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On the Drawing Board- 12/9/14

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

I am swamped right now to the point of near panic, thanks to a week out of the studio and multiple time consuming jobs now due, about due, and overdue:

  • Jeff Dunham Illustrations- Several down but one more to finish on a multiple illustration job for some products for Jeff’s new Las Vegas show
  • Z People Comic- Inking and coloring pages galore
  • Penthouse- Just finished three new Dave Navarro caricatures for his column in the magazine, with a set of three more to go
  • Marlin Co. Poster- My usual monthly assignment
  • NCS Reuben Awards Brochure- Will debut this next month when it’s in member’s mailboxes
  • Private commission- Long LONG overdue

Whew. Not sure if I’ll have time for Christmas.

Here’s last month’s Marlin poster illustration, rough sketch and final color:



Cosplaying the Fool?

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

bats1.jpgI’ve been known to Cosplay a bit…

Late this week a minor brouhaha ensued after comic book artist Pat Broderick posted a lot of negative comments about the rise of “cosplay” at conventions. Bleeding Cool covered the story and some of the arguments both in support and disagreement with Pat’s take. Pat was more than a little harsh, saying cosplayers bring “no value” to conventions and convention promoters that focus on cosplay as a draw for their shows are doing a disservice to the industry. To provide some context, Pat is just returning to comics after two decades of doing art in otehr media venues like animation and advertising, so likely his perspective is of the time-warp variety.

I’m hardly a household name in the comics industry, being most known for my work in a publication that is at best on the fringes of the mainstream comics world. That said, I have been dong a lot of conventions in the last couple of years, and have seen firsthand the rise of cosplay as a major part of many shows. I could not disagree with Pat Broderick more.

I do not see how anything can be bad about fans becoming so enthusiastic about the characters created by and worked on by artists like Pat that they spend countless hours putting together costumes like the ones you see on the floors of comic cons today. It’s a way for fans to connect to the stories and characters they love, gets A LOT of press and attention brought to comic cons )and as a result comics), and ultimately promotes the industry as a whole. If cosplay results in bringing tens of thousands more people into comic cons and, by extension, into comic book shops, then it’s a good thing for the industry.

Are all cosplayer’s doing it for the love of comics and the characters? No, of course not. There are some who probably don’t even know the slightest bit about whatever character they are dressed up as… other than they have the right sized boobs to be Powergirl. So what? You always have the gatecrashers, narcissists and “hey look at me” types in every group, and the fact that they are showing up at comic cons is actually another positive sign. Only the groups that are getting real attention get a fair share of the poseurs, which means that group is a relevant group. Besides, the poseurs are a small minority. Most cosplayers are of the real fan variety… they may not look like Captain America with their pot belly and spats, but they do it for the fun and love of the genre. Only a handful do it for the attention alone with no actual love of comics.

I have to admit I am a bit mystified by “professional” cosplayers. These are people who comic con promoters actually pay to bring in and appear at the show as a draw. I’d think their money was better served bringing in any of the actors from “Arrow”, “The Walking Dead” or other comic-book based TV shows or films, but whatever floats your boat. Cosplay pros probably cost a fraction for the money an actor would cost to bring in, and maybe the bang for the buck is greater there. Whatever you might think of these folks, their dedication to their craft is pretty awe inspiring.

I will say that I have had my fair share of annoying run ins with copslayers at conventions, but they mostly involve simple lack of courtesy or awareness that there are thousands of other people about other than you in your outfit. I’ve slammed into people who stop abruptly in the middle of a crowded walkway while some inconsiderate cosplayer stops to spread his/her cape/wings/cloak while a dozen equally inconsiderate people try and take pictures on their smartphones. I’ve had cosplayers stop right in front of my booth and block its view as they get pics snapped right and left. BREAKING NEWS: If you are surprised a crowd of any size has a fair share of totally oblivious assholes who range from inconsiderate to downright rude, then welcome to humanity… it’s been around for a while. That is not going to change. Much of the fault with these problems lies with the convention organizers, who don’t seem to make any efforts to ease these issues by perhaps providing cosplay areas for photos and interaction, or messages discouraging the inconsiderate stopping or loitering for such pictures.

