Max: Simon, this week’s cover suggests we’re steaming into dark and uncharted waters later this month.
Simon: I’m concerned that the ship of state is The Titanic.
Max: Damn the icebergs, full steam ahead!
All the cartoons for this issue can be viewed here as made available by The New Yorker.
#1) Page 22: “Wave of Rats”, Will McPhail
Simon: We start with one of your favorite cartoonists, Mr. McPhail, on page 22. This cartoon is set in one of the quintessential New Yorker cartoon settings, a subway. Indeed, this cartoon recalls a recent New Yorker cover illustration featuring a man and a rat waiting for the next train.
Max: Yuck, what a horrifying cavalcade of disgusting vermin squirming down those tracks. This is an image that defies imagination, which is why McPhail is one of the top cartoonists for The New Yorker. I couldn’t help but be repulsed.
Simon: What I find particularly interesting about this cartoon is how remarkably spic and span the platform is in contrast to the rat-filled track. It struck me as graphically inconsistent. Did that bother you, Max?
Max: On the contrary, I think that’s one of the reasons I give this a 5 because that contrast is so striking. And the floors are almost polished so you can see the reflections of the well-groomed commuters adjacent to that slithering horde tumbling down the track. Hmmm, there might be a bit of London going on here – McPhail’s home city.
Simon: I like how unconcerned the passengers on top of the moving mass of rats appear, and how they are just focused on their smartphones or whatever. This cartoon is so repulsive that you can’t stop looking at it. A 5.
Max: The impeccably attired gentleman riding the front of the rat train says it all: this is normal.
For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com
#2) Page 28: “Table for Two”, Kim Warp
Max: We have a lovely table for two in heaven, nice setting. The drawing is fairly well executed, but the gag is great. The idea that there could be a table in heaven that’s coveted – and I believe covetousness is a misdemeanor – with the view of God gives me a chuckle. What about you, Simon?
Simon: This one combines a common setting, heaven, with a common theme, restaurant dining. I agree, a good gag.
Max: These are not just your ordinary diners; these are refined diners who won’t settle for second best. I give it a 5.
Simon: It’s a solid 4. One quibble I have is the way Kim Warp has drawn the wings of the angels. They have curious points at the top.
Max: Perhaps they are odd little double parachutes in case things don’t work out.
For more on Kim Warp, check out warpcartoons.com
#3) Page 35: “Disguised Bird”, Liam Frances Walsh
Simon: On to page 35, where we have a cartoon by Walsh, another fine artist. I think this is a great gag and it’s well drawn. You’ve got the bird up in the tree with a little hat and it looks like sunglasses.
Max: This is a splendid cartoon. Like the bird, I’m going out on a limb and give it our highest score, a 6. The gag is befitting such a spectacular, almost cantilevered composition. It’s an inspired concept that the bird just doesn’t feel like being identified today.
Simon: You’d be surprised by the number of birdwatching cartoons that have popped up over the years in The New Yorker. I’m giving this one a 5. Funny but not hilarious.
For more on Liam Francis Walsh, check out liamfranciswalsh.com
#4) Page 36: “Replacement Pilot”, Will McPhail
Max: McPhail again! And why not, this cartoonist is on a roll. He’s got tremendous artistic ability; in this case taking crowdsourcing to its logical extreme – a popularity contest to pick a replacement pilot for the smarmy types up in the cockpit.
Simon: I read this is a political cartoon, depicting a populist uprising not unlike what we have seen in our recent Presidential election, where someone who has zero experience appeals to the masses to undertake something extremely important and dangerous. Very funny and expertly drawn—another 5.
Max: Simon, once again you’ve shed light where there was darkness. Yes, I agree with you, a 5, the disrupting passenger has volunteered himself to “drain the swamp” in this airplane. I think this is going to be one of the strongest issues ever. We’re averaging over a 5 so far.
Simon: Great gags throughout—not a loser among them.
For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com
#5) Page 41: “Apes Amok”, Joe Dator
Simon: Here’s a fairly complex, well-balanced composition with two lab technicians in the center as they’re being harassed by their laboratory animals. This is a take on a fairly common theme of the lab technician where there’s some peculiar reversal going on.
