Simon:  This is the most somber cover I’ve seen in years.

Max:  It clearly represents an extinguishment of spirit; however, Simon, we shall carry on!

Simon:  I’m prepared to lighten up, even if it means that Eustace Tilley has to remain in the closet until next year.

art-strip-4

 

All the cartoons for this issue can be viewed here as made available by The New Yorker.

1 of 15) Page 4: “Passing of the Torch” by Michael Crawford

Simon:  We’re starting with a Michael Crawford cartoon. It wouldn’t surprise me if The New Yorker continues to publish cartoons by the late Michael Crawford as a tribute to his work.

Max:  Yes, we have the executive office scene with the bald-as-an-egg fellow on a quest for a fuller head of hair, or at least the appearance thereof—one might say a Trump l’oeil head of hair.

Simon:  You’re in fine form today, Max. “Fuller, thicker hair” is such a surprise coming from the mouth of this executive.

Max:  And look at that bowtie. I think he needs to take an additional road, the one toward sartorial success.

Simon:  I mentioned in an earlier post that I thought Michael Crawford used an all-over wash, but I read in his interview with Inkspill that he uses markers, which would explain the uniform gray.

Max:  Well, mark this: a Crawford cartoon is still a classic in anyone’s book. I give him a solid 5. I wish he were still with us.

Simon:  Agreed: 5. Now let’s ask the opinion of a real New Yorker cartoonist, and see if he agrees with us tyros.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist: This cartoon registered the highest for me on the Laugh-O-Meter. Full disclosure: the late Michael Crawford is often my favorite cartoonist in any issue–-graceful yet surprising punchlines and confident artwork that is never overworked but spontaneous. 5.

For a memorial on the late Michael Crawford, check out newyorker.com/remembering-an-adored-cartoonist

 

2 of 15) Page 32: “Get Well Whenever” by Robert Leighton

Max:  In this hospital scene, Simon, we have a new take on the old placebo effect, this time with a get well balloon.

Simon:  A funny gag. I read it as a comment on narcissistic people who believe that their smallest gesture could actually have some positive effect. What you think, Max?

Max:  Yes, the balloon-giver should check himself into a psychiatric care facility for a terminal case of obliviousness. The gag is nicely set up with the visitor somehow expecting a marked improvement in a patient wrapped head-to-toe in a rigid cast.

Simon:  And the visitor expects a reply from a patient whose mouth is taped shut.

Max:  If the patient could speak, I’d expect him to give this cartoon a rating of 5. I think this is a fine start to the anniversary issue.

Simon:  I’m with you there, Max, another 5.

 For more on Robert Leighton, check out robert-leighton.com

 

3 of 15) Page 39: “Wilted Passion” by Harry Bliss

Simon:  Number three is a Harry Bliss cartoon depicting a tender boudoir scene.

Max:  I believe we’re looking at a scenario the French call “ennui de deux” – they both look bored out of their trees.

Simon:  His characters often look bored or resigned or annoyed, never joyful. Ironic that his name is Bliss. I interpreted the guy’s raised eyebrow as suggesting mild surprise, not boredom, however. Her feelings are unambiguous: meh. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an entry for “meh” in the latest OED, although I guess the fact that it’s not a word may be an insurmountable obstacle.

Max:  I think the shelf life for “meh” has expired. I don’t see or hear it as much anymore, so this cartoon seems a bit dated. Nevertheless, I give it a 4 because I think Harry Bliss is consistently one of the finest cartoonists in The New Yorker.

Simon:  Yes, we both appreciate his art, but sometimes his characters look fairly generic, as in this case. I also give it a 4. Why do we agree with each other so much, Max? It’s becoming intolerable.

Max:  The nation could use more tolerance, Max, starting with you.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 

4 of 15) Page 40: “Extreme Pizza” by Drew Dernavich

Max:  Here we have Drew Dernavich pushing the logical extension of all of these do-gooder “without borders” groups. Can a “Cartoonists Without Borders” be far behind?

Simon:  We’ve seen many cartoons that are a play on Doctors Without Borders, and this one does not add much to the panoply of cartoons of that genre.

Max:  Mr. Dernavich is always a challenge to rate because of his heavy, sometimes overpowering style. In this case his style matches the substance – unfortunately that substance is seeping out under the doors like a toxic goo. I’ll give it a 4.

Simon: I rated it a 3 because it’s an overworked idea. The drawing is fine.

Max:  And I must say it’s put me off the prospect of this evening’s dinner.

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com

 

 5 of 15) Page 48: “Get Smart” by Barbara Smaller

Simon:  Number five is a Barbara Smaller cartoon. We haven’t seen much of her work recently. I thought this was a bit of a retro cartoon, riffing on the gold-digger stereotype, and I’m frankly surprised that The New Yorker published it.

Max:  We see a lot of variants on this theme of “What is smart?”. I found this rather funny, the whole “tests well” versus “a lot of money”. Not bad, I like it.

