Max:  The cover shows a young woman who is at one with nature.

Simon:  And with her iPhone 6.

 

 

1 of 16: “Reaper Madness” by Danny Shanahan

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Our first cartoon is by Danny Shanahan. This cartoon could be titled “Death Takes a Holiday.” Of all the death cartoons we see in The New Yorker I think this is the first one where Death is sporting swim trunks.

Max:  I like the sleeveless hoodie look, very casual and beach-appropriate. The Grim Reaper lightens up!

Simon:  And we can confirm that the shin bones are connected to the foot bones. It’s a funny drawing, but the gag itself is just okay.

Max:  I am curious about the gentleman with whom he is sharing this epiphany. Either the chap is in a bit of shock – note no mouth – or he’s just some random dude walking the beach.

Simon:  I think the latter. The lack of expression on the guy’s face tells me he’s just an anonymous vacationer, who doesn’t seem terribly upset to come face-to-face with Death on the Jersey shore. I give this a 3.

Max:  Judging by the lack of horror at the prospect of his potential demise, this is an amiable encounter. I think this cartoon is a fine gateway to the Memorial Day summer time festivities. I give it a 4.

For more on Danny Shanahan, check out newyorker.com/contributors/danny-shanahan

 

2 of 16: “Balloon Dog Cone” by Will McPhail

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Max: Mr. McPhail brings a humorous take on the classic dog with the cone around his head –  except it‘s a balloon dog.

Simon:  Yes, he combines two images frequently seen in New Yorker cartoons: the balloon animal and the protective cone available at your friendly veterinary clinic. It’s a nice image with no caption, but what do you make of the deflated balloon legs? I took it to mean that the balloon animal had some surgical procedure necessitating the protective cone.

Max:  I was musing upon that myself. Do you notice that the deflated limb seems athwart some object, perhaps the offending item that punctured the rear balloon?

Simon:  I agree it’s ambiguous, but I think the material is actually part of the balloon, based on the ragged edges. That ambiguity lowers this otherwise good cartoon to a 3.

Max:  I think it‘s a wonderful drawing, but I too was confused about the rear legs. We’re very strict here at Cartoon Companion about cartoon confusion, so I reduced my score to a 3 as well.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

3 of 16: “Movie Commentary” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Next up is a Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon. I thought this was a funny commentary on moviemakers who attempt to bridge the gap between children’s films and adult movies by including references in kids’ films that only adults understand.

Max:  Sure, a classic example was Aladdin with Robin Williams as the genie. What did you think of the comment that “it’s one of those kids’ movies that’s also good for stupid adults”? Doesn’t the speaker indict himself ?

Simon:  Indeed he does, Max. It’s at an odd thing for someone to admit. I think it is actually the cartoonist indicting these adults by making a cynical comment. I like it despite the oddity, and give it a 4.

Max:  Mr. Kaplan is one of the most consistent New Yorker cartoonists in terms of gags – look at the frequency with which he appears. This one was okay, but curiously self-referential to the speaker. I give it a 3.

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

 

4 of 16: “Request Night” by Matthew Diffee

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Max:  Mr. Diffee provides another one of his marvelous pencil drawings, this time featuring a sledgehammerin’ performer resorting to violence in order to entertain. What about the abandoned banjo that lies before him, Simon? Is the performer hell bent on destroying this folk instrument or an obstreperous audience member?

Simon:  Clearly the former. I believe the banjo has replaced the accordion and bagpipes as the butt of musical instrument cartoons. Matt Diffee’s illustrations are always clear and unambiguous, and that is certainly the case here.

Max:  Alas, the poor banjo, instrument of our forefathers. Has it fallen on such hard times that it’s now just a prop of last resort for failing entertainers?

Simon:  Well, The Who smashed their instruments, although no banjos were involved, to my knowledge. I give this a 4.

Max:  It’s a fine drawing. And sad to see the banjo going the way of the dodo bird. I give it a 3.

For more on Matthew Diffee, check out matthewdiffee.com

 

5 of 16: “By Firefly Light” by Michael Crawford

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by the late Michael Crawford. Were you as startled by the various hues of purple and firefly green as I was, Max?

Max:  Yes, this is a stunning departure for New Yorker cartoons. A palette like this has not been seen before. Does it usher in a new era of evening pastels?

Simon:  Well, we have a new editor in Emma Allen, and perhaps she is dipping her toe into the pool of full-color cartoons. Of course, this cartoon was done some time ago, so it’s difficult to say if she had anything to do with his decision to use color.

Max:  It’s a sweet rendering of a deepening summer evening. What nostalgia for those who grew up catching fireflies in a bottle and watching them wink on and off. Nice, captionless concept of reading by firefly light. I give it a 4.

