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On the Drawing Board- 3/31/15

March 31st, 2015

mildthingHere’s what’s on the drawing board right now:

  • Z-People Comic- Still hammering away at this 45 page comic for SitComics
  • Trading card Illustration- for a corporate client as part of an ongoing educational campaign
  • Half page ad illustration- This is a sort of personal project
  • Big banner ad- for a super-secret public cartoonist’s event TBA!!
  • Workplace poster- My usual monthly assignment

This is the worst time of year for me. I am up to my eyeballs in preparations for the NCS Reubens Weekend and finalizing the awards, opening up my theme park operations, and my usual workload. Ugh.

Speaking of workplace posters, above is the final art for the latest of these… rough sketch below.



Monday MADness: The X-Men II Wrong Ending!

March 30th, 2015


Monday MADnessBecause of the way movie distribution and longevity in the theaters had changed since the 20th century, the MAD movie parody became a lot harder to do. I wrote extensively about it here, but the short version is that even big money-making movies seldom spend more than four or five weeks in theaters these days, and by the time the movie parody comes out (usually a three month lag) the film it spoofed is old news. For a few years in the early-mid 2000’s, MAD tried to do movie parodies in advance of the film’s release. We worked from trailers, bootleg movie scripts, books/comics the films were based on, etc. This led to a number of “mistakes”, where we included scenes that ended up not in the film, or got visuals wrong. The worst of all of these was the parody of 2003’s “X2: X-men United” in MAD #430, where we GOT THE ENDING WRONG.

Here’s how it happened. We worked from a legitimate final working script of the movie… something that is usually pretty accurate barring any major editing in production. In the script’s ending of this film, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) does NOT die. She goes blind when she’s hit by a mind-controlled Cyclop’s optic blast in a battle in Styker’s base, is blind for the rest of the film, and is alive but blind at the end. That’s how we did the ending, here are the last four panels:

x2-1Clicky this one to embiggen…



x2-4Look, it’s Jean Grey! Clicky this one to embiggen…

This parody was written by Desmond Devlin, by the way, and none of this was his fault. So what happened? I’ve heard two versions. In one, director Bryan Singer had always planned on having Jean Grey die and then be resurrected in the third film, but kept it ultra secret and didn’t even tell Janssen until halfway through the filming, so the working script was always wrong. Another version is that they filmed the blind ending, tested it with audiences who didn’t like the ending, and then re-edited the film and brought the actors back for some reshoots and new scenes to do a Jean Grey dies ending.

Personally I think it’s a combination of both versions. I do think they shot the original “Jean Grey goes blind” ending, but I think Singer kept it super secret that he wanted her to die so he brought some of the cast back for the final weepy scene in Professor X’s office and a couple of other shots, and had edited it for those in the first place, all to keep it secret for as long as possible.

Why do I think that? If you watch the film KNOWING Jean Grey goes blind in that battle scene, then you see Janssen is ACTING LIKE SHE’S BLIND from that point forward, except in a couple of key reshot scenes. It’s obvious. Singer always intended to use those scenes because Jean Grey was hurt in the battle and her being helped along by others could be attributed to injury, even though if you look at it again you can see she’s acting like she’s blind! Also, look at Wolverine’s hair in the weepy scene in the office and some in the jet after Jean dies. His hair is obviously a giant Wolverine wig covering the hair he had grown out for shooting “Van Helsing”, which he was doing at the time. Looks very different from the other scenes.

Anyway, an interesting factoid. MAD eventually gave up on the “doing it before the film comes out” method. Can’t remember the last time I had to do that. Probably one of the Harry Potter movies.

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Sunday Mailbag: Parody and Copyright and Prints?

March 29th, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

These are a couple of follow up questions I’ve gotten via Twitter or email on the subject of selling prints of copyrighted characters:

You mention that making limited edition prints is allowed. I’ve never heard that before. Do you have any source for that?

