First Look: The New Yorker Encyclopedia Of Cartoons

A review copy of the slip-cased two volume New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons has landed here at the Spill. After sitting with it a day I’ve some initial thoughts:

The very first impression, before the shrink wrap was removed, was how heavy the set is ( 14.9 pounds).  An earlier tome, 2004’s Complete New Yorker Cartoons of The New Yorker  weighed in at 7 pounds. Of course, there are two volumes, so we’re back to about 7 pounds per volume. I found the books themselves attractive: the design, the binding, the paper quality, typography.  Once a volume is set down on a flat surface, it opens well, affording a pleasant thumbing through experience. 

The placement of cartoons is two per page (but not exclusively — there are times a drawing is full page, or takes up more than 50% of a page).  Chapter headings are each letter of the alphabet. On those introductory chapter pages, printed on a red base, a full page drawing appears. A nice touch: each drawing’s original publication date is noted.  Occasionally there is what is called a “commentary” (an example: “Banana Peels”). These are unsigned, but a blanket credit, for assisting in the writing is given in the introduction to cartoonists Emily Flake, Pat Byrnes, Tom Toro, Paul Karasik, and the New Yorker’s Assistant Cartoon Editor, Colin Stokes [full disclosure: I was asked to audition for the opportunity to write a number of these commentaries. I declined after learning my efforts, if used, would appear uncredited]. I’ve yet to read these commentaries, so I won’t comment on them, other than to say I wish each was signed, or co-signed.

On to the content of the book itself. The New Yorker has a long history of issuing themed pamphlets (for advertising purposes) and themed anthologies. The New Yorker War Album (published in 1942) was the first themed anthology. The next was The New Yorker Album of Art and Artists (published in 1970). The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons, published in 1991, was the first of many themed anthologies issued in a square format. The theme of this new anthology are cartoon themes themselves, from Accounting to Zorro.

As a cartoonist, I’ve always found themed collections amusing additions to the classic anthologies that began with The New Yorker Album, published in 1928, and continued through to the aforementioned 2004 Complete Cartoons. The classic anthologies are the next best thing to seeing the cartoons in their natural habitat: the New Yorker magazine itself. Mr. Remnick has this to say in his foreword:

A caution to the reader: The usual way to come across New Yorker cartoons is in the magazine or, more recently, on newyorker.com and on social media. There’s something distinctive, maybe even perverse, about the experience of glancing away from a long piece about, say, a particularly dusty province in the Middle East to drink quietly from the oasis of a good cartoon. 

 Leafing through an issue of The New Yorker affords the reader the joy of complete surprise when coming upon a new cartoon. The reader has, at first glance,  no clue as to what the drawing will deliver.  I often mention Peter Arno’s definition of a good cartoon — that is, one that delivers a one-two punch.  The reader looks at the drawing and then, the second punch: reading the caption. If the drawing is successful, the second punch really delivers. In themed anthologies the reader is already  somewhat informed. For instance, in the New Yorker Book of Dogs, you already know that the next cartoon, and the next, and the next, and so on, will concern dogs. The element of complete surprise is gone. But of course, if you are looking through the New Yorker Book Of Dogs, that’s what you want: cartoons about dogs. In the classic anthologies the reader is still afforded complete surprise: you have zero idea what the next page will bring. You may, of course, immediately recognize a favorite drawing first published in an issue of the magazine, but that’s akin to rounding a corner and running into an old friend. What I’m getting at here is that if you’re a person who enjoys some advance notice of what you’re in for, then this encyclopedia, with some 3000 categorized cartoons (in 300 categories) spread out over two volumes, is for you. 

 The contributing cartoonists are listed on Indexes found in each volume. Jack Ziegler’s work is most represented (103 drawings), followed by the encyclopedia’s editor (88).  Some of the cartoon gods of the magazine’s golden age are well represented (James Stevenson, for example, with 55 cartoons), while others less so (Mary Petty is represented by one cartoon, Helen Hokinson, the magazine’s marquee cartoonist, along with Peter Arno, for nearly forty years, is represented by five). To be clear, this encyclopedia is not advertised as some sort of all-encompassing anthology celebrating the magazine’s 93 year history.  Let’s hope the New Yorker has just that kind of collection in mind for its 100th anniversary in 2025.

The cartoons in this heavyweight encyclopedia, some gold, some silver, speak for themselves. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of June 18, 1984

As mentioned here last week, it’s double issue time again. We’re halfway though it now ; only a week til the new issue (dated June 18, 2018) appears online early Monday morning. Just for fun I thought I’d go back to another June 18th issue — the one from 1984. 

