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Sunday Mailbag- Pre-Internet Photo Reference?

December 21st, 2014

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: Prior to the internet and image search, how did you gather reference material for caricatures?

A: Internet search engines have certainly spoiled me. If I want to do a caricature of Jennifer Lawrence, I am only a few seconds away from having literally thousands of photos of her to choose from… some even show her wearing clothes. Back in the days before Google, Yahoo and their ilk, it was a lot more time consuming a process.

I used to keep what was called a “morgue file”. I believe the term was originally used to refer to collections of old police files and reports, but illustrators used it for their photo reference collections. I used to subscribe to just about every entertainment magazine there was, and after The Lovely Anna was done reading it I would clip out the pictures of celebrities, sort them by the individual, and paste them onto 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of heavy paper into a sort of collage. Then I’d either put them into their existing folder, or create a new folder for them. Thus, when I had to do a caricature of Tom Cruise, for example, I’d pull out the Tom Cruise folder and it would contain a number of pages full of pasted-up pictures. I’d take just about any picture I found, but really looked for different angles or unusual expressions. The best sources for pictures were the tabloids or the trashiest of the entertainment mags like OK. They didn’t airbrush their pictures like Entertainment Weekly or US did, so you got the real deal. At one time I had a very large file cabinet full of celebrity folders, from the super-famous to the mostly obscure.

This method really became a challenge as my autistic daughter, The Animated Elizabeth, became obsessed with tearing paper. Many autistic kids have overwhelming OCD issues, and for a while one of her’s was ripping up paper into tiny pieces. Her favorite thing was to tear the FACES out of magazines. If she got hold of one of those entertainment magazines, I’d find it later with EVERY SINGLE FACE torn out and shredded. I remember thinking “why can’t she be obsessed with tearing pictures of FEET out of magazines???” She eventually moved on to other OCD issues, but now I have the internet!

I often get the question “What did guys like Mort Drucker or Jack Davis do to get references for movie parodies back before the internet?” I’m sure they had multiple sources including their own morgue files, but I know of at least one resource that I saw evidence of having been used. Movies used to have these kits they sent out to theaters that included not just movie posters, but many 8 x 10 stills from the film, actors head shots, etc. About 14 years ago I was working on a piece that included a caricature of Matthew Broderick, and an internet search for him resulted in a link to an eBay auction for a vintage one of these theater kits from the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I was looking through the various uploaded scans of the photos from the kit, and they looked very familiar to me. I pulled out my boxes of old MAD Magazines and found the parody of Ferris Bueller, drawn by Mort Drucker. I compared the photos from the movie kit to Mort’s panels. Every single photo was obviously used as reference by Mort for the parody, right down to the poses and in some cases the backgrounds. It was very cool to see the actual reference he was working from. Movie studios used to send MAD their press kits in hopes the magazine would parody their film, since that was great publicity. Maybe that’s where Mort got it, or maybe he was friends with a local theater owner.

My morgue file is long defunct. No need for it anymore. Image searches certainly make life easier.

Thanks to Paul from Omaha 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!

Goodbye Colbert, Hello Colbert!

December 19th, 2014


Unless you live under a rock, you know that last night was the final episode of “The Colbert Report”, and that host Stephen Colbert will be taking over “The Late Show” from David Letterman in 2015.

Whenever anyone asks about MAD magazine’s influence on pop culture, invariably how it shaped today’s satirical comedy becomes part of the conversation. The three things I always point to are “The Onion”, “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”. All three of those shows are benchmarks of modern satire, and all three publicly cite MAD as a major influence on their work and comedic sensibilities. Colbert even celebrated Al Jaffee’s birthday on the show.

The Colbert Report in particular is satire at its most biting and effective. He created a persona that pointed out the absurdities of extreme right-wing conservatism so brilliantly that not a few Tea Partiers probably still think he was serious.

It will be very interesting to see Colbert no longer in character behind Letterman’s old desk. Best of luck to him in his new gig!


