Profile of Interest: The “Sistine Chapel of Comic-Strip Art”; Liza Donnelly to Speak at Ireland’s Inspirefest; Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons

“The Sistine Chapel of Comic-Strip Art”

From the New York Times, May 11, 2018, “The Sistine Chapel of Comic-Strip Art” — this piece on a mural of various cartoon characters in a sports bar (James Thurber is mentioned here and there as the sports bar’s lineage includes Costello’s, where Thurber famously drew a mural in the mid 1930s. That mural, restored in 1972*, vanished in 1992**). 

*”Thurber Creatures Live Again in Bar Here,” NYTs,  April 9, 1972

**“Drawing Attention to Great Thurber Heist,” New York Post, November 9, 2005

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Liza Donnelly to Speak at Ireland’s Inspirefest

 “Liza Donnelly on art and activism: ‘Change Comes One Person At a Time'”

–this short piece on Ms. Donnelly as she prepares to head across the pond.

Link here to Liza Donnelly’s website.

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Cartoon Companion Rates the Latest New Yorker Cartoons

“Max” & “Simon” are back with their takes on the cartoons in this week’s New Yorker (the “Innovators Issue”).  The guys dig into drawings of snails, Death, Frankenstein, mice, a mime and more. Joe Dator is awarded Top Toon of the week.  See it all here.

 

 

“Insurance Goes On Forever”; Panel of Interest: “I Was Only Kidding!”; Krimstein in Shrewsbury

Slightly Underwritten, published in 1951 by Simon & Schuster was one of my most memorable used bookstore finds.  Memorable because the original of the Thurber drawing on the cover happens to be the one and only Thurber original in the Spill‘s collection. When I pulled this book off the store shelf and saw the drawing on the cover, time stood still for just a moment. The drawing is the only Thurber in this slim collection; it’s joined by other four other New Yorker cartoons, with the rest from a wide variety of publications.  New Yorker artists include Gardner Rea, Gluyas Williams, Syd Hoff, Robert Day, Richard Decker, and Chon Day.

From the inside flap:

“Here we have a collection of cartoons to gladden the hearts of both the men who sell insurance and the people who try vainly to resist them.”

And from the The Foreword :

“Almost all good things come to an end…Food will spoil.  But insurance goes on forever.”

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Panel of Interest: “I Was Only Kidding!”

Two New Yorker contributors, Ben Katchor and Liana Finck are part of the panel. All the info is right there on the above screen grab, but here’s another version.

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Krimstein in Shrewsbury

Ken Krimstein, shown above right holding a copy of his upcoming graphic novel, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, is across the pond at the big Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival. Here’s a short piece with some Krimstein content.

Armed Services Editions: Thurber, Benchley, White, Arno, O’Hara, Parker, Woollcott & More

The Spill has been very fortunate over its decade plus span to receive numerous contributions to its archives. The latest is a treasure trove of Armed Services Editions from Prof. Brian Anderson of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC..  Prof. Anderson, seeing an ASE-related post on this site, recently supplied a list of the New Yorker related editions as well as a box of editions (many of which you see above). Also in the box: a pony edition of The New Yorker, dated January 27, 1945, cover by Perry Barlow.  Prof. Anderson, along with Molly Guptill Manning are curating an exhibit of Armed Services Editions at the Grolier Club in the spring of 2020.

Here’s a short list of titles by some favorites (the bolded ones are in the Spill‘s archives):

The New Yorker’s Baedeker 819
New Yorker Profiles 955
The New Yorker Reporter at Large 1066

By Thurber
My World and Welcome to It A-11 (reprinted as S-5)
My Life and Hard Times L-2 (856)
Let Your Mind Alone N-7 (rpt 755)
The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze I-253 (rpt 705)
The Thurber Carnival 970

With E. B. White
Is Sex Necessary M-2 (rpt 1016)

By E. B. White
One Man’s Meat P-26
Quo Vadimas 696

With Katharine White A Subtreasury of American Humor  F-176 

Margaret Case Harriman Take Them up Tenderly  Q-26

 Walter Bernstein Keep Your Head Down  903

Charles Boyer Dark Ship  1156

John McNulty Third Avenue, New York  1180

Joseph Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon D-108

Dorothy Parker Selected Short Stories R-4

John O’Hara Pipe Night 741

John O’Hara The Doctor’s Son and Other Stories 979

Robert Benchley After 1903 What? R-5

Samuel Hopkins Adams A. Woollcott 931

The Bedside Tales / Introduction by Peter Arno 933

 

At the Oscars! Liza Donnelly Live-Draws From the Red Carpet; “That Special Kind of Madness”: The Seventh New Yorker Album

At The Oscars! Liza Donnelly Live-Draws From the Red Carpet

 Back for her third trip to the Academy Awards, Liza Donnelly, is live-drawing for CBS News (she’s their Resident Cartoonist). You can follow her work tonight from the Red Carpet on Instagram (lizadonnelly), Twitter (@lizadonnelly), etc., etc.

