Max:  Who do you suppose that beggar is?

Simon:  Probably a cartoonist at his day job.

 

1 of 19: “Death Interruptus” by Tom Cheney

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Simon:  Death reappears on the pages of The New Yorker in this cartoon by Tom Cheney. Here Death pays a call on an artist.

Max:  I compliment Mr. Cheney on this depiction of an artist’s garret. We certainly believe the fellow in the backwards baseball cap had no use for algebra given the modern compositions cluttering his skylit studio.

Simon:  It’s interesting how cartoonists decide to depict paintings in their cartoons. I love Tom Cheney, but I don’t think the cartoon quite works. Death visits the living, but here he’s taking away algebra. I get the gag, but it seems a little off. As much as I enjoy Tom Cheney’s cartoons, I will give this a 3.

Max:  After admiring such a wonderful set-up, I anticipated a great line from the Grim Reaper. Hmmm, algebra? A clunk for me, but outstanding artwork – I give this one a 3.

For more on Tom Cheney, check out condenaststore.com/art/cheney

2 of 19: “Tortoises, Two-by-Two” by David Borchart

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Max: Mr. Borchart returns with one of his meticulously drawn creations, this time of a turtle couple. The “young” couple envisions themselves nearly a century hence in the “old” couple below. The gag hinges on the apparent agelessness of the turtle species. What did you think, Simon?

Simon:  Based on the terrain, I believe these are tortoises, Max. Anyway, I really enjoyed the artwork. We’ve seen variations of this gag, but this one works, especially since the old tortoises look almost identical to the youngsters.

Max:  Yes, turtles – or tortoises according to Professor Seznick – look a hundred years old at both ends of their lives. Looking more closely at the drawing; it appears their longevity could be attributed to the kale patch in which they live. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I agree with you, and give it a 4 as well.

For more on David Borchart, check out ghoulisland.com

3 of 19: “Magic Beanbags” by Amy Hwang

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Simon:  Next is an Amy Hwang cartoon that plays on a fairytale, adding an anachronistic element, which is a common cartoon convention. The mother doesn’t appear to be particularly bothered by her son’s little trade.

Max:  Jack seems seems quite smug with his purchase ensconced on the middle beanbag with a self-satisfied smile. I agree that mom doesn’t seem that agitated – her arms are barely akimbo.

Simon:  This cartoon has a little more detail than we usually see in her drawings. It’s an so-so gag. It’s a 3.

Max:  Right, this cartoon represents a new level of detail in her work. Note the detailed woodgrain on the medieval barn wall. The gag is oaky, but I think she could have amped up the  contrast between mother and son. It’s a 3 for me as well.

For more on Amy Hwang, check out  amyhwang.com

4 of 19: “Screen Control” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Max:  Max. I can’t remember the last issue of The New Yorker that did not feature a cartoon by Mr. Kaplan. Here he strays into the roiled political waters by having this mom admonish her child about his excessive television habit.

Simon:  It’s a fine political statement. What I really admire about this cartoon is the composition, particularly how the sofa emphasizes the distance between mother and son. Fine drawing, good comment, and excellent caption.

Max:  I wonder if I could contact Mr. Kaplan about the creation on the wall over the sofa; that’d look great in my place! I also the like the way the young tyke looks pretty fired up about potential loss of screen time. At the same time, Mom certainly zings our President with the notion he spends most waking hours in front of the telly. I give this one a 5.

Simon:  I agree with you. A fine cartoon by BEK. It’s a 5.

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

5 of 19: “Horn of Plenty” by Mike Twohy

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by a veteran cartoonist, Mike Twohy. The explosion of goods from this cornucopia is really quite something. I like how he has drawn in great detail all sorts of stuff, but none of it is really recognizable, so that’s quite an achievement.

Max:  The other achievement is graphically representing the rapid migration away from brick’n’mortar stores to the Internet. Of course, “Cornucopia prime” plays off an Amazon marketing strategy to turbocharge the giant river of goods spewing from their distribution centers every day.

