Chris Ware's rejected Fortune cover

Click image for big version so you can see the jokes.

It's not surprising that the editors of Fortune rejected cartoonist Chris Ware's fantastic cover for the May 2010 issue. It contains too much truth for comfort. Also, it hearkens back to the golden age of Fortune as an exemplar of beautifully designed and illustrated magazines, and so would have invited unkind comments about the magazine's typical current level of design aesthetics.

From Indie Pulp, reporting on the C2E2 panel that Ware participated in:

[Ware] showed a cover he did for Fortune magazine which was supposed to be on the Fortune 500 issue.  He accepted the job because it would be like doing the 1929 issue of the magazine, and he filled the image with tons of satirical imagery, like the U.S. Treasuring being raided by Wall Street, China dumping money into the ocean, homes being flooded, homes being foreclosed, and CEOs dancing a jig while society devolves into chaos. The cover, needless to say, was rejected.


  1. The “Milton Friedman Advanced Checking” in Chicago (my home too) is classic. Love Chris Ware!

  2. Wait, how did my underwater house make it down to the Gulf?

    This is a great design, shame it was rejected. Did they give a reason?

  3. Better than those ads for the

    I find it amazing that a subscription to Fortune in the 1930s was $10/year! You can get a National Geographic subscription today for $12. Does anyone know what other magazine subscriptions cost in the 30s?

  4. Looks like a MAD Fold-In (he could’ve hidden one big joke that way and gotten away with it.)

  5. My question is, who are the people that actually think modern magazine covers look good, and how can I get their job?

    This cover is great! What a statement it would have made to actually print it in this day and age, when your average Fortune cover (do an image search to see some) looks no different from low-end fashion magazines (besides the subject matter obviously). They all look the same, and they’re all boring. No one really cares about looking at the unattractive rich people who are photographed for the cover… why that’s a better idea than great illustrations like this, I really can’t understand.

    There are some magazines that still have great covers, The New Yorker being the obvious example. The Economist is often pretty decent as well, at least compared to others. Even National Geographic, though, has not had particularly good covers in recent years.

    Almost every other mainstream magazine looks exactly the same as everything else on the newsstand, and it’s not like it’s a good design… it’s boring and cluttered (you know, generically photographed famous person with haphazardly placed article titles on top).

    Interestingly, some magazines have different covers for the newsstands and for subscribers… the one subscribers get is less cluttered and more attractive. Obviously they’ve done some research to determine what works on the newsstand… but I’m not convinced they really got it right.

  6. In its early years, the New Yorker was a weekly magazine with 52 issues a year.

    To me, it looks like there may have been other reasons why this cover was rejected. I’ve had to look at this cover three different ways to be able to read all the tiny gags. From what would be a normal viewing distance of a magazine on a rack, it doesn’t read at all. In fact, it looks pretty bad with funky perspective and three or four straight out of the tube colors. In order to appreciate it, you have to blow it up on your screen. I’ve seen problems with scale on a lot of current illustration. What you see in Photoshop isn’t exactly what you get when it’s printed on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper.

    The “bird’s eye view” cover with lots of little details to discover goes back to the 20s, but usually it is better composed for looking at from a distance.

    1. Sorry, I had the magazine mixed up in my head. Fortune was a monthly. It was oversized and had lots of color to justify its high cover price. Not as interesting to me as the New Yorker though. (Because the NYer had Arno, Cobean and Addams).

  7. Ware is the genius in linear art of our time. Aside from illustrations each of his works contains an opus of emotion, talent, and beauty.

  8. did u all see the tea party people in it? The biting satire of seeing the tea partiers depicted in that biting way is hilarious.

  9. There’s an analogy here to the Streisand effect. It got rejected, so it’s big news. Then again, Fortune is also getting press…

  10. my favorite little scene is the little FDIC guys pulling up to the bank. (7 banks closed today! all in Illinois.)

  11. I particularly like the tea party elephant in the center.

    If Fortune isn’t interested, why not some other magazine like Mother Jones?

  12. Ooooh, this is a scrolldown surprise pic.

    Scroll to the bottom, look at the right corner. It’s Guantanamo. Little, dark guys sitting in a fenced place, wearing orange jumpsuits.

  13. Reminds me of Diego Rivera’s “Man at the Crossroads” mural that should be in Rockefeller Center but Nelson Rockefeller didn’t like it and destroyed it in 1934. I guess Be-Ware what you wish for.

  14. I agree the perspective’s just jarring.

    But it’s the theme that I suspect didn’t sit well. I can imagine the rejection meeting: “We asked you to make a cover celebrating the 500 most successful people in the nation and you drew something that insults and blames them for every possible ill… and you expect to be paid?”

    1. As a connoisseur of Friedman’s work, would you be so kind as to cite (publication and page) the most anti-‘evil-capitalism’ thought he ever had?
      M.F. had many good opinions, from drug legalisation to privacy-protection, but his thoughts on capitalism, to my mind, never exceeded ‘The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.’ – which might be read as ‘without mutual, equal benefit, it is not a free market’ (making the statement circular), or ‘in the current free market there is equal benefit’ (making the statement wrong)

      1. Wait, are you actually suggesting that a market where mutual equal benefit occurs regularly is something that really exists or existed? Or are you arguing that Friedman is beloved and revered by bankers and investors because he was a Utopian dreamer?

        1. I have no idea what in my post gave you the idea, but here it is, in plain:
          I do not think the market gives, or ever gave, equal benefit. Therefore Friedman’s logic was either circular, or wrong.

          @Anon #39: Scary also, how anti-capitalism is always confused with socialism.

  15. Have read many pieces by Friedman, read many criticisms and watched a number of his talks, not hard to do in this youtube era. The guy’s (was) a ghoul, his ideas were some of the most destructive in out time. It’s hardly a surprise that many of the culprits behind the financial collapse were big fanboys, and that these silly market fantasies just lead to “corporatism” regardless. Pretty lazy stuff, not so subtly comparing critics to anti-business commies, as if there’s no middle ground between his ridiculous market fantasies and socialism.

    1. Close as I can guess, the china money dumping is a claim that the US has given so much money to China that they are now using it for landfill. Or something.

      Like most of the “jokes” here, it just comes over as snide and moralistic and not at all funny.

      1. Undervaluation of the yuan to increase exports. $850 Billion+ in US Treasury holdings.

        There’s your something.

  16. I know why they rejected it. No one would ever get past the cover, it’s so fascinating. I could look at this thing for a long time!

  17. Would the New Yorker pick this one up? It’d be a bit of an inside joke, or have to be reworked in some fashion.

  18. The work is very dadaesque, and generally (especially regarding the two typos) feels more like a concept than a finished piece.
    It would be interesting to know whether the artist was actually trying to get published by Fortune, or if he counted on the publicity-generating refusal.
    If you care to take a look at the vaunted earlier issues of Fortune, with their very tastefully done covers, you will notice that, while being artistically way superior to the current photoportrait-plus-TOC way, they are mostly ‘just’ nice pictures, not nonverbal stories like Ware’s work.
    For people enjoying a little art with their news, i might suggest ‘Le Monde diplomatique’ and their excellent political analyses alongside current and historical art.

  19. Apologists for capitalism and apologists for socialism are in the same boat. With one monopoly capital eventually takes control of government, and in the other the government has a monopoly over capital. These are two sides of the same ugly coin – scary that the backlash against consumerism is pushing people towards socialism. Obviously some aren’t very good at learning the lessons of history. Also people seem to conflate consumerism with capitalism, and treat capitalism like an ideology – it’s isn’t, trading goods and services for profit is as old as the human race.

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