Simon:  Yes it’s drawn lovingly and the gag is solid. I am reminded of my childhood days chasing fireflies in the backyard and swatting them with a badminton racket. I give this cartoon a high 4. And the Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist likes this one as well:

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  Hello, gentlemen. I want to take this opportunity to thank you both for having me all this time partake on your blog and letting me do what I enjoy most and that’s bitch and being judgmental. I haven’t always agreed with your take on the cartoons, and that’s because I am older and more bitter and know a lot more, but even more reason to appreciate you letting have my own say here.

I choose this Michael Crawford cartoon to comment on as the first feeling I got when I saw it was this was an example of a quintessential New Yorker cartoon. I could go on, but what’s the point? I give it a 5. I will add I also liked the last cartoon (funnier car insurance), but the visual for it was stagnant due to the nature of the caption.

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

 

6 of 16: “Couch Fantasies” by Lars Kenseth

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Max:  Mr. Kenseth is next with your classic psychiatrist and anxious patient on the analyst’s couch. The caption is yet another poke at our plutocrat President from our brave cartoonists.

Simon:  It’s interesting that if you use the words “billion dollars” and “jerk” in the same sentence you immediately think of only one person. Sad. I thought it was a funny cartoon, and managed to be critical of Trump without the need to name him.

Max:  He’s a huge, can’t-miss target. I thought this cartoon took a low degree of difficulty approach, I give it a 2.

Simon:  I like it more than you. I give it a 4. Yes, Trump is an easy target, but I thought this one hit that target square between the eyes.

For more on Lars Kenseth, check out patreon.com/larskenseth

 

7 of 16: “Hole in One?” by Edward Steed

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Simon:  Mr. Steed presents President Trump in the flesh. I think the most frightening part of this cartoon is seeing Trump in shorts. What do you think, Max?

Max:  Now this is a Trump cartoon! I thought this caption was one of the most devastating political gags I‘ve ever seen. I think Mr. Steed has outdone himself with both the caption and a terrifying portrait of President Trump. Showing him attempting to navigate real world hazards with equanimity has me eying Canadian citizenship.

Simon:  Yes, his drawings are always nasty and funny, but this caption is beautifully worded, and yet so nightmarish. I laughed, I cried, I give this a high 5, close to a 6.

Max:  This cartoon is head and shoulders above almost any other political cartoon we‘ve seen to date. Mr. Steed’s comment, “the club is your ability to deal calmly and rationally with complex situations“ is brilliant. I have to give this a 6.

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

 

8 of 16: “1890s Spinster” by Joe Dator

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Max:  Mr. Dator weighs in with a cartoon that seems to violate every tenant of cartoon captioning with a paragraph-long thought balloon. What did you think of that, Simon?

Simon:  This is simply audacious of Joe Dator, and I applaud him for it. This is less a cartoon than an excerpt from a graphic novel. A 19th century well-bred woman is dropped into a present-day New York subway. So you have the anachronism element. The wording is exquisite. I especially like the reference to the kid’s T-shirt as a blouse.

Max:  Yes, and that she has projected all of these positive attributes upon the grubby slacker and plans to approach this 21st century man to offer her hand in marriage. The funniest Dator cartoon this year, I give it a 5.

Simon:  I agree, it’s a 5. I like cartoons that break the mold.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

 

9 of 16: “Normal Pastry Chef” by Amy Hwang

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Simon:  Amy Hwang offers another solid contribution, this time featuring two pastry chefs. I like this as a commentary on how corporate types end up disproportionally as pastry chefs.

Max:  Winemaking and microbrewing seem high on the get-away-from-it-all list as well. Ms. Hwang has done a nice job with her washes to make the scene appear almost in full color.

Simon:  I’m less enthusiastic about her art. I think it’s adequate. I think the gag is quite good. I give it a 4.

Max:  Yes, I like the gag as well, and think it’s one of her more effective compositions. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Amy Hwang, check out amyhwang.com

 

10 of 16: “Island Spoiler Alert” by Emily Flake

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Max:  Ms. Flake chose the oldest theme of them all, the desert island. It seems improbable the grizzled gentleman would know anything about recent TV shows, or in fact, TV at all.

Simon:  Judging from his white beard he has probably been on the island for quite some time. And of course the gag turns on the improbability that the first thing out of this guy’s mouth would deal with television shows that he has missed. Do you think the cartoon is a hit or miss?

Max:  I like the strong organization of the figures and the palm tree detail; she really spent time on those fronds. It’s enough of a hit to give it a 3.

Simon:  I thought was unexceptional. If you’re going to do a desert island cartoon, you probably should come up with something stronger. I think it’s high 2.

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

11 of 16: “Subway Prophet” by Ellis Rosen

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Ellis Rosen. Once again we are underground with New Yorker commuters. I have to think that a lot of The New Yorker cartoonists take the subway. This cartoon features a character from another world who is transported down to the subway station to offer a warning to an unsuspecting commuter.

