The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker “Cartoon Takeover” Issue Of December 30, 2019

The Cover: The “Cartoon Takeover” theme begins on Robert Sikoryak’s cover as cartoon characters whitewash text. Read a Q&A with the cover artist here.

The Cartoonists:

The Cartoons:

Right off the bat, it should be noted that this issue is unlike the “Cartoon Issue” once produced this time of the year beginning in 1997; that series ended after a fifteen year run. It is also unlike the “Best Cartoons Of The Year” series begun in 2011, and ended five years later. This Cartoon Takeover is unlike those in that it contains a ton of archival material (the issue carries the descriptive “A Semi-Archival Issue” on the Table of Contents). While elements from the Cartoon Issues, and Best Of series are here: the graphic spreads for instance, and a profile of a cartoonist — the old tropes features thankfully haven’t resurfaced. This Takeover is a new and welcome creature, with a pulse I associate with the very oldest issues of The New Yorker.  As befits the issue’s theme, The New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Emma Allen, has taken over Talk’s “Comments” section, leading us into the action.

As you see from the number of cartoonists listed above, this new issue is packed with cartoons from a wide swath of the New Yorker‘s history, with work by such luminaries as Helen Hokinson, Barbara Shermund, James Thurber, William Steig, Gahan Wilson, and Steinberg represented. Nice to see Peter Arno’s ultra-famous, “Well, back to the old drawing board” included! Many cartoons from the archives are here as “favorites” selected by cartoonists and non-cartoonists. Free standing cartoons — what you normally see in every issue of The New Yorker — are also from the archives. I was very happy to see one of my favorite semi-modern cartoons included: Joe Duffy’s meta Care to join me in panel #3? (originally published, October 31, 2011).

Not whitewashed over by cartoon characters is a personal favorite John Updike piece (originally published in 1997) on his cartoonist roots, and terrif archival pieces, including two by two late-greats, Veronica Geng and Dorothy Parker. It’s an issue of a little something, and often a lot of something, for just about everyone who loves New Yorker cartoons.

The Rea Irvin Masthead Watch: Normally on the Monday Tilley Watch I woefully acknowledge another issue gone by without the return of Rea Irvin’s iconic masthead.  Since the Spring of 2017, a redrawn version has stood awkwardly in its place. This special Cartoon Takeover issue thankfully replaces the redraw with an Ed Steed take on the Irvin masthead. Mr. Steed’s playfulness is a refreshing delight, incorporating, to my eye, some Steigian/Steinberg elements.

With next week’s issue of The New Yorker the first of 2020, this would be the perfect opportunity to use Mr.Steed’s comic break as the moment to bring back Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead — and really now, why not bring it back?

Below, Mr. Irvin’s beautiful, now moth-balled masthead, and Mr. Steed’s fun take below it.

Video of Interest: John Updike & New Yorker Cartoons; From Ink Spill’s Archives: Art of The New Yorker Ephemera

 

The late John Updike (he died in 2009) wrote almost as much about the magazine’s cartoons and cartoonists as any New Yorker contributor outside of the Art/Cartoon Department [see below].  Here we have a chance to see him for five and-a-half minutes,  up close with some of the magazine’s most iconic drawings, including James Thurber’s Seal in the Bedroom, Charles Addams’s skier and Peter Arno’s “Well, back to the old drawing board.”  The video comes out of WGBH’s archive (that’s the Boston public television station). My guess is that Updike was visiting the traveling exhibit of art tied into the New Yorker‘s 60th anniversary in 1985.   Here’s the link.  Enjoy!

A Selected List of Updike on New Yorker Cartoons and Cartoonists:

Introduction to Christmas at The New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art (2003)

Thurber’s Art — a contribution to Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress (2006)

A Tribute to Saul Steinberg for The New York Review of Books (1999).