Simon:  It’s a funny line, but it doesn’t need a cartoon to illustrate it. So I give it a 3.

Max:  Oh, but Simon, the details of this composition bear closer inspection. We’ve got the classic bakery setup, but if you notice in the window, there’s a sign that refers to “Allspice Doughnuts”. I’ll take a dozen! It bumped my score up to a 4.

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

 

6 of 15) Page 55: “Secret Weapon” by Farley Katz

Max:  The return of Farley Katz is always an interesting adventure. Here we have a dramatic cadre of generals, including a female general, about to unleash a fearful weapon of total annihilation: war kitties! Simon, what the hell are war kitties?

Simon:  This cartoon relies on silliness. Does the added “God have mercy on our souls” turn a purely silly cartoon into a funny cartoon?

Max:  Awww, but it’s a cute little kitty, Simon. They get away with murder every time. I‘m giving this a 3.

Simon:  I will charitably give it a 3 as well.

For more on Farley Katz, check out farleykatz.com

 

7 of 15) Page 56: “Trophy Room” by Will McPhail

Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by the very fine artist Will McPhail. I love this cartoon. The artwork is almost antiseptically clean, bold, and dare I say slick. We have seen many riffs on the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs, but this is the best I have ever seen.

Max:  But Simon, I’m confused. The asteroid is resting quite comfortably in the wingback chair with a scotch and a burning cigar. I don’t exactly see the satisfied look of the mighty hunter.

Simon:  Oh, this is clearly a self-satisfied and even smug asteroid, conveyed by the scotch and cigar. I hesitated for a moment because the asteroid, which permanently altered life on Earth, is tiny enough to rest comfortably in an armchair. The cigar and brandy or whatever add a surreal touch that I really like.

Max:  But wait, I thought the latest theory about dinosaur extinction had to do with a dramatic climate change due to a volcanic event or something. Or am I confusing that with a recent disaster movie? Hmmm, perhaps I need to consult with National Geographic.

Simon:  I think you’re confusing that theory with the view that climate change will ultimately lead to the extinction of humans.

Max:  Oh, well, either way, I must reluctantly give one of my very favorite artists a 4 due to my limited understanding of events of several million years ago, although I wouldn’t mind taking the place of that asteroid and tucking into the cigar and bourbon.

Simon:  A few bourbons might improve your sagacity. I give this our top score: 6.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

8 of 15) Page 62: “Shrink Truck” by Victoria Roberts

Max:  The return of Victoria Roberts brings back a recurring character, that strange man on the couch. It’s a nice contemporary commentary on the explosion of gourmet food trucks. I wonder if there’s an app for mobile psychoanalysis?

Simon:  As you know, Max, Victoria Roberts is not my favorite cartoonist. Usually she has the same balding guy sitting in a chair while his wife in a loud floral print dress makes a statement that doesn’t have much to do with the drawing. Here, however, she presents a high-concept gag and a drawing that I find quite appealing. The balding guy is the same, but the shrink in a truck is a clever idea.

Max:  Well, Ms. Roberts may not be your favorite, but in this case she’s mesmerized me into a 5. Look more closely at the services offered by the therapy truck. In addition to “depression” and “phobias”, she has transmuted PTSD into “P Trump SD”.

Simon:  Yes, a little snicker for the observant. I bestow on this a solid 4. And it gives me an idea for a new business venture. Max, you can drive the truck.

Max:  And are you going to dish out the tacos?

Simon:  Tacos ’n’ Insults dished out here.

For more on Victoria Roberts, check out victoriaroberts.net

 

9 of 15) Page 65: “Odd Valentines” by Roz Chast

Simon:  In the next cartoon, Roz Chast yet again follows the comedic Rule of Three. What do you think of these valentines, Max?

Max:  In following the Rule of Three, one usually saves the best for last; however, I found the middle valentine about medical insurance to be the funniest—and in the apparent twilight of Obamacare, very timely as well.

Simon:  I agree, but I think she put that card in the middle because it was the wordiest and looks better in the middle. As much as I enjoy her work, I prefer that she include at least one or two humans. This is not a visually interesting cartoon.

Max:  I think if she had swapped the two end valentines I would’ve scored her higher. Even suburban millennials get this concept; they’ve been watching “Friends” or “Seinfeld” reruns for years. I give this one a 3.

Simon:  I agree, 3.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

10 of 15) Page 69: “Alternative Dwarfs” by Benjamin Schwartz

Max:  Next up is a intriguing submission from Dr. Schwartz that adds seven more dwarfs to Snow White’s original collection. Simon, I’m interested in your take on this. I like the way it progresses from a traditional Disney dwarf all the way to a rapper and an emoji.

Simon:  We’ve seen variations of this idea of alternative dwarfs. I like his Disneyesque style, but the progression is not gradual. The figures are drawn the same until he get to the sixth and seventh variations. It’s not a big deal, but something I noticed.

