The striking illustrated New Yorker covers you see on the newsstand only tell part of the story. Apparently many covers go unpublished for a variety of reasons. For example, a Barry Blitt proposed cover on terrorism, showing two Middle Eastern men passing Mentos on a plane, one of them with a Coke, was deemed too obscure a joke (if you don’t get it, drop some Mentos into Coke or look it up on YouTube).
Françoise Mouly, the New Yorker‘s editor since 1993, has written a book, Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See, which shows how covers get killed, whether its for tasteless humour or because they somehow don’t hit their mark. “Sometimes something is too provocative or too sexist or too racist,” Mouly says, “but it will inspire a line of thinking that will help develop an image that is publishable.” (The above proposed 1993 cover by Art Spiegelman was eventually repurposed as a New Yorker Christmas card.)