Introduction to The World of William Steig, edited by Lee Lorenz (1998)

Introduction to a section (“The Fourth Decade: 1955- 1964”) of The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (2004)

Introduction to Poor Arnold’s Almanac (1998) *the “Arnold” is Arnold Roth

Note for an Exhibit of New Yorker cartoons at The Art Institute of Boston (1993)

Review of  Steinberg’s The Discovery of America (in The New York Review of Books, 1992)

 

Some ephemera from the exhibit:

When the show ran its course, the art was returned to the contributing artists.  With the art, the Nicholls Gallery included the slip of paper you see below (Barbara Nicholls curated the exhibit). We can see that the exhibit Updike likely visited was at The Boston Athenaeum:

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the opening night in New York (at The New York Public Library, not The Yorker Public Library as it’s spelled on the Nicholls sheet. The New Yorker did have then, and continues to have now, its own library, but it’s not generally open to the public), attendees were offered a swag bag on the way out of the exhibit. The bag contained a brochure, a large Charles Addams poster as well as a copy of The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985, and a packet of postcards, all shown below except for the poster, which is too big for my scanner — the image is the same as you see on the bag and postcard):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Updike & Roth (John & Arnold)…and Henry Bech

“All cartoonists are geniuses, but Arnold Roth is especially so. The first time I saw a Roth drawing, I was zapped…A superabundant creative spirit surges through a Roth drawing like electricity; the lines sizzle.”

— From John Updike’s introduction  to Poor Arnold’s Almanac (Fantagraphic Books, 1998).

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I’ve been running into Arnold Roth at cartoonist gatherings for about forty years, but it wasn’t until the other day that I heard him mention the covers he created for John Updike’s trio of Bech books, Bech: A Book (published in 1970), Bech Is Back (1982) and Bech at Bay (1998). We continued the subject a few days later over the telephone. Mr. Roth was in his Manhattan studio.

Michael Maslin: Did you ever meet Updike?

Arnold Roth: Yes, we were at  a party on Madison Avenue before they put up all the high rises, and we were on the roof; there are still a few left here and there, with the chimneys. I was up there because I was smoking — which I still do.  Caroline, my wife, appeared with him and he said he was very glad to meet me — I was astonished.

And then, one year we invited him to the National Cartoonists Society Christmas party.  He sat at the president’s table with Mel Lazarus  [creator of the comic strips ‘Momma’ and ‘Miss Peach’]. But I did get to chat with him and I met his wife. But mostly it was done through letters and [laughs] very quick phone calls.

In addition to the three covers I did, I did various other drawings for him…two or three personal Christmas cards.  I was also involved in those very small printings with hand set type…monographs. I did additional drawings for them. I did send him all the original drawings [of the Bech covers] and he was very nice and gracious and accepted them.

[Updike mentions these drawings by Mr. Roth in his Introduction to The World of William Steig, edited by Lee Lorenz. In a list of original art he owned, Mr. Updike wrote: “The originals of watercolors Arnold Roth painted for the jackets of my three books about Henry Bech, also three terrific  ink sketches of Bech that Roth just jotted down, the way you and I would make a quick grocery list.” Also in Mr. Updike’s collection: a Thurber drawing, a Steig drawing, an Arthur Getz New Yorker cover and a caricature by David Levine.  “All of these artworks,” Updike wrote, “cheer me up.”]

AR: One of the monographs reprinted a portion of the Beck book when he goes to Europe for the first time.   I did at least four additional drawings and maybe more.  He sent me a note and he said make sure you draw the four women.  Which I did.   He called me up afterward  and he  said, “I can’t believe it.  You drew all those women perfectly. They are exactly those women.  I don’t know how you do it.”  And I said, “Well, I read your descriptions.” [laughs]

MM: Isn’t that what was partly so attractive about his writing.  Those descriptions really sucked you in.

AR: Absolutely.  It was like watching a movie, every scene raced through that little camera in your brain.

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AR: I tell this story sometimes, like when I give talks in art schools, because people ask about those covers. We lived in Princeton then.  It was a Friday evening. I had my studio in my house, naturally.   The phone rang and it was woman who said, “I’m an art director with Knopf. John Updike has instructed us that he wants you to do a cover for a book that will be coming out, Bech a Book.”  I was honored. We put it in action — I sent him a bunch of drawings — some of them ran on the cover flaps.  About 11 years later,  again — I got a call,  and she said, “We have another Bech book.” [Bech Is Back] So same thing, I did the jacket. Thirteen years after that, the phone rings, the same conversation. I raced down to the kitchen where Caroline was making dinner, and said, “Hey — I have a steady gig.”

