Editor Of The New Cartoon Collection “Everyone’s A Critic” Talks To The Spill; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Peter Kuper… And Yesterday’s:Teresa Burns Parkhurst; Podcast Of Interest With Emily Flake

Today’s pub day for Everyone’s A Critic (Princeton Architectural Press), the second in what will be a series of cartoon anthologies edited by Bob Eckstein, New Yorker cartoonist, best-selling author, and world’s leading snowman expert.

Here at the Spill, the arrival of a cartoon collection is always cause for a cartoonist hoo-rah.  This second book in the series features thirty-seven cartoonists, thirty-five of them New Yorker cartoonists (including this cartoonist, and the late great Jack Ziegler, whose “Critic” multi-panel  drawing appears here).  As with the first book in the series, The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons, Everyone’s A Critic is hardcover with the drawings printed on heavy stock (so no annoying bleed through images). An introduction by Mr. Eckstein is bookended by contributors bios. The cover drawing is by one of The New Yorker‘s modern masters, Danny Shanahan.

Over the course of a few days last week Mr. Eckstein and I had the following email exchange about his new book.

Michael Maslin: I’m holding in my hand your latest cartoon anthology, Everyone’s A Critic.  Size-wise it’s similar to the fleet of New Yorker anthologies that have come out over the years (The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons, The New Yorker Book of Dog Cartoons, and the like). Were those New Yorker anthologies a kind of inspiration for this series of yours?  If not, what was the inspiration?

Bob Eckstein: There are more cartoonists and cartoons than ever, and quite frankly too many to support in shrinking real estate for the work, in part to do with the departure of Harvard Business Review, MAD magazine, Barron’s and many others. And right now I’m not going to concede that the internet is infinite space and exposure because that’s just fragmented eyeballs. Part of a successful cartoon (or article or illustration) is it has to be seen, right? And that’s certainly Problem #1 in our field. So creating the book was creating a new, admittedly tiny, space.

The New Yorker anthologies of the past have nothing to do with this series, per se. The selection process is totally different. But the packaging, the size, the quality of the binding, etc., was 1) dictated by current market concerns (the books you referenced are mostly two decades ago, on a different playing field, publishing-wise) and 2) based on my first goal when I do any book—what would I want to buy? Am I getting my money’s worth?

Now, I do realize that the New Yorker itself has EVERYTHING to do with these books. They made the single gag cartoon an art form that didn’t exist before. And plus I’m indebted and grateful to the magazine for any leverage I had. The publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, liked my cartoons and liked my track record in book sales. That all goes back to the New Yorker and it happened in a very short time (I started gag cartooning in 2007 and began writing for them shortly afterwards). But I didn’t use the specific New Yorker BOOKS of yesteryear as a template in any way except to make sure we (the editor and I) avoided any blatant similarities. Unavoidable would be that we used many cartoonists who have appeared in the New Yorker because the ultimate criteria for inclusion into the books was it’s a very funny cartoon. But to address your question specifically about size, that was decided by what size the cartoons liked best, what was too big for production costs, bookshelf space, shipping weight, gravitas to be competitive in the Gift book arena and other sales factors I took into account with my marketing team.

The inspiration for the series was independent bookstores. I wanted to create a thank you card to them for making my World’s Greatest Bookstores a bestseller (which they made happen) and also they asked me what was next. So what better than to do a fun light book about them, again. I thought I could tap into a resource I had. I personally knew and became friends with the funniest cartoonists in the world. The book would at the same time pay small tribute to them for the inspiration they gave me. Again, this is not like the New Yorker and not an open call but a pet project where I would have to be asking favors of the contributors yet I wanted to have fun doing this. Everyone in the book I sincerely like. So after that initial group, a core group of friends who could arguably be placed in the category of world’s greatest cartoonists—almost all the contributors in the book have been published over a 1,000 times in different publications!—work was chosen by merit alone. I had thousands of submissions to choose from and I did my best to pick the funniest. I admittedly have more in the book than I deserve. But I didn’t pick my own cartoons, my editor did.

MM: Here’s a nuts and bolts question.  You decide you want to do this second book, and the publisher agrees to do it, then what?  What’s your decision-making process at that point? Do you send out a mass email?

BE: Yep, a mass email. I begged the contributors to be a part of it. I know collectively they and the publisher did a great job on the first book and wanted to keep it going. Only one or two people declined. I’m doing the third book now and again only one or two people didn’t reply that they were willing to be on board.

When I met with the editors and publisher the first time we both knew that a goal would be to produce more than one book. It was understood. It’s the new landscape of publishing. Very few successful authors are one and out. You must produce a series, a following. Each book theoretically supports the other. Unfortunately, the working business model is all about exposure. And I’m doing everything I can to get momentum. Book trailers, making trades with magazines for ad space, special promotions with bookstores (placing them within cartoons)…oh, anything to get the word out. I believe in these books. I believe in books. I have given this a lot of thought: that it took man 4,500 years before he produced books. One hundred years to devise the gag cartoon. I’m not onboard for phasing out either and want to do my part keeping the art form going. Cartoons in magazines, great. Cartoons in physical hardcover books, even better. I like giving cartoons the weight they deserve.

MM: Looking through the book — looking through any cartoon collection — it’s always the drawings that make me pause that I’ll remember days, weeks, sometimes years later.  In this case, let’s talk about a few of many that caught my attention:

Sam Gross‘s “What riles me is that he got a genius grant and I didn’t.”  Absolutely love this drawing. Of course Sam’s a cartoon god, so it isn’t surprising that he’s struck gold (again). How was it selecting drawings from Sam?

BE: I was just trying to give this kid a break.

Actually, for those who don’t know, Sam just celebrated his 50th anniversary of being in the New Yorker. Probably working for them earlier, when he sold jokes to Charles Addams. Yeah, great drawing, nice caption. Coincidentally, he summed up the whole psychological make-up of a good chunk of cartoonists in this one cartoon. Anyhoo, I picked this cartoon along with six other Sam Gross cartoons on one of my visits to his studio on the Upper East Side. For the first book we went through together almost 800 prospective cartoons he had on books and bookstores. He has over 30,000 cartoons total. But no bed, couch or a place to relax in that apartment. Just a place for coming up with ideas and cranking out cartoons. I wish I had his engine for work.

I learned a lot from him since I started gag cartooning in ’07. Never would have started if he didn’t dare me to try––we met not through cartooning but from using him in my first book about the history of snowmen. Don’t think I would have even done these books if not for him. I would have quit cartooning years ago if not for his encouragement. When I see him, I always blame him for being in this mess.

Photo Bob Eckstein, on the left, in work mode with Sam Gross

MM: Michael Shaw‘s drawings have always fascinated me. Perhaps it’s the bit of Thurber DNA I see in his work. His drawing “Minimalism folks. Nothing to see here” just seems to work every which way. Was this a shoe-in drawing?

BE: Yeah, he’s got a little Thurberism with his drawings but his lines underneath are laugh out loud funny. He is, I think, one of the most underrated living cartoonists there is. Although he often has a cartoon in any Top Ten Cartoons of All Time lists. This is a very good cartoon but typical for him. He often shares with me his weekly batch, now being sent over the airwaves from Green Bay. Which is a real shame because I’m convinced if we lived in the same town we would work on pitching TV shows together or something. That, and if I could understand what he says. I have to look up half the words he uses. I don’t want to call him genius because he may read this but he is smarter than the average bear. I actually think I’m a good editor for him because when if his cartoons miss, it’s because they go over everyone’s head. Being an idiot, I’m a good test for comprehensibility.

MM: . Speaking of minimalism, Liana Finck‘s Swim Critic drawing looks great on the page. Any thoughts on her work, or this particular drawing?

