Saturday, November 30, 2019

New Yorker Comics or Cartoons?

On the shelves of a popular independent bookstore I recently noted a sign reading New Yorker Comics. I won't mention the store's name, but it can be found downtown at 12th Street and Broadway in the city with which the New Yorker is principally concerned.

These days comics are extremely popular and with much good reason. But they are not synonymous with cartoons. Comics are sequential narrative art. They may appear as comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, or zines. Despite the name, comics do not have to be humorous.

Those clever drawings that appear in the New Yorker each week are called cartoons. The overwhelming majority of them are single-panel gags. A scant few may be sequential; these generally work up to a punch line or site gag in the final panel. These are still called cartoons.

There is, of course, bound to be some blurring of definitions. A few newspaper or online comics may be of the single-panel variety. The New Yorker does occasionally publish work in the form of a comic strip. But for the most part the New Yorker publishes cartoons and that's what they should be called.

That big white volume at the lower right in the second photo is The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925-1975. Back in the days when I was introduced to the art form, the magazine made a point of referring to its cartoons as drawings and to its cartoonists as artists. The magazine, today wary of its former elitist reputation, has long abandoned that practice although I, perhaps stubbornly, have not. Regardless, for purposes of clarity, that section of a bookstore concerned with New Yorker cartoons should have signage indicating New Yorker Cartoons. There is nothing remotely useful about the term New Yorker Comics.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Michel Suffran's Copy of Quelques Romantiques by Jean-Jacques Sempé

French novelist Michel Suffran (1931-2018) of Bordeaux passed away last year and, as might be expected, books from his library are now appearing on the market. His copy of Quelques romantiques (1986) by Jean-Jacques Sempé shows the novelist and the cartoonist were at least aware of each other and may have had some acquaintance.

The artist personalized the novelist's copy of the book on February 2, 1987 with a drawing of Bordeaux, specifically le Pont de Pierre or the Stone Bridge. 

One can't be certain, but the Bordeaux drawing seems to be made from memory, that is, visual memory. One would expect visual memory to be more highly developed in artists than in others. It is called into use whenever a drawing is made of a real-world subject without a direct visual reference. The title page cartoon of the couple on a bicycle, for example, is something that simply can't be drawn from life, but a strong visual memory might help the artist to render it plausibly.

The train station was clearly drawn on site or with a photographic reference.

Sempé's interiors are very convincing spaces. Are they drawn from life? One would think so, although there certainly could be elements of pastiche.

The book is priced at an even 750 euros.
Jean-Jacques Sempé
AbeBooks Listing Retrieved November 17, 2019

An old postcard of le Pont de Pierre from the early 20th century does not present the same head-on view from which Sempé drew it. Nevertheless we can compare it with his drawing and ask ourselves how well the artist recalled the details of the bridge. His sketch, alas, is a very quick one.
Le Pont de Pierre


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Ted Key: A Hazel Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, the industrious Dick Buchanan has gone to his Cartoon Clip Files and produced a scan of "Hazel" by Ted Key. Dick writes:
Hazel came to him in a dream one night and, in the beginning, cartoons featuring her appeared in other magazines until The Saturday Evening Post insisted Hazel should become exclusively theirs. Yes, I have a couple of these cartoons in my file.
Later, of course, Hazel went on to her own television show. This particular cartoon seems to show a surprisingly malign or even cruel side of Hazel.

"Penny for your thoughts."
Ted Key 
The Saturday Evening Post, November 29, 1958, page 122
Scan by Dick Buchanan

I've always thought the phrase "Penny for your thoughts" should take a question mark. It's not merely an offer of exchange; it's an idiomatic request to know what someone is thinking. It is generally intoned as an interrogative. 

"Hazel" Theme Song

Second "Hazel" Theme Song

Note:  I am as ever thankful to my friend Dick Buchanan for his contributions here. Dick maintains the priceless Dick Buchanan Cartoon Clip Files. He contributes regularly to Mike Lynch Cartoons, most recently some early cartoons memorializing the late "Gahan WIlson 1930 - 2019."

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Cartoon Collections Caption Contest #51

This week I found it unusually challenging to bring together the disparate elements of the Cartoon Collections Caption Contest #51. The drawing is by P. C. Vey. 
"At least THEY'RE too smart to be caught."
"I told you Hal doesn't have all his ducks in a row."
"They're counting on you NOT catching them."