I would not say it’s “allowed”. I’d say it is better defensible under a First Amendment defense because “fine art” is better recognized as a traditional vehicle for free speech. That advice was imparted to me by lawyers I consulted in a Chicago based firm specializing in Right of Publicity and Copyright issues when researching an article I was writing. They cited a related trademark case: Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Novak, 836 F.2d 397 (8th Cir. 1987). In that case the defendant Novak used the Mutual of Omaha logo as “Mutant of Omaha” with the tagline “Nuclear Holocaust Insurance” and a severed head version of their “Indian head” logo to decry the use of nuclear power. Novak lost the case in part because, while they were clearly voicing political opinions on nuclear power and this was obviously a parody, they produced this parody on T-shirts, mugs and ball caps. The courts cited these commercial and mass-produced items as commercial merchandise and not recognized vehicles of free speech, rejecting a first amendment defense. They really lost the case on other grounds, but that was part of it. In a similar case, L.L. Bean Inc. v. Drake Publishers Inc., 811 F.2d 26 (1st Cir.), appeal dismissed, 107 S.Ct. 3254 (1987) the defendant won that one (in part) because their parody using a variation of the L.L. Bean logo in the article “L.L. Beam’s Back-to-School-Sex-Catalog” in High Times was published in a magazine, which is a well documented form of free speech, as are books, fine art and, by inference (see: Andy Warhol) limited art prints. Whether you sell those things, as magazines and books and fine art clearly are, is immaterial. In ETW Corp. v. Jireh Publishing, Inc. 332 F.3d 915 (2003), Tiger Woods sued artist Rick Rush, who created a painting sold as a limited edition print and a large edition lithograph, that featured Woods in the center in several poses. The painting, which celebrated Woods’ 1997 victory in the U.S. Open, also depicted several past winners of the tournament superimposed over the leader board in the background, a caddie and a golf scoreboard. Woods was clearly the dominant focus. Woods argued this was nothing but “sports merchandise” and not worthy of First Amendment protection. The court disagreed, in part citing that limited edition prints and lithographs are recognized vehicles of free speech as “fine art”. He really won the case because they determined that the images depicted went past being about Woods and were depicting the artist’s own ideas and expression, but the fact these weren’t being sold on T-shirts and mugs helped Rush’s case. That one is being appealed right now, BTW.

However, there are other precedents that, even in dissent, allow that free speech should be independent of unusual venues of expressions. In Comedy III Productions v. Gary Saderup, Inc.,The California Supreme Court upheld an award against portrait artist Saderup in favor of the estates of the Three Stooges over t-shirts and prints bearing images of the Stooges by Saderup. It was originally argued that art on a “t-shirt” was not a recognized vehicle of free speech and therefore not defensible by the first amendment. While the CSC did still uphold the award, they rejected this argument citing: “First Amendment doctrine does not disfavor nontraditional media of expression.” That would seem to imply it makes no difference as to the way the art is presented.

That lawyer I interviewed told me selling T-shirts or a mass produced poster, even if you call it a “print”, is not as defensible via the First Amendment as a piece of original art or, at the very least, a signed and numbered limited edition of a piece of original art. Whether that advice holds up in court is another matter.

You mention that you don’t use copyrighted images in your prints. First, isn’t the Batman logo copyrighted? Second, how do you deal with the issue of actors having the rights for their likenesses? I understand it’s representational of your work, and I know I could make a sign showing that I drew a caricature of Jay Leno, and that much of your caricature book is fair use, but selling a print of multiple actors seems like there would be issues with it.

I do use copyrighted images in my prints, I never denied that. James Bond, Doctor Who and Batman are all copyrighted characters. The point is I am making fun of them, saying something about an entire series of entertainment and of the genre to which they belong. I believe that this is fair use under the umbrella of “parody”.

First, the trademarks i.e. the Batman logo you mentioned: I did not draw the Batman logo in my “Bat’s in the Belfry” print. That is a trademark and much tougher to defend using. I also did not use any copyrighted things like the sonic screwdriver or the Tardis in my “The Doctor is In” print (although the costumes are probably copyrighted), nor do I use “Batman”, “Doctor Who” or “James Bond or 007” in reference to these prints. I do this on purpose. Those kinds of elements are much harder to defend depicting, especially trademarks like logos or names.

