MAD #488 was a fairly significant issue for a number of reasons… the first time they did an all concept issue, The missing Dick DeBartolo credit, etc. One major significant item that slipped a little under the radar was the return of former regular MAD cover artist Roberto Parada, who contributed to the magazine for the first time since he did the cover of MAD #437 in March of 2003. That’s a stretch of 5 years and 51 issues. His issue #488 piece (see below) was part of the “MOMA: The Museum of Monkey Art” catalogue parody.
Roberto’s fantastic oil paintings had been gracing the covers of MAD for years when, in the fall of 2003, he began experiencing overwhelming fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath. In September of that year he was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia after a biopsy of his bone marrow was tested. Severe Aplastic Anemia is a rare and serious disease where a person’s bone marrow fails to manufacture enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets for the body. Essentially the body stops making enough (or any) blood. Blood cells only live for a few days, so your body must constantly be replenishing it’s supply, and if that process is drastically reduced or stopped it is very serious and can lead to life threatening infections and bleeding. The cause of Aplastic Anemia is not really know for sure, but one likely cause is exposure to certain chemical agents including Benzene, which Roberto used a lot of in his oil painting. Needless to say he had to stop working altogether, with or without Benzene. He was seriously ill.
This was always one of my favorites of his covers
Roberto underwent various immunosuppressant treatments and transfusions, but did not respond favorably and shortly as completely transfusion dependent… without the transfusion of healthy new blood cells he would not survive for long. The only effective treatment is a bone marrow transplant from a perfect match donor and Roberto’s only sibling was not a match. An “unrelated” marrow transplant is a risky and life-threatening procedure in itself involving intensive pre-transplant radiation and chemo treatments and other possible complications, but Roberto entered the National Marrow Donor Program and began a search for a match.
Roberto’s last cover for MAD… more soon to follow I hope
In September of 2004 Roberto received a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor, and after overcoming post-transplant difficulties has made a full recovery to return to his illustration career. Today Roberto is completely cured. He still works in oils but everything he uses is AP Non Toxic.
I got a chance to meet Roberto at a National Caricaturist Network convention in 2002 when he was the main guest speaker. He is a soft spoken and personable guy, and a fantastic artist and painter. I interviewed him for an article in the NCN newsletter as well, but that one is lost in time somewhere. He illustrated the cover of the first “cover story” and parody I did for MAD, “Malcolm in the Middle” in MAD #403.
Roberto’s story is inspiring and should remind us all that our health is a precious gift that should not be taken for granted. I hope we’ll see more of Roberto’s work in MAD in the near future.
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