The New York Observer on Thursday pointed out that the current New Yorker cover looks a lot like a 1995 Observer cover illustration, both inspired by Norman Rockwell’s “The Tattoo Artist.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tony Messenger writes today: “Note to New Yorkers: Expand your horizons. The real ripoff comparison is between the New Yorker cover and a cartoon from former Post-Dispatch editorial cartoonist R.J. Matson, a former New Yorker who still practices his craft for Roll Call.”
Matson tells Romenesko readers:
This New Yorker cover is hardly original, but it does not plagiarize the New York Observer. Four years ago, I did the exact same joke, inspired by the famous Rockwell cover, featuring John McCain as the sailor changing his tattoos. My cartoon was published on the editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 31, 2008, and it was syndicated to over 850 newspapers and magazines in the US and abroad. It appeared in numerous round-ups as one of the best cartoons of the 2008 presidential race.
By coincidence, I was the New York Observer editorial cartoonist from 1988 to 2010, and a colleague of Barry Blitt’s at the Observer. I was aware of the Angelina Jolie illustration by Victor Juhasz when I drew my editorial cartoon, but I thought my idea to apply the gag to a politician’s flip-flops and campaign strategy reversals was sufficiently original. I had used iconic Rockwell images as the foundations for cartoons at least a dozen times before, and it made sense to draw McCain as a sailor because of his career in the Navy.
Barry Blitt has one of my New York Observer cartoons framed on the wall of his studio, and I proudly display one of his cartoons in my home. He is a great talent, and I have no doubt that he came up with the idea for the “Skin Deep” cover independently. Newspaper editorial cartoonists working in different cities routinely come up with strikingly similar ideas on the same deadline. When five or more publish essentially the same cartoon on the same day, we call it a “Yahtzee!”