Simon:  My only quibble with this drawing is that a cornucopia is usually curved and a bit wider at the mouth, although perhaps the explosion of goods has straightened out the cornucopia. I give this a high 4.

Max:  That’s exactly what’s happened as you can see from the vibration lines showing this quivering horn nearly bursting of a supply chain of goods. It’s trenchant commentary, and I give this a 4.

For more on Mike Twohy, check out condenaststore.com/Mike-Twohy

6 of 19: “Family Planning, on the Fly” by Edward Steed

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Max:  The world literally careens off the rails in this wild cartoon by Mr. Steed. A couple comes to that monumental family decision midair, after presumably going through all the loops and convoluted roller-coaster twists in any relationship.

Simon:  And what a twisted mind he has! I wonder if the image of a couple in an out-of-control roller coaster car came first and he thought of the caption to go with it or the other way around. In any case, note the detailed latticework of the supporting structure, which contrasts with the emptiness below the car.

Max:  And of all the couples, he chose the least attractive pair on the planet. He makes clowns look more attractive than these two. I shudder to think of their proposed mid-air gyrations. I give this one a 5.

Simon:  Yes, a 5, normally a score reserved for very few cartoons, is the standard score for an Ed Steed cartoon. So I agree with you.

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

7 of 19: “Shedding” by John O’Brien

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Simon:  Next is a captionless cartoon by John O’Brien. This cartoon is brilliant.

Max:  I was transfixed by that trail of hair from the shedding Afghan. Then you become sensitized to the motifs in the entire park; you notice the dog owner‘s elaborate hairdo, the wild curlicues on the ornamental tree, and so on. It’s quite an arresting image.

Simon:  The concept of a dog disappearing hair by hair before the owner’s eyes is wonderful and surreal, and the owner seems completely oblivious. And how this now semi-canine continue to walk on its two remaining legs is an unexplained mystery. It’s a haunting and wild idea and beautifully executed. I’ll go all the way to a 6.

Max:  This is what single-panel cartoon art is all about, a beautifully executed cartoon with no caption. You could easily imagine this as an engraving. I predict this cartoon will be featured in the end-of-year New Yorker compilation. A well-deserved 6.

For more on John O’Brien, check out johnobrienillustrator.com

8 of 19: “Crime Scene Histrionics” by Maddie Dai

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Max:  Ms. Dai is next with a culpable couple discussing their feelings about hiding evidence of a crime.

Simon:  It’s a funny comment on male-female relationships, but the gag would’ve been more effective if she had chosen to bury a body rather than some unspecified evidence. Specific is always better than general.

Max:  The caption was better than the drawing. I was a little unsure of the speaker at first, and we don’t know the magnitude of the crime. The physical postures of the protagonists don’t really convey the emotional tussle between the two. I’ll split the difference in give this one a 3.

Simon:  I also note that the trees, particularly the one on the right, seem to be growing thicker toward the top. Very odd. I give it a 3 as well.

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

9 of 19: “Pinched in the Produce Aisle” by Julia Suits

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Simon:  Next is a Julia Suits cartoon set in a grocery store. I really like her line. It has an Airstream look.

Max:  Ms. Suits nicely illustrates the utterly conventional appearance of her shopper. Her basket is filled with wholesome items for her family, not stacked with cases of beer or discount liquor. This poor woman faces arrest for homicidal intentions – all for a tomato!

Simon:  The artwork is much better than the gag. It’s a bit on the silly side to me. I give it a 3 on the strength of the illustration.

Max:  It’s a fun exaggeration gag and the setting couldn’t be more innocent. To think Mom got pinched by the cops in the produce aisle. I give this one a 4.

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

10 of 19: “Plan B” by Kaamran Hafeez and Al Batt

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Max:  Mr. Hafeez is next with a serious-looking meeting table. It appears the participants are hearing about an important decision from their sepulchral host. I’d be getting nervous in this meeting, how about you, Simon?

Simon:  Mr. Hafeez does a lot of business cartoons, and they often appear in The Wall Street Journal, as I’ve noted before. Interesting that he has depicted a round table, and I really like the light streaming through that window. The artwork is really fine. The gag is a variation on the Plan A/Plan B concept—not particularly original in my view.