Regarding the actors and their individual rights for their likenesses, that is probably the least of the gray areas here. What you are referring to is the Right of Publicity, which is a famous person’s right to protect the earning power of their likeness. They do that by demonstrating someone’s use of their likeness is damaging them by either selling something because of their celebrity and not the skill of the seller (which damages their ability to sell a similar item) or by insinuating the endorsement of a secondary product (which damages their ability to sell their own endorsements) and other considerations. Parody aside, it would be hard for any one of these actors to bring a RoP suit against me because they would have to prove that their likeness is what is selling these prints, and they are one of many different caricatures in each piece. That’s why artists like Sebastian Kruger can sell books full of caricatures of different celebrities, as no one can claim they are the reason the books sells. It becomes about the artist’s art, expression, and ideas rather than the one individual. Were I to sell individual prints of each of the different “Sherlocks”, for example, I would be hard pressed to argue against a RoP claim.

Arguing about something being a parody of a fictional character via bigger cheek bones & eyebrows is flimsy. A legit parody of say Batman would be something like a similar spoof called Macman or a Robot Chicken sketch. What exactly is being spoofed/mocked in your prints?

To be fair this series of prints is a little more than just caricatures of the different actors. The intent of the series is to examine, exaggerate and poke some fun at the differences in the portrayal of a single fictional character by many different actors. In my “secret agent man” print for example, I tried to portray Connery as over-the-top suave, Lazenby as the oddball, Moore as a campy goof, Dalton as far-too-serious, Brosnan as just a pretty face, and Craig as the only one that ever looked like they’d really been in a fight. There is some commentary in there, although I’m not hitting you over the head with it.

If anyone wants to argue that I am not really doing a parody here, and that caricatures of the actors alone do not constitute any real expression of opinion, then that’s a valid argument to make. I disagree. One day that may be up to a court to decide. The reality of all of this is that anyone doing an image of a copyrighted character they either do not own the copyrights to, or do not have permission from the copyright owner to do, is open to a copyright infringement lawsuit regardless of if they think they are in the right or not. Lawsuits can be filed whether they have merit or not, and only until they go to court will certain defenses arguing fair use or the First Amendment be decided. This kind of thing will remain common at comic cons until copyright owners start playing hardball and taking people to court and the courts render decisions that set precedent.

Personally, I feel I have good defenses in that the work I sell as prints can be argued to sell based on my art as much as the subject matter, that it is enough of a parody in that I make enough fun of the subjects to be sufficiently a First Amendment issue, and that the collection of many different caricatures makes a right of publicity case unsound. None of that means a damn unless I present it to a court and they tell me it does, or does not. That day may or may not ever come.

Thanks to assorted folks 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!

TMAoC Throwback Sketches!

March 28th, 2015


I’ve been posting individual caricatures from my book The Mad Art of Caricature! the last few months on Instagram and on my Twitter feed, but they don’t show up here on the blog. Usually it’s a sketch a day, either an original or a golden oldie. If you don’t follow me on Instagram or Twitter, get on the bus!

Comic Con Print Hustlers

March 27th, 2015

My pal Scott Shaw! started an interesting dialog on Facebook the other day about the plethora of artists who go to comic-cons and sell prints of copyrighted characters. This is an old topic, but I admit I have seen a huge growth in the number of vendors hawking prints of the same old characters… Wolverine, Batman, just about any female superhero/villain in a porn star pose, etc.in the last few years. Some of these booths are HUGE and have literally a hundred different prints for sale. It’s too easy to print these things off on your home computer. What I’ve really noticed is a large increase in the number of artists doing this that have either no actual credits in the comic book world at all, or very minor ones. Some of this work is actually pretty good, but a lot of it is bad, amateur work.

