Max:  Chris Ware has created a powerful cover illustration.

Simon:  And he offers a ray of hope.

 

 

 

1 of 12: “Picasso’s Blue Period” by Jeremy Nguyen

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Simon:  The first cartoon this week is by a relative newcomer, Jeremy Nguyen. The woman in this cartoon is not an art collector; rather, she an artist collector. Does this gag work, Max?

Max:  Yes, it does. We’re clearly looking at a woman of means as indicated by the sumptuous woodwork and ornate picture frames in her cavernous home. It’s also rather funny that she’s dressed up in skirt and heels while dragging along a rather casually dressed guy – who at least has the wherewithal to recognize a “real Picasso” when he sees one.

Simon:  Yes, it’s the genuine article. I do have a few issues with this cartoon, however minor. First, the caption isn’t quite right because that is not a Picasso; that is the Picasso. Second, it would be funnier if Picasso were alive, but he’s not. And finally I’m confused by the narrative here. This woman has a determined look on her face, and her ambiguous grin suggests to me that she’s leading this young man to her boudoir, which is odd because he clearly has never even been inside her apartment. Did any of this cross your mind?

Max:  The caption works just fine; changing it to “the Picasso” wouldn’t work. It also didn‘t bother me that Mr. Picasso went to the Great Gallery in the Sky decades ago. I do like the octogenarian version of Pablo in his signature striped sailor shirt. Finally, I don’t care where she’s dragging him, it’s an original cartoon, and I give it a 4.

Simon:  The artwork is good, and he has solved the issue of perpendicular bars, which you recall was a problem in a cartoon last week that I noted. A small quibble is that the Picasso’s striped shirts had broader stripes, as I recall. Overall, I give this a 3.

For more on Jeremy Nguyen, check out jeremywinslife.com

 

2 of 12: “A Less Tempting Garden of Eden” by John McNamee

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Max:  Our next cartoon by Mr. McNamee presents a classic Garden of Eden scene in which The Man Above tries to redirect Adam and Eve away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Simon:  “The shrub of delusion” is a humorous turn of phrase. The irreverent nature of this cartoon appeals to me. A couple things I noticed. First, what are those fig leaves doing on Adam and Eve if they are still in a state of innocence and without shame? Second, the cloud in which God appears is pretty low, and while I image that’s to bring cartoon God and Adam and Eve closer together, it looks a little strange to me.

Max:  I’m not surprised to see fig leaves. Take a walk down any museum hallway featuring classic-era paintings and you’ll find an autumnal blizzard of groin-cloaking leaves. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  Perhaps the fig leaves are to ward off the sun’s burning rays. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on John McNamee, check out piecomic.tumblr.com

 

3 of 12: “Poetic License” by Amy Kurzweil

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Amy Kurzweil, mashing together the masters of business administration and masters of fine arts. How do you feel about this cartoon?

Max:  Having nodded off to hundreds of soulless PowerPoint presentations, I think that software has nearly brought about the destruction of writing as we know it. I do like the mashup of the M.B.A. with an M.F.A. – it’s logical for poetry and PowerPoint to meet in the same conference room.

Simon:  If a cartoonist is relying on PowerPoint for humor, the gag had better be solid, and I think this is a miss. What really bothers me, however, is the artwork. Each of these figures looks stiff, and they are awkwardly positioned. You should be seeing a lot less of their faces and a lot more of the backs of their heads. I give this a 2.

Max:  I think the homogenization of uptight participants is on purpose; however, I do agree PowerPoint presents a juicy target, so the gag has to be stellar. I give it a 3. 

For more on Amy Kurzweil, check out amykurzweil.com

 

4 of 12: “King of All Media” by Kaamran Hafeez

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Max:  Mr. Hafeez takes us back in time to a kingdom long ago – one that nevertheless happens to be online. I thought this was a rather stunning piece of artwork, Simon. What about you?

Simon:  Hafeez is a true artist. Look at those rich, dark washes, the curved carpet, the figures’ postures, and the mountain in the distance. The image has an almost Renaissance quality to it. He does a lot of the cartoons for The Wall Street Journal‘s feature, Pepper and Salt, but it’s wonderful to see him working on a larger scale.

Max:  I too was drawn in by the sumptuous carpet, the balustrade, and the distant village with its bucolic steeple. In terms of the gag, it’s a nice juxtaposition of an ancient setting and modern internet trolling. I hereby award this cartoon a 4.

Simon:  The gag works, but it’s really just another anachronism cartoon, which are pretty easy to come up with. The artwork brings this up to a solid 4.

For more on Kaamran Hafeez, check out  kaamranhafeez.com

 

5 of 12: “Self-Impressed” by Tom Chitty

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Simon:  Tom Chitty’s cartoon features a couple of business dudes who are both very impressed with themselves. Did you like this one, Max?

Max:  I think this was one of Tom Chitty’s best captions ever. “No kidding—” starts it off with a bang, and the adverb “impressively” brings it home. And visually, the pseudo-sincere hand to the heart creates a convincing non-verbal dynamic between these two earnest one-uppers.

Simon:  It’s a nice critique of self-satisfied young bucks. I still don’t care for the worm-headed people that Chitty creates, but the tweed suits are well done. I also like the gag, and I give this cartoon a 4.