Max:  Yes, and the round table is undoubtably in the corner of Mr. Glum’s immense office. This caption is a sort of “flip-flop” gag and so-so for me. I give it a 3.

Simon:  In the hands of another cartoonist, it would be a 2, but the art moves this up to a 3.

For more on Kaamran Hafeez, check out  kaamranhafeez.com

11 of 19: “Doctors in Love” by Farley Katz

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Simon:  Next is a Farley Katz cartoon set in a familiar setting, namely, the doctors office. This is an original concept and pretty funny.

Max:  Doctors in love is a novel cartoon concept. It’s adorable the way they share the stethoscope and hold hands during the exam of a young woman who seems grossed out by this public display of medical affection.

Simon:  Yes, it’s cleverly done with the shared stethoscope, although the length of tube defies reality, if reality is even a consideration. Another quibble is that the examining table seems to run off in a strange direction, although Mr. Katz doesn’t put a lot of stock in perspective drawing. It’s a funny enough idea though that I give this a 5.

Max:  This visual aspect of this cartoon revolves around the dewy eyes of the dotting doctors. Completing the triangle is the disgusted look from the patient. All the eyes are on the same level and at a subtle angle. The composition is effective and the caption sturdy. Perspective notwithstanding, I give this a 4.

For more on Farley Katz, check out farleykatz.com

12 of 19: “Batman—the Late Years” by Zachary Kanin

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Max:  Batman stares through the rain-streaked window as he commences to record his memoirs. Mr. Kanin, like so many in Hollywood these days, has dipped into the Marvel oeuvre for inspiration.

Simon:  Batman has made a quite a few appearances in New Yorker cartoons, certainly more than any other superhero, interestingly. This is a great composition, with Batman’s face averted from the viewer. I also like the family portrait over the fireplace with the child who is to become Batman in happier times with his parents, who are, as you can see, faceless in this cartoon. Really good illustration with the caption that is nicely understated.

Max:  I like the mood and gag is just fine. I can’t help but think there’s more fertile ground for sending up Batman. Look, the guy’s dressed up in a bat suit! I sure hope there are more pressing issues than his parents. I give it a 5.

Simon:  5 for me, too.

For more on Zachary Kanin, check out newyorker.com/contributors/zachary-kanin

13 of 19: “Friends” by Liana Finck

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Simon:  Next is a Liana Finck cartoon, which, like last week, features a couple walking down a sidewalk. We weren’t crazy about last week’s cartoon. What do you think of the one this week, Max?

Max:  I find this couple portrayed in a less distracting style than last week. They are well drawn and their relationship is clearly conveyed. However, going back to the caption, this is an old concept of couples losing touch with friends as they spend more time with each other.

Simon:  True, although I haven’t seen a cartoon expressing that concept before. The gag has a sitcom line feel to it. I give this a 3.

Max:  The drawing is engaging, but I agree in terms of the score, a 3.

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

14 of 19: “Pensive Salmon” by Alice Cheng

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Max:  Ms. Cheng presents us with the of an outdoor composition in what I imagine to be the wilds of British Columbia. The spawning salmon are normally thought of as mindlessly swimming upstream every season. But this lot seems to teem with misgivings and anxieties about what instinct has compelled them to do.

Simon:  Spawning salmon is a fairly common cartoon concept. I’m not sure what it’s titled “future salmon”, however. Is she referring to the salmon eggs that are to be laid, or are these the thoughts of salmon in the future?

Max:  I believe the former. Once past the bear obstacle, they’ll be spawning millions of salmon-to-be. My favorite thought balloon is “What’s the point if they’re just going to become sashimi?”. It’s a change of pace from your typically urban New Yorker cartoon. I give this a 4.

Simon:  I didn’t think any of the gags were outstanding. Perhaps less would have been more. I give this a 3.

For more on Alice Cheng, check out condenaststore.com/Alice-Cheng-Prints

15 of 19: “Good Call” by Michael Maslin

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Simon:  Next is a Michael Maslin cartoon. It took me a moment to figure out that the gentleman in the top hat and tails is Uncle Sam, although I first looked at the cartoon on my phone. Did you have that problem, Max?