Illustration Throwback Thursday #9

December 18th, 2014

snowcountryClicky to Embiggen…

This was a spot illustration for a magazine called Snow Country done around 1995 (I think). It’s a caricature of a guy whose job it is to pick up all the stuff that drops from the ski lifts of a major ski resort. The story was about some of the crazy “treasures” he finds after the snow melts, so we did a kind of “Indiana Jones” theme. Yes, that is an artificial leg in his bag. This was done in ink and watercolor on illustration board. This is a scan of the original which is still floating around here in a big drawer labeled “Old Crap”.


Sketch o’the Week- Stephen Amell!

December 17th, 2014

Stephen Amell © 2014 Tom Richmond

I’m beyond busy right now so only had time for a quick sketch late today. The Lovely Anna and I started watching “Arrow” in the last month or two. Here’s Oliver Queen himself Stephen Amell.

What do I think of the show? It’s kind of a guilty pleasure. It is way too soap opera-ish for me to really love it, and some of the dialogue is George Lucas-level awful, but the action and the slow unveiling of the story on the island keeps me interested.

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Jack Davis Hangs Up His Pencil

December 16th, 2014

Jack Davis!

WIRED online reported today that the great Jack Davis, who turned 90 years old earlier this month, has announced he’s retiring from producing work. Jack has slowed down considerably from the days when you basically could not open a magazine, look at a movie poster or see an ad anywhere without it featuring his art, but he has still been doing work for clients like the University of Georgia, various golf and sports magazines and the like recently. Jack claims his work is no longer up to his standards:

It’s not that the iconic 90-year-old cartoonist can’t draw anymore—he just can’t meet his own standards. “I’m not satisfied with the work,” Davis says by phone from his rural Georgia home. “I can still draw, but I just can’t draw like I used to.”

Jack did a fantastic drawing of Batman for the NCS Comic Con T-shirt just this past summer, and it looks like a classic Jack Davis to me. However when you draw at a level like Jack Davis does (i.e. better than just about anyone, ever) maybe you have to be Jack Davis to see your work slipping. Regardless, Jack owes the world nothing since he’s given us so much already. Still, that world seems a little poorer place knowing Jack isn’t picking up his pencil down there in Georgia working his magic. Fortunately for us he was one of the most prolific illustrators ever, and his body of work will continue to entertain and inspire us forever.

So, happy retirement, Jack! Thanks for sharing your incredible talents with the world!


Sneak Peek: MAD #531

December 16th, 2014


I got permission from the folks at MAD to share my piece from the MAD 20 in issue #531. This is an all-digital painted piece, written by Desmond Devlin. Clicky to Embiggen…

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On the Stands: MAD #531

December 15th, 2014

On news stands everywhere tomorrow, in comic book shops this week, in most subscriber’s mailboxes already and available digitally immediately via the MAD iPad app:


MAD #531 (February 2015)

  • Cover (Mark Fredrickson)
  • MAD’s First-Ever Guarantee (Writer: Dick DeBartolo)
  • The Fundalini Pages (Jeff Kruse, John Martz, Bob Staake, Rick Tulka, Bob Eckstein, Rick Tulka, Anton Emdin, Tom Bunk)
  • The MAD 20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2014
    1. The NFL’s Domestic Violence Problem (Uncredited)
    2. Ebola Hysteria (Uncredited)
    3. The GM Recall Debacle (Matt Lassen, Scott Bricher)
    4. The Militarization of the Police Dept (Desmond Devlin, Richard Williams)
    5. Target’s Security Breach (Writer: Darren Johnson)
    6. Obama Caught Off Guard (Artist: Richard Williams)
    7. The “Booty Trend” (Artist: Hermann Mejia)
    8. The MAD Fold-In (Al Jaffee)
    9. American Apparel’s CEO Pervert (Jason Katzenstein and Dan Abromowitz, Gary Hallgren)
    10. Hilary Clinton Cries Poverty (Uncredited)
    11. The Washington Redskins Stand by Their Name (Writer: Desmond Devlin)
    12. Chris Christie’s Traffic Scandal (Artist: Ward Sutton)
    13. CNN’s Endless Flight Coverage (Artist: Timothy Shamey)
    14. Cliven Bundy’s Standoff (Desmond Devlin, Tom Richmond)
    15. Rick Perry’s “Intelligent” New Look (Writer: Mike Morse)
    16. White House Security Breaches (Artist: Scott Bricher)
    17. Putin Invades Ukraine (Idea: Matt Lassen)
    18. Donald Sterling’s Racist Rant (Artist: Drew Friedman)
    19. The Iraq War “Experts” (Lance Hansen, Mark Fredrickson)
    20. The V.A. Hospital Scandal (Alison Grambs, Mark Stutzman)
  • 8 Keys to Becoming a More Effective Supervillian (John Caldwell)
  • A MAD Look at the Old Testament (Sergio Aragonés, Colorist: Tom Luth)
  • Planet Tad (Writer: Tim Carvell)
  • The MAD Vault- MAD #325, Feb 1994 (Desmond Devlin, Tom Bunk)
  • Spy vs. Spy (Peter Kuper)
  • The Strip Club (Dakota McFadzean, Kenny Keil, Lance Hansen, Kit Livery & Scott Nickel, Jason Yungbluth, Phil McAndrew, David DeGrand, Noah Van Scriver)
  • Chilling Thoughts- 2014 Edition (Desmond Devlin, Evan Dorkin)
  • Best of the Idiotical (Various)
  • One Evening at the White House (Artist: Tom Richmond)
  • Drawn Out Dramas- Throughout the issue (Sergio Aragonés)