December 4, 2019 Update:  The Winner

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Jerry Marcus: The First Thanksgiving

Dick Buchanan has gone into his Cartoon Clip Files again in search of long-neglected holiday humor. He has found an old Saturday Evening Post cartoon by Jerry Marcus depicting the first Thanksgiving. It's a delightful gem of a drawing by a cartoonist we don't hear much about. Dick writes:
Jerry Marcus had 4 New Yorker sales. He was a regular for the Post and appeared in most major magazines. A lot of his work featured smart alecky kids, etc.
"We ought to do this again, next year."
Jerry Marcus
The Saturday Evening Post, November 29, 1958, page 71
Scan by Dick Buchanan

This is quite a complex scene evoking much of how we have come to envision the first Thanksgiving. It's not a family gathering, of course, but a friendly meeting of sometimes antagonistic cultures. The women doing the serving appear just as pleased as the men being served, something not uncommon in imagery of the 1950s. And just look at that dog eying the turkey, completely unnecessary to the gag and completely marvelous! Also unnecessary, and not nearly so marvelous, is the comma in the caption. Still, this gag is a clever imagining of how a tradition we take almost for granted might have got its first spark.

Note:  Some of the many things I am thankful for especially at this time of year are the contributions of Dick Buchanan from his voluminous Cartoon Clip Files. Dick contributes regularly to the blog Mike Lynch Cartoons, most recently part of a post remembering the great "Gahan WIlson 1930 - 2019."

This post marks Jerry Marcus's first appearance on this blog.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #687

Happy Thanksgiving week! I celebrated with an entry in the parade-themed New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #687. The drawing is by P. C. Vey.
"Well played, Mr. Macy!"

These captions deflated quickly:
"You've GOT to see your expression!"
"Did you know you'd be wearing a Speedo?"
"I told you we could license that face."

December 2, 2019 Update:  The Finalists

December 9, 2019 Update:
  Alas, I neglected to vote once again. Not an easy choice here.

December 16, 2019 Update:  The Winner

Note:  In last week's Caption Contest, cartoonist Christopher Weyant
 laid the proverbial egg. Take a crack at Contest #686.

In bygone times I eagerly attended the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or, in more recent years, the balloon inflation the night before, and I posted quite a few photos of the celebration here on the blog. These days, having fallen under the influence of Charles Addams, I'm more of a homebody. Still, if readers themselves are lucky enough to catch the festivities and would like to contribute a few photos of the character balloons and such, I'd be only too pleased to post them here. Meanwhile, I'll be watching it all go by on TV.

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Gahan Wilson Signed Dave's Copy of Cartoon Laffs from True

Generally speaking, paperback cartoon collections that sold for a quarter when new aren't all that valuable today. Therefore, to see a copy of Cartoon Laffs from True newly offered for sale at $75 is surprising until one notes that it has been signed by Gahan Wilson, the popular cartoonist whose passing we just learned of on Friday. He wrote "To Dave from Gahan Wilson" on page 138 below his two-panel cartoon about an unfortunate door-to-door salesman. The AbeBooks listing dates the collection incorrectly to 1975, but other sources give the date more plausibly as 1958. True ceased publication in 1975 and at the time wasn't going about issuing new collections.

Gahan Wilson was soon to develop a distinctively macabre style, but his 1950s work shown here is at best only marginally more bizarre than the other art shown on the pages. The cartoon at the bottom of the page, for example, is recognizable as the work of Virgil Partch whose own quirky style may also be discerned on the cover of the paperback. That unsigned cover drawing was specifically selected to sell the book to readers of "True, the Man's Magazine." It was meant to be clever, but today we would more readily characterize it as misogynistic.

The drawing on the opposite page by Ed Dahlin is labeled "Too Good To Be True"—and that is the whole point. It's really more of a universal gambling fantasy than a gag. Finally, the humorous passage at the bottom of the page is an anecdote about selling brassieres that strains to be amusing but is nevertheless quite tame by today's standards.
Gahan Wilson
Cartoon Laffs from True

AbeBooks Listing Retrieved November 23, 2019

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

William's Copy of The Love for Three Oranges by Frank Corsaro and Maurice Sendak

In 2012 a rare copy of The Love for Three Oranges: The Glyndebourne Version by Frank Corsaro with stage and costume designs by Maurice Sendak was offered for sale on eBay. It was personalized to one William by Mr. Sendak, who drew a lively dancing pig.

Maurice Sendak
The Love for Three Oranges
eBay Item Listing Retrieved circa August 2012

Maurice Sendak
The Love for Three Oranges
eBay Item Description

The Love for Three Oranges
Prokofiev / Frank Corsaro / Maurice Sendak
Glyndebourne—Opera DVD

Note:  The book is still listed for sale on the Comic Art Fans site with its price currently lowered to $1399.95.

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Maurice Sendak: Thanks for the Brownies!

What sort of food should one offer an illustrator? Let's take a look at the case for brownies. Exhibit A is a souvenir sketch by Maurice Sendak of a Wild Thing inscribed with the artist's thanks. It appeared in a listing on AbeBooks in 2016 and has subsequently been sold.

Maurice Sendak
AbeBooks Listing Retrieved December 6, 2016