BE: It’s good to see Liana’s work given a full page and see the lines bigger. Liana is one of the few new people in the book, because one motive for the book was to share work not always readily seen nowadays from artists with a deep backlog. But I made an exception for Liana (and Ed Steed) who are now both already accomplished and blazing a trail for a new wave of cartoonists––creating cartoons that are confessional vignettes. I see that as the new agenda across a bunch of disciplines from podcasts (like Allison Rosen’s My New Best Friend; as I’m answering this question I learned that Liana was just her guest –- a weird triangle I’m compelled to point out: Ms. Rosen was my old editor at Time Out NY and Adam Carolla’s ex-cohost. I did a New Yorker cartoon with Mr. Carolla. It’s goes further than that but I’ll stop)…I forgot where I was…yes, to Presidential debates. Candidates have to share a confessional response to keep up in this age of  full disclosure.

I actually think Liana does it better than a number of stand-ups and is a true pioneer like comedian Maria Bradford, although Liana would probably not appreciate me bestowing these accolades on her. She’s too modest and hasn’t changed much from when I first met her and had yet to be published. Her style was different and I remember her telling me that each time she did a cartoon she wasn’t sure what style to use. Well, she not only found her voice but she’s the voice for the generation her work resonates with.  I look forward to seeing her soon at the Miami Book Fair. We’re going to be in conversation together, each talking our new books. Her new book is a survey of her beloved Instagram output called Excuse Me: Cartoons, Complaints, and Note to Self.

MM: Alex Gregory‘s “You’re right. Things are funnier in threes”  is such a great drawing. Anything to add here about Alex’s work, and/or this particular drawing? 

BE: Alex is the consummate cartoonist. I’m not even sure what that means, but it sounds good. This is maybe my favorite all-time cartoon. In my brain, which, granted, is like a pea rattling in a soda can, there’s a part reserved for a handful of cartoons that I wish I had thought up first.This cartoon is one of them. At the risk of being totally wrong, I think Alex’s style is so simple so that it allows the idea and caption to be as unobstructed as possible since they are so strong.This cartoon helped me decide that the next book could have three themes: love, marriage and divorce. 

Above: the Everyone’s A Critic  contributors.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon…and Yesterday’s

Other G-7 Venues, by Peter Kuper, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2011. Visit his website here.

Yesterday’s Daily: a beet maze, by Teresa Burns Parkhurst, who has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2017.

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Podcast Of Interest with Emily Flake

A 49 minute podcast from Write About Now with Emily Flake, whose new book The Art and Etiquette of the Awkward Hug is just out. Ms. Flake began contributing to The New Yorker in 2008.

 

The Wednesday Watch: Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; New Market Watch…Air Mail; Donnelly Live-Draws Dem’s Debate; A Susanne Suba Re-Issue

Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Desert drinks by Lila Ash, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2018.

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New Market Watch

Considering the narrowing avenues for cartoonists , it’s always a brighter day when a cartoon-carrying publication is launched.  We now have two (online-only) issues of former Vanity Fair editor, Graydon Carter’s Air Mail to peruse. You’ll find cartoons under the heading “Small Talk” (not an exclusive-to-cartoons-heading). Many, if not all of the cartoonists in these first two issues seem to have caravanned over from the recently de-cartooned Esquire, where Air Mail‘s cartoon editor was formerly (and briefly) the cartoon editor.  New Yorker readers will recognize most of Air Mail‘s cartoonists appearing in these first two issues; they include Alex Gregory, Maddie Dai, Joe Dator, Drew Dernavich, Chris Weyant, Seth Fleishman, David Borchart, and Charlie Hankin.

Two other New Yorker artists (primarily contributors of New Yorker covers ) are given their own “Sketchbook” slots: Barry Blitt, and the legendary Edward Sorel (casually referred to under the heading, “Ed Sorel’s Sketchbook”).

The one nit-picky thing I’ll say about Air Mail‘s cartoon slot is that I wish the space allotted each cartoon wasn’t so compressed (the bright red Small Talk banner actually looks to be weighing down on a number of the cartoons,  invading the cartoon’s space).  I’ve always believed cartoons are better off with breathing room surrounding them (i.e., shown graphic respect).  You’ll notice that a number of text features ( Science, Tech Lab, But First…, Highlight, Crime) all have a horizontal line placed below their heading, cleanly separating the feature’s title from the article.

