The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.
Are these the dog days of summer? According to Wikipedia, Sweden’s dog days are bracketed by the dates July 22nd through August 23rd. That seems reasonable for the United States as well. My mental inventory of New Yorker covers from this time of year include a whole lot of beach scenes and summer in the city scenes, as well as covers depicting shore towns. This week’s New Yorker cover (a double issue, dated August 7 & 14) by Bob Staake (the artist responsible for this iconic cover) takes us underground in NYC. The magazine has the NYC subway system on its mind — just last week we saw a David Sipress NYC subway cartoon, and in this very issue is a full page Sketchbook, “Subway Substitutes.” Mr. Staake’s red hot cover brought to mind another red hot cover of just a few years back, at this exact same time of year (the aforementioned dog days): Mark Ulriksen’s cover of August 3, 2015.
The opposite of a red hot dog days of summer cover is (to my mind) this deeply moving New Yorker cover by Mary Petty, published 72 years ago this week in the summer of the last year of WWII, approximately midway between the close of the European theater and the close of the Pacific theater. A quiet, peaceful moment on a beach with a woman and her dog, while war continues to rage in the Pacific.
I note as I turn to The Talk of The Town that my campaign to reinstate Rea Irvin’s classic Talk masthead is not going well. The new one installed in May is still there. The Irvin masthead ran, barely untouched, for 91 years. This campaign, despite its odds of success, will press on.
Joe Dator, who has been contributing to The New Yorker since August of 2006, leads things off with a zebra cartoon. I took a quick look back at some zebra New Yorker cartoons and found each and every one appealing. This one by J.B. “Bud” Handelsman, caught my eye (published in November of 1992).
Next is a theater marquee drawing by Charlie Hankin (his first New Yorker appearance was in August of 2013). Beautifully placed on the page. I’ve noticed (and noted) that many of the cartoons in the past few issues have been given more breathing space on the page. This is a very good thing. Half a dozen pages later we come to a William Haefeli drawing (his last name rhymes with “safely”). Last week I mentioned how super-detailed his original work is. Get out your magnifying glass. (Mr. Haefeli’s first New Yorker drawing appeared in 1998).
A couple of pages later is a Frank Cotham drawing (first New Yorker drawing, 1993). As with Mr. Haefeli, Mr. Cotham’s style is instantly recognizable. I’d add that his subject matter is also instantly recognizable, with cave people, heathens, and the like playing a big part in his world. Part 1 of a fun interview with Mr. Cotham ran on Cartoon Companion just a few weeks ago — check it out. A Liana Finck drawing follows Mr. Cotham. Ms. Finck’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in February of 2013. Ms. Finck shows us a cast cartoon — like zebra cartoons, something we don’t see a whole lot of in the New Yorker. When I think of them, I’m happily reminded of this fabulous Chon Day cartoon from September of 1948:
A couple of pages later is a dog and businessman cartoon by Chris Weyant (first New Yorker cartoon, 1998). Ink Spillers may remember that it was just a few days ago we learned Mr. Weyant now has a weekly op-ed cartoon in The Boston Globe.
On the very next page, a touch of color in an Ed Steed cartoon (first New Yorker cartoon, 2013). An artist paints a nude. I know, I know — you see a nude woman in a New Yorker cartoon you think Peter Arno. I’d argue that Sam Cobean was the New Yorker’s king of nude cartoons. Take a look at the cover of his 1950 collection of cartoons.
In Mr. Steed’s drawing he incorporates 3-D (thus the color) — a rarity in the New Yorker. 3-D was used to great effect in this classic by Bob Eckstein from 2012. It remains one of my favorite New Yorker drawings of modern times.
Two pages later we run into a P.C. Vey drawing (first New Yorker appearance, 1993). For me, this is the Vey-ist of the Veys. The Spill doesn’t rate cartoons (that’s what they do over on the Cartoon Companion site), but if it did, this drawing would have all sorts of happy adjectives heaped upon it.
Next up is a drawing by a relative newbie, Kendra Allenby (her first New Yorker appearance was in August of last year). Ms. Allenby, who is a storyboard artist, opts for the storyboard-like look, i.e., a boxed drawing, employed with regularity by Harry Bliss, among others. Four pages later is a veteran newbie, Will McPhail (first New Yorker drawing, 2014). Heads on pikes…a rarity in the magazine (there are at least two in Charles Addams’s New Yorker oeuvre: one in the issue of January 4, 1941. Another, “Excuse me, Walter, that’s my cue” contains a head on a pike, but it’s incidental. There’s also, “Ready, dear?” on page 40 of Monster Rally — but it’s not a New Yorker drawing).
Next is a Roz Chast drawing (Ms. Chast’s first New Yorker appearance, 1978). Love the flow of words (alas, no Ziegler-esque pop-up toaster). A Tom Chitty drawing follows Ms. Chast’s (Mr. Chitty’s first New Yorker drawing, 2014). On tomorrow’s Spill we’ll visit a cartoonist whose style is as out there as Mr. Chitty’s — maybe even more out there. An Ellis Rosen musical courtroom drawing follows (Mr. Rosen’s first New Yorker drawing, December of 2016). Newyorker.com readers will remember that Mr. Ellis just appeared on a “Cartoon Lounge” video with Emma Allen (the magazine’s cartoon editor) and Colin Stokes (the associate cartoon editor). See it here if you missed it. Three pages later is a Maddie Dai cartoon employing a fairy tale setting. Mix in a little modern technology and bingo! (Ms. Dai’s first New Yorker appearance, June 5, 2017). I am reminded of an out of office discussion I had with former cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, back in 2008, in which he declared,”No more fairy tale drawings!” Well that didn’t happen. A Barbara Smaller sidewalk conversation cartoon is next (Ms. Smaller’s first New Yorker appearance, 1996). Someone should really do a Sidewalks of New York cartoon collection.
As mentioned here last week, I avoid looking at the cartoonists listed on the Table of Contents for the express purpose of being surprised while looking through every new issue. This week, that resulted in a wonderful moment toward the end of the issue with the appearance of a drawing by one of our cartoon gods, George Booth. A classic Booth scene, with more cats than you can shake a fur ball at, this drawing is a real treat. Mr. Booth was the subject of a Fave Photo of the Day here on the Spill last week. In the photo he is shown working at his desk. According to a highly reliable source (his daughter), he works every day, perhaps that’s one of the secret ingredients for an artist who has been contributing to The New Yorker for nearly half a century. This coming Fall we can all look forward to a Booth exhibit at The Society of Illustrators (October 24 through December 23, 2017).
And lastly in the issue (not counting the Cartoon Caption Contest — I’ve decided, for now, to opt out of covering it) is a David Sipress words of wisdom drawing, cleverly distilling a page out of Pete Frames Rock Trees. Mr. Sipress’s first New Yorker drawing appeared in the summer of 1998). It’s nice to see Blind Faith mentioned in a New Yorker cartoon.