Before I go on, I want to address the people who right now are saying “you are such a hypocrite! You sell prints of copyrighted characters at comic cons!” Well, yes and no. I do sell prints that feature characters from films or TV, but I do not believe I am infringing on any copyrights by doing so for several reasons. First, I am making fun of these characters. Parody is a well protected first amendment right and fair use in using copyrighted content when doing it. Second, these are limited edition prints, printed by a real printer and not on somebody’s inkjet. That’s actually an important distinction. The venue in which you present your parody needs to be an acceptable vehicle of free speech. Fine art, including limited edition prints, is recognized as an acceptable vehicle of free speech. Mass produced posters, T-shirts and especially ink-jet prints are not. Finally, This is representative of the work I do professionally. I do movie and TV parodies for MAD. Doing my own caricatures lampooning films, TV shows, genres or the characters in them can arguably be said to sell because of the nature of my best known work. I am careful not to do caricatures of single individuals, include any trademarks, nor draw anything that cannot clearly be construed as a caricature. End of digression.

So why do the big comic book companies let these artists do this sort of thing? I think they are simply picking their battles. It would cost them quite a bit of money in time and energy to send representatives to all the comic cons and squash this. Then they’d have the inevitable backlash from fans about their perceived corporate greed. Fans don’t comprehend that it isn’t so much any money they are missing out on as that they don’t want shitty drawings of She-Hulk showing off her camel toe selling at conventions where legitimate merchandise is also being sold. That point is lost on the average comic book geek.

What anyone would want to buy some of these bad (or even the good) bootleg prints of characters is beyond me. I mean, I could understand buying a print of Catwoman by Darwyn Cooke because he worked on the character for DC and is incredible, but who cares about a print of Catwoman (even if it’s pretty good) by some artist whose never done anything but sell prints at a convention? In the end it’s the consumers that are creating the market. Obviously these things must sell, so therefore there are people willing to sell them. Marvel, DC or other companies do not have booths selling officially licensed prints of their characters. If they did, they might be able to reduce the profitability of the bootleggers so they stop doing it.

If I was running the major comic book companies and I really wanted to stop this, I’d contractually allow artists who do work for me to do their own prints of characters they have worked on if they are so inclined, and then create a series of prints commissioned by the publisher for retailers to sell. Then I’d inform all organizers of comic book conventions that they must refuse to allow unlicensed prints and merchandise vendors in their shows or they might be named as defendants in any copyright cases. That’s what keeps Cafe Press and such in line. Then sue a couple of people to show I mean business. There would be plenty of fan backlash.

In the end, I don’t think the big publishers actually care much. They mainly exist these days to develop properties for TV and movies, and that business has never been bigger than it is now. The film and TV rights to characters and storylines, and the toy and merchandise tie ins, are far more profitable for them than the actual comics. Fan art and that sort of thing only helps promote the product. That’s probably their thinking. It’s small potatoes for them, and I guess they can stomach the really bad stuff floating around.

One thing I definitely think should be okay is for an artist who has been known for working on a certain character, even if they did not create it, to do prints of their art of that character. Let’s face it, many comic book artists have worked their whole careers on other people’s characters, and have brought their own vision and style to those characters. If the publisher they work for does not see fit to create a print of their art for sale, why not allow the artist to do it? That’s certainly a lot more appealing to all parties… the artist gets a nice perk in having a secondary stream of revenue from their work, the publisher knows their characters are being presented in a professional way by an artist familiar with them, and the fans can buy awesome artwork from an artist that is known for that character.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not begrudge anyone from eeking out a living on the fringes of the comics world by doing this sort of thing. If the owners of these copyrighted characters don’t seem to care, why should I?


Classic Rock Sketches #2- Paul McCartney!

March 26th, 2015

Paul McCartney ©2015 Tom Richmond

I’ll post a couple of these a week I think… not just on Wednesdays. Here’s a young Paul McCartney.

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Sketch o’the Week- Janis Joplin!

March 25th, 2015

JJoplinBetter late then never today I guess… still playing catch up from my trip to Toronto.

