Saturday, April 30, 2022

The New Yorker WETA Book of Cartoons

WETA, owned by the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, is the public television station of our nation's capital. In 2004, the station chose to up its game and commissioned the Cartoon Bank to create The New Yorker WETA Book of Cartoons. It is neither very rare nor very common, but two copies of it were spotted in February on eBay.

Front cover cartoon by Mick Stevens
The New Yorker WETA Book of Cartoons

The back cover's cartoon is also by Mick Stevens! What are the chances of that?

Cartoons by Al Ross and Mischa Richter

The New Yorker WETA Book of Cartoons
eBay listing accessed February 9, 2022

The New Yorker WETA Book of Cartoons
eBay item description

Staten Island cartoonist Aaron Bacall (1939-2015) caught my eye at the top of the Index of Artists. According to Ink Spill, he is a member of the One Club, a cartoonist who had one—and only one—cartoon published in The New Yorker. In his case, it's a gag about a mobile phone. It's a good one, but what on earth could it be doing here in the WETA book?

The answer is that it isn't here. Instead we have this cartoon:

Is Bacall then actually a member of some "Two Club?" He is not. His Kermit cartoon is listed as unpublished. You might very well ask why an unpublished gag is included in a New Yorker collection. I'll have to get back to you on that.

One final note: as a native New Yorker, I'm proud to say that WNET New York's collection was published in 2003, beating WETA by a year.

Covers by Frank Modell and Mick Stevens

Note:  The history of the Cartoon Bank's privately-published collections is shrouded in mystery. How many are there? (Ink Spill quotes a Cartoon Bank employee as answering, "like a thousand," here.) How small were the press runs? It's a muddle, because some books in the series were distributed nationally and others may have been given out only at a single event. I would like to hear, of course, from anyone with the answers. I'd also like to see collections published by other PBS stations and I'd like to hear about other Cartoon Bank collections which might also contain, heaven forfend, any previously unpublished cartoons. (If there is a New Yorker Book of Unpublished Cartoons, I want to see it!) Also curious is the appearance of one cartoonist on the front and back covers. Did this happen more than once?

Michael Maslin's Ink Spill tribute written on the passing of One Clubber Aaron Bacall may be found here. Check out his, Bacall's, only New Yorker cartoon. Only published New Yorker cartoon, that is.


Friday, April 29, 2022

Ward Kimball: The Sorcerer's Apprentice for Bill Blair

Animator Ward Kimball (1914-2002) was one of Walt Disney's legendary Nine Old Men. Kimball's full-figure sketch of Mickey Mouse shows him in his most iconic role as the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia (1940). It was listed just the other day by Schulson Autographs, Ltd., of Millburn. It has already found a new owner.

Ward Kimball
AbeBooks listing accessed April 27, 2022

Disney Family Album:  Ward Kimball

April 30, 2022 Update:  Animation expert and Ward Kimball biographer Amid Amidi expresses some doubt about this piece:


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Signed by Four Cartoonists: Bob Kane, Walter Lantz, Charles M. Schulz, and Dean Young

On a collaborative souvenir drawing, four leading cartoonists drew their classic characters: Batman by Bob Kane, Woody Woodpecker by Walter Lantz, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz, and Dagwood by Dean Young. These artists came together on an unknown date, or dates, from the worlds of newspaper comic strips, comic books, and animation. The characters were all popular, but there isn't all that much synergy between them.

Nevertheless, when bidding hit $1,500 with ten bids placed a full four days before the April 27 auction, I was pretty sure this set of souvenir sketches was as good as sold. But the estimate was an ambitious $2,500 to $3,500 and the reserve, undisclosed, was never reached. Why set it so high? I recommend reserves be set at half the low estimate. Sellers may or may not be pleased with the result of this strategy, but either way the market will set the price and, one hopes, move the merchandise. It's no achievement to be left holding an unsold piece that you want to unload and numerous bidders want to possess.

