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Archive for January, 2012

What, Me Imitated?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

MAD debuted 60 years ago in 1952. It’s success, first as a comic book and then as a magazine (or “slick” as the vernacular of the day went) caused the spawning of imitators… MANY imitators. The longest running of them all was Cracked magazine, which lasted almost 50 years (1958-2007), but the list of less long-lived MAD clones was much longer. Here’s a few off the top of my head:

  • Sick
  • Crazy
  • Plop!
  • Nuts!
  • Not Brand Eccch!
  • Eh!
  • Madhouse
  • From Here to Insanity

An upcoming book (to be released in April) from Fantagraphics, The Sincerest Form of Parody, reprints some of the material from the early imitators of the MAD comic book (as opposed to the magazine format). Written by John Benson with an intro by Jay Lynch.

From the book’s desription:

When MAD became a surprise hit as a comic book in 1953 (after the early issues lost money!) other comics publishers were quick to jump onto the bandwagon, eventually bringing out a dozen imitations with titles like FLIP, WHACK, NUTS, CRAZY, WILD, RIOT, EH, UNSANE, BUGHOUSE, and GET LOST. The Sincerest Form of Parody collects the best and the funniest material from these comics, including parodies of movies (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, From Here To Eternity), TV shows (What’s My Line, The Late Show), comic strips (Little Orphan Annie, Rex Morgan), novels (I, the Jury), plays (Come Back, Little Sheba), advertisements (Rheingold Beer, Charles Atlas), classic literature (“The Lady or the Tiger”), and history (Pancho Villa). Some didn’t even try for parody, but instead published odd, goofy, off-the-wall stories.

These earnest copiers of MAD realized that Will Elder’s cluttered “chicken fat” art was a good part of MAD’s success, and these pages are densely packed with all sorts of outlandish and bizarre gags that make for hours of amusing reading. The “parody comics” are uniquely “’50s,” catching the popular culture zeitgeist through a dual lens: not only reflecting fifties culture through parody but also being themselves typical examples of that culture (in a way that Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD was not).

This unprecedented volume collects over 30 of the best of these crazy, undisciplined stories, all reprinted from the original comics in full color. Editor John Benson (who wrote the annotations for the first complete MAD reprints, and interviewed MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman in depth several times over the years) also provides expert, profusely illustrated commentary and background, including comparisons of how different companies parodied the same subject.

Artists represented include Jack Davis, Will Elder, Norman Maurer, Carl Hubbell, William Overgard, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Bill Everett, Al Hartley, Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, Hy Fleischman, Jay Disbrow, Howard Nostrand, and Bob Powell.

Casual comics readers are probably familiar with the later satirical magazines that continued to be published in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Cracked and Sick, but the comics collected in this volume were imitations of the MAD comic book, not the magazine, and virtually unknown among all but the most die-hard collectors. For the first time, Fantagraphics is collecting the best of these comics in a single, outrageously funny volume. 208 full-color illustrations

I obviously haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment on the book itself. However, as these 1950’s comics are extremely rare this is likely one of the only places one can find this content. I’m especially interested in John Benson’s commentary about the comics.

Damn… gotta find another space on the bookshelf.

Oscar MADness on The Idiotical

Monday, January 30th, 2012

I don’t post often enough about the good stuff being done on MAD’s official blog The Idiotical. The other day they posted their predictions for the 2012 Oscars:

Click to visit The Idiotical

There are daily updates with combinations of stuff from the magazine (both classic and current), plus a lot of original content. If you don’t regularly visit, you are missing out on some daily chuckles.

Sunday Mailbag

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Q: I remember about a year ago you wrote a post about the decline in quality of Strathmore bristol boards, a brand you used with your work. Whatever happened with that? Did you find a suitable replacement? Have the Strathmore boards improved?

A: Here is the post to which you refer: Strathless Bristol Bored.

I contacted Strathmore about my concerns and found their customer service department very receptive to working with me. They were concerned and, while they didn’t come right out and say it, I got the feeling mine was not the first complaint they had received. They asked me to send them some samples of boards with this problem. I sent them sample boards where the same lines were inked by the same pen nib and the same ink, and yet one board showed the ink clearly bleeding among the fibers while the other looked good. Both were the same 500 series 3 ply kid finish boards, but bought in different batches. I also sent them some 400 boards that were doing the same thing. I demoed several different inks and pen nibs between the two boards. This little demonstration clearly proved it was the board and not the inks causing the issues.