Here’s the cover, by Susan Davis, who contributed fifteen covers to the magazine from 1983 – 1992.

 

And here are the cartoonists in that issue:

A number of New Yorker cartoon gods in that lineup. And, as you might expect, some cartoonists  contributing to the magazine then who still contribute now. On the downside, a number of colleagues who’ve passed on: George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Stan Hunt, J. B. Handelsman, Steinberg, Bernie Schoenbaum, Frank Modell, Barney Tobey, Ed Arno, Mischa Richter, Ed Fisher, Eldon Dedini, and Robert Weber.

A quick tour through the issue: Ed Frascino has a very funny cartoon name-checking Indiana Jones; Lee Lorenz ( the art editor at the time) puts the word “glitz” to excellent use; a half page George Price cartoon centered on the Year of the Rat; a beautiful full page Saxon drawing about the Museum of Modern Art; a four part Stevenson spread across two pages. He animates television antenna; a titled Steig: “Eastbound Traffic.” Great drawing!;  Stan Hunt’s drawing is one of those cartoons that could’ve run anytime in the previous thirty years (previous to 1984, that is) — a boiler plate kind of cartoon; “Bud” Handelsman gives us a heaven-based piece; a Roz Chast drawing split into four boxes. It could’ve run this year; an Ed Koren drawing that just is so like butter — drawing and caption;  Steinberg provides an illustration for a Profile piece by E.J. Kahn, Jr.; opposite Steinberg is a Bernie Schoenbaum cocktail party drawing — a scenario employed by nearly every cartoonist back then; a Frank Modell drawing with his signature people — love his grumpy husband; an Arnie Levin caterpillar/butterfly drawing — that that loose Levin line is so great; a Barney Tobey drawing set in another favorite situation: the boardroom; a great Warren Miller drawing:

 Following Mr. Miller’s cartoon is an Ed Arno drawing — that fine controlled line of his! Immediately identifiable; a Mischa Richter dog at a desk drawing; Ed Fisher gives us a weather bureau drawing with lots of fun detail; Eldon Dedini’s cartoon of two guys at a bar with a caption that could run today:Everything’s a trap if you’re not careful.”;  next up, a cartoon that made me laugh out loud, by the great cartoonist, Robert Weber:

Next, a beautiful Sempe drawing (is there any other kind?); and last, a Sidney Harris restaurant drawing. Mr. Harris’s style is his and his alone: an angular line that appears to almost spin out of control, but never does.

So, there it is. A cartoon feast in mid-June, thirty-four years ago. 

 

     

Announcement of Interest: The James Stevenson Prize

From Broadway World, May 16, 2018, “Playing On Air Announces Celebrity Judges For Inaugural James Stevenson Prize”

— This news of “three monetary prizes for new short comedic plays that honor and perpetuate the spirit and wit of Mr. Stevenson.”

Mr. Stevenson’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

James Stevenson Born, NYC, 1929. Died, February 17, 2017, Cos Cob, Connecticut. New Yorker work: March 10, 1956 -. Stevenson interned as an office boy at The New Yorker in the mid 1940s when he began supplying ideas for other New Yorker artists. Nine years later he was hired a full-time ideaman, given an office at the magazine and instructed not to tell anyone what he did. He eventually began publishing his own cartoons and covers as well as a ground-breaking Talk of the Town pieces (ground breaking in that the pieces were illustrated). His contributions to the magazine number over 2000. Key collections: Sorry Lady — This Beach is Private! ( MacMillan, 1963), Let’s Boogie ( Dodd, Mead, 1978). Stevenson has long been a children’s book author, with roughly one hundred titles to his credit. He is a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, under the heading Lost and Found New York. Stevenson’s recent book, published in 2013, The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell, is essential.

The Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of May 7, 2018

A Sempe cover! And a bonus: a lengthier Cover Story than of late, with several photos (including one of Sempe and Ed Koren astride bicycles in NYC). Nice. Very nice.

On a run through this new issue the number of illustrations and photos seemed even weightier than the past few issues (and that’s really saying something). It’s likely due to Zadie Smith’s profile of photographer, Deana Lawson.  As the profile is of a photographer, using photographs makes sense.  Although, Brendan Gill’s New Yorker profile of the pioneer of celebrity photography, Jerome Zerbe included no photographs. Ah, but that was then (1973), this is forty-five years later.  Three cartoons (from William O’Brian, Stan Hunt and  Dean Vietor) and a hand drawn illustration by Silverman of Mr. Zerbe did appear within the pages of Mr. Gill’s piece. In true New Yorker tradition, the cartoons were unrelated to the content of the Zerbe profile.

