Last year, R. Crumb announced he wouldn’t be working for the New Yorker any more after one of his covers was rejected with no stated reason. Now VICE magazine’s Nadja Sayej has unearthed the cover as (of all things) the illustration for a bookmark in the Danish catalog from the Venice Biennale art show. It was for a story on gay marriage and shows what may (or may not) be a drag king and drag queen applying for a marriage license.
The cardboard placeholder featured a color comic by R. Crumb depicting a drag queen and king holding hands in front of a marriage-license clerk. On its flip side was a blurb from Crumb explaining that the image was intended to be the cover of a 2009 issue of the New Yorker but was rejected for reasons unknown. Although I was excited to obtain such a rare and odd artifact, things didn’t quite add up.
Sayej manages to obtain an interview with Crumb and finds out much more about the cover:
Did the rejection offend you?
I’m in a privileged position because I don’t need the money. When you go to the cover editor’s office, you notice that the walls are covered with rejected New Yorker covers. Sometimes there are two rejected covers for each issue. I don’t know what the usual policy is, but I was given no explanation from David Remnick, the editor in chief, who makes the final decisions.
Do you think the New Yorker is homophobic?
I think it’s the opposite. The New Yorker is majorly politically correct, terrified of offending some gay person. I asked this gay friend of mine, Paul Morris, “If you saw this cover on the New Yorker, would you be offended?” He said, “I’d wanna hang it on my wall!”
Super bonus: Johnny Ryan draws a portrait of Crumb!