I have two pieces in this issue, one being the printed version of the single page gag “One Evening at the White House” first posted on MAD’s website. The other is a spoof of the movie poster for ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West” Starring Cliven Bundy, Sean Hannity, and a cow (who is arguably the most intelligent mammal in the image). I’ll post a peek at that when MAD gives me the ok.

In the meantime… what are you waiting for?!? Go out and buy a copy, clod!

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Sunday Mailbag- Shipping Art?

December 14th, 2014

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: I was wondering if you could share your shipping methods. Specifically, how do you box up your prints and/or commission work for shipping and what advise you would give to others on how to prepare artwork for shipping in an efficient manner. I feel like I spend way too much time getting artwork boxed up in a safe way that makes me confident it will arrive in one piece. Thanks!

A: This is actually a big concern because shippers do not treat packages very well, especially at the sorting stage. Trust me I know… I worked at UPS for about 6 weeks when I was going to school at the University of Minnesota. Packages were tossed, shoved, dropped and tumbled all around various conveyor belts and chutes on their way to their respective trucks. You need to pack defensively, expecting that sort of treatment and guarding against damage. That mostly means making sure the package has sufficient space between what’s inside and the edge of the box to absorb some damage without affecting the art or print inside.

The prints I sell are easy to ship. I carefully roll them up with a piece of heavy paper that extends past the ends of the rolled print. Then I put it in a poly-bag tube and then into a heavy duty cardboard shipping tube. The paper and the poly bag stuff the ends in tight when the tube is sealed, holding the print in place and protecting the ends from getting damaged. The tube is thick enough that a heavy person would have to step right on it to crush it at all… having even heavy packages on top of it won’t do it. Cheaper tubes would provide less protection.

The books are easier to ship. I use a self-sealing, stiff and padded shipping envelope for them, first putting the book into a plastic sleeve to prevent the pages or cover from rubbing against the inside of the envelope. Then I fold the flap and part of the envelope down until it is tight against the edge of the book, really locking it in there. Then I use a piece of packing tape to reinforce the flap and it’s edges so it cannot pop open if the adhesive fails or the edge of the flap catches on something. I’ve had some books damaged in shipment, but only really egregious mishandling can do it.

Original art is the really tricky item to ship. This is especially true of my original pages from MAD, which are HUGE at 17″ x 22″. There is no easy way to do this. The important thing is to leave plenty of room between the edge of the original and the edge of the packing, and to make the package thick enough so it can’t easily be bent.

I make me own packages out of foam core, but first I cover the art with a flap of heavy paper and tape it with artist’s tape so the surface of the original in protected. Then I cut a piece of foamcoare that is 3 inches more in width and length than the original is. I tape the artwork to the surface of this first piece of foamcore making sure that there is  1.5 inches of space all around the outside of the art. Then I cut at least two more pieces of foam core the same size as the first, and sandwich the first piece between them. This will usually do it, but with some of those big MAD pages I will add a fourth piece of foamcore because the surface area is so large. It would be easy for the edges of the package to get caught up somehow and some other package  or weight to end up on the top, bowing the whole thing down and maybe creasing it. Three layers is plenty of anything 11 x 17″ or less though.

