First Look: The New Yorker Encyclopedia Of Cartoons

A review copy of the slip-cased two volume New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons has landed here at the Spill. After sitting with it a day I’ve some initial thoughts:

The very first impression, before the shrink wrap was removed, was how heavy the set is ( 14.9 pounds).  An earlier tome, 2004’s Complete New Yorker Cartoons of The New Yorker  weighed in at 7 pounds. Of course, there are two volumes, so we’re back to about 7 pounds per volume. I found the books themselves attractive: the design, the binding, the paper quality, typography.  Once a volume is set down on a flat surface, it opens well, affording a pleasant thumbing through experience. 

The placement of cartoons is two per page (but not exclusively — there are times a drawing is full page, or takes up more than 50% of a page).  Chapter headings are each letter of the alphabet. On those introductory chapter pages, printed on a red base, a full page drawing appears. A nice touch: each drawing’s original publication date is noted.  Occasionally there is what is called a “commentary” (an example: “Banana Peels”). These are unsigned, but a blanket credit, for assisting in the writing is given in the introduction to cartoonists Emily Flake, Pat Byrnes, Tom Toro, Paul Karasik, and the New Yorker’s Assistant Cartoon Editor, Colin Stokes [full disclosure: I was asked to audition for the opportunity to write a number of these commentaries. I declined after learning my efforts, if used, would appear uncredited]. I’ve yet to read these commentaries, so I won’t comment on them, other than to say I wish each was signed, or co-signed.

On to the content of the book itself. The New Yorker has a long history of issuing themed pamphlets (for advertising purposes) and themed anthologies. The New Yorker War Album (published in 1942) was the first themed anthology. The next was The New Yorker Album of Art and Artists (published in 1970). The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons, published in 1991, was the first of many themed anthologies issued in a square format. The theme of this new anthology are cartoon themes themselves, from Accounting to Zorro.

As a cartoonist, I’ve always found themed collections amusing additions to the classic anthologies that began with The New Yorker Album, published in 1928, and continued through to the aforementioned 2004 Complete Cartoons. The classic anthologies are the next best thing to seeing the cartoons in their natural habitat: the New Yorker magazine itself. Mr. Remnick has this to say in his foreword:

A caution to the reader: The usual way to come across New Yorker cartoons is in the magazine or, more recently, on newyorker.com and on social media. There’s something distinctive, maybe even perverse, about the experience of glancing away from a long piece about, say, a particularly dusty province in the Middle East to drink quietly from the oasis of a good cartoon. 

 Leafing through an issue of The New Yorker affords the reader the joy of complete surprise when coming upon a new cartoon. The reader has, at first glance,  no clue as to what the drawing will deliver.  I often mention Peter Arno’s definition of a good cartoon — that is, one that delivers a one-two punch.  The reader looks at the drawing and then, the second punch: reading the caption. If the drawing is successful, the second punch really delivers. In themed anthologies the reader is already  somewhat informed. For instance, in the New Yorker Book of Dogs, you already know that the next cartoon, and the next, and the next, and so on, will concern dogs. The element of complete surprise is gone. But of course, if you are looking through the New Yorker Book Of Dogs, that’s what you want: cartoons about dogs. In the classic anthologies the reader is still afforded complete surprise: you have zero idea what the next page will bring. You may, of course, immediately recognize a favorite drawing first published in an issue of the magazine, but that’s akin to rounding a corner and running into an old friend. What I’m getting at here is that if you’re a person who enjoys some advance notice of what you’re in for, then this encyclopedia, with some 3000 categorized cartoons (in 300 categories) spread out over two volumes, is for you. 

 The contributing cartoonists are listed on Indexes found in each volume. Jack Ziegler’s work is most represented (103 drawings), followed by the encyclopedia’s editor (88).  Some of the cartoon gods of the magazine’s golden age are well represented (James Stevenson, for example, with 55 cartoons), while others less so (Mary Petty is represented by one cartoon, Helen Hokinson, the magazine’s marquee cartoonist, along with Peter Arno, for nearly forty years, is represented by five). To be clear, this encyclopedia is not advertised as some sort of all-encompassing anthology celebrating the magazine’s 93 year history.  Let’s hope the New Yorker has just that kind of collection in mind for its 100th anniversary in 2025.

The cartoons in this heavyweight encyclopedia, some gold, some silver, speak for themselves. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tilley Online Watch, The Week of September 17- 21, 2018; More Spills: A Deep Dive Into The New Yorker Issue Of Sept. 14, 1929… Steinberg Chrysler Building At Auction

The Daily Cartoons were 4/5s in the realm of Trump this week. The contributing cartoonists:  Kim Warp, Jason Chatfield (with Scott Dooley), Mike Twohy, Karl Stevens (not yet a print contributor), and Brendan Loper (who probably appears most regularly on the Daily).