I’ve decided for my “Sketch o’the Week” to do a series of classic rock musicians… ones I have not already done like I did Jimi Hendrix. I’m kicking it off with Janis Joplin.

I’ll consider any suggestions people may have.

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Twenty Things I Learned About Canada

March 24th, 2015

toronto comicconMe, Mike Cope and Sandra Bell-Lundy at Toronto ComiCon

Just returned from Toronto after spending a long weekend manning the National Cartoonists Society’s first-time booth there with freelance cartoonist Mike Cope and the creator of the syndicated daily comic strip “Between Friends” Sandra Bell-Lundy. Despite living within 400 miles of the border, I’ve never actually been to Canada until now. I learned the following twenty things while there:

  1. Canadians really do say “eh!” at the end of certain sentences.
  2. Canadians will deny this, shortly before saying “eh!”
  3. They have a lot of really good beer
  4. The dollar coin is called a “loonie”
  5. The two dollar coin is called a “twoonie”
  6. Neither of those will buy you much in Canada
  7. They don’t pronounce the second “T” in “Toronto”. It’s “Torono” there.
  8. “Poutine” is a thing. It’s french fries and cheese curds drenched in brown gravy.
  9. I have significantly less arterial function today thanks to poutine.
  10. Attendees of Toronto ComiCon don’t buy much stuff
  11. Soft drinks like Coke or Pepsi are called “pop” rather than “soda”
  12. The sales tax in Canada is about 100%, or at least seems like it
  13. I think the government might tax the second “T” in “Toronto”, which is why Canadians don’t pronounce it
  14. “Back Bacon” is a thing. It’s cured bacon sort of like dense ham often rolled in cornmeal
  15. I don’t know what back bacon tastes like since I never found any… might be a myth
  16. “Tim Hortons” is the “McDonalds” of Canada
  17. Do not disparage hockey within earshot of a Canadian
  18. A “kerfuffle” is a commotion, dust-up or confrontation of some kind
  19. The “Metric System” is a thing
  20. Canadians are extremely nice, friendly, and charming people

Sadly the NCS booth had a bad location at the con. Our neighbors included two of the roughly 20 booths selling swords and other stabbing weapons, a fetish wear vendor, the promoters of a low-budget action movie which looped the film’s trainer endlessly driving us crazy, and T-shirts sellers. The good news was that the few who did happen by us were great.

sandra and fansSandra talking with some of her many fans

Sandra had many people get excited to meet her, “Between Friends” has a huge following there. It was fun to hang out with her and the talented Mike Cope for a few days, even if we didn’t sell much stuff. If one super-fan of mine hadn’t attanded specifically to buy a couple of original MAD pages, I might have had to hitchhike home.


Me doing a caricature

Ah well. I had a great time and even got to have dinner one night with a bunch of Canadian cartoonists… all of whom were female except for Mike. I had a very tasty shank of lamb and learned as much about menopause as I care to know. Also had a lot of laughs.

Thanks for the fun times, Canada! Who knows, I may be back, eh!

Monday MADness: The Mort Drucker Caricature Story

March 23rd, 2015
Seeing as how Mort’s 86th birthday was yesterday, I thought today I would repost this story I originally blogged in 2006. It’s about how I ended up getting the incredible caricature of me you see above by the incomparable Mr. Drucker himself, and how that eventually led to my being in the National Cartoonists Society, working for MAD, and a whole lot of other wonderful things:
Sept. 19, 2006: As I wrote last week, Saturday the 23rd was The Lovely Anna and my 18 year wedding anniversary. We had a lovely dinner in an excellent french restaurant in Minneapolis… it’s nice to be married to someone who’s company is still the best thing about any day. We exchanged gifts as well, of course. In the last 18 years, I’ve given her diamonds, furniture, collectors statues, trips and more diamonds… I try to spoil her. Still no matter what I come up with or how much it might cost I will never be able to top the present she got for me for our 10 year anniversary. On every anniversary since, I remember the surprise like it was yesterday. In the years since I’ve come to understand how incredibly rare that gift is, beyond even the obvious uniqueness of it. I’m talking about this original caricature of me by the great Mort Drucker.

