Celebrating Sam Gross’s 50th New Yorker Anniversary

The most recent Sam Gross cartoon in The New Yorker appeared August 5th, 2019.  Mr. Gross’s very first New Yorker cartoon appeared August 23, 1969. Do the math and you’ll find we are in the year, month, and exact day of Mr. Gross’s New Yorker golden anniversary. With today being the date of publication of his debut New Yorker cartoon, I thought I’d check in with Mr. Gross and ask him about that very first sale to the magazine. My call caught him during his morning exercise routine, but he was gracious enough to pause and chat with me for a few minutes.

When I asked him if he recalled the moment when he learned he’d sold to the magazine, he replied, as I knew he would, “Of course I do.” I haven’t met a cartoonist yet who doesn’t remember their first OK (“OK” is New Yorker cartoon lingo for a sold cartoon); in this cartoon world, that moment is a life-changer.  Before telling me of his first OK, he said that he’d actually been selling ideas to The New Yorker for Charles Addams since about 1963. He also sold an idea for Otto Soglow, of Little King fame, but mostly the ideas were for Addams.

And now the story:

It begins with a lunch that included the renowned French artist J.J. Sempe. Mr. Sempe, not yet a New Yorker contributor, had come to town to do a piece on behalf of L’Express.  While in the city, Mr. Sempe was asked to lunch with James Geraghty, then The New Yorker‘s art editor. Mr. Geraghty was interested in having Mr. Sempe submit work to The New Yorker. Originally, Mr. Geraghty’s art assistant, Barbara Nicholls, was to accompany them to lunch as the interpreter, but she had to cancel. In her stead Mr. Geraghty asked the multi-lingual cartoonist Peter Porges to come along. Mr. Porges told Mr. Geraghty he would only go if his friend, Mr. Gross could accompany him.

And so, at lunch, Mr. Gross found himself seated to the left of Mr. Geraghty. Mr. Geraghty asked Mr. Porges to ask Sempe if he would submit work to The New Yorker.  Sempe, through Mr. Porges, replied “he says he’s too busy — has too much work to do.”  Mr. Geraghty then asked Mr. Porges to ask Sempe “if he would consider submitting rejects.”  To which Sempe replied, through Mr. Porges, “What are rejects.”

Shortly, after sipping some wine, Mr. Geraghty leaned over to Mr. Gross (also drinking wine) and said, “Instead of buying the idea [of a recent submission by Mr. Gross] we’re going to buy the whole drawing.” And Mr. Gross replied, “That’s great, thanks.”  Mr. Gross went on to say, “And then, after Geraghty had had another glass of wine, and I had had another glass of wine, he leaned over and said, ‘Oh, and we’re going to buy another one too.'” 

Above: The first Sam Gross New Yorker cartoon

Mr. Gross had heard from Mr. Porges that Mr. Geraghty would “drive cartoonists crazy” with editorial changes to cartoons. Back at the New Yorker’s art department following lunch, Mr. Geraghty handed Mr. Gross the rough drawings of the two bought cartoons [most cartoonists submit “rough” drawings.  If bought, the cartoonist will then do a “finish” — the drawing that will be published].  Mr. Gross tells us what happened next:

“So with that particular drawing [the first published cartoon], he gave me the drawing, and I stood there with it, and said,I’m not going, Mr. Geraghty until you specifically tell me what you want in the drawing.’ So he said, ‘put the kid here, dispense with the awning’ and he was very specific on what I had to do.  Afterwards, with all the other drawings I sold, I never had any problem with him. Every time I sold something he told me exactly what he wanted.” 

I said to Mr. Gross, “That’s a big deal, selling two your first time.” to which Mr. Gross replied, “I can credit the wine for it.”

So here’s to one of The New Yorker‘s cartoon giants. It is quite a feat to sell just one drawing to The New Yorker.  To continue on for fifty years (and counting) is another kind of feat. Mr. Gross is one of a select group of cartoonists with a thumbprint style — i.e., no one else has drawn like him, and he draws like no one else (true, as well, of George Booth, also celebrating his New Yorker golden anniversary this year). Feeling in a oh-what-the-hell Grossian spirit, I’ll say too that no other cartoonist even comes close to thinking like him.

 

Further reading:

For an extended interview with Mr. Gross I highly recommend Richard Gehr’s I Only Read It For The Cartoons, published in 2014, by New Harvest. Mr. Gross is one of a dozen New Yorker cartoonists interviewed.

If you want to listen to Sam Gross being interviewed, there’s this wonderful podcast from Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories Show.

All of Mr. Gross’s cartoon anthologies are must-haves in any cartoon library.  A quartet of them are shown:

An Elephant Is Soft And Mushy (Dodd, Mead & Co. , 1980)

More Gross (Congdon & Weed, 1982)

I Am Blind And My Dog Is Dead (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1977.  Reissued by Harry N. Abrams, 2007)

No More Mr. Nice Guy (Perigee, 1987)

 

 

 

Sutton’s Bonus Daily Cartoon; A Deep Dive Into The New Yorker Issue Of July 26,1930; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; A Day Late Daily Shouts

A bonus Daily yesterday — Dems Debate-centric– by Ward Sutton, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007.  Visit his website here.

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Deep Dive Into The New Yorker Issue Of July 26, 1930

A New Yorker State of Mind: Reading Every Issue of The New Yorker does its usual fab job.  A fun read!

I wish I could provide the entire issue here on the Spill for you to look through. It’s only 60 pages long ( it was, after all,  published during the Great Depression). If you can see it online (as a subscriber) or own a copy you’ll notice that within the first 50 of those 60 pages the cartoons run amuck — they are gloriously present.  Two full- page cartoons (Rea Irvin, and Peter Arno), two multi-panels (Gardner Rea, and Otto Soglow), half-page cartoons, three-quarter page cartoons.