Charles M. Schulz, Dean Young, Walter Lantz, Bob Kane
Lion Heart Autographs listing accessed April 23, 2022


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The CartoonStock Caption Contest #152

Once again, we had a full four weeks to come up with entries for the CartoonStock Caption Contest #152. How did I spend all that time? It's hard to say. I started working on my entries fifteen minutes before the deadline, and I probably submitted the third and final caption too lateThe drawing, a good one, is by Meredith Southard.
"Who's afraid of Bruno Bettelheim?"
"I used to be a huntswoman."
"If you don't like the story, rewrite the ending."

May 28, 2022 Update:  In his Caption Contest Commentary, Lawrence Wood mentions my third caption, so it wasn't submitted too late after all! This is the seventeenth time the esteemed captioner has mentioned one of my entries, so that averages to about one shout out for every nine caption contests.


Monday, April 25, 2022

MoCCA Fest 2022: Used/Reused by Felipe Galindo

One of the many exciting things about attending MoCCA Fest is finding new books by favorite artists and having them sign and personalize them. The case in point here is Felipe Galindo's Used/Reused: Artwork on Disposable Materials (2021). Feggo's table had a number of signed copies each with small drawings of a steaming coffee cup, to one of which he added my name. In retrospect, this book, with its timely environmental theme, would have made an excellent post for Earth Day, if I had had my act together on the 22nd.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

George Shellhase: Finding the Right Words

Sometimes it's important not to lie but also not to say too much. The prisoners appearing in George Shellhase's (1895-1988) original art, which is currently listed on Chairish, seem to understand this. For convicts, they possess both a sense of morality and of shame. This makes them unthreatening, sympathetic even, as they are clearly in a bit over their heads, particularly the young man writing a letter home. Still, the drawing shows the hardships they face as mostly benign. The caption demonstrates how finding just the right words can make even hard labor sound respectable. 

The letters Amer written on the verso of the drawing might indicate publication either in the American Magazine or in the American Legion Magazine. The $700 asking price sounds as if the seller is being a little unrealistic, but the listing still allows for a reasonable offer.
"Just tell her you're working for the government."
George Shellhase
Original cartoon art


George Shellhase's signature

George Shellhase
Just Another Art Gallery Online, Hollywood, FL
Chairish listing accessed February 21, 2022


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Robert Kraus: Quoting Shakespeare in a Bar

Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
"A Midsummer Night's Dream," III.2

This last line is a most famous quotation from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." It generally would have been well known to the educated readers of The New Yorker. Cartoonist Robert Kraus made good use of it in 1963 with a drawing of two businessmen sitting in a bar after work. His original artwork showed up on eBay in 2015. In the magazine, the printed cartoon looks somewhat slapdash, but clearly some work went into the original, particularly with the highlighting. The artwork sold for an undisclosed Best Offer price for something less than $599.

"What fools these mortals be—present company excepted, of course."
Robert Kraus
Original cartoon art
The New Yorker,  September 28, 1963, page 45

"What fools these mortals be—present company excepted, of course."
Robert Kraus
Original cartoon art
The New Yorker,  September 28, 1963, page 45

"What fools these mortals be—present company excepted, of course."
Robert Kraus
Original cartoon art
The New Yorker,  September 28, 1963, page 45

Detail of two heads

Detail of the speaker's head

Detail of two figures at the bar

Printer's marks

Robert Kraus's signature




The caption, more or less

Robert Kraus
eBay Listing ended August 4, 2015

Robert Kraus
eBay Item Description

"What fools these mortals be—present company excepted, of course."
Robert Kraus
Original cartoon art
The New Yorker,  September 28, 1963, page 45

A cartoon by Robert Kraus

A cartoon by Dana Fradon from 1976 is set in a corporate board room. It riffs on the same familiar quotation in a somewhat related way:

A spot by Henry Martin and a cartoon by Dana Fradon

Note:  Original New Yorker artwork by Robert Kraus is something of a rarity even on this blog, but I would happily post more should good images happen to come my way.

Henry Martin