Here’s the amazing story which gives people a little insight as to what Anna is all about:

I went to the National Caricaturist Network convention in February of 1998 specifically to meet the scheduled guest speaker, Mort Drucker. This was several years before I began drawing for MAD, and I had just started getting reasonably steady freelance work for small publications and clients. Mort is one of my all time heroes, and getting a chance to meet him was something I was not going to pass up. Unfortunately Mort was unable to make the convention at the last minute due to a family member’s health problems, and I did not get that chance. I was disappointed, but he had videotaped a presentation complete with a tour of his studio with NCN member Debbie Schafer. Debbie was a friend of Mort and his wife Barbara‘s, and she was instrumental in getting him as a speaker, securing a number of his originals to auction off at the convention and arranging a telephone Q&A with him live at the event. I asked him a question during that teleconference, but to this day I do not remember what I asked… I was incredibly nervous speaking with him. I was able to talk with Debbie quite a bit at the convention, and she could see how much admiration I had for Mort. When the weekend was over, I came home with one of Mort’s business cards complete with his phone number, courtesy of Debbie. I placed the card in my studio rolodex. I would never call him, of course. That’s just not the kind of thing I would do. Just having his card and number were enough… I thought that was pretty cool. I went back to real life.

The rest of the story I only found out after I got the artwork on our anniversary, but I’ll tell it in the order of events. My wife, it turns out, had no problem calling the Druckers. She copied the number and called Mort’s studio. Mort’s wife Barbara answered the phone. Barbara is very protective of Mort, as she should be. She’s his business manager, negotiator and, if necessary, his “heavy”. She does a lot of the dirty work with clients and parties calling to commission work from Mort. She asked Barbara if she could commission Mort to draw a caricature of me for our anniversary, offering a sum she thought was a lot but was actually a pittance relative to Mort’s status. Barbara was very nice but quite clear that Mort does not do personal commissions at any price. She suggested that Anna look at buying some of Mort’s originals. Anna told her I already had some of Mort’s MAD original art, but that if that’s what was available, she’d look at it. She told Barbara how much Mort’s career and work had influenced me, and how I would appreciate such a caricature of myself by him more than almost anyone on the planet. She told her about my career, such as it was at that point, and my ambitions, and that is was our 10 year anniversary. Barbara told her that year was she and Mort’s 40th anniversary, and I think she saw a kindred spirit in Anna. She told Anna to send some pictures of me and she’d show them to Mort… no promises, though.

Anna sent them to her, and a few days later Barbara called her. Barbara said Mort had agreed to do a rough pencil sketch to send for review. No revisions, she said. If Anna didn’t like the sketch, they’d just go back to looking at some of Mort’s MAD originals instead. She had the sketch mailed to our neighbor’s house. Anna got it and it was of course brilliant. Barbara told her Mort would do a final in black and white ink with perhaps a little bit of wash. Anna was thrilled and could not thank her enough. A week or so later Barbara called again and said Mort had decided to add “a little color” to the art and wanted to know if that was all right. Anna was very excited and said whatever Mort wanted to do was fine with her. The final art arrived at the neighbor’s a few weeks later. Anna got it and hid it in the closet for over a month before she gave it to me. I walked past that closet several hundred times with no idea of the treasure inside… I’m a little dense.

Anna didn’t just give me the drawing. Oh, no. Months before she had sent out pictures of me along with an 8 x 12 piece of drawing paper to a number of my artist friends and colleagues as well as my family asking for caricatures of me as a surprise. She received them on the sly, some terrific ones from artists I’d worked with and some done with love but not much skill from my family members. She assembled these in a big album. On our anniversary, she presented me with the album full of caricatures of me. It was great and I had a blast going through it. It was so touching that so many people took the time to draw me… I thought it was a unique and special gift. I had no idea what was still coming.