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Liza Donnelly Live-Draws Dem’s Debate

Check out Liza Donnelly’s graphic take on last night’s debate. 

Ms. Donnelly has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1982.

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A Susanne Suba Re-Issue

Originally published in 1951 by Rand McNally (cover on the left), The Theatre Cat by Noel Streatfeild, with illustrations by New Yorker artist Susanne Suba will be re-issued this September by Scholastic. 

Susanne Suba’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Born Budapest, Hungary 1913. Died February, 2012, NYC. Ms. Suba contributed numerous “spot” drawings to The New Yorker, as well as five covers and one cartoon, published September 18, 1948. Her first cover appeared October 21, 1939, and her last, March 2, 1963. Besides her work for the magazine she was a prolific illustrator of children’s books. A collection of her spot drawings was published in 1944, Spots By Suba: From The New Yorker (E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc, NY).

Link to the Spill‘s appreciation of Ms. Suba here.

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, the New Yorker Issue of September 10, 2018; Cartoon Happenings At The New Yorker Festival

 “The Style Issue”  with a Kadir Nelson cover — the second Nelson cover in three weeks. It’s titled “Savoring Summer” (and again, I question why the New Yorker‘s covers need to be titled. Shouldn’t covers speak for themselves, so to speak? This cover certainly does). 

The cartoons:

Thinking there’d be a bevy of cartoonists in this mid-September issue (last week’s issue had fourteen), it was a surprise finding nine single panel cartoons this week (there’s a multi-panel “Sketchbook” by Roz Chast).  

Lately the Monday Tilley Watch has moved away from looking at every cartoon in each issue, but that doesn’t mean each and every cartoon in each and every issue doesn’t receive my undivided attention. Often I look at a cartoon like I eat popcorn.  But sometimes I linger on a particular drawing, savoring the art, or the caption (if there is a caption); in the best of times, I linger because I’m happy to be looking at something that works, that really works.  Other times I linger out of puzzlement — wondering what I’ve missed about the drawing — how, to my eyes, it went awry (or how my cultural antenna have failed me). It is far more exciting to come across a drawing that soars than one that fails.  Take for instance Joe Dator’s three part Beauty and the Beast cartoon in this new issue. I believe the drawing hits the high bar.  It’s drawn well (it reminds me of Lee Lorenz’s confident energetic art), and it measures up to Peter Arno’s characterization of a good cartoon, landing a one-two punch. A Spill round of applause is in order.

Some impressions from the issue:  Frank Cotham’s cartoon — it leads off the issue, sitting in a good-sized space following the Table Of Contents.  I mentioned Mr. Lorenz’s confident drawing; in Mr. Cotham’s quarter century of contributing to the New Yorker, he’s shown no fear in taking on the big picture, and handling it well. Alex Gregory’s line (his drawing is on p.93) is always a welcome sight.  Ed Steed’s bee-hive wielding doctor drawing (p.55) seems like a follow-up to Zach Kanin’s memorable “I can feel the baby kicking” cartoon from 2008.

The Caption Contest:

Cartoon caption contest drawings aren’t mentioned here much, but I did note that Mick Stevens’ drawing this week echoes one of mine (captioned as you see) published in The New Yorker, August 23, 1982.

Finally, let us not forget Rea Irvin’s missing classic Talk Of The Town masthead. I sometimes picture it propped up in a closest someplace in the magazine’s offices, waiting to be rediscovered and returned to its proper place. Until that time, if it ever comes, here it is:

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Cartoon Happenings at The New Yorker Festival

Held October 5, 6, and 7th. So far, here’s what’s up at the festival, cartoon-wise:

Saturday, the 6th: Sh!t Show: A Parenting Comedy Revue (with, among others, Emily Flake, and Roz Chast).

