Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eustace the man

The New Yorker magazine first hit newsstands in February 1925. Its first cover, by founding art director Rea Irvin, featured a society swell named Eustace Tilley whose folly was typified by his inspecting a passing butterfly with a monocle. Tilley at once celebrated and skewered the new magazine's target demographic of literate, connected urbanites.

His image, meanwhile, has grown iconic over the decades; even non-subscribers recognize the fanciful fop from twenty paces. The magazine has long since adopted him as its logo and keeps the Rea Irvin flame burning too, often celebrating its own February anniversary by reprinting the original cover. At right, for example, is the February 20, 1960 issue, looking pretty much exactly like the first one.

The New Yorker doesn't just reprint the original cover but also takes occasional artistic license with the template, depicting Tilley as a woman on a 1970s feminism issue, Tilley as a skate punk in a 1994 cover by R. Crumb, Tilley and the butterfly as Weimaraners in a William Wegman photo shoot, etc.

More recently the magazine has also sponsored a contest in which artists submit their versions of the noted dandy. At left, for example, are two 2008 finalists, one distilling Essence of Tilley into the New York City subway map, the other imagining him as Mr. Burns and the butterfly as Bumblebee Man.

This year's anniversary issue features a four-part cover by noted indie comic artists Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine and Ivan Brunetti. The four panels tell an origin story of the first Tilley cover. What's more, if you arrange them correctly in a two-by-two layout, they contain a secret image of Eustace Tilley himself.

You can check it out here thanks to a nifty crossfade graphic by artist Adam Kempa. Drag the slider to reveal Eustace Tilley, then back again to hide him inside the four covers.

Tip credit: Emdashes


Bob Kerfuffle said...

Wow! Amazing! I never would have discovered the hidden image!

(And totally off the subject, but since you said "New Yorker", there is a short bit by Michael Schulman in the March 15, 2010, issue of same . . . concerning? . . . tangential to? . . . the 2010 ACPT. Doesn't add much, but for those who want to read everything written about the ACPT, there it is. Titled "DEPT. OF HOOPLA - SOLVERS in The Talk of the Town.)

Ben said...

Thanks for the tip. As usual I am four New Yorkers behind but I will check this out in due course.

I met Mr. Schulman at the New Yorker Festival last October. I was talking with him and Henry Finder, Malcolm Gladwell's editor (oops, let me grab those names I just dropped). Nice guy and a good writer. I think he primarily works as an editor but, as you have seen, writes the odd Talk piece here or there.

Elaine said...

You should really be writing books.