MCall for Order

Got an email that last week that Bruce McCall was in the “Artist Spotlight” at the online New Yorker Store, which sells quality reprints of the magazine’s covers and cartoons. I’ve been a McCall fan since he helped define the National Lampoon style of detailed parodies which were conscious of the style and importance of every element of the thing being lampooned.

McCall didn’t draw funny luxury cars, he drew them in the context of car catalogues and the hopes and dreams of bygone days. His contribution to the full-bodied National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody was that most essential of taken-for-granted elements, the supermarket advertising circular. McCall’s gags were extreme—the market was named SwillMart, it sold “rubber meat”—but contained within realistic trappings. He was parodying not just stupid culture stuff but the brochures, magazines, and ads which delivered them.

Now he uses New Yorker covers to spoof magazine covers. He works in traditional styles common when there were a zillion other lit/culture mags on the newsstand. You often have to study a McCall cover to get the joke—it’s not an automatic or clear realization, the way nearly all magazine covers are meant to be.

He seems to be good for four or five New Yorker covers a year. I miss his prose writing, having enjoyed his elaborate multi-page works for the Lampoon and his sensitive yet sarcastic memoir of his Canadian upbringing Thin Ice. He still writes, but is lucky to get the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs slot even two or three times a year.

I know he’s older, and I see from the internet that he’s working on a children’s book and other things. But I wish the “Artist’s Spotlight” was a little broader.

In any case, the light’s shifted. This week’s “Spotlight Artist” at the New Yorker store in Charles Barsotti, a talking-dog and “little king” cartoonist without a satirical or parodic bone in his body. All hail Bruce McCall!