Max:
  North Korea’s head of state is on this week’s cover.

Simon:  He has no hair where hair should be, whereas Trump has hair where there should be none.

 

 

1 of 10: “Narnia Redux” David Borchart

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

Simon:  Behold, a warrior princess on a white unicorn emerges from a magical wardrobe in this cartoon by David Borchart.

Max:  For those who did not read C.S. Lewis’s 1949 book or missed the 2005 movie, this is the Narnia story with the Lucy character emerging from the wardrobe.

Simon:  This cartoon combines the fantastic and the banal, a common technique that cartoonists use to create gags. I like the anti-climax of the caption, but there are a lot of cartoons about lost remote controls. The artwork is fine, but I give this a run-of-the-mill 3.

Max:  I agree that if you’re going for a TV remote gag, it had better be good. In this case, Mr. Borchart did well to leverage the fantasy world and yet still fail to produce the remote. The caption creates a nice misdirection before breaking the bad news. The artwork is imaginative – especially the light bathing the emerging horsewoman. I give this a 4.

Simon:  Do you think that the man has seen this woman before?

Max:  It‘s undoubtedly his wife. This is the bedroom of a couple. The husband’s helpless request is one typically directed at the more organized spouse.

Simon:  Maybe. I’m not so sure.

For more on David Borchart, check out ghoulisland.com

 

2 of 10: “Lunch Derailed” by Jason Adam Katzenstein

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Max:  Mr. Katzenstein brings us a cartoon set in a subway car which yet again is experiencing the inevitable service interruption. In this case the train operator provides an unusually detailed announcement for the rest of the passengers. What did you think of this one, Simon?

Simon:  My favorite word in the caption is “like”. That gives it a nice, conversational tone. But I wish The New Yorker would give these subway cartoons a rest. I think we’ve seen enough for quite a while.

Max:  Yes, the next one that breaks down should just be left in the maintenance shed. I also noted the “like” interjection, giving it a millennial flavor. I appreciate the palette of solid washes and squiggly subway map. I give this one a 3.

Simon:  It’s a fairly standard cartoon, so I rate it a mid-3.

Max:  By the way, is the anxious-looking woman on the left the tardy luncheon companion?

Simon:  I don’t think it relates to anybody that’s depicted because no one’s responding at all. The woman’s expression shows no sign of anxiety to me. “Karen” could be someone in a different subway car. Let’s ask the cartoonist about Karen.

Jason Adam Katzenstein:  I want it to be ambiguous. I think the funniest version of the image is everybody (reader included) wondering if Karen is in their car.

For more on Jason Adam Katzenstein, check out jasonkatzenstein.tumblr.com

 

3 of 10: “To Podcast, or Not…” by Joe Dator

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Simon:  Our next cartoon is by Joe Dator. This is a funny twist on the proliferation of podcasts.

Max:  When the fellow says, “I’m thinking of stopping a podcast”, does that mean he‘s discontinuing a podcast series of which he himself is the author? Or does he mean he’s discontinuing listening to podcasts altogether? Either way, the term “podcast” is a nice punchline term.

Simon:  I agree there is an ambiguity, but I don’t think it detracts from the humor. The drawing is very good, as always with Joe Dator’s cartoons, but it doesn’t add much to the gag, since the setting could be almost anywhere young folk gather. Still, it’s a funny concept, and I give it a 4.

Max:  I liked the scene at the bar and the interaction between the singles – the fellow is clearly boasting emptily to impress – but I dislike podcasts! I give this a 3.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

 

4 of 10: “House Wine” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Ms. Chast returns this week with a three-panel cartoon depicting an in-house wine tasting tour. Which was your favorite panel, Simon?

Simon:  All three are pretty much the same panel, so there’s no socko finish. I like the middle panel because the wine comes in a box, which illustrates her less-than-expert approach to wine tasting.

Max:  The lady is no connoisseur. In fact, she’s not particular at all what she’s drinking – or where for that matter. The panel set in the “foyer” is a nice touch and, of course, in a Rule of Three, the best must be last. I toast this cartoon with a plastic glass filled with box wine, a 4.

Simon:  The humor is whimsical and dry, probably unlike the wine she’s imbibing. I give this a 3.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

5 of 10: “Piñata Interrogation” by Will McPhail

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Simon:  The next cartoon is by Will McPhail. This is a play on the good cop/bad cop cartoon cliché, substituting kids for cops. I like this cartoon, although I found the cruel smile on the girl’s face rather disturbing, reminiscent of the young woman in the recent movie “Suicide Squad”.

Max:  Mr. McPhail wisely chose the little boy for the good cop, which made the little girl‘s smile that much more menacing. Cute hair bow and ballet slippers notwithstanding, that young lady looks quite capable of extracting what she wants from the sniveling piñata – a mound of candy.

