Max:  A 100% Grade-A BEK cartoon cover this week, Simon.

Simon:  Make way for the cartoonist, Max!



1 of 15: “Demanding One’s Share” by Amy Hwang

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Simon:  First up this week is an Amy Hwang cartoon featuring two children battling over a toy doll. I like that the kids are talking about a grown-up concept, but they’re not expressing themselves in that adult way that I find objectionable in some New Yorker cartoons.

Max:  I noticed the toys strewn about are cleverly divided in terms of gender bias. That said, this feels somewhat on the edge of the New Yorker cartoon universe. Your thoughts, Simon?

Simon:  Well, it’s hardly the height of sophistication, so I know what you mean. Your point about the toys is well-taken. The boy is just as focused on the doll as the girl.

Max:  I wonder if there is a larger message? We here at Cartoon Companion can never dig deep enough into a cartoon’s subtext. Overall, I think it’s sweet cartoon. I give it a 3. Amy’s been on a roll, but this one didn’t quite hit the New Yorker sweet spot for me this week.

Simon:  I agree. It’s no better than a 3. Artistically, I think the doll is pretty generic-looking, and I would have liked to have seen a little background in this room besides flat white.

Max:  Perhaps a child’s crayon scribbles?

For more on Amy Hwang, check out


2 of 15: “Put a Lid on It” by Sam Marlow

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Max: We have the first cartoon of the year from Sam Marlow. This one gave me the chills! I discovered ghosts in a similar cellar at the tender age of five; still recall racing up the steps in the dark to escape their evil clutches.

Simon:  This is a pretty good gag, and the sidelong glance of the bearded fellow is just right. He’s considering whether opening up that box of repressed memories is a good idea or not, is the way I look at it.

Max:  Right, and the gentleman’s look – with his turtleneck sweater and unruly beard – peg him as an artistic type. Someone who would anguish at the prospect of the unopened box of horrors.

Simon:  Speaking of horrors, that naked lightbulb in the cellar could be the same bulb made famous in Psycho.

Max:  I’m outta here! Well done, I give it a 5.

Simon:  And note: no caption. I call this a high 4, and I hope to see more of Mr. Marlow’s work. He’s had only a handful of cartoons in The New Yorker.

For more on Sam Marlow, check out


3 of 15: “Open Air Surgery” by Drew Dernavitch

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Simon:  Okay, next up is a Drew Dernavitch cartoon featuring surgery al fresco. It’s a nicely drawn cartoon and a funny, bold concept.

Max:  This is a great twist on the old “Teacher, can we have class outside?” An excellent drawing enhanced by the plasma bottles and the EKG machines. Funny gag and the New Yorker editors correctly timed it for the first blush of spring.

Simon:  This is the one of Drew’s better cartoons. The deep black shadows convey the sense of being out in sunlight very well. I give this a strong 4.

Max:  Can we critique cartoons outside on the patio next week? A 4 from me as well.

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out


4 of 15: “Blue Plate Special Request” by Mike Twohy

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Max:  In this diner setting, a customer whimsically inquires about a “progressive substitution”. We haven’t seen many cartoons by Mr. Twohy, have we, Simon?

Simon:  No, and it’s a crying shame. He’s had hundreds of cartoons in The New Yorker as well as many other magazines. “Progressive substitution” is an interesting choice of words. I understood it to mean that some menu items are more on left-leaning than others, say, soy burgers versus fried chicken.

Max:  That wasn’t my interpretation. I think this gag turns on the phrase, “progressive dinner”, where diners go from one location to another for different courses. I guess Mr. Twohy is referring to how they’re going to “progress” through the menu.

Simon:  “Progressive dinner” also crossed my mind, but I don’t see how that fits. Given that we have completely different interpretations, how do we rate this one?

Max:  Your political interpretation is interesting; however, given the setting, I think it’s workplay on a “progressive diner”, now that I think of it. In this case, I’d have to give it a 2 due to all the confusion. On the other hand, I do really like the short order cook in the background with the greasy odors wafting around his paper chef hat.

Simon:  Despite my admiration for Mr. Twohy, I give this one a 2 as well. I think my reading of the cartoon is correct, but the gag is so-so. Readers, please give us your take on this cartoon.

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5 of 15: “Strutting One’s Stuff” by Will McPhail

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Simon:  Okay, next up is a William McPhail cartoon featuring two peacocks, one with a message for the other one. No ambiguity about this one, right, Max?