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“That Special Kind of Madness”: The Seventh New Yorker Album

The Seventh New Yorker Album, published in 1935 by Random House, features Peter Arno’s March 23, 1935 New Yorker cover as its cover (the third solo album cover for Arno, with two more to follow).  As I wrote in my Arno biography, this cover was “a quiet link between the old Arno style and what would become the new.”

The front jacket flap copy informs us that this album is a two-fer since there was not a 1934 album, and goes on to say, “Consequently, this edition not only contains more pictures by more artists, but the publishers believe that it marks a new high standard in quality for the series.”

A remarkable album in the series for one reason: it has dueling forewords: The Undertakers Garland (described as “A Dissenting Foreword By Lewis Mumford ” and Fresh Flowers (described as “A Partial Defence By One Of The Editors” ) .

Lewis Mumford, at the time the magazine’s Art Critic, didn’t sugar-coat his take on The New Yorker‘s current cartoons, writing, in part:

“…the jokes seem more interesting than the drawings; or rather, even when the drawings are most adequate, they remain a mere instrument of the idea….The comedy has that special kind of madness that springs out of  a rough day at the office and three rapid Martinis. It is titillating, but a little frothy; it tickles me but remains peripheral; it has flavor but lacks salt.”

Wolcott Gibbs, who wrote the “partial defence” was in his fifth year of acting, in his words, “as a sort of liaison officer between the editorial staff of The New Yorker and the artists who draw its pictures,”  addressed Mr. Mumford’s issues one-by-one and concluded with this “defence” of Mr. Mumford’s “three rapid Martinis” charge:

“This apparently refers to the work of a few artists whose characters belong to no particular land or time and are held to the world only lightly, by the pull of tempered gravity. They are the wilder shadows in the same wonderland that Lewis Carroll first explored, and they are valuable to this collection as lesser examples of the same universal and timeless comedy. It is, of course, important that this sort of humor, operating in its own particular vacuum, be used judiciously…”

And so, here we have, just ten years into the New Yorker‘s existence, a very public debate over what a New Yorker cartoon should be, and should not be.  If there’s a constant in this funny world of the magazine’s cartoons — now closing in on their 100th birthday —  it is that the debate has never ceased.

Here’s the list of the contributing artists in the album. 

Most of the names will be familiar to long-time New Yorker readers, with the possible exception of Eric Monroe Ward,  who is a certified member of Ink Spill’s One Club. The One Club is limited to cartoonists who have been published once and only once in the New Yorker.  This icon   identifies them on the A-Z. 

  Mr. Ward’s only appearance was in the issue of July 14, 1934. As his work likely has little opportunity to shine, I’m showing his one drawing below:

*Note: this very same issue with Mr. Ward’s drawing also contains James Thurber’s classic, “What have you done with Dr. Millmoss?”  — for me personally, a most important cartoon — actually, the most important cartoon.  Nice to run across it again in its natural habitat. 

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For more on Lewis Mumford, check out Findings and Keepings: analects for an autobiography (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975).

And for more on Wolcott Gibbs, there is Thomas Vinciguerra’s wonderful Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (Norton, 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And In This Corner, At 656 Pages and Weighing 9 Pounds, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker

Wow. Seems like only a few years ago this heavyweight was published, not 14 years ago.  An undertaking so far unequaled (at least measured by heft) in the magazine’s history. The book weighs about 9 pounds and is 656 pages, with two cds containing every New Yorker cartoon in the magazine (up to that time).  A subsequent paperback edition, though 14 pages longer, isn’t as heavy, is smaller in size and contains just one cd.  There is, as Spillers know, an even lengthier New Yorker book coming at us this Fall, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons @ 1536 pages (Simple math tells us this new one is then more than twice as long.  Wow, wow.). 

