Next week, two events of great interest to New Yorker cartoon aficionados.
On Tuesday, April 23rd, Bob Eckstein’s promotional tour for The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons makes a stop at Word Bookstore. Mr. Eckstein will be joined by fellow New Yorker cartoonists Nick Downes and David Borchart. Mr. Downes began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998. Both Mr. Borchart and Mr. Eckstein began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007.
On April 24th, Mort Gerberg continues his promotional campaign for the recently released Mort Gerberg: On the Scene. He’ll be joined atThe New York Historical Society by Garry Trudeau, and New Yorker contributor, Sofia Warren. Mr. Gerberg began contributing to The New Yorker in 1965, Ms. Warren in 2017. (Mr. Eckstein’s event is free; Mr. Gerberg’s costs $20.00)
The Cover: This week’s New Yorker cover is by Pascal Campion, his second cover for the magazine — his second moody metropolis scene. Read about it here. I wonder if we’ll see a moody mid-western, western, northeastern or southern scenario anytime soon.
The Cartoons: Several nice surprises this week. The first was running into Sam Gross’s lead-in cartoon (his work has been appearing in the magazine for forty-nine years). There are certain cartoonists whose style alone gets the laugh meter buzzing. Mr. Gross is one of those cartoonists. The other surprise: R.O. Blechman’s “spot” drawings. Mr. Blechman’s wonderful drawings and covers have appeared in the magazine for forty-five years.
A third nice thing to see in this issue: the number of cartoons. Bumped up from the usual dozen or so to a healthy eighteen. They just keep on a-comin as you flip through the magazine (as do the illustrations).
If I have one little dark cloud to drag over this sunny moment it’s another plea for some of the work to be run larger (true, some cartoons run large, should be smaller). A number in this issue are, to my eyes, sized just right (a few for instances: Tom Cheney’s on page 54, and Jon Adams on page 52). Perfectly sized is Seth Fleishman’s terrific drawing on page 39. But others seem wedged into their corners; Roz Chast’s intricate Candy Land For Adults (page 32) and David Sipress’s off the beaten track restaurant (page 25) would benefit from more space. Really all I’m campaigning for is a graphic invitation for readers to fully appreciate the work. The work of the late George Price is a good example of how a cartoonist’s world can take us in for some detached momentary fun-time. Mr. Price’s drawings were usually allowed a lot of breathing room on the page. One paused to inspect the work, to enjoy all the “stuff” Price gave us. Imagine one of his drawings run in a little box on the corner of a page.
A few favorite drawings, or elements of drawings in this issue: Joe Dator’s monkey (page 40); Paul Noth’s drawing (page 60) — a great addition to the New Yorker‘s doctor canon; P.C. Vey’s theater drawing; Maddie Dai’s drawing of a sculptor and friend, as well as the caption; Frank Cotham’s perfect caption for his drawing (page 36). All fine, inspiring moments.
Next-to-Lastly, a mention of the newest cartoonist on the block:Ellie Black, the third newbie this year and the twenty-seventh new cartoonist brought in since Emma Allen became the magazine’s cartoon editor in May of 2017. A good debut, with a welcome unexpected play on the well-worn hands touching moment we’ve seen in movies and books.
Speaking of Mr. Irvin, I spoke too soon last week about the New Yorker‘s anniversary issue appearing this week. Had I bothered to consult the fine print publishing info found near the end of each issue I would’ve seen that next week’s magazine (a double issue: February 18 & 25) is the 94th anniversary issue.
The Magazine: Whenever February comes around, I begin thinking about the upcoming anniversary issue of The New Yorker, a favorite child here on this site (Spill visitors might rememberthis Tilley-centric piece I wrote for newyorker.com a few years back). Seeing Rea Irvin’s classic dandy this year would be such a welcome surprise. Even more of a surprise than, say, coming upon the now-famous Mandy the Mandarin duck in Central Park. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Irvin’s iconic cover. In fact, the last time was in 2011. So what will next week’s cover be: the dandy or a duck?
The Cover this week — rushed released days earlier — is from the masterful pen of John Cuneo. Below is an early version of the published cover, provided courtesy of Mr. Cuneo.
