On his 73rd birthday, Bob Mankoff, newly un-hitched from his duties as cartoon editor of the New Yorker, let the word go forth he was immediately beginning a new job as cartoon editor (and humor editor) of the 83 year old men’s magazine, Esquire. Pre-dating Playboy, Esquire was once one of the major markets in this country for cartoons embracing more risque work than The New Yorker (when Playboy came along in the early 1950s, its cartoons made Esquire’s risque cartoons seem tame). When Esquire was reinvented in the late 1970s there was initially great interest in bringing back cartoons. After I sold a bunch of cartoons to them during the planning phase, I was invited in to meet with Clay Felker, Milton Glaser and then Esquire cartoon editor, Harvey Kurtzman — it was all very exciting, but the excitement was short-lived as using cartoons was abandoned before the first new-look Esquire was printed (it was, after all, the age of illustration, ushered in by the success of Mr. Felker’s and Mr. Glazer’s New York magazine). But that’s all ancient history. It’s 2017 — with new cartoon markets hard to come by. If Esquire has its own Look Day, cartoonists can head uptown to the Hearst Tower after first seeing Emma Allen at The New Yorker.
Shortly after the above Spill piece was posted, Michael Cavna posted a piece on Mr. Mankoff’s intentions, viv-a-vis an Esquire Look Day. Mr. Mankoff now calls the “open call” Look Day he inaugurated and presided over during his twenty year New Yorker stint as cartoon editor, “delusional”; Mr. Mankoff’s “open call” was in stark contrast to his predecessor’s Look Day, which was open only to veteran cartoonists. He told the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna what his new approach as Esquire‘s cartoon editor would be:
The idea: What if he were to work closely with a handful of different cartoonists every issue, in a process that he says would “feel less hierarchical” and “more productive”?
The piece continues:
… Mankoff wouldn’t just work with artists, but also performers. “I want stand-up comedians to work with cartoonists, too, to [explore] what a stand-up sensibility could be in a magazine.”
That collaborative approach, he notes, is more like what the New Yorker was still doing a half-century ago, when illustrators and gag writers might be paired on a cartoon.
Mr. Mankoff would seem to be thinking of returning, in part, to an approach that began to lose favor at The New Yorker in 1952, when William Shawn began encouraging the magazine’s artists to develop their own voice, rather than to rely on gagwriters. While using gagwriters is still an approach a very small number of New Yorker cartoonists employ, it has been largely out of favor at the magazine since the early 1970s (Roz Chast, in a brochure for an exhibit of New Yorker cartoons, wrote that she felt the use of gagwriters was “like cheating.”)
In The New Yorker‘s earliest days, working on cartoons was a collaborative effort carried on in the Art Meeting, wherein a number of editors (and Rea Irvin, the magazine’s Art Supervisor) joined in on helping sharpen work. When Mr. Shawn was appointed the magazine’s editor, he abandoned that collaborative effort.
It will be fascinating to see how Mr. Mankoff’s retro-collaborative approach plays out in the pages of Esquire.