In seismic news that received little coverage in the mainstream comics news press, Robert Mankoff is stepping down as cartoon editor of The New Yorker. He will be replaced by Emma Allen, a New Yorker staffer who has a background in art writing but is not a cartoonist herself.
Mankoff, a cartoonist himself, was the cartoon editor for The New Yorker for 20 years, succeeding Lee Lorenz, another cartoonist/editor hyphenate who had a 20 year run. Together they upheld the legacy of subtle, nearly ephemeral humor that somehow defined contemporary life while existing at the edges of it.
This distinctive but impossible to capture humor will now be the provenance of the little known Allen, 27. I’m told she is friendly with younger staffers and cartoonists, including assistant cartoon editor Colin Stokes. Given her youth and Mankoff’s long tenure, older cartoonists are probably feeling a little uneasy today; however The New Yorker has always been a mix of the new and the classic, and Allen has Mankoff’s full endorsement.
At his Inkspill blog, Michael Maslin has excerpts from the various memos that went around yesterday when the change was announced:
The person I’ve chosen to be the next cartoon editor is Emma Allen, who has worked in recent years an editor of The Talk of the Town, a writer, and the driving force behind Daily Shouts, which is one of the best features of newyorker.com. Unlike Bob and Lee, she is not a cartoonist, but then neither was James Geraghty, who did the job before Lee. (Hell, William Shawn was not a writer, either, and he wasn’t too bad in the editing department.) Emma has a terrific eye for talent, knows the history of cartooning deeply, and is an immensely energetic and intelligent and sympathetic editor. She will work with Colin Stokes on selecting cartoons, running the caption contest, and creating a bigger digital footprint for cartoons. I am quite sure that we have only just begun to figure out new ways to explore and exploit digital technologies as a way to distribute your work to more and new readers. All of this is intended to stake out a healthy future for cartoons at The New Yorker.
“My greatest gratitude goes to the cartoonists. I know how much easier it is to pick a good cartoon than do one, much less the many thousands they have done and will continue to do,” Mankoff said. “And, continue they will, with Emma Allen who now takes over this most iconic of all New Yorker features. I wish her and them the best of luck. And me, too—I’ve got to find that old cartoon pen of mine.”
Mankoff was the subject of a truly delightful documentary called Very Semi Serious, which covered the whole arcane New Yorker cartoon process in detail. He also moved The NEw Yorker definitively into the modern era, introducing such things as The Cartoon Bank, a paid archive of the cartoons; moving them into the digital age (I recall seeing Mankoff at SPX wearing Google Glasses a few years ago) and hiring more women and diverse cartoonists. All while keeping the tone as mysteriously amusing as ever. HE’s definitely a major figure in modern cartooning.
He’ll continue to work with The New Yorker, including finishing the ambitious book The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.