There are some bad things that go along with the cosplay phenomenon, but in the end I think anything that gets people interested in comics as an art form and entertainment is a good thing.

Happy Birthday Jack Davis!

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

The great Jack Davis is 90 years old today!

This from a post here in 2006:

Any conversation about the greatest and most influential cartoonists of the last half century must, at some point, include the name Jack Davis. From the notorious E.C. horror comics of the 1950?s to MAD Magazine to TIME and TV Guide covers, record covers, movie posters, advertising, animation design and even US postage stamps, Davis’s art has entertained, amazed and inspired generations.

John Burton “Jack” Davis Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA on December 2nd, 1924. An incurable doodler, the young Jack Davis drew on textbooks, writing tablets and anything else he could get his hands on. As a young man he did his share of cartoons for his high school newspaper and school annuals, having developed a love of cartooning and “funny drawin’”. He joined and served in the Navy during World War 2, and they promptly put his talents to work on Navy publications in the P.R. department out of Pensacola, FL. He was eventually shipped off to Guam, but his drawing talents could not be repressed. While there he developed a strip called “Boondocker“, which was published in the Navy News.

Jack returned to the states in 1946 and studied art at the University of Georgia under the G.I. bill. While at U of G he did cartoons and illustrations for the college paper and humor magazine, and spent his summers cartooning for the Atlanta Journal newspaper. He also assisted on the syndicated comic strip “Mark Trail” by Ed Dodd. Eventually a good paying job illustrating a training manual for the Coca-Cola company netted Jack enough money to buy a car and and finance a trip to New York City to pursue bigger and better assignments.

He arrived in New York City, portfolio in hand and confidence high. His car was promptly stolen and a con man swindled him out of his savings… welcome to New York, Jack! Undeterred, Jack spent six months scraping by working for small publishers and the New York Herald Tribune while pounding the pavement in search of more substantial work. Eventually his path led to the door of E.C. Comics. He had found a home, and his artwork had found the perfect creative outlet for it to flourish.

E.C. publisher Bill Gaines and editor Al Feldstein made Jack one of their cornerstone artists. According to Feldstein, Jack’s subtly humorous touch on the gruesome stories in comics like “Tales from the Crypt”, made them more palatable to readers (if not to congressmen). Jack’s natural speed with his art, and the versatility that allowed him to work with equal success on horror, war, crime and humor stories made him almost indispensable. Jack had so much work that he was known to ink pages on the train into Manhattan from his apartment in Westchester, and place them on Bill Gaine’s desk with the ink barely dry.

When Harvey Kurtzman was tapped by Gaines to create MAD, Davis was one of the first artists Kurtzman turned to. Jack did the lead story in MAD #1, a send-up of his own E.C. horror story comic work. Jack continued to work with E.C. until Kurtzman’s departure in 1957. Jack followed Kurtzman to “Trump” and other short lived humor publications. He returned to MAD in 1966, but by then he had become very successful in other venues of freelance. He contributed regularly to MAD doing TV and movie parodies and illustrations for other features, but he also did a great many other jobs for a variety of high profile, high paying clients incluing TIME, LIFE, Esquire, Playboy and TV Guide, movie posters like “The Bad News Bears”, record covers for the likes of Johnny Cash and Jerry Reed, countless advertising jobs and book illustrations, and even animation design for ABC’s “The Jackson 5? and various commercials. Jack was one of the most prolific and recognized illustrators of the 60?s, 70?s, 80?s and 90?s.

He is also easily one of the most imitated cartoonists in the history of the medium. Many lesser cartoonists made all or part of their living doing “Jack Davis art” on jobs where Jack was either unavailable or the client was unwilling to pay the rates his work and status deserved. Part of the reason there were so many Davis clones was that his artwork was incredibly unique and singularly recognizable, and it was difficult to be influenced by his work without directly aping his style. Jack Davis drawn hands only work in a Jack Davis world, and that means Jack Davis feet and Jack Davis lamp posts and Jack Davis arm chairs… you get the idea. Jack’s style in both pen and ink and his rich, earthy watercolors amazed even his contemporaries. One story goes like this: a fellow successful cartoonist asked Jack how he achieved such an interesting and unique color palette with his watercolors. The inquisitive artist could not seem to get similar colors no matter how he mixed them. Jack admitted that he used pond water when he painted with watercolors… he just trudged on down to the lake, filled up a jar and took it back to the studio.