The Daily Shouts contributing New Yorker cartoonists this week: Emily Flake, Liana Flake, and Olivia de Recat.

You can see all the work (and more) here.

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Two favorite Spill blogs to visit!

…A New Yorker State Of Mind: Reading Every Issue Of The New Yorker takes a fascinating deep dive into the issue of September 14, 1929, with a cover by the great Rea Irvin. (also in the post: an appreciated shout-out to the Arno biography). Read here.

And Attempted Bloggery tells us about a beautiful Steinberg piece (dated 1965) up for auction.  I’ve yet to see anyone top Steinberg’s Chrysler Building drawings. Incredible.  Take a look here. 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, the New Yorker Issue of September 10, 2018; Cartoon Happenings At The New Yorker Festival

 “The Style Issue”  with a Kadir Nelson cover — the second Nelson cover in three weeks. It’s titled “Savoring Summer” (and again, I question why the New Yorker‘s covers need to be titled. Shouldn’t covers speak for themselves, so to speak? This cover certainly does). 

The cartoons:

Thinking there’d be a bevy of cartoonists in this mid-September issue (last week’s issue had fourteen), it was a surprise finding nine single panel cartoons this week (there’s a multi-panel “Sketchbook” by Roz Chast).  

Lately the Monday Tilley Watch has moved away from looking at every cartoon in each issue, but that doesn’t mean each and every cartoon in each and every issue doesn’t receive my undivided attention. Often I look at a cartoon like I eat popcorn.  But sometimes I linger on a particular drawing, savoring the art, or the caption (if there is a caption); in the best of times, I linger because I’m happy to be looking at something that works, that really works.  Other times I linger out of puzzlement — wondering what I’ve missed about the drawing — how, to my eyes, it went awry (or how my cultural antenna have failed me). It is far more exciting to come across a drawing that soars than one that fails.  Take for instance Joe Dator’s three part Beauty and the Beast cartoon in this new issue. I believe the drawing hits the high bar.  It’s drawn well (it reminds me of Lee Lorenz’s confident energetic art), and it measures up to Peter Arno’s characterization of a good cartoon, landing a one-two punch. A Spill round of applause is in order.

Some impressions from the issue:  Frank Cotham’s cartoon — it leads off the issue, sitting in a good-sized space following the Table Of Contents.  I mentioned Mr. Lorenz’s confident drawing; in Mr. Cotham’s quarter century of contributing to the New Yorker, he’s shown no fear in taking on the big picture, and handling it well. Alex Gregory’s line (his drawing is on p.93) is always a welcome sight.  Ed Steed’s bee-hive wielding doctor drawing (p.55) seems like a follow-up to Zach Kanin’s memorable “I can feel the baby kicking” cartoon from 2008.

The Caption Contest:

Cartoon caption contest drawings aren’t mentioned here much, but I did note that Mick Stevens’ drawing this week echoes one of mine (captioned as you see) published in The New Yorker, August 23, 1982.

Finally, let us not forget Rea Irvin’s missing classic Talk Of The Town masthead. I sometimes picture it propped up in a closest someplace in the magazine’s offices, waiting to be rediscovered and returned to its proper place. Until that time, if it ever comes, here it is:

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Cartoon Happenings at The New Yorker Festival

Held October 5, 6, and 7th. So far, here’s what’s up at the festival, cartoon-wise:

Saturday, the 6th: Sh!t Show: A Parenting Comedy Revue (with, among others, Emily Flake, and Roz Chast).

Sunday, the 7th: Cartoons & Coffee (with Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell and Farley Katz)

Here’s the homepage for the Festival

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of September 3, 2018

Again with an early release cover! Link here to see what the cover artist, Barry Blitt, had to say about his latest effort (shown above, right). 

The cartoons:

Fourteen cartoons in this first issue of September: seven by women, seven by men. No more mentions here of gender balance/imbalance unless/until there’s an all female cartoonists issue (or an all male issue returns).

It’s becoming a Spill habit to single out one or two or three cartoons per issue that especially grab my attention.  This issue it’s two cartoons.  Paul Noth’s tranquil fishing scenario (p.24) is lovely.  A perfectly written caption. One teeny tiny graphic quibble: the fishing lines are identically parallel, creating what looks to be two sides of a box (the kind of box that some cartoons sit within).  Anywho, a wonderful drawing, deserving of a round of applause.

The other cartoon of note (found on page 19): Carolita Johnson gives us a motorcyclist speaking to his passenger. Ms. Johnson’s caption reads:

As a long-time happily married motorcycling cartoonist, I suppose this is a golden opportunity to chime in about marriage and motorcycles; I’ll just stick with motorcycles.

