While New Yorker covers are known for often wry, sometimes touching, visual commentary on events of the day, the magazine’s July 21, 2008 issue offered an uncharacteristically sharp political jab. The cover of the issue, a Barry Blitt illustration called “The Politics of Fear,” depicted Barack and Michelle Obama, he in Muslim dress and she afro’d and radicalized, engaging in a “terrorist fist jab” in the Oval Office, flag burning in the fireplace nearby. The cover met with howls of disapproval from left and right media mouthpieces (and the Obama campaign) though many readers applauded it.
So it’s interesting to see the covers the New Yorker has stopped short of publishing over the years. A new book, Blown Covers: New Yorkers Covers You Were Never Meant To See, allows you that privilege. The book, from New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly, takes readers behind the scenes on well-known images from the magazine, as well as a selection of covers that didn’t make the cut. Some of the covers were culled from the blog Blown Covers, from Mouly and her daughter Nadja Spiegelman, though the book will feature images not seen online before.
Some of the images are obvious no-nos–the ballerina with a nip-slip, for example. Many of them seem far tamer than the “Politics of Fear” cover and indeed, as Mouly explains, some didn’t get final approval due to being inexplicable to non-New Yorkers. Some though, like a rejected image depicting a Muslim woman in full niqab assuming a Marilyn Monroe subway-grate pose and exposing a strap-on bomb, were simply too explosive for public consumption.