When I first started working for MAD, both Nick Meglin and Sam Viviano gave me advice about the nature of great cartooning, and it was no surprise that Jack Davis was the example they both cited. The essence of what they told me was that a great cartoonist creates a world populated by people, objects, places and things all seen through their eyes… and all drawn in a way that creates a believable and cohesive world to the viewer. You cannot draw a goofy, cartoony dog peeing on a realistically drawn fire hydrant and convince the viewer they are looking through a window into a cartoonist’s singular world… the juxtaposition of the different looks is confusing. The fire hydrant and the dog need to be drawn in a similar fashion, so they look like they belong together and are seen thorough one set of eyes that see the entire world in their own unique way. “Jack Davis’s drawings of a chair, a car, a person and a cat all look like they were drawn by Jack Davis, and they look like they belong in a Jack Davis world,” Sam told me once. “That is what makes Jack’s world so convincing.”

Jack also taught me something about being a professional illustrator. He understands that, no matter how emotionally invested an artist might be in a particular piece he/she is working on, at the end of the day it’s just a job and that is just another drawing. That sounds cynical or defeatist perhaps, but I think it’s just realistic and putting things in perspective. If I feel myself getting bent out of shape when an art director wants me to change all the things in a piece I think are making it successful and turn in into a piece of crap, I just remember Jack saying how easy it is to let go and start again. “It’s just another drawin’”, he’d say. Great talent makes it seem so easy…

Happy 90th birthday, Jack. Thanks for the inspiration and awe-inducing work you’ve thrilled us with for seven decades.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful holiday with friends and family!

Bizzle the Shizzle Dizzle?

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Theme park caricature sample circa 1998

All the accusations of rape being leveled at legendary humorist Bill Cosby are really shocking. I’d like to believe they are not true, but with so many of them coming from women with really no motive to speak out other than to let people know the truth, they just cannot be ignored. Couple that with Cosby’s bizarre refusal to say anything about the accusations—no denials, no explanations, no comments whatsoever—it looks very bad. These accusations are extremely serious, there are a LOT of them, and they are coming from women who are very believable.

Bill Cosby has always been one of my favorite humorists. I used to wear out his albums when I was a kid. I enjoyed his long-running TV show. I admired that he never had to resort to swearing or “blue” material for cheap laughs like many comedians do. He was a wholesome, family-orientated comic whose routines could be enjoyed with your kids and your grandparents at the same time, with everybody laughing in equal measure. He helped break the color barrier in television. He was an icon. That’s what makes this so shocking. It’s like finding out the church volunteer who spends every day serving soup and handing our blankets to the homeless is a serial killer. If Cosby did these things he’s the worst sort of human being. All that said, these rapes are not terrible because the person being accused is Bill Cosby, they are terrible because it’s rape and whether it was done by one of the most family friendly, wholesome comedians in history or some anonymous creep living in an abandoned shack out in the woods, it’s a horrible, unforgivable act.

Since he seems unwilling to even address these accusations with his side of the story (whatever that could possibly be), the only part of this I can see being even remotely in his favor is the question of how so many of these attacks could have happened for so long without his ever even being charged. That’s a thin to non-existent defense… lack of enough prosecutable evidence is not the same as being not guilty. Unless Bill Cosby can come up with a believable explanation for these accusations, and I do not see what could possibly explain it away, he has no defense. Maybe that’s why he’s staying mum—he has no explanation because there is none. The damage being done to his reputation, his legacy and his career is firmly in his lap, because he won’t speak up and defend himself. Some people might call that unfair, but this isn’t one or two people popping up making accusations and then doing the talk show circuit, announcing a book deal or a reality show. It’s many women, with accusations going back almost 10 years, with little or nothing to gain.

