Q: In light of the events this week with the Charlie Hebdo massacre, have you ever done any work where you were worried you might offend some crazy extremists and get death threats?
A: Yes. Every time I have to draw Justin Bieber, I’m afraid a belieber will jump me in the streets and force me to listen to some of his music.
Seriously, not really. I don’t do the kind of work that pushes people’s buttons or calls into question their beliefs on something as volatile as religion. I’ve done some politically charged stuff but I can only remember one time I did something and thought “this might upset a certain demographic”. It was just a throwaway gag in a MAD feature called “Is Our World Really All That Different From The Matrix?” In MAD #436, Dec 2003. One of the gags went like this:
Uday and Qusay Hussein had been killed by Task Force 20 that summer, and very graphic pictures of their corpses had been released by the U.S. to some criticism. I wasn’t really concerned about drawing them, but in Arab culture the soles of the feet are considered dirty and to present them to someone is vulgar and insulting. So, in picking this angle I was choosing a very insulting depiction… also the hairs, warts and flies I added were not helping. Anyway, I did not get any death threats, fatwas declared, nor did I have to listen to any Justin Beiber albums. I wasn’t really worried of course, but I was aware of the significance of showing the soles of their feet.
For the record if I’m ever called on to have to do a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, I will do so without hesitation… just like if I am asked to do a caricature of Jesus Christ, Buddha, the Pope… or Justin Beiber.
Thanks to FM Stanley 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 and I’ll try and answer it here!
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