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Want It!

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Bat van

Biting the Big Apple

Thursday, July 10th, 2014


The Lovely Anna and I are currently in New York City with Number One Son Thomas as part of his high school graduation present. When one of our kids graduate, they get a trip with just mom and dad to the destination of their choice (within reason). Tom chose NYC and we are seeing multiple shows, touring the sites and putting some miles on the shoes.

We’ll be dropping by the MAD offices tomorrow. I was going to bring the last two pages of my latest job for them with me and hand them in like the old school guys did back when Bill Gaines was there (Al Jaffee still does this) but did not for three reasons:

1. Since my art is digital, it would be anticlimactic to just hand over a thumb drive
2. They stopped giving you a paycheck on the spot before Bill passed away
3. The issue goes to press tomorrow, and I’d have been strung up by my thumbs turning it in that late.

So, I’ll just go in and harass editorial. That never gets old.

Finger Readin’ Good

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Some time ago I posted some of my thoughts on the long-time controversy surrounding the creation of Batman, specifically how much credit Bob Kane really deserves and how much credit writers and artists like Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson should be given. This is hardly a new topic. Kane was a bit of a polarizing figure, and his iron-clad grip on the credit as the creator of Batman has rankled many over the years who know that Bill Finger came up with much of the backstory, mythos and elements that make Batman the enduring character he is.

Writer extraordinaire Mark Evanier has recently written a couple of insightful posts on the topic that are well worth reading. Actually everything on Mark’s blog is well worth reading, but if this issue interests you then these articles are especially worthwhile. Few in the world of comics can speak with the kind of knowledge and authority Mark can, and he has some interesting points concerning standard industry practices at the times that can make you understand why this situation happened… if not condone the rectifying of it today. Read that post here.

I never met Bob Kane or Bill Finger, but I have talked with many people who have met both. I’ve been painted many different pictures of Kane as a person, and not too many of them are very flattering. The common thread among them is that he had a lot more interest in being rich and famous than he did doing any actual creating. Hard to fault anyone for that I guess, but to then demand respect as a creator is a lot to ask. That’s all second hand information, of course. I really don’t know what kind of guy Kane was, but I have never heard anyone dispute that Bill Finger deserves a lot more credit for the creation of Batman than he got, including (according to Mark on his blog), Bob Kane.


Sunday Mailbag- Subjects for your Prints?

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Q: I’ve just come from noseying around your blog where I’ve been greatly enjoying your “The Game is Afoot!” Sherlock Holmes series. This sparked me off thinking: when creating something like this, is the subject matter primarily chosen by your own enthusiasm and tastes (I know you’re a big Holmes fan), or are you keeping one eye on what might be a popular seller when it comes to limited edition prints?

Also, I was wondering whether you have all of your prints made in one go – or if you have a few smaller runs done periodically, to minimize the risk of being left out of pocket with boxes of unsold stock? I’m just curious to know your approach.

A: As to the first question—a little of both. So far I have not had too much trouble finding subject matter for a limited edition print that satisfies both my creative interest and that will appeal to an audience as well. I don’t think I would ever do a print where only one of those factors is paramount. The Holmes print is probably as close to being one-sided in favor of my interest in the subject over its commercial potential as any I might do, but one can argue that between the Robert Downey Jr. movies, the Benedict Cumberbatch BBC series and the “Elementary” TV show here in the U.S., Holmes’s popularity is at a high point right now. I figured this one would sell much slower than my others did, and I was right on that. It’s selling well but not crazy well like the Bond and Doctor Who prints sold. In fact, I am thinking about doing another print for Comic Con in a few weeks that I’d sell alongside the Holmes print… one that will appeal to the comic book crowd a little more.

As for the printing, I get them all done in one single run and then delete the high res full sized file so a reprint, even if I would be so lame as do do one, is not possible. I keep a high res, reduced size (about 50%) file in case I want to include the art in a book or something someday, but the actual file used for the print is gone and the original art is sold. Limited edition means limited edition. The printing I do is not cheap but it’s not ridiculously expensive like a giclee either, so I am not worried about being stuck with stock. 450 prints sounds like a lot but that stack is only about 8 inches high and the investment is not that gigantic. I actually order 500 prints, so I have some extra in case of any being damaged or my screwing up numbering or personalizing them. It might take a long time to sell them all, but eventually they will sell out.

