Last year illustrator R. Crumb announced he would no longer be selling work to The New Yorker after the magazine rejected one of his covers without explanation. But no one knew what the cover depicted, until arts reporter Nadja Sayej discovered the cover on a bookmark she received at the Venice Biennale. It seems the magazine's cover editor suggested Crumb draw something on the topic of gay marriage in June 2009. Crumb did, but it was ultimately rejected—his first rejection from The New Yorker. Here's his explanation—transcribed from the back of the bookmark—for why he severed ties with the magazine:

The cover editor explained to me that the chief editor, David Remnick, went back and forth, first accepting my cover design, then rejecting it, then accepting it, then rejecting it. This went on for many months. I heard nothing for a long time. Finally, the artwork was returned to me without explanation, nor was an explanation ever forthcoming. Remnick would not give the reason for rejecting the cover, either to the cover editor, or to me. For this reason I refuse to do any more work for the New Yorker.

I felt insulted, not so much by the rejection as for the lack of any reason given. I can’t work for a publication that won’t give you any guidelines or criterion for accepting or rejecting a work submitted. Does the editor want to keep you guessing or what? I think part of the problem is the enormous power vested in the position of chief editor of the New Yorker. He has been ‘spoiled’ by the power that he wields. So many artists are so eager to do covers for the New Yorker that they are devalued in the eyes of David Remnick. They are mere pawns. He is not compelled to take pains to show them any respect. Any artist is easily replaced by another. Fortunately for me, I do not feel that I need the New Yorker badly enough to put up with such brusque treatment at the hands of its editor-in-chief. The heck with him!

Sayej then interviewed Crumb for Vice, and it's a fun read—the chat culminates with her promising to send Crumb provocative photos of herself, which he is very interested in because she says she has big breasts. But don't let those distract you! Let's stay on topic; here's Crumb's disgruntled take on The New Yorker's editorial process:

Even after my stuff became popular, I continued to work completely uncensored. Then the New Yorker called, and when the New Yorker calls it’s a big thrill. It’s big-time: 2 million circulation, blah blah blah, and they pay really well. I expect certain limitations from the New Yorker; I can’t show explicit sex, foul language, or at least not too foul language. You expect these things in a mainstream publication—I can live with that.

The New Yorker has a usual policy of having artists send in rough drafts of what you want to do, and the editor can then suggest changes, and I told them right from the start: “I don’t do that, I can’t work that way. I will send you finished pieces, and you can take it or leave it, accept it as is or reject it.” They replied that they were OK with that. This was the first time they rejected something of mine. I could live with it if they gave me a reason. If not, I’m second-guessing the editor, and… Well, you know, I just don’t need the work bad enough to have to worry about what makes David Remnick like or dislike something.

Must be nice to get out from under Remnick's thumb! Here in NYC, the sun rises and sets according to the whims of The New Yorker's editor, and thus we reached out to the venerable magazine for comment about why he rejected the cover. We'll update if we hear back (yeah, right), but in the meantime you can read the whole interview here. [Via ComicsBeat]