Max:  Is that the ship of state on the cover?

Simon:  Either that or the ship of fool.

 

To Our Readers: The Cartoon Bank does not currently include links to this week’s cartoons, so we used the links on the Condé Nast store site, which do not include captions for some reason. (We added the caption, if any, after “View this cartoon …”.) We’ll fix this as soon as possible. Apologies! Max and Simon

 

1 of 13: “Near-death Tabby” by David Borchart

View this cartoon (“He’s at that awkward age–too old to be cute, but not dead yet”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Simon:  The first cartoon, which does not appear until page 44 of the current issue, is by David Borchart. There’s been a spate of cat cartoons, including a recent caption contest cartoon. How does this one rank in your estimation, Max?

Max:  The cat is an endless muse for many New Yorker cartoonists. The humor lies behind the expression “awkward age”, which usually refers to a teenager navigating hormonal onset. As the owner of two aging cats on the awkward age cusp, I thought it was sweetly humorous.

Simon:  I like David Borchart, but this gag is not particularly original. I’ve seen a version of this caption in other cartoons, as well as in popular culture. I think of the old Jethro Tull song “Too Old to Rock ’n’ Roll, Too Young to Die”. And “not dead yet” is reminiscent of a line from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. The drawing saves this from a lower grade than a 3, which I award it.

Max:  The image is crisp, drawing the attention nicely from the commentator through to the lolling tabby. A solid effort, I give it a 4.

For more on David Borchart, check out ghoulisland.com

 

2 of 13: “Steaming Mice” by Will McPhail

View this cartoon as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Max:  Will McPhail provides us with a look at a quartet of mice taking a steam bath over an NYC sewer manhole. The rising steam also gives this cartoon an appearance of the rising smoke from Hades.

Simon:  Boy, Max, I sure didn’t see Hades in this illustration. This cartoon is beautifully drawn; in fact, it’s as much an illustration as a cartoon. And there’s no caption, which is a plus. The body language of each of these rats (rats, not mice, live in sewers, Max) is also mighty fine. As a gag, it’s a little cute, but I like it.

Max:  I especially enjoyed the third mouse – mice are much cuter than rats — pouring another dipper of water to keep the steam rising. The drawing is outstanding, a funny gag, and the absence of a caption merits a solid 5.

Simon:  Also note the background in distant haze—a lovely drawing. I give it a high 4.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

3 of 13: “Fates Collide” by Roz Chast

View this cartoon as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Simon:  Next is a Roz Chast cartoon that follows the Rule of Three in an unusual way. In this case, a lightning bolt, a shark attack, and winning the lottery constitute the triumvirate of unlikely events. Quite good.

Max:  I note the number inscribed with seven sets of zeros turns out to be a septillion. I’ve contacted an actuary, and indeed, it seems those odds are about right!

Simon:  I enjoyed how the woman’s statement is cut off mid-sentence as the shark and lightning bolt approach almost simultaneously. My only quibble is why in the world did she feel the need to include motion lines next to the bolt of lightning? But otherwise, this is one of her better cartoons, and I give it a 4.

Max:  The concept of this cartoon is intriguing and original, although I can’t help but note it still hews close to her persistent themes of death. I give this a 5.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

4 of 13: “Cube Cemetery” by Liam Francis Walsh

View this cartoon (“What do you think of the new cubicles?”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Max:  Mr. Walsh lends his talents to depicting a “cube farm”, except in this case the cubicles resemble caskets. As someone who has toiled on and off in ever-shrinking cubicles, this cartoon gave me the shivers. What about you, Simon?

Simon:  This combination of work and death is similar to a cartoon by Maddie Dai in the last issue that featured two kids playing hopscotch. This dark theme continues this week. This cartoon is more morbid than funny to me, but it’s a strong image with a powerful message.

Max:  No, I didn’t find it terribly funny either. A powerful message? Perhaps, but somewhat lacking in humor. I give it a 3.

Simon:  Yes, the darkness overshadows the humor, so I also give it a 3.

For more on Liam Francis Walsh, check out liamfranciswalsh.com

 

5 of 13: “‘Love’s Philosophy’ – Gone Wrong” by Edward Steed

View this cartoon as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Simon:  Next is an Ed Steed cartoon with no caption other than a title written in a florid script that reads “Romantic Poets”. Somehow I think this is not what the term refers to, however.

Max:  Yes, the romantics grouped here might be Byron, Shelley, Blake, Coleridge, and Keats. These poets are known for their celebration of nature and beauty – a notion destroyed by the sordid couple rutting in their hovel.

Simon:  I found this cartoon bordering on the sophomoric. It seems a little easy, and it relies on crudeness in a way that bothers me more than some of his other cartoons that are more violent or sexual, although I’m not quite sure why it does.

Max:  Right, I can understand if the poets were standing behind a two-way mirror – a la Masters and Johnson — in order to tap into their poetic inspiration. But the quarter moon at the top of the window belies that notion. These scriveners are just plain pervy! As usual, Mr. Steed walks a fine line, but I have to admit it made me laugh. Therefore, no choice, I rate this a 4.

Simon:  Although we have been adulatory of Ed Steed, I’m going to give this one a 2.

For more on Edward Steed, check out newyorker.com/contributors/edward-steed

 

6 of 13: “Government Intervention” by Maddie Dai

View this cartoon (“You’re allowed to keep collecting the teeth, but we’re going to call you a fairy to make it sound less terrifying”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Max:  Maddie Dai shows us how the tooth person got promoted to a fairy – so as not to scare the children. I assume the man making the promotion has his reasons – to protect innocent little children, I suppose.

Simon:  I think this fellow is clearly from a government agency or the legal department that handles such matters. And the tooth fairy has always been the tooth fairy and will continue to be the tooth fairy, thanks to the official imprimatur of this functionary. It’s a common technique for cartoonists to combine the fanciful and the banal, as Maddie Dai has done here.

Max:  I agree a government representative has stepped into the picture, but still I think he “reclassified” her as a tooth fairy – an upgrade from mere tooth collector. Though clever, I thought this cartoon was a bit off-putting. It could have something to do with my dentist phobia. I give it a 3.

Simon:  I think this is one of Ms. Dai’s best cartoons. I like the tooth-shaped house, the little tooth on the mailbox, and the expression of joy on the tooth fairy’s face. I give this a 4.

For more on Maddie Dai, check out maddie-dai.com

 

7 of 13: “Clean Crocs” by Julia Suits

View this cartoon (“She stood me up. I hosed off my Crocs for nothing.”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Simon:  Julia Suits is back for the second week in a row. Her fluid line is so elegant that it’s fun to look at her cartoons.

Max:  Yes, and her fluid line practically melts the nonplussed slacker into his cafe seat. The gag is okay, but didn’t Crocs more or less vanish a few years ago?

Simon:  Yes, I’m hoping that 10 years from now no one will understand this cartoon because Crocs have faded from memory. I give this a 3.

Max:  Though I enjoy her drawing style, the Crocs ship has sailed (though I understand they’ve enjoyed some kind of a resurgence of late), I give this a 3 as well.

For more on Julia Suits, check out juliasuits.net/cartoons

 

8 of 13: “Carousel Reunion” by David Sipress

View this cartoon as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Max:  Mr. Sipress has a cartoon set around an airport baggage carousel. The happy traveler is thrilled to see the little red flashing light that announces soon-to-emerge baggage. Not sure if I’ve got that right, Simon.

Simon:  I’m afraid you have misread this cartoon. The lines above the suitcase are expressions of joy that mirror the same three lines above the owner’s head. This is a happy reunion of luggage and luggage owner. I admit, however, I had to look twice at this cartoon to get it. Note the wheels on the piece of luggage.

Max:  Oh, okay, now I recognize it as an ordinary, and ecstatic, piece of luggage. Well, if missed it, I suspect others did as well. I give this a 2.

Simon:  I think this is quite amusing and the best luggage carousel cartoon of quite a few we’ve seen in The New Yorker. I give this a 4, but the drawing could have been clearer.

For more on David Sipress, check out facebook.com/david.sipress

 

9 of 13: “Story Time in the Park” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by P.C. Vey. It has no caption, but clearly the gentleman on the left is reading stories that will probably appeal only to pigeons. What do you make of this one, Max?

Max:  We’ve got one of those strange denizens of the park who is clearly reading aloud favorite story excerpts to his pigeon buddies. I understand the book, “Stories about Crumbs”, is currently number 45 million on the Amazon bestseller list.

Simon:  But not among pigeons, who rate highly. This is an imaginative gag, and I like both the attention of the pigeons, as well as how the other character is looking askance at this spectacle. Park benches, incidentally, are a favorite setting for New Yorker cartoons. I give this a 4.

