the flow of the crowd when a familiar book cover on the New York Review Comics table got our attention: Saul Steinberg’s recently reissued Labyrinth (also on the table were a number of Maira Kalaman titles).  I bet Steinberg would’ve enjoyed the scene passing by his book.

Closing in on the slotted time for our panel with Mort Gerberg, we headed over to Ink48 on 11th Avenue, where the panels took place. Ran into Stephen Nadler of Attempted Bloggery  who reminded us that Mark Alan Stamaty was signing his anniversary edition of MacDoodle Street.

Co-panelist Bob Eckstein awaited us in the Garamond Room, where we were soon joined by Marisa Acocella, and the man of the hour, Mort Gerberg. Spotted in our audience were New Yorker contributors,  R. Sikoryak, and Sophia Warren, as well as friend to all comics creators, Karen Greene of Columbia University. Below photos of the panel courtesy of Mr. Nadler (l-r, Danny Shanahan, Bob Eckstein, myself, Marisa Acocella, and Mr. Gerberg).

One of the fun things to come out of paneling with colleagues is the unexpected nugget or two of New Yorker history. As he discussed selling his first cartoon to The New Yorker back in 1965 , Mr. Gerberg told us — and this is something I had never heard, and didn’t realize was even possible — that he had talked the then art editor, James Geraghty into allowing what was supposed to be a bought idea of Mr. Gerberg’s to become a bought drawing. New Yorker history buffs know that it was routine at the magazine back then to buy ideas and give them to established cartoonists. It’s quite a thing that Mr. Gerberg, with his first sale to the magazine, was not only able to buck that well-entrenched system, but to deliver the full page below (published in October 20,1965).

  After our panel concluded we panelists stayed in the same room to attend the next panel,  “Professional Development 101: Art Directors Roundtable.” How could we not –it included our very own cartoon editor, Emma Allen. As we moved into the audience we spotted fellow colleagues, Kendra Allenby, Tracey Berglund, and cartoonist, Marc Bilgrey. Ms. Allen was joined by Matt Lubchansky (of The Nib), Alexandra Zsigmond (formerly The New York Times), Will Varner (formerly Buzzfeed), and artist/educator, Viktor Koen, who moderated.  The “101” in the panel title was accurate — we heard what the scene was like for today’s beginning illustrator/artists trying to break in. One piece of advice from Ms. Allen that stood out for me:  something that would make her laugh while looking at [written and drawn] humor for four hours in a day, had an excellent shot.

By the way, the place was packed.

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David Sipress On A Harvard Protest In 1969

Mr. Sipress, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998, has a Personal History piece on newyorker.com: “Fake News, 1969: My Slightly Infamous Role In The Harvard Antiwar Protests”