Sunday, the 7th: Cartoons & Coffee (with Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell and Farley Katz)

Here’s the homepage for the Festival

 

 

 

Most Popular Instagrammed New Yorker Cartoons; Site of Continued Interest: A New Yorker State of Mind; A Reminder: Tomorrow is Nancy Night at The Society of Illustrators

The New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Emma Allen presents Instagram’s most liked New Yorker cartoons of 2017 (by # of Instagram likes, of course). The list includes cartoons by (in no particular order here) : Farley Katz, Peter Kuper, Liana Finck, Paul Noth, Jeremy Nguyen, Roz Chast, Ben Schwartz, Kim Warp, Mort Gerberg, Emily Flake, Charlie Hankin, Alex Gregory, Maddie Dai, and Lars Kenseth. I believe these cartoons are a mix of work that appeared in the print version of the magazine or in the online only Daily cartoon slot.  See them here!  

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Site of Continued Interest: A New Yorker State of Mind

Yet another fun & fascinating installment from this site. Read here.

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A Reminder:  Karasik’s & Newgarden’s Nancy Night Tomorrow at the Society of Illustrators

All the info here

Checking In: Lars Kenseth Talks About “Deodorant People” and His First New Yorker Cartoon

I won’t lie to you Spill visitors, the first time I saw a Lars Kenseth drawing in the New Yorker, I was both baffled and intrigued. No one draws like Mr. Kenseth. He is one of the newest of the newest wave of cartoonists who have broken into and onto the pages of Harold Ross’s now 92 year old weekly. Mr. Kenseth’s first drawing appeared last Fall and those that have followed have not lost their peculiarity. That’s a good thing.

Happily, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kenseth this past Spring when he was east.  Meeting him was in a weird way like meeting his cartoon world; cartoonists who seem like their worlds fascinate me (two of the New Yorker cartoonists he mentioned in our discussion qualify as perfect examples: Sam Gross and Charles Addams). 

With the recent publication of another Kenseth cartoon in the New Yorker it seemed like a good time to check in with him…

Michael MaslinAccording to your website bio you are a very very busy cartoonist.  So, what are you up to these days? 
 
Lars Kenseth: The project that’s giving me the most stress dreams right now is an animated show I created for Adult Swim called Chuck Deuce. It’s about this sketchy, burnout surfer from Santa Cruz who is terrorized by a bevy of weird, pervasive hallucinations. We did a pilot and it’s about to go into “testing” which means they’re going to screen it for a roomful of people in Union, New Jersey who will then decide if I should be on the TV. Fingers crossed.
 
At the same time, I’m trying to sell four other TV projects and a movie. The thing about Hollywood is… nothing is real. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told something is a sure thing only to see it fall apart. Which is why I’m always working on new material. The upside is I’m usually employed. The downside is I’m more panic attack than man. But that’s just great cartoon material.
 
On the cartoon side, I’m doing my batches every week and trying to get better. And I’m investigating other outlets to sell to — the rejects. They just hang around the house all day doing nothing. Meanwhile I’m out there busting my butt. I’ll tell ya…
 
I’ve also started writing short comedy pieces, a la Shouts & Murmurs. I’ve always loved short form stuff like that. I’m a HUGE Jack Handey fan. Anyway, it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. And I just sold one to The American Bystander! That was exciting. I love that magazine.
 
MM: You’re a west coaster, and you’re also involved in television.  Do you ever interact with other west coast New Yorker cartoonist / television colleagues such as Alex Gregory,  Bruce Kaplan, and Zach Kanin?
 
LK: I haven’t met Alex or Bruce yet. Although I would love to, I’m a giant fan of them both. I’ve met Zach Kanin once – very nice guy and also insanely busy out here. And I know Sam Marlow’s out here, too – I need to reach out to him. Sam, if you’re reading this, drop me a line.
 
Matt Diffee and I are great friends and we see each other often. We are both members of The Order Of Cornelius (the NCS – L.A. Chapter) where we do secret handshakes and wear plaid and talk about cartoons. It’s fun! Matt was a huge help as I was shaping my drawing style.
 