Simon:  McPhail is an artist who can draw children well, which not all cartoonists can do, even some of the better ones. It’s a funny gag and I give it a solid 4.

Max:  I also noted the slightly world-weary hooded eyes and side-of-the-mouth expression of the boy – straight out of CSI New York. He knows that pinata’s gonna crack…one way or the other. The draftsmanship is superb, I give this one a 4.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

6 of 10: “In Touch with His Inner Thief” by Maddie Dai

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Max:  With a burglary in progress, Ms. Dai portrays a pause in the action as the burglar thoughtfully assesses his material and spiritual needs.

Simon:  Was this cartoon drawn in the 1970s? If not, perhaps this burglar is breaking into and entering an old folks home, where one might find TVs with rabbit ear antennas and boomboxes. But of course that’s not part of the gag. I think this is supposed to be a play on shoppers who cannot decide on whether to a splurge on some consumer product.

Max:  Yes, the burglar is having his Gwyneth Paltrow moment of “conscious uncoupling” from compulsive acquisitiveness – a counterproductive trait in a professional burglar. Simon, you raise a good point about the outdated electronics; I think it’s designed to lessen the sense of loss for many New Yorker readers who have experienced the violation of home theft. I also liked the facial expression of this miscreant wrestling with his profound questions. I give this a 4. Incidentally, I would have knicked the Cezanne landscape on the left wall myself.

Simon:  This one didn’t do it for me, either in terms of the art or the gag. I give this a 2.

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

 

7 of 10: “You Can’t Handle the Truth” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Next is a Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon that is set in a classroom and riffs on the parent-teacher consultation cartoon cliché. This caption is cold, cynical, and funny in the BEK tradition.

Max:  Generally, this kind of kindergarten conference brings out the most evasive generalizations as the teacher bends over backwards to soft-pedal the bad news about the little tyke. But here she gives it to the parents with both barrels right between the eyes — this kid ain’t going nowhere.

Simon:  Yes, he’s not going to live up to his unleashed potential. Well done—I give this a high 4.

Max:  The phrasing in this caption was spare and strong. The intersection between the family trio on one side and the stolid teacher behind her desk creates tension. Note the additional power given to the teacher’s head with a blackboard silhouette. One of BEK’s most dramatic compositions, I give this a 5.

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

 

8 of 10: “You, No You” by Emily Flake

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Max:  Ms. Flake revives a treacly gag that we’ve seen earlier this year in The New Yorker. Out of curiosity, I traced the ancestry of this bit back to Season Two, Episode 1, of “Friends” in the early 1990s.

Simon:  Not only have we critiqued a variation of this gag in the short history of the Cartoon Companion, the Cartoon Bank identifies three cartoons with the same basic gag (two by Jason Katzenstein), and all are better than this one. I get that they’re both a texting each other in that cutesy way, but am I missing something?

Max:  The twist here is in the choice of technology: instead of murmuring into the telephone to your sweetheart, these Gen Z teens are goo-gooing by text. I’m usually a fan of Ms. Flake’s, but this cartoon represented a rare miss for me. I give it a 2.

Simon:  This is a weak variation on a theme that should be put to rest. The artwork saves it from a 1, so I give this a 2.

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

9 of 10: “Attitude Adjustment” by Barbara Smaller

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Simon:  Next is a Barbara Smaller cartoon in the familiar setting of the psychiatrist’s office. This fellow is looking for the easy way to change his life.

Max:  I have to admit being distracted by this setting. It looked too richly furnished and oversized for an analyst’s office.

Simon:  Since he’s prescribing medication, he’s a psychiatrist; at his rates, he can afford luxurious digs. This is a solid effort by Ms. Smaller and a satisfying comment on our med-addicted, instant gratification society. I give it 4.

Max:  Yes, just a little more Ambien and life will be fine. A sad state of affairs, I suppose, and a good effort from Ms. Smaller, I give it a 3.

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

 

10 of 10: “Check It Out” by Paul Noth

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Max: Mr. Noth concludes our cartoons for this issue. Our shopper is confronted with a choice: check out with a human and all the potential social awkwardnesses, or engage with a machine. Looks like our shopper has chosen to avoid the kindly looking clerk.

Simon:  This is a deceptively difficult cartoon to draw, and Paul Noth has done a superb job of getting all the elements into a small space. The machine suggests that even a self-checkout register is gaining artificial intelligence. It’s an imaginative concept.

Max:  No less than Elon Musk has declared artificial intelligence our biggest existential threat. Though the “Just ignore him” message was a little hard to read on a fairly large cell phone, this is a superbly executed cartoon and a chilling harbinger of what’s to come. I give this a 5.

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

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com