So what to make of this 2004 giant album.  There was much to like about it, and some not to like. First, the good and bad (quibbles, I call them) about the enclosed cds. 

  The 2 cds, as advertised, gave us access to the huge number of cartoons published in the magazine. The cd database was not perfect.  There were some issues with cartoons assigned to the wrong cartoonist. There were omissions as well as questionable additions (my memory is finding what we would normally call illustrations included as cartoons).  But let’s be real: in a project this enormous, no one could expect perfection, and the final product should be applauded. Those issues with the database were overshadowed by the ability to see the work, anyone’s work, with a few clicks.

The arrival the following year of The Complete New Yorker with its 8 DVD-Roms made the Complete Cartoon discs, for me, obsolete.  Why? The Complete New Yorker‘s discs allowed one to see the cartoons presented as they were published in the pages of the magazine, and not isolated on the screen. The Complete Cartoons database presented the cartoons solo, sans surrounding text — to my eyes a cold environment.  For me, seeing the cartoons the way they appeared in the magazine (their natural habitat), and how they were presented along with text and other cartoons was (and always has been) the preferred way to experience New Yorker cartoons.

The book itself: 

Picking up a 9 pound book is a commitment — it’s best looked at while it rests on a coffee table or heavy-duty plank of wood. Once anchored, the page-turning experience is highly enjoyable. The large format (11″ X 13″) allows the cartoons a lot of breathing room on the page.  A very slight quibble: the format of 4 cartoons to a page or 3 could’ve used a little shaking up. Unless I missed it, there are no drawings allowed to carry over to the opposite page, no playful use of the all that space.  True, there are full page drawings sprinkled throughout, but variety otherwise (as in the much earlier albums) would’ve added to the layout. The paper quality is just good enough to avoid seeing through to the next page. 

  There are written pieces introducing the decades (some by such marquee names as John Updike, Calvin Trillin and Roger Angell) and short unsigned essays on cartoon themes (drinking, nudity, slipper dogs and cell phones, etc.). There are also  profiles of certain cartoonists — the flap copy calls them “key cartoonists” identified with each decade.  These include Arno, Thurber, Addams, Steig, Steinberg, Booth, Ziegler, etc.. One quibble with these key cartoonist profiles: out of 10 cartoonists profiled, only one is a woman. While doing research for my biography of Peter Arno in the New Yorker‘s archives (found at the New York Public Library) I came across an in-house New Yorker document rating the golden age artists;  two cartoonists were at the very top of the list in a class by themselves above all other artists: Peter Arno and Helen Hokinson.  Ms. Hokinson is not profiled in the book.  I would argue that Barbara Shermund and Mary Petty also deserved recognition.

It’s too late now, but if they had it to do all over again, I would’ve been happier if the editors had provided us with either more profiles of “key cartoonists” and less introductory text (it is, after all, a book of cartoons and cartoonists far more than a book about cartoons) or no profiles of key cartoonists at all.  Once you begin noticing who’s not profiled (Alan Dunn, for instance — whose work is in the top five of all-time published New Yorker cartoonists along with James Stevenson; Rea Irvin, Frank Modell, Robert Weber, Whitney Darrow, Edward Koren, Lee  Lorenz, Charles Barsotti, Danny Shanahan, the aforementioned Shermund and Hokinson — just to name a few) you realize you’re only getting part of the picture.  I’d argue that after the magazine found its footing in late 1926 or early 1927, it was a team effort that ultimately made the New Yorker cartoons great, not a team carried by less than a dozen.  

Final quibble: I’ve never been fond of the mini essays on drinking, cell phones and slipper dogs etc. —  why categorize unless you’re turning out a theme cartoon book ala The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons.  For me, categorizing takes away the organic punch an individual cartoon delivers.  Give us ten desert island cartoons in a group and they each lose a little something.  

All in all, with the above exceptions noted, the Complete Cartoons is a major effort and a loving tribute to the magazine’s artists and their art. Let’s hope we see it equaled, if not bettered, in 2025, when the magazine turns 100 years old.

The paperback edition of The Complete Cartoons, published in 2006, gives us a few more pages and a few more years of newer cartoons (and some newer cartoonists). As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot lighter than the hardcover so you can pick it up and sit back with it. No coffee table necessary. The single DVD-Rom adds approximately 1700 cartoons.