Max:  The observer is clearly normal as evinced by his work satchel and cell phone. The classic Veyian “eye pop” adds interest and focus. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on P.C. Vey, check out pcvey.com

 

10 of 13: “Scooby Doo Does It Again” by Harry Bliss

View this cartoon (“And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids, and the bloodstains on my clothes and in the trunk of my car!”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Max:  Harry Bliss departs from his usual themes to bring Scooby Doo and friends into this crime scene tableau. What did you think of the comic book style approach here, Simon?

Simon:  I wasn’t crazy about this one. I guess a Scooby Doo is somehow involved with crime-fighting, although I have to admit some ignorance in that area. It’s an awfully long caption in a bubble for not a big payoff.

Max:  I think Mr. Bliss pulled his punch at the end of the burglar confession speech by not referring to a body in the trunk. The result is a sort of G-rated cartoon to which I’ll give a 3.

Simon:  This crowd of people is a less elegant image than we expect from him. I give this a low 3.

Max:  Agreed, what’s missing here are the splendidly detailed Bliss foregrounds and backgrounds that so enrich his cartoons.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 

11 of 13: “Seeking Aspirational Back-to-School Outfit” by Barbara Smaller

View this cartoon (“We’re looking for an outfit that says we are really going to buckle down this semester”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Simon:  We have next a Barbara Smaller cartoon with a timely subject about back-to-school shopping. I thought this cartoon wonderfully captured the anxiety of a parent with her son.

Max:  Timely indeed—parents all over the U.S. are going through this same ordeal of outfitting kids after a long and often indolent summer. The caption is sterling!

Simon:  There are quite a few cartoons featuring people shopping for clothes, which gives the cartoonist an opportunity for both the shopper and the sales rep to offer some commentary. This is a funny and loaded cartoon. I give this a 5.

Max:  It’s a standout for this issue and perfectly timed as well, I give it a 5.

Simon:  I might add that Barbara Smaller always draws full-length figures, so you don’t always see exactly what their facial expressions are. Of course, that doesn’t matter much in New Yorker cartoons, where facial expressions are practically taboo. In any case, the Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist agrees with our assessment.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  The best cartoon in this week’s issue was Barbara Smaller’s Back to School sale. Of the important regular cartoonists Smaller may be the quietest and most under the radar, but she has accumulated many great captions and this is a good one. There were maybe a couple other good cartoons in the issue, but Smaller’s cartoon doesn’t make one work to get it. There’s no fat, no puzzle to solve. I rate it a 4. Wait–make that a 5.

For more on Barbara Smaller, check out condenaststore.com/Barbara-Smaller

 

12 of 13: “Roman Spat” by Carolita Johnson

View this cartoon (“You just carpe, carpe, carpe”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Max:  Speaking of facial expressions, check out the close-ups in Ms. Johnson’s cartoon. She gives you a full side view of a wife upbraiding her husband — none other than the “carpe diem” author, Horace.

Simon:  I salute you for knowing who coined that phrase, which I had to look up…

Max:  As did I…

Simon:  I have a feeling the cartoonist may be playing on a common mispronunciation of “carpe” as one syllable.

Max:  It couldn’t be anything else. She’s saying “Carp, carp, carp”, but you wouldn’t know it’s Horace unless you spelled the caption as if pronounced, “Car-pay, car-pay, car-pay”. Ms. Johnson elegantly captured the classical Roman era. I give it a 5.

Simon:  You mentioned faces, but they have zero expression, which was my point with reference to last cartoon. In any case, this cartoon relies on wordplay, which is a thin reed on which to base a cartoon. I give this a 3.

For more on Carolita Johnson, check out carolitajohnson.squarespace.com

 

13 of 13: “What’s that Smell?” by Joe Dator

View this cartoon (“They were only supposed to find truffles, but then they found Roger–a man who curiously smells a lot like truffles”) as made available by the Condé Nast store.

Simon:  Our last cartoon is by Joe Dator, and it features three folks and two pigs, a combination you seldom see in cartoons or real life. What did you think of this one, Max?

Max:  I thought this was quite an original and funny concept. Ordinarily, captions of this length lose their punch, but not this one. I think this is one of Mr. Dator’s best cartoons.

Simon:  Yes, I really like how the speaker throws her arm around her truffle-smelling husband, and how the guest seems not at all distracted by these two huge porkers. This cartoon, presenting a domestic scene where pigs feel right at home, deserves a 5.

Max:  I also liked the exuberant way in which the woman has flung her arms around her man. And, of course, Roger is just stoically enjoying the affections of his wife, all the while giving off tendrils of truffle. I give this a 5 as well.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com