Max:  No question about it, this is a stunning drawing. We’ve seen various plays on the vanity of peacocks, but this one takes it another step. This alpha peacock gives the beta peacock something to think about.

Simon:  Are we to understand that the words are spelled out in the peacock’s feathers like flip cards held by loyal North Koreans at a Kim Jong-un rally? I guess so.

Max:  The gag registers in a nanosecond, I give this a 4 in this age of no attention span.

Simon:  I’m less enthusiastic, so I’m going to give it a 3.

For more on Will McPhail, check out


6 of 15: “Recycle or Die” by Liana Finck

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Max:  As always, Liana Fink, is an artist who can swing wildly from wonderful to skip-able in back-to-back issues. Unfortunately, this cartoon swings the wrong way for me. I’m honestly not sure I get this one.

Simon:  It took me a moment, but the “good news” that the one water bottle is offering is that their corporeal plastic selves will eventually be recycled. Note the recycling symbol, indicating that there is life eternal even for plastic water bottles. So there is a religious element to this cartoon.

Max:  I see the light, Reverend Simon! But isn’t this message typically seen on a large sandwich board draped over the religiously impassioned?

Simon:  Oh, no, you see people behind fold-up tables on the street and airport terminals. I like the gag. It was imaginative. Drawing is meh. I give this a 4.

Max:  I have to stick with my original impression; at the risk of enduring the eternal fires of hell, I give this a 2.

For more on Liana Finck, check out


7 of 15: “Homework” by David Sipress

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Simon:  Up next is a David Sipress cartoon. The husband is a little confused about the separation of home life and work life. It’s an okay gag. What did you think, Max?

Max:  It works pretty well. My sense is that this fella is at home and the woman in the door is his wife. Hmmm, but I guess it could be his secretary. Not bad, but for me it doesn’t really go far enough.

Simon:  Right. If he had confused his wife for his secretary and thought he was having an extramarital affair with the woman, that would go far enough, yes? But as is, this is not exactly a standout cartoon for me either. I give it a 3.

Max:  Yeah, the most effective part is the woman. The more I look at her, the more she straddles the wife/secretary boundary. I’m also giving this a 3.

Simon:  Well, the Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist has a different opinion of this cartoon, as well as opinions on a variety of subjects, all succinctly stated.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist: Gentlemen, this was the best punchline in the issue. I give it a 4. I’m giving tonight’s episode of Better Call Saul a 5 and this mango a 2.

For more on David Sipress, check out


8 of 15: “Drawing Attention” by Harry Bliss

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Max:  Mr. Bliss is back again. The setting appears to be an upscale country tavern. Here’s a writerly fella approaching the bar with that far-off look of best sellers yet to by penned. Clearly, he’s deep in his own imaginative place.

Simon:  Yes, the artwork really makes this cartoon. I like how all of the figures are portrayed, including the folks in the background. Sometimes I find that Harry’s characters have a generic look, but not here.

Max:  He certainly tapped into the cresting popularity of the Moleskine notebook – a favorite instrument of Hemingway and others. I like the gag and feel of the place, I give it a 4.

Simon:  Moleskines are a favorite of artists and, indeed, several cartoonists of note. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out


9 of 15: “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” by Jason Adam Katzenstein

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Simon:  Next is Mr. Katzenstein, and guess who dropped in – Billy Big Boy, ready to launch into an extended analogy. What do you think, Max?

Max:  I like the way the Bard has settled into a casual pose in the company of this young lass. It’s a nice set-up for the caption.

Simon:  A modern living room is an unusual setting for Shakespeare to land in, to say the least. But the line itself is just okay, and the woman’s expression is flat. I give this a 3.

Max:  Well, the woman is holding a book, so he somehow inveigled his way into her apartment. Could this be a post-book club assignation? “Compare thee to my ex” clangs in the ear when one expects “a summer day”. Pretty damn funny. I give this a 4.

For more on Jason Adam Katzenstein, check out


10 of 15: “Headstones” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Roz is back with her comedic headstones. Simon, have you noticed that she‘s moved from groups of three to groups of five of late? One thing that hasn’t changed: yet again we’re back in the cemetery.

Simon:  A cartoonist who relies on multiple gags in one cartoon is like a boxer jabbing away, as opposed to a heavyweight swinging for a knockout punch. Most of these jabs land, but not as  effectively as a knockout punch.