Max:  Wormlike or not, Mr. Chitty does manage to convey an authentic connection between the these future Masters of the Universe. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com

 

6 of 12: “Transitional Objects” by Barbara Smaller

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Max: Ms. Smaller takes us back in time to pre-kindergarten, except in this case it looks like innocence is checked at the door.

Simon:  This cartoon turns on the wording of the sign, and I think she nailed it with the imperative verb “abandon” and the unfeeling adjective “transitional”. Of course, it also brings to mind Dante’s “abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.

Max:  For those who have children of a certain age, this one’s a bit of a heart-tugger. I give this a 4.

Simon:  This is is a bittersweet cartoon. Look at those childish drawings on the door, in contrast with the dumpster full of toddlerhood detritus. I give this a 4 as well.

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

 

7 of 12: “Prized Parking” by Robert Leighton

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Robert Leighton featuring a speaker with a little pre-speech anecdote.

Max:  Mr. Leighton is one of our most skilled of cartoon artists. Nonetheless, I thought the setting was a trifle bland – just like the caption. I really didn’t find this one terrible amusing in these ghastly times.

Simon:  Ghastly times are why we need cartoons. I think he does a superb job of illustrating a large roomful of people with a focus on the speaker. This is a New York City or other urban center cartoon, where finding a great parking space is a cause for celebration, so I like the gag. My one quibble is that there is a banner over the speaker with nothing on it to explain the occasion. But overall, I thought this was a solid effort, and I give it a 4.

Max:  Yes, the empty banner reinforced the blandness of the piece. Make no mistake, he‘s a fine artist and cartoonist, but the caption didn’t do much for me. I give it a 2.

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

 

8 of 12: “Drop Me a Line” by Liana Finck

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Max:  Ms. Fink has delivered a rather peculiar cartoon this week involving a man in the fetal position. I noted the bareness of the room; the concept may be similarly bare.

Simon:  I pondered over this one before concluding that he has remained in that exact same position from the time he was dropped as a baby until this woman apparently discovered him lying on the floor. Maybe that’s an absurd proposition, but if my interpretation is correct, it’s sort of amusing. Incidentally, I wouldn’t call that a fetal position.

Max:  Ms. Finck always gets your attention. The setting is obviously indoors based on the depiction of the electrical outlet and a small of picture on the wall. But the woman looks like she just came in from the outside with her jacket and purse. Does she know him? There’s a real lack of connection between the two – and for me that matters. I give this a 2.

Simon:  It’s a cartoon completely devoid of context. The one object on the wall—the crude drawing of a boat—has nothing to do with anything. Still, if my reading is correct, I think it shows some imagination. I give this a low 3, and I invite our readers to weigh in.

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

 

9 of 12: “Mulling Over a Mole” by Will McPhail

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Simon:  Next is an effort by Will McPhail.  I almost laughed out loud at this one. What was your reaction, Max?

Max:  Wonderful! Look at the man “leaning in” empathetically to the the woeful mole pouring out his heart. And no caption, which is always a feat in any New Yorker cartoon.

Simon:  This is a great example of melding excellent art with a great gag— a solid 5 in my book.

Max:  I am right there with you. This cartoon has a solid connection between the empathetic listener and the whining rodent. I give this a 5 as well.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

10 of 12: “No Cookie” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Well, Ms. Chast was certainly mining recent headlines for this 10-panel mouse story.

Simon:  It’s a great parody of the children’s book, or actually series of books, that show how one insignificant action can lead to almost cataclysmic events … quite amusing albeit with a short shelf-life.

Max:  And she certainly skewered our Treasury Secretary’s wife, Louise Linton, for her tasteless Instagram tirade. Note the designer labels in the first and last panels. Sweetly executed…with a dagger! I give this a 5.

Simon:  Roz has illustrated children’s books, so she knows her way around this kind of art. This cartoon just reaches the 5 score. Well done.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

11 of 12: “A Boxer’s Forte” by Avi Steinberg

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Simon:  Here’s an Avi Steinberg cartoon, the second in as many issues, with a boxer and his corner man, although this time the corner man is beside a grand piano.

Max:  It’s funny because you couldn’t imagine two more incompatible careers than that of a pugilist and a pianist.

Simon:  It’s a funny gag, although incongruous pairings make for easy cartoons. Again, the art bothered me. The piano is so small that it almost looks like a toy. And why is the boxer so overweight? It’s fine to exaggerate figures, but it doesn’t connect with the gag, and so the image is distracting. I give this a low 3.

Max:  Perhaps we’re looking at Walter Mitty-esque aspects of this middle-aged dreamer —  unlikely he will succeed in either endeavor. Only a glancing blow for me, I give this a 3. 

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

 

12 of 12: “Fault Line” by David Sipress

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Max:  Our final cartoon by Mr. Sipress turns on a quote from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, but it seems as though our tennis playing wife has heard it one time too many. What you think of this one, Simon?

Simon:  This is the second cartoon in this issue that echoes classical literature. The gag is okay. The art is simple yet effective.

Max:  I like the attitude of the wife who has just had it with her husband’s literary pretensions. Clearly the gloves are off in this match. I give this one a 3.

Simon:  This cartoon has a true New Yorker sensibility. I also give it a 3.

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