Sunday Mailbag

December 26th, 2010 | Posted in MAD Magazine

Q: I read in your blog post about the increasing scarcity of original commercial art that you have never done a cover for MAD Magazine proper. I was wondering when we are going to see a Richmond cover?

A: The post the question is referring to is here, if anyone is interested.

The answer to your question is likely next door to never. MAD‘s covers are a different animal than the interior art, and most require a certain style of artwork that is not my fort?¬©: the realistic painting.

MAD covers are singular and necessarily high impact gags that the editors and staff spend a lot of time considering and working up before handing off to an illustrator. The majority of them need a more realistic style of illustration to work with the juxtaposing of the expected and the unexpected/lunatic twist that are their hallmark. That’s why it’s no accident that the vast majority of the 478 covers of MAD (since it became a magazine at issue #30) have been done by painters like Norman Mingo (97 covers), Frank Kelly Freas (30), Richard Williams (62), Jack Ricard (33), Roberto Parada (13), C.F. Payne (8), most recently Mark Fredrickson (67) and selected others (source: Mike Slaubaugh’s MAD Lists). You might notice that most of those artists I just listed also either have never contributed or only very occasionally contribute to the interior content of the magazine. MAD cover artists tend to be from a different group than interior artists.

There are a few obvious exceptions. One is when a cover calls for a different art style than the Mingo/Freas/Fredrickson type of realistic painting. That might be when a cartoon character like Bart Simpson is on the cover, or the gag itself needs a different style to be effective.

The other exception is that of MAD legends like Mort Drucker (42 covers), Jack Davis (14), Sam Viviano (16), Al Jaffee (5) and a very few others who’s work is so readily identified with MAD that their very presence on the cover is part of the cover’s appeal. Even then, the cover’s content needs to fit with that artist’s particular style.

Given that MAD is also now only 6 times a year down from the 8 or 12 that it had been since the 1950’s it is even less likely that I’ll ever see my artwork on the cover of MAD. Don’t feel too sorry for me, though. If one of the arguably greatest and longest tenured MAD artists ever, Sergio Aragon?¬©s, has only done two covers in his 40 plus years of working in the magazine (TWO!?!), I can hardly feel bad about not having done one myself. Wally Wood only did three, Don Martin only four, George Woodbridge and Harry North only one apiece… and Angelo Torres, and Dave Berg? ZERO.

However, as I mentioned in that previous post, I did do two covers for MAD Kids:

And one “cover” for a special MAD advertising insert/mini magazine:

So it isn’t like the MAD staff doesn’t think my artwork isn’t fit for a cover… the right situation just has not arisen yet. You never know… there are occasionally multiple cover issues and the “call for a different art style” exception that might one day see me get assigned a cover illustration for MAD. That will be a lot of fun if it ever happens, but I am not expecting it.

Thanks to ABJ for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!

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