Q: Just curious what made you decide to start doing comic-cons, and do you find you get a lot of fans that come and find you?
A: I saved this one for today seeing as how I am currently at C2E2 in Chicago doing a comic-con!
MAD is the red-headed stepchild of comic books. It sort-of is a comic book but not really. In general it does not mix with the cape n’ tights fanboy crowd, but there is some crossover. I get a few people that come up and have actually seen my work in MAD, and have (usually) nice things to say, but nothing compared to a real comic book artist with lines of people holding multiple copies of their comic books and being commissioned to do sketches of comic book characters for $100 plus.
There are three kinds of MAD fans at comic-cons: ones that read the magazine and are familiar with my work, ones that USED to read the magazine years ago but haven’t in years so they have never seen my work, and those that have no idea MAD even exists. Of the three, the latter are only made up of teenagers or very young adults who have a very narrow focus on their comic book tastes, i.e. if there aren’t zombies, superheroes or it isn’t manga, it does not exist to them. Actually those are very few… most people have at least heard of MAD and seen it peripherally if nothing else.
The majority are people who read the magazine as kids and have a special place in their hearts for it. I have many a conversation on the genius of Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Sergio and others. It is truly awe-inspiring how big an impact MAD made on pop-culture in the 50s through the 80’s. The nice thing is a few of those people will pick up a copy of MAD the next time they see one, to see what it’s all about these days. They’ll probably throw it down in disgust, but at least they’ll look at it!
The MAD animated show on Cartoon Network has really raised MAD‘s profile. After they see the MAD logo on my signboard, I get lots of very young kids coming up and saying they love that show. Fortunately I can say I actually worked on the show a bit, and then we discuss our favorite clips. Some of these kids have started reading the magazine as well, all thanks to the show. It’s a damn shame that got cancelled… it was very highly rated but apparently shows with a lack of toy tie-ins don’t see a lot of longevity. Four seasons and 100 plus episodes was a bit of a wonder for a show like MAD. It was fun while it lasted.
There are two reasons why I started doing comic-cons. First and foremost, I actually make some money at these things. There is no way I could take time out of the studio if I did not. I don’t make a lot, but it’s enough to justify my time away from other work. Second, I actually have something to sell and promote at these shows. Once I had the book done, that became something I could always have a pile of and sign for people. Then I started doing the prints, which was another thing that I could have for people to buy and get signed, or at least to look at. I do a lot of drawing at these shows as well… that has surprised me a bit. There are actually quite a few artists doing caricatures at these cons, but people still seem surprised they can get themselves drawn as opposed to some comic book character. I draw them as their favorite character, or in some theme/topic, but with a humorous bend. Yesterday I did a girl as Aphrodite IX (had to google that one). I labeled her oversized firearm “Ginormous Gun Co, Ltd”, and thought about labeling her equally oversized breasts “Ginormous Silicon Co. Ltd”, but decided to stick to the kid-friendly route.
The one thing I am missing at these cons are stacks of MADs to sell at cover price and sign for people. Lot’s of folks come up and would probably get a copy to check out what MAD circa 2014 is like. I’ll have to ask the guys at DC if I can get some copies at distributor costs or something. It’s an opportunity to promote the magazine better, which is another reason I like to do these shows.
Thanks to Zach Morris 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!