“The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker” – Review

100 pounds of cartoons in a 10 pound book

I just bought a new load of cartoon books from Amazon. A new Cullum, some Gahan Wilson, and a new Ziegler that I’m very excited about.

Part of my deal with myself was that before I ordered them I would have reviewed The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.


So my new books are arriving tomorrow and I’ve amended my deal thusly – I will review it before they arrive.

And it’s a fairly daunting task. The book weighs almost ten pounds and boasts 68,647 brilliant cartoons from men and women I’ve admired for years.

OK, the book actually only boasts 2004 cartoons, but the accompanying 2 CDs carry every cartoon The New Yorker had published up its release.

Let’s talk about the book. Like I said, sure it’s big and heavy, but it’s hard to explain just how imposing the whole vibe of the book is. I mean, there it is, right on the cover. THE COMPLETE CARTOONS OF THE NEW YORKER. It’s like the cartoon library of congress on my bookshelf.

I can’t seem to get past the feel that it’s a weird sort of reference book, to be placed next to dictionaries, atlases and the like at my local public library. But it’s also a history text. No matter what “it” was, you can probably see what was going on and how we felt about “it” for the last 80 or so years. And then again it’s just this great big cartoon collection to be browsed and shown to my incredibly patient wife who’s trying to read her magazine thank you very much.

If you’ve been collecting New Yorker books all along, many if not most of the cartoons will be familiar to you. But the fun is reading along and recognizing old favorites and then discovering something new hidden amongst them.

The book is organized chronologically by decade and includes lovely introductions by the likes of Ian Frazier and John Updike. Also included are more in-depth looks at New Yorker cartoonists including Arno, Addams & Booth, as well as forays into popular topics like nudity and the space program.

Most importantly the cartoons are presented well and are just a hoot to read.

Now on to the CDs. (And you thought the book was daunting!)

On the inside front cover rest 2 compact discs chock full of some of the most brilliant cartoons ever made. Many of which you’d be hard pressed to find unless you have an 80-year old stack of New Yorkers in the next room.

The discs include Adobe Reader 6 and are fully searchable which is a great deal of fun. For example, in the 2nd disc alone I found:

20 cartoons containing “Anderson”

100 cartoons about or referencing a potato

7 cartoons that include a Volkswagen in some way (only 7?!)

334 hippie-related cartoons

and 32 cartoons pertaining to jazz

Pretty neat!

There’s so much stuff here that I could forage for weeks and not really be able to review the entire offering, but it’s a lot of fun trying.

My only complaint here is the appearance of the cartoons themselves. I know there’s only so much subtlety a monitor can show, but, as even Mankoff admits, there’s just no substitute for the medium that the cartoons were created on and for.

Still, they look good if not great, and the sheer cartoon overload helps to placate complainers like myself.

So, I’ve dared to critique The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker (just in time too!) and I think I was fair. If you’re a fan of the cartoon arts you probably own this already. If you’re not already a fan, borrow a friend’s copy and you soon will be.