The Tale Of The Three Barlows…Or Is It Two Barlows?; A Thurber Inspired Bliss?

We’re now into the second week of a New Yorker double issue, dated January 4th & 11th. The Monday Tilley Watch, usually appearing here on this day, will return next week, when the issue of January 18th appears. In the meantime here’s a Spill Cartoon Detective piece.

The Tale Of The Three Barlows…Or Is It Two Barlows?

This little tale begins, as so many do on the Spill, with an inadvertent discovery. While thumbing through the The New Yorker War Cartoons (Special Edition For the Armed Services, published 1945), I noticed, amidst familiar work (by among others, Helen Hokinson, Peter Arno, Barbara Shermund, Charles Addams, Steinberg, Alain, Chon Day, Roberta Macdonald, etc., etc.) a cartoonist’s name I realized I’d never spotted before: Tony Barlow.

The first thing I did was consult the Spill‘s A-Z,  fully expecting to discover I’d already found him years ago, and had forgotten. In this case though, there was no Tony Barlow on the A-Z. The only Barlow was Perry Barlow.

My next stop was The New Yorker database. I entered “Barlow, Tony” into the search box. Nada.  No one named Tony Barlow in the database. However!…an M.K. Barlow did show up with 34 cartoons listed, from April 5, 1930 through July 10, 1948. Here’s what’s funny: I’d never heard of M.K. Barlow. So…two unknown Barlows in one day. Unheard of! Amazing!

 Using The New Yorker database as a guide, I began looking up the work of M.K. Barlow, beginning chronologically, from the earliest entry, the April 5, 1930 New Yorker. That issue, it turns out, has no one named M.K. Barlow in it (or Tony Barlow for that matter). It does have a drawing by Perry Barlow. My heart sank a little. The database, though wonderfully accurate most of the time, has been known to be inaccurate occasionally. I went to the second M.K. Barlow drawing listed (in the issue of Oct 30, 1943): again, a Perry Barlow, but no M.K. Barlow. I feared a pattern  was developing. I went to the third entry for M.K. Barlow: December 2, 1939.

Now it gets confusing. That issue included a cartoon by…Tony Barlow of a traffic cop directing multiple levels of cars:

 I was on the verge of tossing in my cartoonist detective towel, thinking I was stuck in some kind of Barlow cartoon matrix, when a thought occurred. I’d go to Collier’s Collects Its Wits — a 1941 anthology that contains 8 pages of short bios of Collier’s cartoonists, each bio accompanied by the artist’s self portrait.  Over the years I’ve found a few pieces of biographical gold in the anthology’s pages. And today, I found gold again:

Marvin K. (Tony) Barlow

The M.K. Barlow listed in The New Yorker‘s database is Tony Barlow! (that odd grey shape over his mouth on his self portrait was either intentional, or some kind of printing error).

Lambiek’s Comiclopedia adds a few more details to the M.K. (Tony) Barlow puzzle, including his birth year (1906), and this:

His work appeared in… papers like the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and in a variety of advertising campaigns. He did ads for Lifebuoy soap (1944) but is especially remembered for the several comic strip ads he made for the Statler hotel chain in the 1940s and 1950s.

And here, courtesy of Ebay, is one of those Statler Hotel ads (this one dated 1949):


The internet tells me that M.K. (Tony) Barlow’s work also appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, and in Click’s Cartoon Annual 1940…but that’s about it.

The remaining question (for me) was how many of the 34 M.K. Barlow entries in The New Yorker‘s database actually belonged to him, and not Perry Barlow — so I looked them up. After a rocky start, beginning with the first two entries: April 5, 1930: Perry Barlow, not Tony & Nov. 18, 1933: Perry Barlow not Tony…the first M.K. (Tony) Barlow appears in the issue of Dec. 2, 1939.

But then, in the issue of December 23, 1939: no Barlows at all, either M.K (Tony), or Perry.

Then back to mistaking Perry for Tony in the issue of January 13, 1940. *note: this is the issue containing Chas. Addams famous drawing of the skier around the tree.

From then on, from the issue of Feb. 17, 1940 to July 10, 1948, it’s all M.K. (Tony) Barlow.

So the final M.K. (Tony) Barlow tally, according to the database, is 30 drawings. Many of these were multi-panel, including his very last one in that July 10, 1948 issue:

Wrapping up this Perry Barlow/Tony Barlow/ M.K. Barlow extravaganza, I have three questions:

  1. Why did M.K. (Tony) Barlow’s work suddenly drop out of The New Yorker after such a great run?
  2.  What ever happened to him? We know he was doing ad work in the 1950s, but then what?
  3. I have no idea how long his work appeared in Collier’s or The Saturday Evening Post. Does anyone out there know?

I’ll leave you with my favorite New Yorker cartoon of his, discovered today while going through all of his work.  I like its healthy cynicism. From the issue of December 19, 1942.


A Thurber Inspired Bliss?

Attempted Bloggery on what appears to be an inspired bookcase. Read about and see the full drawings here .




The A-Z listing for Mr. Bliss:

Harry Bliss New Yorker work: Jan. 5, 1998 – .


Mr. Bliss’s latest collection, a collaboration with Steve Martin, is A Wealth Of Pigeons, also the subject of an Attempted Bloggery Post.













Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *