Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cartoon Look Day Is Over

EDIT: Near the end of last week, I got an email from the New Yorker with the subject line "Office Policy Going Forward." The policy is the New Yorker cartoon editor won't sit down with cartoonists in person and look at their batches effective this week. That means the in person New Yorker cartoonist "look day" is over. I would love to be wrong. But for now, it's over. That's the policy. Whether it's for the two months that Bob Mankoff has said in the press that he'll be there, mentoring the new cartoon editor, or longer, or whatever. There is no timeline going forward proffering the date when the meetings are brought back. That will be up to the new cartoon editor.

Above photo 50 year old photo of cartoonists at the Saturday Evening Post's humor editor's office nicked from gag cartoonist Eli Stein at his Eli Stein Cartoons blog. (From left: Harry Mace, Bill Yates, Gus Lundberg, Martha Blanchard, Herb Green, Jeff Monahan, Jerry Marcus, Saturday Evening Post humor editor Marione Nickles, Jack Tyrrell, John Norment, Dave Hirsch, Mrs. Fritz Wilkinson (wife of cartoonist Wilkinson), Peter Porges, Bob Schroeter, Mort Temes.)

And it ended just last week, with an email sent to a small group of working cartoonists.

"Look Day" or "Cartoon Day" or "The Rounds" is over.

"Look Day," which is what the one day of the week was called when working gag cartoonists arrived in Manhattan and went, in person, to the magazine cartoon editors' offices to show them their submissions.

Well, I just got a mass email from The New Yorker: the magazine "will no longer be seeing people in the office to review batches."

It was once a tradition every Wednesday. (The New Yorker switched it to Tuesdays a couple of decades ago. Not sure why.) Cartoonists, the old pros and those starting out, would come to the magazine offices. Most of the magazines were on Sixth Avenue. And the cartoonists, mostly men in suits and blazers (see above photo), would go from the highest paying markets to the lower paying ones.

Almost all of the magazines during the post-war period used cartoons: The Saturday Evening Post, True, Look, Playboy, and many others. 

The cartoonist would wait to see the editor, privately, in his office. Once in there, the cartoonist would pull out a batch of roughs. Maybe ten or twelve cartoons. The editor would look at each one, putting a few in a "hold" pile and returning the rest. Maybe some insider information was passed along from editor to cartoonist: don't submit any more dog cartoons for a while, we're full up; no more "wife-dents-the-car" jokes; we really need some Easter cartoons, etc.

As the look day progressed, the cartoonists would take their material to the smaller magazines, with titles like 1000 Jokes and Stare and Laugh Parade. These were the $5 to $15 markets.

The cartoonists would wind up at a Midtown bar/restaurant like Costello's (now called The Overlook) or The Pen and Pencil. They would talk shop, drink. Some would go home after, some others would go back to the streets, pursuing a few more markets before returning home.

This one-to-one, social aspect is now gone. The New Yorker was the last magazine to have in-person editor-to-gag-cartoonist interaction.

So now it's history. I will miss it.  At least you can read about it in Mort Gerberg's CARTOONING: THE ART AND THE BUSINESS or Thurber's YEARS WITH ROSS.


John R. Platt said...

End of an era.

Jim Keefe said...

"This one-to-one, social aspect is now gone."
When I worked on staff at King Features in the 1990s I was on the tail end of a few cartoonists still coming in to drop off their artwork. Very fond memories. Now digital files are sent with little or no contact. Something's definitely lost.