Max:  Simon, I find your boxing analogies elevate your cartoon critiques! I, on the other hand, compare multiple-gag cartoons to a box of chocolates. You don’t know what you’re gonna‘ get as you sample the box. I did have a question about the quotation marks around Staten Island.

Simon:  That puzzled me as well. Is Staten Island a euphemism for some other location? Maybe native New Yorkers get it, but since I’m holed up in an undisclosed location on the Mexican border, I can’t offer an explanation. My favorite was “finished the renovations”. Anyone who has worked on a house knows that that’s a never-ending ordeal. I give this a 4.

Max:  My favorite was “Took the Skytrain to Terminal Z”, I also give it a 4.

For more on Roz Chast, check out


11 of 15: “Preach It” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  Next is a William Haefeli cartoon. As always, it’s beautifully drawn, here from a low angle. Funny line: cherry picking from Deuteronomy. I like this one.

Max:  Yeah, this is probably the best caption so far. He certainly captured the high Anglican here with his low angle.

Simon:  It’s a nice commentary on how clerics and parishioners decide what’s relevant to them and ignore some of the nastier parts of the Bible.

Max:  I give this a 5.

Simon:  I’m right there with you, Max. This is a 5.

For more on William Haefeli, check out


12 of 15: “Sometimes a Great Notion” by Barbara Smaller

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Max:  Barbara Smaller is next with another of these palatial corporate office drawings. I find most of these turn heavily on the caption.

Simon:  Yes, the palatial office is a stage set for the gag. But you really don’t need such a huge office for this particular gag. I understand that the subordinate is presenting something to probably the CEO, but the size of the room almost detracted from the gag.

Max:  Yes, but I admire the massive scale, and the caption is not bad. I give this a 3.

Simon:  I agree, this is just an okay gag. I give it a 3 as well.

For more on Barbara Smaller, check out


13 of 15: “Beware of Dog” by Seth Fleishman

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Simon:  Seth Fleishman comes up with the best cartoon of the issue, in my opinion. The drawing is wonderful, there’s no caption, and the whole concept is really brilliant.

Max:  I couldn‘t agree with you more. He depicts a new and more efficient method of overseeing the flock, and it’s beyond funny. This is brilliant stuff. I’m going all the way to a rare 6.

Simon:  I think I might have to go up to a 6 as well. The police cap on the dog really helped. Otherwise, you might think it’s just a dog at a desk looking at photographs of sheep.

Max:  I like the cute little nose sticking out from under the cap, and of course there’s the signature Fleishman deep black forms and black lines, no grays or smudgy washes, making the image boldly stand out.

Simon:  I guess we know who’s going to get the Top Toon award this week.

For more on Seth Fleishman, check out


14 of 15: “Pick of the Litter” by Paul Noth

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Max:  Paul Noth offers a conventional doctor’s office with a couple on the couch. In this case, the doctor is on the receiving end of the news. This couple is informing the doctor of their wishes concerning artificial insemination.

Simon:  Is “genetically spoiled” such a funny a line that it deserves a cartoon? I was a bit disappointed in this one, because I expect a better gag from Paul Noth.

Max: Yes, the line seems close to funny, but it’s not quite there. Did the gag go awry with the repeated “genetically“. I don’t know, but I think the caption could have been improved. I give this a 2.

Simon:  I’m torn between a 2 and a 3, but I’ll go with a high 2, which isn’t saying much.

For more on Paul Noth, check out


15 of 15: “No Pandering” by Trevor Spaulding

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Simon:  Last is a Trevor Spaulding cartoon with a pair of pandas. One is considering the pluses and minuses of mating.

Max:  Pandas not wanting to mate is almost becoming a cartoon cliché. We’ve seen in the news over the years that they seem to give birth in captivity about once every two decades.

Simon:  Not a bad gag. I also like the zoo visitors taking photos in the background. The pandas seem to be oblivious to them.

Max:  The folks leaning over the rail certainly made it unambiguous that we are in a zoo setting, reinforcing the caption nicely. The look of the less-than-ardent bear on the left is the very definition of a slacker panda.

Simon:  Well, he eats shoots and leaves.

Max:  And with that, I’m going to shoot and leave a 4.

Simon:  I’ll go up to 4 on this one as well, mate—I mean Max. We’re partners in this cartoon critique venture, not—oh, never mind.

For more on Trevor Spaulding, check out