I received an explanation that basically said there was no concrete explanation—yet. There are many chemicals bought from vendor companies that are used through the process of creating the illustration board, and they believed one or more of them had changed their formulas or chemical structure or something that was in turn affecting the results of their process, which had not changed. This made sense, since why would one batch be fine and another bleed when they were both made with the same process? They were trying to figure out which of their vendor’s chemicals might be the culprit, but as yet they did not know.

What they did do was send me a nice supply of good boards, which I am still using today. I spoke with some pretty high ranking executives in the company, and they were both concerned and helpful. I have not had the occasion to buy any boards from an art supply place in a while, so I do not know if they solved their issues or not. I hope so because there isn’t anything that compares to a good Strathmore board out there as a replacement.

Thanks to Grant Jonen 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!

The Decidedly Un-Dreaded Vacation Demon

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

We interrupt this blog for a few days while the blog admin gets himself a serious sunburn and combats the pain with copious amounts of Mai Tais on vacation. The blog will resume with the Sunday Mailbag. Mahalo.

Tall Tale Radio Interview

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

I had the pleasure of being a guest on the excellent comics podcast Tall Tale Radio with Tom Racine. The show is up on the TTR website now. Tom and I talk about the NCS, the new online comics divisional award, the MAD, MAD, SCAD weekend I attended back in November, my book and a few other stories. Check it out here!

On the Drawing Board- 1/23/12

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Actually I’m on vacation! But, there’s still work either in progress or waiting for me when I get back:

  • Book Illustration- Doing a ten page/cover job for a book pitch. Don’t worry, I’m getting paid for it whether the book get’s picked up or not.
  • Warner Bros. Video Box Artwork- a spot illustration that is being used for product packaging.
  • NCS Reuben Brochure Art- My usual artwork for the cover of the Reuben Brochure.

Here’s my latest Marlin workplace poster illustration, pencil roughs and finals. There were some changes to the patient’s expressions asked for, as you can see from the end result. As always, clicky to embiggen:

The pencil sketch

The revised and final art

Sunday Mailbag

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Q: I’d like to do freelance illustration and cartooning for a career, but I hate marketing and invoicing and dealing with the business side of things. I just want to draw. How do you handle all that business stuff?

A: There is supposedly a scientific reason for a highly creative person not liking (or in some cases being any good at) the business side of art. Most people have heard of the concept of “right-brained” and “left-brained” people. As the theory goes, people who’s brains are left-side dominant are more analytical and logical, and are generally better at math and other structured concepts. Those who are ride-side dominant are more creative and artistic. Obviously we all use both sides of the brain, so to say either are mutually exclusive is silly, but it does seem to be true that many artistic people don’t get along with math or business. That said, I know of many terrific illustrators that are also exceptionally good at the business side of it, so take that theory with a grain of salt.

Being a professional freelancer takes more that just the artistic skills. You need to have great communication skills to work with art directors and clients, the ability to manage your time and meet deadlines, strong marketing senses and the ability to handle the contracts, invoicing, paperwork and other business things that are part of being a freelancer. I know many very talented artists who can’t make a living freelancing because the don’t have those other parts of the whole that make one a professional. That’s not an indictment of their talent as an artist or cartoonist, but being able to create that work within the demands of the marketplace is necessary if you want to make a career out of illustration. Some artists just don’t have that skill set.

One solution is to find a business manager or rep to handle that end of things. That’s really ideal if you just won’t or can’t do any of the business stuff. I know a few successful illustrators who would not be able to function without that rep. Of course you have to give up a percentage of your fees for that service, but a good rep easily makes up for that in more work and in building solid relationships with clients. I’ve never had a rep, and good ones are hard to find.

Another solution is to get your spouse involved if he/she is willing or able to do so. I also know of a few “spouse teams” where the non-artist husband or wife acts as the manager for the other. It takes a pretty special spouse to do that… I’ve got one of those myself! The Lovely Anna helps me out enormously with paperwork and other business tasks that free up my time to do the artwork.

Finally, as always, there’s an app for that. Actually there are many computer programs that help with the business end of things, from accounting to time management to marketing. I use Intuit QuickBooks to do all my invoicing, accounts payable and all the money stuff. I have a small to-do program called Things that I use to manage my time, setting goals for various tasks and deadline reminders. I know there are some programs out there dedicated to the freelance professional that incorporate several elements together in one place. Mac Freelance is one I know of. I am sure there are others but as I have never used any I am unable to recommend one. That might be something to look into, though.

The reality is there is an art side of being a professional illustrator, and a non-art side. Both are important, and both need to be handled competently for to succeed in the tough world of freelancing.

Thanks to John Larson 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!

Secret Agent Man Prints Sold Out!