The Cartoonists (note the Spots contribution from Ed Steed) :
A little bit of something for everyone in this issue: an ice fisherman, a whale, a cat person in a dog park, a windy city street, imbibing cave people, a library, clowns, the subway, domestic situations, the mob, a police lineup, a restaurant scenario, Snow White.
Cartoon placement-wise, it was good to see some stretching out from the usual rectangular box seated in a corner of a page. Frank Cotham’s basement drawing run three columns wide (on page 30) is a good example, as is Zach Kanin’s ice fisherman on page 63 and Liana Finck’s drawing on page 72. Brendan Loper’s party-folk drawing on page 44, and Kim Warp’s police lineup drawing on page 48 were also given more breathing room. Then there’s Will McPhail’s full page (with the “Sketchbook” heading of “L’) on page 43. I’ve given this drawing some extra thought this morning, wondering if it needed the “Sketchbook” heading. What exactly does the “Sketchbook” designation bring to the page. I also wonder if those outside the New York/ Metropolitan area understand that the “L” refers to the “L” line of the New York City subway system (and local stories concerning the line). And then there’s the question of whether the “L” train reference actually means something here that’s essential to understanding the little story played out in sequence. Perhaps, perhaps. Perhaps not. So many questions! Anyway, it’s a fun drawing that works well no matter the subway line. As noted with a hint of impatience on Cartoon Companion, New Yorker subway cartoons have become nearly a standard scenario in recent months. I continue to believe that no scenario is played-out if the idea works well.
A subway sidenote: when I think of previous multi-panel subway cartoons my first thought is of this one by Liza Donnelly from the New Yorker issue of April 14, 1986. And speaking of Ms. Donnelly, in her cave man drawing on page 21 of this latest issue of the magazine there’s not a cave man in sight.
I’ve been re-watching the entire run of “The Sopranos” lately, so Joe Dator’s cement shoe drawing on page 52 grabbed my attention. I especially enjoyed seeing the George Boothian bare light bulb hanging down from the ceiling.
This issue marks the New Yorker print debut for Emily Bernstein. Ms. Bernstein is the third new New Yorker cartoonist of the year and the 28th since Emma Allen became the magazine’s cartoon editor in the Spring of 2017.
The Tilley Watch again signs-off with a nod to the missing Rea Irvin masthead (seen below). Read about it here.
There are probably as many different work habits among New Yorker cartoonists as there are New Yorker cartoonists. I’ve heard of colleagues who are nine-to-fivers, and those who’ve worked the night shift. There was even a rumor of a colleague, now long gone, who did his batch of cartoons on the train as he headed down from Connecticut to see the New Yorker‘s art editor. As there’s no clock to punch, we are left to working out/on our own schedule. Joe Dator‘s hysterical “How We Do It” published in TheNew Yorker Cartoon Issue of 2012 (September 24th to be exact) is the last word on the idealized life of cartoonists working for the magazine.
My own work habits migrated with the years, from childhood, passing the hours drawing in front of the television, to working during high school study halls (yes, that’s right, instead of studying) to working at any convenient time in college between all those required courses, to post-college when staying up all night resulted in a whole lot of drawing but few usable ideas. Post-college, living in Manhattan, inspired perhaps by my perceived notion of the work habits of my downstairs neighbor, the writer Donald Barthelme, I began an attempt at regular hours — vaguely bracketed by late morning and late afternoon. Years later, out of the city and with a family, the unthinkable happened: working very early in the morning for a defined amount of time (my wife and I split our work days: I worked in the morning while she was with our kids, and she worked in the afternoon while I was with the kids). Once the kids grew up and flew the nest, the entire day was wide open again, but the morning hours remained (and remain) as the best use of time. In the past decade, the mid-to-late afternoon around 4 o’clock — what William Shawn called the hour of hope — has become an opportune time to wait for the cartoon gods to toss me an idea or two.
Through all this time shifting, from childhood home through the home where our kids grew up, from working defined times to undefined, from working through the night to working early in the day to working whenever, there has remained a constant: making myself available, Rapidograph and paper at the ready, with the intention that something might happen.