Max:  Wait! I think you overlooked the third one, “Crunchy“, with her hippie sandals and grunge attire. I also dig the shades and microphone on Jay-Z.

Simon:  Well, I disagree that the progression is smooth from Disney to a more realistic style to the emoji, which breaks the mold completely. I give it a 4.

Max:  I thought it was well-conceived and executed, though I was a bit thrown by the emoji. I’ll give it a 5.

For more on Benjamin Schwartz, check out newyorker.com/contributors/benjamin-schwartz

 

11 of 15) Page 70: “Deviled Eggs” by  Joe Dator

Simon:  Joe Dator is back with another strong drawing and gag. What gets me is the jacket and tie but no pants on the devil, something I’ve never seen before—at least not in a cartoon.

Max:  Oh, yes, this devil is in classic maître d’ garb – can you see this in red? And I can vouch from many Marriott mornings that an all-day continental breakfast is my idea of gastronomic hell.

Simon:  I didn’t know you worked for Marriott cleaning up breakfasts.

Max:  I will ignore that and simply note that these two individuals appear to be members of a travel program with no points.

Simon:  If you don’t count the pitchfork. Joe Dator, you earned your second consecutive 6.

Max:  This cartoon scored points for me. I like it a lot, and I’m giving it the max, 6.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

 

12 of 15) Page 75: “Fickle Weather” by David Sipress

Max:  The question in this contentious political year is “which way is the wind blowing?”. I think this cartoon takes our fractious and fractured electorate to its logical extreme: alternative weather facts.

Simon:  Yes, I think it’s a really great way to encapsulate the political climate by drawing a parallel to the weather.

Max:  I give Mr. Sipress good marks for this one; also I like the shocked look on the face of the wife and, as usual, the “nothing surprises me” look on the man of the house. I give this one a 5.

Simon:  I like the gag, and the cartoon is cleanly drawn. It’s a 5 for me, too.

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

 

13 of 15) Page 78: “Courtroom Psychodrama” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

Simon:  Number 13 is a Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon set in a courtroom. He has chosen an easy target, the millennial.

Max:  The millennial is not the only target—yet again we’ve got a lampoon of the “hovering parent”.

Simon:  Both millennials and their parents have been taking hits in the magazine lately.  Do you get the sense that his characters somehow are soulless, as if they are cold and isolated figures in an empty setting? Sartre would be quite comfortable in a BEK cartoon.

Max:  Yes, he doesn’t amplify his gags with the expressions of his cartoon participants. I will take a moment to comment on the art. I think that he‘s done a wonderful job in creating space in this cartoon and heightening the dramatic effect by placing his figures to maximum effect.

Simon:  Yes, I agree with that. He has no fear of white space, even though there are several figures involved in this scene. I also notice his use of a black margin on the right, which seems to be a trademark of his, although I don’t know why he does that.

Max:  I’ll think it cleverly offsets the deep black of the judge causing the eye to repeatedly traverse the drawing. It’s quite strong, I’m happy to give this one a 5.

Simon: I like the art, but for me the gag is only 4-worthy.

For more on Bruce Eric Kaplan, check out bruceerickaplan.com

 

14 of 15) Page 82: “Elevator Speech” by Tom Toro

Max:  I had to laugh at the breathless persistence of the aspiring lobbyist giving a literal “elevator pitch”. I find this one pretty funny, almost as if there’s a button on the elevator panel itself. Nice gag.

Simon:  I especially like his gesture and facial expression, as well as the look of resignation on the faces of the other elevator occupants. Does it bother you at all that this elevator seems enormous?

Max:  It does seem like more of a service elevator in size, but he needed that space to emphasize the trapped nature of the two other occupants.

Simon:  Well, that’s an interesting analysis, but I think that they would feel more trapped in a smaller space. I give it a 4.

Max:  I think this works very well, I give it a 5.

For more on Tom Toro, check out tomtoro.com/cartoons

 

15 of 15) Page 86: “Tilting at Fans” by Liana Finckfirst-place-ribbon

Simon:  We close with a Liana Finck cartoon, and I think this is the best one of hers we’ve seen. I love the idea that Don Quixote is in some unidentified room poking at a ceiling fan with faithful Sancho Panza waiting patiently.

Max:  Indeed, this is the Knight Errant of La Mancha tilting at —not giants— but, true to the novel, a ceiling fan. And look at the shield, the spear, and the appropriately hunched Pancho resigned to follow this madman.

Simon:  It’s an interesting drawing in a lot of ways. It’s a good choice to use only silhouettes. The emptiness of the room really conveys a sense of futility.

Max:  This is by far the finest drawing and concept we’ve ever seen from Ms. Finck. I hereby award this cartoon the coveted maximum score of 6 for the composition and conceptual originality.

Simon:  I also award it a 6, which surprises me, since some of her cartoons have been uneven.

Max:  Every issue is a new day, Simon.

Simon:  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day.

For more on Liana Finck, check out newyorker.com/contributors/liana-finck