Friday, January 20th, 2012

My signed/numbered limited edition print “Secret Agent Man” has sold out completely, so that’s that. I have deleted the high resolution color file, and the original inked artwork was sold months ago, so the 250 numbered prints out there in the hands of the rubes lucky folks who purchased them are all that there will ever be. Thanks to everybody who bought one, and to those who helped spread the word about it!

This worked out pretty well, although I think I may do a smaller number or prints next time. There definitely will be a next time. For San Diego Comic Con 2012 I will have another limited edition print in a similar vein but with different subject matter, which while there I will sell for cheap with the purchase of a copy of The Mad Art of Caricature!, and separately as well for an inflated, outrageous price. Likely I will have some left over again and they will get offered for sale here. Some of you who are not my mom might even buy one!

Pre-Order “Team Cul de Sac” Book!

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Team Cul de Sac is the brainchild of Chris Sparks, who has worked tirelessly to organize this fundraising program for Parkinson’s research. It’s a part of TeamFox, the Michael J Fox Foundation’s fundraising arm, which in the last year alone raised almost 4 million dollars for research. The fundraiser revolves around the brilliant comic strip Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson, an incredibly talented cartoonist who happens to have Parkinson’s. Oh, and he just won the Reuben for “Cartoonist of the Year” from the National Cartoonists Society last May.

Chris and Team Cul de Sac invited professional cartoonists, illustrators, artists and animators to donate original art made especially for a book, published by Andrews & McMeel, about Parkinson’s awareness, and the response was pretty outstanding. You will find the work of some of the biggest names in cartooning in those pages. Part of the profits from the direct sales of the book will benefit the Michael J Fox Foundation, and the original art will be auctioned as part of the fundraiser with all of auction money going to MJFF.

Chris and his company, Sparking Design, just announced that the Team Cul de Sac book is now available for pre-order directly from the publisher. You can order a “Regular Edition” copy, signed by Chris, for $35.50, and a limited edition of 150 “Author Signed and Numbered” copy signed by Chris for $65.50, both prices include shipping AND the Regular Edition includes a $5 donation to the afore mentioned Michael J. Fox Foundation, while the Author Signed and Numbered version includes a $20 donation to same. No word if copies signed by Richard will be available. By the way, Richard recently went on a hiatus from his strip to receive and recover from treatment for Parkinson’s… this book is needed now more than ever. The book is set to be released June 5th, 2012.

Incidentally, the book will also be available on Amazon, but only buying directly from the publisher will result in a donations to the MJFF. Amazon doesn’t really need your money, but Parkinson’s research does—so follow this link to pre-order.

Here is my meager contribution to the book:

Brief Thoughts on SOPA and PIPA

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

The internet is abuzz with righteous indignation over the proposed “anti-piracy” legislation currently under consideration by congress, namely the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). I won’t bother to describe the bills—if you don’t know about them by now then welcome to your first time on the internet!

As a creative professional, I hate online piracy and copyright infringement, but I am not willing to kill the patient to cure the disease. These bills are going to be largely ineffective at best, and at worst very damaging to legitimate websites because they allow too much room for abuse. Internet piracy IS a huge problem, and it would be nice if something real could be done about it, but these bills are not the answer. I could go on, but Neil Gaiman and company say it better here than I could:

January 17, 2012

An open letter to Washington from Artists and Creators

We, the undersigned, are musicians, actors, directors, authors, and producers. We make our livelihoods with the artistic works we create. We are also Internet users.

We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

As creative professionals, we experience copyright infringement on a very personal level. Commercial piracy is deeply unfair and pervasive leaks of unreleased films and music regularly interfere with the integrity of our creations. We are grateful for the measures policymakers have enacted to protect our works.

We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.

We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA’s impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate Internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods.

We urge Congress to exercise extreme caution and ensure that the free and open Internet, upon which so many artists rely to promote and distribute their work, does not become collateral damage in the process.


Aziz Ansari

Kevin Devine, Musician

Barry Eisler, Author

Neil Gaiman, Author

Lloyd Kaufman, Filmmaker

Zoë Keating, Musician

The Lonely Island

Daniel Lorca, Musician (Nada Surf)

Erin McKeown, Musician

Benjamin Goldwasser, MGMT

Andrew VanWyngarden, MGMT

Samantha Murphy, Musician


Amanda Palmer, Musician (The Dresden Dolls)

Quiet Company

Trent Reznor

Adam Savage, Special Effects Artist (MythBusters)

Hank Shocklee, Music Producer (Public Enemy, The Bomb Squad)

Johnny Stimson, Musician


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