Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What does it take for a cartoonist to break into "The New Yorker"? (Plus: The U.K.'s kiss-off of James Murdoch is our, er, gain?)


In breaking news, James M. puts London
in his rear-view mirror (see below)

"Hello? Beasts of the Field? This is Lou, over in Birds of
the Air. Anything funny going on over at your end?"

by Ken

"It's hard to believe that there was a time when there were no Jack Ziegler cartoons in The New Yorker," Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff writes in his newsletter-blogpost this week ("The Journey of a Thousand Cartoons"), "now that well over a thousand have been published." Above we see that very first cartoon bought by the magazine in 1973, presumably as it was published, which is to say with some modifications "requested" by then-Cartoon Editor Lee Lorenz:
I sat in the chair opposite him as he pulled my drawing from a fat pile of other people's work on his desk. It was a cartoon that had made me happy when I came up with the idea. Lee asked if I wouldn't mind if they bought it for the magazine, and if I'd be amenable to considering a few changes. It was my first exposure to the extremely polite ways of The New Yorker in conducting business with its contributors.

The caption and layout were fine, he said, but some adjustments would be required in the body of the drawing. Could I perhaps make the fellow on the phone older and a tad more Biblical? And the inner workings of the conveyer belt seemed, well, not quite mechanical enough. Just a few lines added onto the finished drawing should do it.

Jack tells this story -- recalling his long period of making "regular stops" at the magazine's offices "to drop off new material and pick up last week's returns and rejection slip" -- as the second cartoon-memoirist in a series Bob Mankoff began last week with Mick Stevens ("It's Nacht Just Musik"). You can read Mick's story for yourself, but here's the cartoon:

Mick Stevens and Jack Ziegler are part of what Bob calls "a new crew of young or at least youngish cartoonists" brought in by Lee Lorenz in the early 1970s. "Arriving before me was Jack Ziegler," he writes, "and quickly following were Mick Stevens, Michael Maslin [whose suggestions you may recall for Bob's quest for "the perfect cartoon"], and Roz Chast," adding: "We're the old or at least oldish guard now, but our memories of that first cartoon sale are still fresh." Bob told his own story of "How I Became a New Yorker Cartoonist" in September 2010, and now he's gotten his mates to share theirs.

I love both Mick's and Jack's stories, and can hardly wait for the others. But I have to say my favorite parts of Jack's story are the sequels.

(1) Jack learns from Lee Lorenz, after receiving $305 for the "Birds of the Air" cartoon -- "the largest payment and oddest amount I had yet received for a cartoon sale" -- but only $215 for his next sale at "The New Yorker paid strictly by the square centimeter, i.e., the amount of space a drawing would take up when it got published in the magazine." (Bob Mankoff adds: "The formula by which the payment for cartoons is determined has since been changed, but cannot be revealed, as it is considered a proprietary trade secret."*)

(2) Bob unearths a sublime story previously disclosed by Lee Lorenz in The Art of The New Yorker 1925-1995:
As Lee relates . . . despite the fact that Jack was selling regularly, he was not only not appearing regularly in the magazine, he wasn't appearing at all.

According to Lee, Carmine Peppe, who presided imperiously over the makeup team that layed out the magazine, had decided that Jack's work, which often used comic-strip conventions such as a heading instead of the usual gag line, didn’t mesh with Mr. Peppe’s conception of what a New Yorker cartoon should be:

And even when Lee himself told Mr. Peppe that The New Yorker did indeed wish to publish Jack's cartoons, the stubborn Mr. Peppe remained unmoved. It was only after [New Yorker editor] William Shawn intervened that he finally capitulated. The rest is cartoon history.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*Bob makes one further disclosure about The New Yorker's cartoon payment system: "When I became cartoon editor, I suggested that it be by the dot. Suffice to say that suggestion was not taken." In case you've forgotten, here's what a typical Bob Mankoff cartoon looks like:

"And we will absolutely start lending again as
soon as we finish building our debtors' prison."


One's first response to the news might be: "One Murdoch down, one to go." Tthen one discovers that apparently as far as the News Corp. high command is concerned, James M. is merely coming to New York to do, you know, bigger and better things.

James Murdoch Gives Up Role at British Unit


LONDON -- Rupert Murdoch's media empire, News Corporation, announced on Wednesday that his son James had stepped down as executive chairman of News International, the British newspaper subsidiary that is embroiled in layers of overlapping police and judicial inquiries into phone hacking and illegal payments to the police.

A statement from News Corporation depicted the step as part of James Murdoch’s move to the company’s headquarters in New York, announced a year ago. But many media analysts said the move seemed to reflect the more recent travails of News International, whose newspapers include The Sun, The Times of London and The Sunday Times of London. . . .

At least stateside James -- and his dear old dad -- apparently don't have to worry about media and government gnats niggling them over some trifle or other in the way they gather and disseminate what they smilingly call "the news."

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At 12:12 AM, Blogger John said...

I absolutely adore this one: ""And we will absolutely start lending again as
soon as we finish building our debtors' prison."

The modification should be: " ... we finish building our fully government-subsidized debtors' prison," the banking/financial industry being the paragon of corporate welfare kings.

John Puma


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