Sunday Mailbag- First MAD Cover?

April 10th, 2016 | Posted in General

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Congrats on doing your first cover for MAD, but my initial reaction to seeing your post was “this was his FIRST cover???” Why did it take so long for you to get a cover?

A: MAD has always tended to use different illustrators for the covers than they do interiors. Norman Mingo, Richard Williams, Kelly Freas, and a host of others, most recently Mark Fredrickson, have done basically nothing but cover art… but a lot of it. Mort Drucker and Jack Rickard are the only two regulars from the interior of the magazine that have done 30 or more covers, and their styles were either iconic or also lent themselves to a more realistic look to the art (especially Rickard). Sergio Aragones and Al Jaffee are the two most frequent contributors to MAD, with credits in over 900 total issues combined. How many covers have they done? Al has done five, Sergio has done three. Jack Davis? Only 14. It’s just a fact that the cover is usually assigned to a “cover artist” while the interiors are done by others.

You have to understand how different of an animal the cover of MAD is compared to the contents of the magazine. MAD has (almost) always treated it differently than the rest of the magazine in terms of style and feel, or at least since they went from comic book to magazine format. Whereas the contents of MAD for the last 60 plus years has been largely cartoon/comic style art, almost all the covers have been done in a realistic, painted style. Mingo, Fredrickson, Williams, Freas, C.F Payne, Roberto Parada and a few others, have done the lion’s share of MAD covers and all in a more or less realistic style. MAD likes the contrast of the realistic technique with the absurd subject matter for their covers. It’s only in the occasional oddball concept that a different style of art is called for, and then they often go to illustrators who might not do interior work but who have the exact skills for that cover’s specific needs.

Mark Fredrickson’s style is the perfect fit for MAD covers. He does extremely realistic painted art but with that humorous “bend” in it that straddles caricature and portraiture. He works digitally and can adjust even finished art to satisfy any last second tweaks the staff decides they need. Mingo did 97 covers for MAD, and Mark has done 96. With two more covers Mark will become the all-time leading cover artist for MAD. No small feat and well deserved.

I can do painted-style work but it’s not really in my wheelhouse, so why would MAD use me to do that kind of cover? That’s like hiring a chef that is known for French cooking to make an Italian meal. I got this cover because it was a unique concept they thought I could pull off… and maybe a little bit of them wanting to finally give me a cover and this was a perfect opportunity to do so.

So, based on math alone I am right in there with most of the other Usual Gang of Idiots in my cover to interior job ration. Al Jaffee done one cover for every 97.6 issues he has had work in. Sergio’s ratio is 1 in 154. I’m 1 in 116. Good company, that.

A huge thanks you to Mike Slaubaugh and his MAD Lists website for all the stats!

Thanks to R Griffin for the question(s). 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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