The moment I got the Drucker is still very vivid in my head. Anna told me there was one piece that was too big to fit in the album, and handed me a large cardboard envelope. I opened it on one end and slid out the art board, which was covered with a translucent piece of vellum. It’s hard to explain what the feeling was like in seeing this totally unexpected near-miracle. The closest I can get is to say it was like in a cartoon when someone opens a thin little book and somehow a giant boxing glove on an inch-thick spring rockets out of it and socks them in the nose. I was numb, dazed, and speechless. It took only a millisecond for me to recognize what it was and who had done it through that vellum. Anna says I was shaking a bit when I raised the vellum and got a good look at this incredible piece of art, but I don’t remember the few minutes right after I opened it… that’s just a little foggy.

The story doesn’t end there, however. After she told me most of the above tale, she said that she had spoken with Mort himself, and that Mort wanted me to call him and he wanted to sponsor me for membership in the National Cartoonists Society. I called him the next day, and soon I was an NCS member. Anna and I attended the very next Reuben awards in San Antonio, were Mort was unable to attend because his mother was extremely ill. Mort gave me the names of several people to look up on his behalf, and I was introduced to several big name cartoonists and members, including MAD editor Nick Meglin and MAD book editor Charlie Kochman. My membership in the NCS eventually led to me getting my work in front of Nick and new art director Sam Viviano, which eventually led to my working for MAD. To say that anniversary present from Anna changed my life is no exaggeration. In the process I learned how rare it is to have a caricature of yourself by Mort Drucker. Longtime friends of his were amazed and jealous, saying that Mort just doesn’t DO that, and they had been asking for many years to no avail. We’ve since met Mort and Barbara several times and they are the most wonderful people you could possibly want to meet. Mort has offered me much advice, support and encouragement concerning my work.

So, this year for our anniversary I got Anna a lousy trip to Paris and dinner at this restaurant we like. They way I figure it, if I spend the next 20 years drenching her in diamonds, trips and designer clothes I may reach the foothills of the Mount Everest of anniversary presents, which as I type is hanging 3 feet from me in my studio. God I love that woman.


Today: That caricature (of a much younger and slimmer me) still hangs front and center in my studio. It daily provides me not just inspiration to aim higher in my work, but serves to remind me how wonderful it is when you get a chance to meet or interact with one of your true heroes, and they turn out to be as wonderful a person as they are an artist.

Sunday Mailbag- MAD Content Ownership?

March 22nd, 2015

Sunday Mailbag!

Q:  In regards to recurring characters like Spy vs Spy, Melvin and Jenkins, and Monroe etc does mad own the rights to those characters (I’m assuming they DO own Spy vs Spy) or does the original artist/ writer still own them?

A: Since it’s inception, all the work done for MAD is created as work-for-hire. That means MAD owns the copyright to the specific work and any and all characters or concepts created through that work. That means MAD owns “Spy vs. Spy”, “Melvin and Jenkins”, “Monroe”, concepts like “Celebrity Death Betting Odds”, “The MAD Fold-In”, “The Lighter Side of…” etc. MAD can reprint them as they like, or assign new artists and/or writers to work on them (like Peter Kuper doing “Spy vs. Spy” or when Tom Fowler briefly did the art for “Monroe”). MAD owns the rights to all the art I do for them. I needed special permission from Warner Bros to print some of it in my book in the chapter on how caricatures work in a MAD parody.

Work for hire is generally a bad deal for creators, and because of that some cartoonists refused to work for MAD. Arnold Roth famously refused to do work for MAD in its early days, even though he was pals with Harvey Kurtzman, because of the work for hire thing. I would never fault anyone for refusing to do WFH. I usually do not agree to it, but MAD is an exception I have no problem making.

I am not sure about more recent characters, concepts and properties. It’s possible that some of the “Strip Club” work or features like “Planet Tad!!!!!” have special agreements with MAD wherein their creators still retain the rights, but I doubt it. Subject to the correction of the MAD editors, I believe all work that appears in the magazine is © MAD Magazine/ E.C. Publishing and owned by them.

Thanks to Clive 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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