Max:  No, Uncle Sam was instantly identifiable to me. This is my favorite Michael Maslin cartoon of the year. He did a great job of bringing the excited broadcaster into this huge, action-packed arena. And the caption? Not to switch sports, but I think he hit it out of the park.

Simon:  I’m a little less enthusiastic than you. I agree the complex drawing is rendered effectively with just a few lines. And as is common for a Mr. Maislin cartoon, this one includes two very different components to create a funny cartoon. I give this a 4.

Max:  Any Sunday football watcher would immediately recognize the broadcaster cadence of, “Folks, if that’s not pass interference, I don’t know what is.” A great job of mixing a wild political season with a football season that’s somehow gotten itself embroiled in controversy. I give it a 5.

For more on Michael Maslin, check out michaelmaslin.com

16 of 19: “Miss You, Son” by Teresa Burns Parkhurst

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Max:  Ms. Parkhurst returns this week with one woman confessing to her friend that she took unusual action to fill the void left by her college-age son.

Simon:  This surrogate son concept is quite funny. The idea that she misses her son, and yet can only think in terms of towels and challenges to her parental authority is a funny comment on  parental psychology.

Max:  Ms. Burns has an interesting world of quirky characters. I admire the realistic detail in her compositions: the details with flowers and vase, the crumpled bag to the side of the chair, and so on. It’s a nice touch to have the surrogate son sitting with his back to them. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  Yes, I agree with you on the score, a 4.

For more on Teresa Burns Parkhurst, check out linkedin.com/in/teresa-burns-parkhurst

17 of 19: “Exclusive Space” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  Next is a P.C. Vey cartoon, which presents a scene familiar to Manhattan club-goers, with an interesting twist on that scenario.

Max:  Our bouncer at the door is actually the denizen of this place. He could let you in, but there’s nothing inside to see. I think this is an insightful commentary on attracting people’s attention through the appearance of exclusivity.  The well-dressed couple at the bell rope might be thinking they’re missing out on something.

Simon:  I like the caption, especially the last few words “maybe write a little”. He could have ended the caption before that, but the little afterthought makes this cartoon special. Incidentally, I didn’t think that the couple looked particularly dressed for a New York party scene. I give this a high 4.

Max:  Well, they’re not dressed for the club scene; her pearls suggest a more sedate evening at a posh eatery. I agree the last few words give the scene a frisson. I give it a 5.

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

18 of 19: “Bottomless Demitasse” by Avi Steinberg

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Max: Mr. Steinberg sets this cartoon in a conventional diner with a somewhat unsavory counterman offering his customer a diminutive cup of coffee.

Simon:  Yes, it seems to be a demi-demitasse. The expression on the characters’ faces is good, and I like how tiny the cup is on that a bare counter, but I don’t think the gag is all that funny.

Max:  Yes, Mr. Steinberg effectively got his point across, but the gag felt small to me. We must rate the entire cartoon – the gag is everything – I am afraid that I have to give this cartoon a 2.

Simon:  I’m going to have to agree with you, and rate it a 2 as well.

For more on Avi Steinberg, check out newyorker.com/contributors/avi-steinberg

19 of 19: “The Dead Roll Over in Their Graves” by Carolita Johnson

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Simon:  The final cartoon is by Carolita Johnson, and is set in a fortune teller’s storefront, which is a common setting for New Yorker cartoons. Did you like this take on this familiar set-up?

Max:  Yes, I was taken by the atmospherics of this scene. Ms. Johnson evoked this storefront seer’s place of business perfectly. The gypsy get-up looks authentic; the customer, on the other hand, looks unassumingly conventional. The gag pays off with the dearly departed carping about the fee.

Simon:  Yes, it’s a surprising line coming from the fortune teller herself. It almost makes her supernatural powers to contact the departed believable. I give this a 5.

Max:  Yes, a good observation, Simon. By confessing a complaint from the beyond, somehow this fortune teller gains credibility. A 5 for me as well.

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