Here’s a motorcycle drawing of mine that appeared in the New Yorker, May 27, 1985:

Motorcycles have been around in New Yorker cartoons for a long long time; the motorcyclists were often motorcycle cops. I’m not going deep into the history here, but just mention a few cartoonists who’ve given us some great drawings. Motorcycles and/or motorcyclists as the subject are numerous; even more plentiful are motorcycles/motorcyclists as part of the scenery. A Peter Arno cartoon in the issue of December 7th 1929  (“We want to report a stolen car”) that made waves for its sexual innuendo featured a beautifully drawn Indian motorcycle. Among colleagues past and present who’ve depicted motorcycles and/or motorcyclists : Roberta MacDonald, Garrett Price, Anthony Taber, Kim Warp, Carl Rose, Edward Koren, Farley Katz, Joe Dator, Leo Cullum, Trevor Hoey, Maddie Dai, Michael Crawford, Lee Lorenz, Jack Ziegler, Arnie Levin, and yours truly.  Of these cartoonists, two that I know of (other than myself) have ridden motorcycles: Mr. Crawford and Mr. Levin.  Mr. Ziegler had plenty of fun depicting motorcycle gang members “colors” ( patches on jackets that identify a motorcyclist’s club association). Here’s an evergreen of his from February 27, 1989:

— See you next week

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Better Pictures”

Never a day goes by that I don’t wonder at the trek the New Yorker cartoon has made in its ninety-three years; how it began, how it developed, and what it has become. For those with the time and energy (and either a complete collection of the magazine, access to a library with bound copies, or a subscription to the magazine allowing you access to its archives) the graphic evidence is available in the pages of the magazine’s issues, beginning with the very first in February of 1925, and carrying through to the latest issue on the newsstand and/or on whatever electronic device you use.

The how it began part is well documented, especially in Thomas Kunkel’s great biography of Harold Ross, Genius in Disguise, and in a number of other books (among them, Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker , and Ross,The New Yorker and Me,  by Jane Grant, Ross’s first wife and co-founder of the magazine; heck, I’ll throw in my Arno biography too — I spend much of it describing how the art department and the art developed). These books and others fill in the history, providing atmosphere, personalities — you know: the who, what, where, whys, and whens.

A favorite title is shown above.  Dale Kramer’s Ross and The New Yorker, published in 1951 (it had an earlier incarnation, in part, in the pages of Harper’s in 1943, with a co-author, George R. Clark). Mr. Kramer had the luxury of working in a time period when all of the major players of the magazine were around (Helen Hokinson perished in plane crash in 1949 just a couple of the years before the book came out; Ross died in the year the book was published). If you read Harrison Kinney’s The Thurber Letters, you’ll find a good deal of correspondence from Thurber to Kramer, guiding and correcting him. After reading the manuscript, Thurber told E.B. White he thought Kramer’s  writing was “undistinguished” but he didn’t “vehemently” disagree with anything in it.

What is always of interest (to me) in accounts of the magazine’s beginnings is the how the development of the New Yorker cartoon is handled. I think Kramer does a good job describing the earliest days, of what Ross was looking for, or not wanting (echoing the oft-quoted “he didn’t know what he wanted, but he knew what he didn’t want”), of Rea Irvin’s invaluable part in the art’s development.

I’m forever struck by Ross’s care for the art and artists — how important a part of the magazine it and they were to him.  In any of the books I’ve mentioned here, you’ll find a variation of the passage below laying out just how much Ross cared.  It is that care that was the foundation of the magazine’s art. That’s how this began, with great care, and an appreciation for the art, most especially the cartoons.  

Here’s Kramer on Ross and the magazine’s art:

Ross’s major contribution to “art” — the designation given to cartoons, spot drawings, illustrations, caricatures, and cover paintings — was the same curiosity and fierce demand for accuracy that was helping to bring the text into focus. He queried constantly, “Where am I in this picture?” The reader, he maintained, ought to be at a definite vantage point. He should be watching an action or overhearing a conversation.

Or Ross would ask, “Who’s talking?” Sometimes the artist was requested to open the speaker’s mouth wider. Ross was dealing, of course, with the people and the objects in the drawings, rather than craftsmanship. By demanding that the characters be plain to him, and seen from a particular vantage point, he naturally got better craftsmanship. The artists discovered, with some reluctance since they often had to do a drawing over and over again, that Ross’s demands, put into artistic sense by Irvin — along with Irvin’s own suggestions — resulted in better pictures.

To those who have admired the art of the New Yorker, “better pictures” might seem an understatement, but it’ll do just fine. Better pictures was something to shoot for, and I believe most of the devoted would agree, something attained.