Max: Yeah, but the gag, Simon, is hilarious. The aplomb with which the poor scientist continues to observe animal behavior, even as he’s set upon by a pack of wild—what are these primates, Simon, baboons?
Max: Yes! Wild, angry baboons—even the word is funny.
Simon: The Mankoff rule against facial expressions clearly does not apply to baboons.
Max: I really enjoy the pictorial detail, from the lab detritus on the floor to the bent cage doors, and yet you’re able to easily focus on the important components. Another 5.
Simon: A solid 5. I’m tempted to go to 6. I have to restrain myself because I don’t want grade inflation.
Max: Simon, let yourself go, it’s just a cartoon.
For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com
#6) Page 44: “Cave Home”, David Sipress
Max: This is the second prehistoric caveman cartoon in the last three weeks, but this one’s a doozy, just a two-word gag. The word itself, “decluttering”, is funny on its own. What about this trend toward a more sparsely furnished dwelling, Simon, is it real?
Simon: Yeah, it’s a very funny gag and captures this trend of scaling back that’s been popularized in some nonfiction books. It’s another caveman cartoon, which I grade a little tougher because the setting so common. I give it 4.
Max: Simon, what is a prehistoric cave without cave drawings on the wall, oh, and a bubbling volcano in the background? Did you check out the rendering of the sun with its two sets of defining parentheses? This cartoon is spartan, but with such an economical gag, I’ll keep going with my scoring trend and give it a 5.
For more on David Sipress, check out facebook.com/david.sipress
#7) Page 47: “Strange Catalog”, Paul Noth
Simon: We have a Paul Noth cartoon. Noth is an artist that we both enjoy. And it’s an interesting image to be sure, especially because it’s in color.
Max: Yes, I too was struck by this image. Who is the “stranger“ with his upturned arms? Tell me, Simon, is this fellow a water god?
Simon: That guy appears on the cover of Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, so Noth is combining that image with the typical happy-go-lucky yuppie types that are found in the Land’s End catalog.
Max: Simon, once again that brief but effective liberal arts education has come through! I was a little offput by the weirdness of the image, though I always appreciate Paul Noth’s art. I have to give this one a 3.
Simon: I think this is a funny gag, although it doesn’t merit the extra color because doesn’t add much to the cartoon. I‘m giving it a 4 because I do like the gag. As for my erudition, you might try reading something other than the cartoons in The New Yorker.
For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com
#8) Page 48: “Winning King”, Jack Ziegler
Max: Ah, we have one of Ziegler’s castles, and you know how I am about castles, Simon.
Simon: I love the little mailbox by the drawbridge.
Max: This cartoon is delightfully drawn by Ziegler and possess all those classic medieval elements. Tell me something, Simon, what is that fella doing at the other end of the drawbridge?
Simon: I believe he is cranking the drawbridge down.
Max: Right, so the page could go out and get the thrilling news that his liege might be a winner.
Simon: I think this is a 5 verging on a 6. Because I want to stay in Mankoff’s good graces and I know he loves Ziegler, I think I’ll give this a 6.
Max: Bravo! What courage. Well, another great cartoon from Ziegler. I’m going with a 5.
For more on Jack Ziegler, check out newyorker.com/contributors/jack-ziegler
#9) Page 54: “Snowman”, Tom Chitty
Simon: Neither of us crazy about Tom Chitty’s cartoons, but this is a funny gag.
Max: This is my favorite Chitty cartoon ever. He’s taking an obverse twist on this normally fearsome snow creature and made him cuddly. Great word choice, by the way; “amenable” is so close to “abominable”. But, Simon, what about this kind of wordplay? I thought it was frowned upon by The New Yorker.
Simon: Yes, it’s a bit surprising to see it here. Chitty’s somewhat grotesque graphic style works great when you have a grotesque but comical character, as here.
Max: This is the finest example of melding a somewhat peculiar drawing style with the subject matter. Chitty doesn’t normally score high with us, but what are you going to give him today, Simon?
Simon: I’m giving him a 5 in part to encourage him to draw non-humans.
Max: Well, we know how influential we are, so I’m going to give him a 5 as well, and I look forward to our deeper appreciation of Mr. Chitty.
