The covers the New Yorker rejected

For every distinctive illustration that the New Yorker puts on its cover each week, there are scores of ideas, sketches and fully realised designs that don’t make the cut. Since 1993, when Françoise Mouly became art editor of the magazine, she has been collecting these never-rans – often rejected for being too outrageous – on her office wall. Now Mouly, who founded RAW magazine with her graphic novelist husband, Art Spiegelman, in the 80s, has gathered them into a coffee-table book called Blown Covers. Here she picks four favourite cover sketches that are as acute as they are provocative, and explains why they never made the newsstands.

Every cover is a Rorschach test. Zohar Lazar’s image of gay U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan kissing can be seen as either a celebration of tolerance in a repressibe place or an example of America imposing its values where they are not welcome - or both Photograph: Zohar Lazar/New Yorker