MM: I love the progression of the covers — the way he loses his hair.

AR: Well he does age in the stories.  I thought they were wonderful stories.

MM: That first cover, Bech A Book,  was pretty surreal.That figure looks like a thumb or something.

AR: I think there are woman’s faces in the hair if I remember.  I just sent him a collection of drawings.  I don’t like to do sketches.  Because to me it becomes redundant and I feel why not make up a new one. In my hands it would invariably would stiffen up — it’s already been seen and blah blah. On that first book jacket he ran some of the sketches — I just sent him 15 or 20 drawings of Bech, and I said, “Is this okay for what I’m reading?  I think it’s a guy that would look like this.”   He loved them all and asked if they could use the other ones, and I said sure.

The second cover,  I had huge breasts pointed up on the bird, and he asked me  if I could take them down a little. Which I did.  He and I had invented breast reduction.

MM: On the last cover I looked for women, but I didn’t see any.

AR: Because he’s old. I think what I did  — I wouldn’t bet on this — on the last one, I might’ve sent 2 or 3 variations. Usually I didn’t do the finished drawing.  You know — if you like it, send it back and I’ll paint it. But I’m pretty sure I just did finished drawings for that last one and that was the one he chose.

MM: Did you base your drawing of Bech on any one person, or combination of persons — or was he conjured straight out of your imagination?

AR: I would have had in mind any description of Bech’s features mentioned in the text but I made up what you see in the drawings.  All based on any of the descriptive bits and my “feeling” for how such a guy might look. How others react to him, his own considerations of his general appearance, etc.. No Laurence Olivier he. But not Stan Laurel, either. 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aaron Bacall Exhibit; Keillor Notes Updike’s Birthday; Chast to Speak in Syracuse

Aaron Bacall

Work by the late Aaron Bacall (he died in June of 2015) is on display now til the end of May  at The Jewish Community Center of Staten Island. Here’s a video news piece on the exhibit.

Mr. Bacall, who supplied his self-portrait to this site a few years ago, is a distinguished member of Ink Spill‘s One Club.One Club icon   That is, he was published just once in The New Yorker. 

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Keillor

Garrison Keillor has noted on “The Writer’s Almanac” that today is John Updike‘s birthday (born March 18, 1932). As many of you know, he had wanted to become a cartoonist before taking a different path.  Mr. Updike’s birthday is noted here due to his life-long love of the art form, as evidenced in his writing.

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nf_chast_credit_bill_franzenRoz Chast will speak at Syracuse University March 29th. All the details here.

Link here to Ms. Chast’s website

[photo by Bill Franzen]

 

 

 

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Tilley Watch...Where Ink Spill takes a stab at keeping track of cartoonists appearances on/in the New Yorker‘s  various non-print adventures  including The New Yorker Radio Hour, The New Yorker Presents [tv], and The Cartoon Lounge [a weekly short video].

From The New Yorker Radio Hour Liana Finck and Roz Chast discuss all sorts of things.

…A link to all the episodes of The Cartoon Lounge in case you wish to binge.

Book of Interest: 100 Years of Humor From The Harvard Lampoon

0BvkOrl__400x400Coming in November from Touchstone, The Harvard Lampoon’s One for The Money: The Best Humor from More Than 100 Years of Lucrative Lampoonery.

From the publisher:

A collection of the best of The Harvard Lampoon—the spawning ground for Hollywood’s elite comedy writers and New Yorker humorists—revealing the hidden gems from their 140-year history.

Since its inception in 1876, The Harvard Lampoon has become a farm system for Hollywood’s best and most revered comedy writers. Lampoon alumni can be found behind the scenes of sitcoms and late-night shows, including Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Office, 30 Rock, The Mindy Project, and many others. One for the Money is the first anthology of The Lampoon’s extensive archives, featuring luminaries who have gone on to shape the comedy and literary landscape along with some of the best cartoons, illustrations, and satirical advertisements from over the years. Contributors include B.J. Novak, Henry Beard, Andy Borowitz, George Plimpton, Conan O’Brien, John Updike, Patricia Marx, and many others, with an introduction by New York Times bestselling author Simon Rich.