I’m a firm believer in “innocent until proved guilty”, but in some cases that only applies to someone being incarcerated or not. What needs to happen here is someone needs to bring charges against Bill Cosby and give him and his accusers their day in court. The longer that does not happen, the less compelling these accusations become. I hope that day in court comes soon and some closure happens here, one way or the other.

Google+ or Oogle+?

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

I don’t spend much time on Google+ but I do have a plug in that feeds my blog posts to my wall there. Today I stopped in to notice an interesting bit of cropping done on my post from last week featuring a drawing of The Lovely Anna:


I know it’s automated but… really???

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 31st, 2014

pumpkin eater finals

Be safe out there, kids!

The Lovely Anna Speaks (Again)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Six years ago I had my wife, The Lovely Anna, be my first (and last) guest blogger here on The MAD Blog. She wrote the following post about being the wife of a freelancer which I am reposting today because I am still on vacation (with The Lovely Anna) so I don’t have time to write and neither does she. All she says here is still true over six years later except we’ve now been married 26 years, all our kids are graduated from high school and either off living life or going to college (except The Animated Elizabeth, who will be home with us forever), and I still haven’t let her try and ink my word balloons again:

The Lovely Anna

My husband Tom asked me to do him a favor.

This is not unusual, most days, at least once, I get a request for a favor. Usually it’s to help with paper work, run to the bank or post office, or deliver supplies to one of our booths. Being that I can’t draw or even ink the boxes for his MAD pages, (Yes, this was attempted and I failed miserably) I try to help out where and when I can. Anything so that he can keep working on the deadline. Today’s favor had to do with The MAD Blog. He is trying to finish up a big MAD job, and doesn’t have time to write any meaningful posts right now, so he asked: “Can you write a post about being married to a freelancer? You’ll be my first ‘guest blogger’. Go ahead and make fun of me.” So…

Hi! My name is The Lovely Anna, and I am the wife of a freelance illustrator (Insert Hi Lovely Anna! here). No, there is no support group for spouses of freelance illustrators, or bloggers, or foundation board members, or computer nerds, or caricature artists. There isn’t even one for spouses of members of “The Usual Gang of Idiots”. Even if there was, I probably wouldn’t join. I would get so co-dependent. I would spend all my free time trying to save all the poor women whose husbands are always at their drawing boards, because they can’t say no when the phone rings. I would be trying to help them figure out the best way to get Dr. Martin’s India Ink out of studio carpets. I would have to make a website, listing all of the best hotels in the world with bathrooms big enough to ink in during the middle of the night while the rest of the family sleeps. I would have to help them with meal preparations, making sure that they can find good recipes for things that can be re-heated when it takes FOREVER for their artist in residence to come to the dinner table. These poor women! Someone has to help them! How can they be expected to live like this?? Oh, wait… I live like this. Yeah, I’m not good at support groups, I always try to save every body else from my everyday life.

What is it like to be married to a freelance artist?

  • Pro: He is always at home.
  • Con: He is always at home.
  • Pro: He sets his own hours.
  • Con: His hours are 24/7.
  • Pro: He is very creative and humorous.
  • Con: He thinks he is funny.
  • Pro: He is so talented, his phone rings off the hook.
  • Con: He answers every call.
  • Pro: He was there for every first step, first word, dance recital, baseball game, concert and taught all the kids how to ride their bikes.
  • Cons: None

Tom is a workaholic. He loves to draw. He loves his computer, and was born to blog. He spends more time in his studio than out. At times, he has problems with time management, but shutting off the phone and turning off the computer usually puts him back on course. He has never missed a deadline, even when it meant missing sleep. Our house is so far from the norm, but it’s all we know. We have been married 20 years this month, and I have always been lucky enough to be a stay at home mom. Tom has always had something on the drawing board, or was working at one of the parks to make sure we have everything we need and I was able to be home with the kids. Tom has learned to block out the everyday events happening upstairs, and I have learned to pretend that he is not home. We check in with each other many times a day, and sometimes even sneak away for a lunch together.

I would recommend marrying a freelance illustrator to anyone lucky enough to fall in love with one.

It’s worked for me so far.