Max:  He’s an almost Harry Potteresque wizard type with the dried toad atop his stick of enchantment. The prediction of long delays is fairly safe, but what about the unexpected service changes? Can he waggle that enchantment stick to teleport the poor commuter from a jammed A line to the smooth running L?

Simon:  I think we’ll have to wait for the next installment of this little saga to find out. It’s well drawn, but the gag didn’t do much for me. I give it a 3.

Max:  The gag underwhelms for me, I give it a 2. Incidentally, I’d say Mr. Rosen’s art style reminds me of Paul Noth, who also has a cartoon in this issue.

For more on Ellis Rosen, check out ellisrosen.tumblr.com

 

12 of 16: “Abominable Snowman” by P.C. Vey

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Max:  Just when we thought winter was over, P.C. Vey sends us a reminder in the form of The Snowmen of Eternal Damnation. This is an unusual horror character, is it not, Simon?

Simon:  The word “weird” comes to mind. We often see offbeat humor in P.C. Vey’s cartoons. He also breaks from the standard approach by including a kind of omniscient cartoonist’s comment at the bottom right that the speaker is wrong.

Max:  Yes, there is a throwback to a popular bit that asked a question, and the sardonic response was “Not!” When it comes to strange, Mr. Vey can be counted on to deliver. I give it a 3.

Simon:  I think a little weird is good for The New Yorker in small doses, and I think this is just the thing. I give it a 4.

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

 

13 of 16: “Two Heads are Better than None” by Paul Noth

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Simon:  Next up is, speaking of Paul Noth, one of his cartoons featuring two royal people being led to the guillotine. This is another political cartoon, and this time I think the crowd is unlikely to suffer from outrage fatigue, unlike the American public today.

Max:  With a dozen steps left to the guillotine, this is a striking example on the part of the condemned that two heads are better than none.

Simon:  It’s a great drawing of a crowd scene, almost cinematic. The gag is just okay, but I like the drawing enough to give this a 4.

Max:  I’m trying to identify those buildings in the background. I’m surprised those municipal- looking structures aren’t ablaze. The drawing is fine, but the “outrage fatigue“ gag is just okay. I give it a 3.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

14 of 16: “Squabbling Entertainment” by William Haefeli

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Max:  Mr. Haefeli frames a host couple with the invited couple choosing to rescue the evening by viewing the squabbling as entertainment.

Simon:  It is another great drawing by William Haefeli. At first, however, I thought the scene was a restaurant, but I see that he’s opening the refrigerator door, so it’s set in the squabbling couple’s house.

Max:  I can almost hear the invited couple whispering the great “immersive theater” line sotto voce. I’m tempted to take a cue from this cartoon the next time I’m in this situation. I thought this is one of the best Haefeli compositions this year. I give this one a 5.

Simon:  Great art, but I’m not a huge fan of his humor. The characters are too aware of their attitude for my taste. I give it 4, mostly because I enjoy the art.

For more on William Haefeli, check out condenaststore.com/William-Haefeli

 

15 of 16: “Father-Son Issues” by Maddie Dai

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by a first-time New Yorker cartoonist, Maddie Dai. I looked at her website, and saw that she is a New Zealander who lived in New York and recently moved to London. The gag is pretty funny. I assume the speaker is Jesus is speaking of himself in the third person.

Max:  Indeed, and I think Ms. Dai ensured that impression by giving the central character a    beard. I also like the wide-eyed look that one might expect in a prophet…or a deity.

Simon:  I’m not wild about her art. The characters look like they could be at home in a “Cathy” strip. But the gag is good. I give it a 4.

Max: Yes, it‘s true that her style tends to flatten the figures, but I thought she has a subtle way with the washes – particularly in the legs of the Jesus character – to give them some depth. I’m sure this cartoon aroused some complicated feelings in our readers as well. I’ll give it a 4.

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

 

16 of 16: “To Insure or Amuse?” by Drew Dernavich

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Max:  Mr. Dernavich has the final cartoon of this double edition. Here he’s playing off the unrelenting competition from these car insurance companies to top another with comedic commercials.

Simon:  I thought immediately of the Geico gecko. The New Yorker made a somewhat bold editorial decision because Geico often pays for a full-page ad in the magazine, usually in the form of a cartoon. So the cartoon is kind of poking fun at one of their advertisers.

Max:  It’s ironic that the underlying seriousness of colliding automobiles is fodder for 30 seconds of comedy. I think it’s timely and a good gag. I’ll give it a 4.

Simon:  Remember that Snoopy was probably the first to shill for life insurance, which is an even more serious subject. In any case, I give this a 4 as well.

Max:  That reminds me, my auto coverage with that little gecko is about to expire.

Simon:  Because this is a double issue, I can be unchained from my Cartoon Companion desk for the next two weeks, provided that my caretakers consent.

Max:  Our readers may suffer withdrawal symptoms. Hang in there!

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com