MMYou have one of the most unusual styles of all contemporary New Yorker cartoonists. Can you talk about your style.
 
LK: Can I just say, I LOVE hearing people try to describe the characters I draw. I’ve heard everything from deodorant roll-on people to egg people to blobs to Weebles to gel caps to jellybeans to lozenges – it’s like the way every clan of survivors in The Walking Dead has a different name for “zombies”.
 
Ever since I was a kid I’d always drawn friendly looking characters, it’s what I like to do, but when I started working in TV animation that clean, big eyed look really snaked more and more into my drawings – because if I wanted to sell an animated show it would have to look like what’s on TV. When I finally got the courage to start submitting to The New Yorker, I knew I had to switch up my style. Matt Diffee put me through a kind of cartoon boot camp – feeding me different reference material. Weird Iranian cartoons, 18th century French doodles, etc. I just took it all in and started grinding away on a new style. I started drawing these strange little characters – my lumpy guys, I called them. They were squat, blobby characters with long pointy noses, bags under their eyes and I was using a rough, glitchy line quality. I thought I found something kind of interesting.
 
Eventually I flew out to New York to meet Bob [Mankoff, the New Yorker’s cartoon editor from August 1996 – April of 2017], introduce myself and get some face-to-face feedback on my stuff. Bob liked my jokes, but he HATED my style. It was the pointy noses that really did it.
“You need to get rid of that…” he searched for a descriptor, “aviary proboscis.” I’ll never forget that – so funny. And such a Bob Mankoff thing to say. Bob was sympathetic, “I’m sure you’ve been drawing this way your whole life.” I laughed, “More like three weeks.” 
I left that initial meeting unsure of where I stood. All I knew was my style wasn’t there yet. To quote Peter Arno, “Well, back to the old drawing board.”
 
When I got back to L.A. I took a hard look at my cartoons. The thing that I realized was these characters I was drawing weren’t me. They were mean and tired looking. It didn’t fit with my jokes or my personality. What I did like was the line quality. So I kept that. But from there I went friendlier, softer and pulled back on all the extremes. And that was that. After a month I’d rehabilitated my style to something that, thankfully, has found favor at the magazine… or at least enough favor to get the occasional OK. And I love it.
 
MMI think you may have made New Yorker cartoon history by including the words “New Yorker Cartoon” within the cartoon itself, and (unless I’m wrong), it was your first New Yorker cartoon.  Can you talk about that cartoon, and about that “first” moment?  Every cartoonist remembers that moment of the first OK.  Can you share your memory? 
 
LK: What a delightful shock that was, haha. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. As far as that first cartoon goes – I can’t believe I even sold that one. The whole “creepy clown” phenomenon was so odd – and not “New Yorker” at all. But, it’s a therapist’s office scene, so that’s the tether I suppose. It’s fitting that was my first one because some of my favorite New Yorker cartoons marry the surreal with the everyday. I’m reminded of that Charles Addams cartoon where a security guard locks eyes with a minotaur in the center of a labyrinthine museum. I need to sell a minotaur cartoon.
 
I got the OK on a Friday in late October of last year. I was eating fancy burgers in this Hollywood gastropub with a friend of mine. We were wrapping up dinner and about to walk over to The Wiltern to see a heavy metal concert. I was at the urinal checking my phone – because I’m classy – and saw I got an e-mail from Bob. And there it was in the subject line, “OK”. Everything after that is a blur – really hope I zipped up before I ran out of the bathroom to tell my buddy and call my wife and parents. My mom never swears but when I told her she was talking to a New Yorker cartoonist, she came close, “Shut the front door!!” 
For a kid whose father started feeding him Charles Addams and Sam Gross cartoons at a frightfully young age, this was a landmark moment.
 
Note: I asked Mr. Kenseth if he wouldn’t mind drawing a deodorant guy for the Spill.  He happily obliged and sent what he called “a little self portrait” — it appears at the very top of the post.