Thurber Thursday: Personal History… “To Catch A Book”

Back in late 2014, the cartoonist Mike Lynch kindly asked me if I’d like to contribute something to his publication, Raconteur, “a collection of true stories written and illustrated by cartoonists who usually specialize in other formats.”

My first (and only) thought was to put down on paper a graphic report of a nutty Thurber-centric non-event in my college life. The four page ( 100% guaranteed factual) piece ran in the Spring 2015 Ranconteur.  Seems like now’s a good time and place to let “To Catch A Book” surface again.



The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of April 20, 2020

A Note To Readers: Due to the times we’re in the digital edition of the magazine appears later in the day than usual. Thus, instead of the usual look through the magazine, I’m working off of the slide show of cartoons on, as well as the cover Q&A found there. If any mistakes are made on my part I’ll correct them once the digital issue is posted.

Update: 1:00pm.  Digital issue posted about an hour ago.

The Cover: Owen Smith gives us a tired worker (the piece is titled — and again, why do we need cover titles? —  “After The Shift”)…four out of the last five covers have been corona virus themed. Read about the cover here.

The Cartoonists:

The Cartoons:

I don’t know how others respond to an issue’s cartoons. For me, it’s always at least a two-level response:

1. How each drawing hits me — did a drawing stand out (for better or worse).

2. The feeling from all the drawings combined: was it a strong issue of work, or not.

This new issue feels strong, covering a wide range of territory in cartoonland, from aliens (courtesy of Charlie Hankin) to a PC Satyr (from Edward Koren), from dolphins in a swimming pool (McPhail), to what might be found on the other side of the mountaintop (Colin Tom)… and so much more.


The Rea Irvin Masthead Watch:

Rea Irvin, the fellow shown here, did so much to shape the look of The New Yorker (okay, I’ll say it — he was instrumental). One of his greatest lasting contributions was adapting Allen Lewis’s typeface; it eventually became known as the Irvin typeface, although these days I hear it   referred to as the New Yorker typeface.  Among Irvin’s many contributions other than art supervisor to Harold Ross (in itself a huge contribution!) was contributing covers, including, of course, the very first one, featuring Eustace Tilley. He also contributed cartoons, and headings for various departments. His design for Talk Of The Town stood in place (with a few adjustments in the magazine’s earliest days) for 92 years, until May of 2017 when his iconic design was mothballed and replaced by a redraw.

Am I wrong to think of Irvin’s typeface, his Tilley, his Talk masthead, and his “catholic” taste in cartoon selection as representing the graphic soul of the magazine?  So many modern changes (or “tweaks” as they were referred to) were test ballooned in recent years and then withdrawn (layout, typography, headings, etc., etc.) —  why not bring back this not insignificant bit of soul.


Thurber Thursday: New Yorker Cartoonist Stamps; Article Of Interest: Steinberg; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

I came across this block of Thurber stamps while looking through a bag of materials saved from an early 1990s trip to Columbus Ohio.  Liza Donnelly, Roz Chast, Danny Shanahan and yours truly attended an exhibit of cartoons at The Thurber House and gave a talk.

It made me wonder how many other New Yorker cartoonists have been honored with their own stamp.  A quick search turned up a Leo Cullum stamp and several Charles Barsotti stamps from the UK, issued in 1996 (one of the Barsotti’s is shown here)…surely there are more.

Updated April 10th:

And surely there are more. My colleague Tom Chitty forwarded a link to more of the 1996 UK cartoon stamp series, including the one below left by Jack Ziegler, and the aforementioned Leo Cullum stamp, below right right. It is kind of funny that there has not been a New Yorker cartoonist stamp series in this country. How great it would be to have an Addams stamp, and a Steinberg, a Hokinson, a Lorenz, Modell, Stevenson, Mary Petty, Saxon, a Nurit Karlin, and on and on and on:

Update April 9th: this addition,a John Held, Jr. stamp from the 2001 American Illustrators series. Courtesy of David Petruzelli:

From the Spill’s A-Z:

John Held Jr (Photo source: Sketchbook of American Humorists, 1938) Born, January 10, 1889, Salt Lake City, Utah. Died, 1958, Belmar, New Jersey. New Yorker work: April 11, 1925 – Sept. 17, 1932.




Article Of Interest: Steinberg

From Curbed, April 9, 2020, “Saul Steinberg celebrated the home as a ‘cacoon for creativity'”

Steinberg’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Saul Steinberg Born, June 15, 1914, Ramnic-Sarat, Rumania. Died in 1999. New Yorker work: 1941 – (The New Yorker publishes his work posthumously). Steinberg is one of the giants of The New Yorker.  Go here to visit the saulsteinbergfoundation where you’ll find  much essential information and examples of his work.


Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

David Sipress gets cartooney with a classic piece of art.

Mr. Sipress began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998.

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of March 30, 2020; More Spills…

Note: As of 10:00am this Monday morning the magazine’s digital issue has not yet been posted, so, for now, I’m relying on what’s available on other areas of

Update: Digital issue posted this evening.

The Cover: as mentioned here last Friday, the new issue’s cover (above) was early released.

The Cartoonists:

The Cartoons: As might be expected, several of this week’s eleven cartoons are current event-centric.  Roz Chast’s and Paul Noth’s the most reflective, with Sofia Warren’s very much in the vicinity.  If there’s a non-exclusive theme running throughout, it is domesticity: Lars Kenseth’s couple in the kitchen, Zach Kanin’s dad in the living room, a neighbor showing up to borrow a lot of sugar, Emily Flake’s couple at home in the hallway, and a dad in bed, with little patience to listen to his kid’s dream. Kim Warp’s way out there drawing bucks the surely coincidental at-home theme.

All of the cartoons above can be seen here via a slideshow on

The Rea Irvin Talk Masthead Watch: Mr. Irvin’s iconic masthead (below) is still hidden away, a redraw in its place since the Spring of 2017. Read about it here.


…Today’s Daily Cartoon: Maddie Dai on staying in.

…a Daily Shouts by Emily Flake: “Adages For The Age Of Quarantine.”

…From Comics DC, March 22, 2020: “Was Emily Richards The First Black Female New Yorker Cartoonist in 2004?”









Personal History: Sketchbooks; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

In 1972 or 1973, several years before my work was first accepted into The New Yorker, I began drawing in the black sketchbooks you see above. At the time it seemed like a good idea, and it remained a good idea until the late 1970s, when having arrived at Sketchbook #73 (yes, I numbered them), I suddenly stopped. The reason for stopping was simple. I was no longer drawing the way I’d drawn for the past eight or so years.

The sketchbooks are not filled with what most would call sketches — they are filled (predominantly) with cartoons, usually captioned — and as finished as I thought they should be. Those pre-New Yorker drawings were not worked on — I just drew them from scratch right onto the sketchbook pages. If I did something I hated, I’d rip out the page.

Above: it was rare to draw in a small sketchbook, but it happened when I came to sketchbook #53, (February 20, 1978)… the caption: “Do you think he’d like a stick of Dentine?”; below is sketchbook #73 (August 1979) a titled drawing: Mr. Geng Has Coconuts In The Pool Problems

In the years I drew in the books, I would go to my local copier place and turn my most recent sketchbook over to the copy person. The drawings to be copied out of the book were marked off.  Those drawings were my weekly batch. For some reason I decided to take each copy, cut it down to less than 8 1/2″  x 11″ and rubber cement it on to thin illustration board. Then I’d take the pile of mounted cartoons uptown to The New Yorker. No one asked me to do this, or suggested I do it — it was a time wasting system I developed all on my own.  I’ve put those mounted drawings in trash cans; the plan is to burn them some day. The rubber cement has turned the drawings dark brown.

In 1977, when I got my foot in the door at The New Yorker, my output (for lack of a better word) increased. I no longer had the patience to do a completed drawing on each sketchbook page. Instead of drawing in the sketchbook, I began drawing on copy paper. I bought reams of copy paper, and eventually cases of copy paper (my Rapidograph loves copy paper). Bits and pieces of drawings and sentence fragments, or just a word or two,  now make it onto paper until the cartoon gods decide to show me the way. When that happens, a drawing is swiftly put down on paper — much like the old sketchbook days.

I’ve not shown all the sketchbooks I worked in. Some were given away over the years, and a few are somewhere in the Spill archives waiting to be found (for instance, books #1 -10 are not shown.  Years ago I placed them someplace “special” and of course have no idea now where that special place is).

When the sketchbook “system(?)” ended I began placing work in manilla folders marked by month and year.  Each folder contained a month’s work — actual work pages, not finished drawings. That system ended a few years back when I ran out of manilla folders and didn’t want to bother buying more.  So I began just piling up the work sheets.  The finished drawings (i.e., the rejected work) are in their own piles, awaiting who knows what fate.  The published drawings are in their own piles. Things sure have become complicated.


Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon 

Jon Adams on working from home.

Mr. Adams began contributing his work to The New Yorker in October of 2017. Visit his website here.