The Lovely Anna is the long suffering wife of Tom and mother of four… five if you count Elizabeth twice. She graciously agreed to write this guest blog post to spare readers another appearance of the “Dreaded Deadline Demon” and Tom didn’t even have to bring up the afore mentioned “trying to ink the word balloon boxes on a MAD job” incident to guilt her into it.

Cartoonists Fight Bullying

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

I wrote the following on the NCS Website yesterday, but I thought it should be shared here also:


October is National Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. Founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, October is the month when communities nationwide focus efforts to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention. Over 30 cartoonists lend their voices to the fight against bullying in this “Flip Comic” book Bullying is No Laughing Matter that helps educate readers about this problem that is being called a “national epidemic”.

The book has two halves, printed so you “flip” the book over to read each half as the front story. In “Bullying is No Laughing Matter”, cartoons ranging from comic books to comic strips and panels that relate to bullying are collected, with background on the “scene” depicted and comments from the creators. The cartoons are designed to spark conversation about bullying and get readers understanding that is is not just a normal part of growing up, but something that needs to be addressed and dealt with. Among the many cartoonists who contributed work to the book are NCS Reuben winners Brian Crane, Greg Evans, Lynn Johnston, and Mort Walker. This half of the book ends with a moving story by 15 year old bullying “survivor” (as she likes to refer to her experience, as opposed to using the term “victim”) Camille Paddock, followed by information on what constitutes bullying and what you can do about it.

The other half of the book starts with a comic book style story by cartoonist Kurt J. Kolka called “Wrath of the Warthog: A Bullying Story”, starring Kolka’s superhero character “The Cardinal”. The story is a lesson about taking responsibility for how we treat other people, and rising above the kind of life circumstances that can create bullies. Following the adventures of The Cardinal is another comic book story, this one originally published in 1945 featuring “Daredevil and the Little Wise Guys” by Charles Biro, which tells a related tale of bullying and finally taking a stand when things go too far.

It’s a positive message, and one that needs spreading” bullying is not acceptable behavior. You can get more information by visiting this website.

The Mad Art of Caricature 2.0?

Friday, October 17th, 2014


Found out today that my book The Mad Art of Caricature! is totally out of stock on Amazon here in the US. I can’t quite figure out how Amazon works with its ordering copies from the publisher (i.e. me) in order to keep items in stock. It is obviously automated, as I will sometimes get two or three POs right on top of each other asking for copies to be sent in, but they are weird quantities like 2, 7 or 11 at a time, sometimes on consecutive days. The distributor (i.e. me) can have a standing request for “case quantity”, but Amazon will totally ignore that anytime they feel like it. I just cancel any POs that are not a full case (24) copies, and two cases on currently on the way to Amazon right now, but they ordered them too late to prevent running out.

Sales of the book have slowed down a bit since the middle of the summer, but they are still selling at an amazingly steady rate. Amazon and bookstore sales continue to chug along, and my wholesale distributor tells me I have a very low return rate on the book. This is really quite surprising to me. I honestly had no idea there would be such a continuous demand for a book on drawing caricatures. I expected to sell a lot of copies right away to caricaturists and then perhaps a trickle to those who might have an interest in the artform, but that trickle has been a pretty steady flow. In fact, the 6th printing of the book in on the horizon already.

I have been asked quite frequently when my next book is coming out. I don’t think I have another one in me, or if I do I don’t know what it would be about. I had a lot to say about how to draw caricatures, and with a few exceptions (material that I didn’t include in the original book in the interest of production time) I basically said it all in The Mad Art of Caricature! I have thought about doing a book on freelance illustration, but that business is evolving so fast I don’t know if what I know would be obsolete in short order, or how many people would be interested in such a book. Certainly a much smaller audience.

What is more likely in the near future would be an updated edition of The Mad Art of Caricature! with much of the previously mentioned deleted material added in. I had a whole chapter on caricaturing expressions, a section on drawing kids, some stuff about exaggerating bodies and action, and a number of other examples of caricature observations from photos with the accompanying caricature. Probably about 24 to 32 more pages.

My question: would anyone be interested in an updated version of the book? If so, what would you like to see added or more of? Just curious. I do not have this on my radar right now, but I have been thinking about it more lately.


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