One other thing, I always send original art via a trackable service and if possible require a signature for delivery. In this day and age of online shopping and shipping, packages left on doorsteps tend to disappear, and originals are not replaceable.

Thanks to Sean Platt 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!

Holiday Gift Time Running Out!

December 12th, 2014


Studio Store Banner smallIf you are like me, you just woke up this morning, looked at the calendar and thought, “Oh, crap! It’s less than two weeks until Christmas Day and I still haven’t gotten any gifts bought for anybody!” Actually if you really ARE like me that ephinany happens to you 0n the 23rd or 24th of December. If that happened to you this morning, you are light years ahead of the game!

In that light, here’s one last pitch to get that special geek in your life something odd different for the holidays at The Studio Store! Times a-running out to get your stuff shipped to you in time for wrapping and placing under the tree, but I’ll be making daily runs to the post office up until Christmas and guarantee your order with ship the next day! Here are some shortcuts to some of the stuff we’ve got in stock for holiday giving:


Limited Edition “Bats in the Belfry” Batman caricature timeline print- $25


Limited Edition “the Game is Afoot” Sherlock caricature timeline print- $25

The 11 Doctors!

Artist proof “The Doctor is In” Doctor Who caricature timeline print- $20

SIGNED COPY of The Mad Art of Caricature!- $20

SIGNED (by Tom) COPY of The Bro Code for Parents- $10.99

Tales From the Theme Park #9

December 11th, 2014


This one is the story of the closest I ever got to getting beat up for a caricature I drew. This happened in the summer of 1989 or 1990 while I was managing a concession for Fasen Arts at Six Flags Atlanta. It’s sad that I was in a position of authority and still pulled this stunt… I apologize to Steve Fasen for my actions a quarter of a century ago.

It was a typical day doing theme park caricatures at Six Flags. I was working at our busiest booth located in the center area of the park when I started drawing a group of college frat boys that were there on spring break. There was probably 16 or more of them. They wanted me to commemorate their spring break in the drawings.

All these guys were kind of fat and nerdy… not the Zac Efron frat boys but more the Zack Galifianakis types. Great senses of humor. I did the first one with a six-pack on a beach with some hot girls in bikinis drooling over him. He loved it, and the drawing marathon was on. I did drawings of all of these guys, with each one getting more zany. I had some of them so muscular they had syringes of steroids sticking out of their arms, their swimsuits falling down around their ankles while the ladies looking on were terrified by their manhoods, etc. etc. The drawings became increasingly outrageous, while the caricatures really played up their nerdy faces and fat cheeks. I had the crowd rolling.

The last drawing is where it all came off the rails. The group basically pushed this last guy into the chair. He was the one member of the group who was a good looking, buff, hunk sort of guy. I drew him fat and doughy in a speedo. The gag of course was the juxtaposition of the one good looking jock getting the flabby body while the chubby guys got the hardbodies.

This guy did not like the joke. He got pretty angry and refused to pay for the drawing. He stalked off and his buddies spent the next ten minutes apologizing to me and saying how big an asshole that guy is. Eventually they moved off. That’s when I made a bad choice.

Instead of tossing out the drawing and moving on, I took a little time to add to it. I gave him a bikini top, saggy boobs, long hair and makeup… basically making him look like a really bad female impersonator. Then I hung it up on the wall as a sample for everyone passing by to see.

Along that group came later in the day. When they saw the revised drawing I thought they were going to piss their pants. When the subject saw it, he took a run at me but half a dozen of his frat brothers restrained him and told him he deserved it for being a vain jerk. the angry guy told me he’d see me in the parking lot after the park closed. He obviously wasn’t going to school on an academic scholarship. Even an idiot would probably realize employees parked in a totally different area than the paid parking for guests. I never saw him after close. Best of all, the other guys chipped in a bought the drawing from me and took it with them!

I can only hope that pretty boy was mercilessly tortured by that group for the rest of his college career with that drawing!


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