For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com
#10) Page 55: “Kardashian Tombstone”, Roz Chast
Max: Our friend Roz is back to her tombstones again. This one’s funny to me because she has managed to link a tombstone to the peculiar celebrity of the Kardashians.
Simon: I’m sorry to say that this one really didn’t do it for me. I think jokes about the Kardashians are pretty tired at this point, and this cartoon doesn’t break any new ground, in a cemetery or otherwise. Plus I’ve seen enough tombstone gags to last a lifetime. I go down to 3, which is unusual because I do love Roz, but not this particular cartoon.
Max: Yes, perhaps this was a one tombstone too far. I’m gonna give it a 4.
Simon: Let’s not leave Roz before we give a well-deserved plug for her book, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” It was funny, poignant, and painfully truthful.
For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com
#11) Page 56: “Diagnosis”, P. C. Vey
Simon: All right, we have on page 56 a cartoon by P.C. Vey, a frequent contributor, but whose cartoons have not appeared in the past few issues. We have a combination of a doctor cartoon and a business cartoon. I think this cartoon succeeds very well.
Max: Wow, look at the hair on the doctor. It fits perfectly with the feel of this cartoon because this transaction seems almost sinister. All the artistic elements work well together. I score it a 5.
Simon: It certainly shows a new level of disrespect for doctors. I also award it a 5.
For more on P.C. Vey, check out pcvey.com
#12) Page 57: “Playground”, Tom Toro
Max: Another genteel observational cartoon from Toro. These dads blow past Dr. Spock and the Montessori-style touchy-feely school. Add that weird jealousy element and I think we have a rather precious cartoon with a lot of truth to it.
Simon: I agree. This really plays on the insecurity of sensitive dads who are doing their best and seek confirmation from their very young sons. It’s a commentary on the pathetic nature of dads today. I’m giving this one a 6.
Max: I give this a 5. I appreciate the deeply artistic and compositional aspects of this cartoon, especially the background.
Simon: I love looking at all the details, from the dad on the far left, the swings on the right, and the mirror image of the dad and son in the foreground. Can you make out the letters on his shirt, Max?
Max: Sorry, that kind of visual acuity has fled.
Simon: I believe it says NPR, so you know he’s a sensitive dad.
For more on Tom Toro, check out tomtoro.com/cartoons
#13) Page 63: “Stealth Kite”, Seth Fleishman
Max: I’m going to leap right in to the stealth kite drawing by Mr. Fleishman and give this our highest rating, a 6. This cartoon is brilliantly composed; clean as a whistle, from the general to the kite in the shape of a stealth bomber. And no need for a caption!
Simon: I concur. The stealth fighter on a string in itself is a great concept, and the diagonal perfectly bisects this cartoon. Under the general are just a couple blades of grass to indicate that he’s on the ground. A spare and beautiful drawing with a great gag. 6.
Max: Fleishman’s style has grown on me over the past several issues.
For more on Seth Fleishman, check out condenaststore.com/Seth-Fleishman
#14) Page 64: “Party Court”, Drew Dernavich
Simon: On page 64 we have a Drew Dernavich cartoon. This is a great gag with a clever drawing of all the celebratory detritus on the ground. And the caption is wonderfully understated. My only quibble is that it’s not obvious who saying it, but we can quickly surmise it’s the janitor.
Max: This is a masterful depiction of a courtroom that moments before had erupted in celebration at a favorable verdict. Even in the aftermath the judge remains implacably neutral. The details in drawing yield appreciation, from the single clean sweep at the janitor’s feet to the champagne and party hats. And so hats off to Dernavich.
Simon: And you give it?
Max: I give this cartoon a 5. As we’ve observed many times now, Simon, there comes a time when an artist’s drawing style naturally enhances the thrust of the composition, and I think this is a great example.
Simon: I’m going to give it a 5 too. I’m not crazy about his style, it works well here.
For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com
Simon: I think we can conclude that this is a very solid cartoon issue. My only complaint is that there only 14 cartoons. We want more.
Max: Right, to hell with all that written palaver. We should have 20 to 25 cartoons per issue!