The cover artist for the issue is the great Helen Hokinson. Here’s her entry on the A-Z:

Born, Illinois,1893; died, Washington, D.C., 1949. New Yorker work: 1925 -1949, with some work published posthumously. All of Hokinson’s collections are wonderful, but here are two favorites. Her first collection: So You’re Going To Buy A Book! (Minton, Balch & Co, 1931) and what was billed as “the final Hokinson collection”: The Hokinson Festival (Dutton & Co., 1956). According to a New Yorker document  produced during Harold Ross’s editorship (1925-1951) rating their artists, Ms. Hokinson and Peter Arno occupied a special category unto themselves above all others.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Beating Trump, by Ali Soloman, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2018.

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A Day Late Daily Shouts

Evan Lian’s “Eternal Damnations For The Twenty-First Century” (posted yesterday). Mr. Lian began contributing to The New Yorker in May of this year.

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of July 29, 2019; Today’s Daily Cartoonist And Cartoon; A Julia Wertz Daily Shouts; Fave Photo Of The Day

The Cover:  I see destructive tourists at the core of this cover, yet destruction doesn’t come up in Joost Swarte’s interview with The New Yorker‘s art director, Francoise Mouly.  Odd?

The Cartoonists:

The Cartoons:

Almost a theme issue, of sorts:  Amy Hwang (cats), Roz Chast (dogs), Farley Katz (flamingos), Joe Duffy (pigs), Kendra Allenby (deer), Frank Cotham (a snake), Shannon Wheeler (snails), Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (a rat).

Steering briefly away from the Spill‘s focus, I have to note that Salman Rushdie’s piece in the issue  is titled “The Little King” and the accompanying illustration (by Nico Schweitzer) is a play on Otto Soglow‘s famous character. The illustration seems even closer to the toy Little King than the drawing of the King :

 

 

Applause for Bob Eckstein‘s shuttlecock drawing on page 48, and Ellis Rosen‘s heralded fellow drawing on page 42.

 

From the Department of fun coincidences. Liana Finck’s lifeguard drawing (p. 33) immediately reminded me of an obscure original Lee Lorenz drawing hanging here at Spill headquarters. The Lorenz drawing (its barely legible caption: “Help!”) was not in The New Yorker.  I’ve yet to figure out where it was published, or how old it is.  Mr. Lorenz, visiting here and seeing the drawing, could not recall where it had appeared or its vintage. It appears to be in an earlier Lorenz style (but not the earliest), so we can at least place in an early-to-mid 1960s time frame.

Ms. Finck’s drawing and Mr. Lorenz’s are in some ways opposites of each other. Mr. Lorenz’s beach is overcrowded, while Ms. Finck’s beach is empty.  Ms. Finck’s life guard offers help (if helped); Mr. Lorenz’s life guard is crying out for help. What ties them together, at least for me, is the graphic core of each drawing: the exceptionally tall life guard stand. Fine fun work by both. 

Rea Irvin: Mr. Irvin’s iconic Talk masthead (below) left us in the Spring of 2017 after 92 years of service — it was replaced by a redraw.  Let’s hope the real thing returns before long.  Read about it here.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist And Cartoon

Brendan Loper makes good use of oven mitts. Mr. Loper began contributing to The New Yorker in 2016.

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A Julia Wertz Daily Shouts

“Conversations With Ma: Paint The Toenails And Board-Game Gripes” 

— A series? by Julia Wertz who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2015.

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Fave Photo Of The Day

A crowd of folks who draw got together yesterday in Rhinebeck, New York.  Left to right: myself, Peter Steiner, John Cuneo, R.O. Blechman, Liza Donnelly, Bill Plympton, Danny Shanahan and Elwood Smith.

 

 

 

The Wednesday Watch: A New York Times Pauline Kael 100th Birthday Graphic Tribute; The Spectator’s Cartoon Editor On Political Cartoons (And Selling An Idea To The New Yorker 61 Years Ago); More Weirdo; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Farley Katz

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A New York Times Pauline Kael 100th Birthday Graphic Tribute

From The New York Times, June 19, 2019, “Happy Birthday, Pauline Kael, My Old Foe”  — this graphic piece by Nathan Gelgud.

Ms. Kael began writing for The New Yorker in 1967. She retired in 1991.

Additional birthday reading: “The Electrifying Critical Mind Of Pauline Kael” by David Remnick.

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The Spectator’s Cartoon Editor On The Death Of Political Cartoons

Michael Heath on the recent New York Times decision …and a few New Yorker tidbits tossed in as well.  

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More Weirdo

 

A piece of interest from The Comics Journal, June 19, 2019, by Bill Kartalopoulos: “Getting Weirdo At The Society Of illustrators” (various New Yorker contributors mentioned).

 

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

On the beach with Farley Katz, who has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2007.

 

 

Esquire Lets Cartoon Editor Go; A New Yorker State Of Mind Two-Fer With Soglow, Arno, Thurber & More; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Kendra Allenby

Heads Roll At Esquire: Cartoon Editor Let Go

From The New York Post, June 6, 2019, “Esquire Magazine Faces Turmoil Amid Masthead Exodus” — among those let go: the magazine’s cartoon and humor editor.

 

 

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A New Yorker State Of Mind Two-Fer

A favorite blog looks at the two issues shown above. Peter Arno did the cover on the left; Constantin Alajalov did the cover on the right.  This particular post is chock full of cartoon related material (Ottos Soglow, Thurber, Reginald Marsh…), so dive in!

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Cartoonist/Cartoon Of The Day

Kendra Allenby, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2016, reflects on summer jobs.