New Yorker covers: Ironic, iconic, unforgettable

(CBS News) We've UNCOVERED some artifacts from our recent past: The covers we MIGHT have seen on The New Yorker, if not for some eye-catching competition. Mo Rocca has been sorting through the archive:

You can't judge a book - or a magazine - by its cover. But you can certainly judge the covers themselves.

And for decades after its February 1925 debut issue, The New Yorker Magazine's covers projected a sophistication befitting its literary pedigree.

Amusing, ironic, sometimes iconic - like Saul Steinberg's view of the world from New York City. Many are bucolic, an escape from the worries of the world.

Then, in 1993 Francoise Mouly became art editor. Under her, the magazine's covers are more often political and provocative, like a cover about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy featuring two male sailors kissing in Times Square.

Mouly told Rocca that, when looking for a cover illustration, "We all want images that will be relevant, images that will make you laugh, images that will move you."

There were covers depicting Monica Lewinsky as Mona Lisa; Bill Clinton being questioned (from the waist down) about that affair with Lewinsky . . . and Sarah Palin's view of Russia from her house (an homage to the Steinberg cover).

And they're not only satirical images. There a commemoration of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and the cover from the first issue after the 9/11 attacks with the only appropriate color combination: Black on black.

Mouly came from Paris to New York to study architecture, and married author and artist Art Spiegelman (who did the 9/11 cover and a provocative Valentine's Day cover). Together they published an avant garde comic book before she came to The New Yorker. She's overseen more than 950 New York covers.

From her office over Times Square, Mouly reviews cover submissions, and works with artists like Christoph Niemann: "I love working for The New Yorker because The New Yorker for illustrators really is like the Olympic Games of our discipline."

And every week is a competition.

After the killing of Osama bin Laden hundreds of ideas were submitted. Only one could be chosen.

"I asked them to send a rough sketch - don't think about it, and don't censor yourself," Mouly said. "And I need to see a range of emotions and range of reactions to event. And it's very useful to me."

The final choice: An image of bin Laden erased - rubbed out.

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