Longtime New Yorker Political Cartoonist J.B. Handelsman Dies at Age 85

J.B. Handelsman, who used his dry wit to deflate human folly and injustice in hundreds of New Yorker cartoons, has died of lung cancer. He was 85. Handelsman died June 20 at his home in Southampton, N.Y., the magazine said Tuesday.

In addition to creating 950 cartoons and five covers for The New Yorker between 1961 and 2006, Handelsman illustrated several books and for 11 years did a weekly feature called "Freaky Fables" for the British humor magazine Punch. His work also appeared in Playboy and other magazines.

His cartoons often had a political bent.

"Bud Handelsman found a way to combine the traditions of the New Yorker cartoon and editorial cartooning and make of it something totally his own," David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, said in an e-mail.

"At its best, his work had political bite and, at the same time, a real humanity and wit. Everyone at the magazine -- editors, writers, artists, and readers -- will miss him and will miss his unique voice."

In a remembrance in the current issue of the magazine, Nancy Franklin wrote that Handelsman's legacy "has as much to do with writing as it does with drawing. Handelsman may be better known for his captions than for the cartoons."

In a 1968 cartoon, an audience member at a string quartet concert says to his companion, "It's dull now, but at the end they smash their instruments and set fire to the chairs."

In another, from 2003, a businessman in a corporate boardroom says, "We are among those chosen to bear the burden of rebuilding Iraq. A thankless job, with no reward apart from obscene profits."

Handelsman was born in the Bronx in 1922. He studied at the Art Students League and at New York University, and for a time he lived in England.