A casual run-down of illustrations/photographs in this latest issue:

The usual close to full page photo on the Goings On About Town lead page.

3 full page illustrations

10 illustrations of various sizes.

Nearly 8 pages of photographs within the Lawson Profile 

Looking at that 1973 issue (June 9, 1973 to be exact) I was blown away by the number of cartoons it contained and the space they were allowed on the page. The only illustration was Mr. Silverman’s portrait of Mr. Zerbe (we’re not counting the “spot” drawings which are in a category unto them seIves). In other words: cartoons ruled. 

Below is a screen shot of pages 27-33 from that 1973 issue. Six cartoons in seven pages (cartoons by Warren Miller, Frank Modell, James Stevenson, George Price, William Hamilton, and Mischa Richter).

Two pages following Mr. Richter’s cartoon, this beauty by John Norment:

On the very next page following Mr. Norment’s drawing, this terrific multi-panel drawing by George Booth:

Following Mr. Booth’s piece are nine more cartoons by these cartoonists: Henry Martin, the aforementioned drawings by William O’Brian, Stan Hunt and Dean Vietor; Charles Barsotti, Robert Weber, Ton Smits, James Stevenson’s second in the issue, and Warren Miller’s second in the issue. Each is allowed generous space on the page. Oh, and Charles Saxon did the cover!

For a look at every cartoon in this latest issue I direct your attention to the Cartoon Companion blog. The bloggers “Max” and “Simon” (not their real names) go drawing by drawing, rating each along the way.  Look for the post covering this new issue either late this coming Thursday or Friday. I’m not always in agreement with the CC guys’ ratings, but anytime anyone is talking about New Yorker cartoons, I try my best to pay attention. 

ps: One year later, and Rea Irvin’s classic masthead still is a-missing. 

This is what it looks like:

 

 

 

A Visit to “Jim’s Bench”; Cartoon Companion Rates The Latest New Yorker Cartoons; Tilley Watch Online; Live New Yorker Cartoons Part VI on Late Night with Seth Meyers

A Visit to “Jim’s Bench”

The filmmaker Sally Williams recently asked me if I’d like to meet with her at “Jim’s bench” on Central Park West and 77th Street, right across the street from the Museum of Natural History. I couldn’t possibly resist the invitation. Ms. Williams has been working on a documentary about James Stevenson for quite some time now; we’ve had numerous conversations over the years about Mr. Stevenson and, of course, The New Yorker. 

 Mr. Stevenson is on a long list of New Yorker cartoonists who have lived and worked in New York City (some still do) and whose work reflected their city. I think also of Steinberg and Alan Dunn as cases in point.

Sitting on this bench near where Mr. Stevenson lived I couldn’t help but imagine him experiencing the traffic, the sounds, sights, types of individuals bicycling by, walking by, running by; the dogs and dog-walkers, the flurry of activity at the museum. I could see it all in Stevenson’s style: gracefully casual, with spark. Ms. Williams confirmed that Mr. Stevenson was, like so many cartoonists, a watcher (I once likened cartoonists to sponges. Consciously or subconsciously, we take everything in).  

If you find yourself near the Museum of Natural History, you might want to take a seat on Jim’s bench and spend a few moments watching Manhattan go by, Stevenson-style. 

  The bench is the one closest to the Humboldt StatueIt bears a small plaque:

 (I’ve written about Mr. Stevenson here on the Spill a number of times.  Here’s one piece which might be of interest). 

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Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons

Messrs. Max and Simon are back with thoughts & ratings on work by Frank Cotham, Carolita Johnson, Drew Dernavich, Avi Steinberg, Emily Flake, Roz Chast, Olivia de Recat, Mike Twohy, Bob Eckstein, Edward Koren, and Darrin Bell.  Read it here!

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Daily Cartoons this week by: Paul Noth, Mary Lawton, Kim Warp, David Sipress, and Lars Kenseth (4/5ths of the drawings were Trumpian).

And the contributing New Yorker cartoonists on Daily Shouts:  P.C. Vey, Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, Liana Finck, Emily Flake, and JAK (with Hartley Lin).  

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Live New Yorker Cartoons Part VI on Late Night with Seth Meyers

The New Yorker‘s editor, David Remnick returns to Late Night with Seth Meyers in the best segment yet. Cartoons by Carolita Johnson, Charlie Hankin, Will McPhail, Maddie Dai, and Ellis Rosen brought to life.   See them here!