Thanks to Mike Giblin 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!

Until Further Notice…

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The Dreaded Deadline Demon

Bunny Bash 2014

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Ended up planning a last second visit to my theme park operation in Massachusetts this weekend, and took the opportunity to swing through New York to attend the annual “Bunny Bash”. This is an unofficial NCS party hosted by the delightful Bunny Hoest Carpenter at her beautiful Long Island home. It’s a wonderful time and you see some pretty famous cartoonists there:

20140627-113947-41987583.jpgGerry Mooney and Bill Janocha chat with animator Bill Plympton

20140627-113945-41985829.jpgA shot of the patio

20140627-113944-41984775.jpgThe Lovely Anna won an award for being an awesome NCS First Lady! Unfortunately she wasn’t there, she was back home doing all my NCS work for me!

20140627-113946-41986785.jpg Some MAD folks… l to r: Me, Ellen, editor Charlie Kadau, art director Sam Viviano and Abrams Publishing editor Charlie Kochman.

20140627-113943-41983956.jpgSpeaking of awards, Long Island Chapter (aka the Berndt Toast Gang) chairman Adrian Sinnott received the Tim Rosenthal Award for volunteerism from the NCS, and a wonderful caricature by Stan Goldberg signed but the cartoonists present. Wonderful guy… both of them!

20140627-113948-41988386.jpgAdrian chats with gag cartooning greats Mort Gerberg (green shirt), Sam Gross (dark hat) and George Booth (light hat)

20140627-113949-41989183.jpgBarbara and Mort Drucker!


The Changing World of Freelance Illustration

Friday, June 20th, 2014

This was a recent column of mine in a recent edition of the National Cartoonists Society publication “The Cartoon!st”:

One of the things I love the most about the NCS is that our members cover the gamut of all facets of professional cartooning. Syndicated comics, comic books, animation, web comics, book illustration, gag cartoons, greeting cards… you name it and some of our members do it. I find it fascinating to hear and learn about the trials and tribulations of the different ways people make a living in this industry. I do mostly freelance illustration, which is an exercise in feast, famine, panic, and anxiety.

Like all aspects of popular media, the world of freelance illustration is changing. I used to do the vast majority of my work in magazines, but these days I am finding myself doing jobs for all sorts of different clients. Not that I wasn’t always open to doing different kinds of work, but the need for traditional illustration to accompany articles in print is shrinking and it’s become more important than ever to branch out into other outlets to stay busy. There are just fewer major magazines out there these days, and the budgets of the ones still around are less than they once were. There are still a lot of publications needing illustration, but most are niche magazines with mid to low circulations that cater to a very specific audience—publications for industries or specific hobbies like actuaries or snowmobiling, for example. These magazines still buy illustrations but they have smaller budgets and are harder to find and market to. Now more than ever it’s important to not be afraid to get “outside the box” and find work in different parts of the industry. Fortunately humor is something that is universal, and any form of media can and does need cartoonists/humorous illustrators to create visuals that invoke a chuckle while conveying whatever message they client is looking to get across.

Just to give you an example of the kind of wild swing the sort of work a freelancer might do, here’s a list of the types of projects I’ve done or am doing in the last 12 months: magazine illustrations, book illustrations, comic books, TV animation character design, product art for posters, T shirts and other merchandise, illustration for smartphone/tablet apps and assorted other jobs. In the past I’ve done character designs for CGI animation for films, concept drawings for toys and other products, storyboards for commercials and films, art for advertisements from prints to billboards, products labels, CD covers, art for computer games, movies posters, and many other diverse projects.  As I write this I am working on, among other things, a 44 page comic book for an independent publisher and doing the art for a birthday party invitation. That last one may seem odd but “odd” is the name of the game these days. Actually it’s no ordinary birthday party, it’s for a big media mogul who has bands like AC/DC play his birthday party and hires MAD Magazine illustrators to do his invitations. That’s a great example of the weirdness of making a living as a freelancer… if they pays you da money you does da drawrings.

Another avenue that is becoming an important part of being a freelancer is concept art. More and more jobs I do these days do not involve my finished art being the end result, but rather being part of a larger process. Doing concept drawings for products, commercials, and TV and movies has become a big part of many freelancer’s source of income. I recently explored the possibility of getting an illustration “rep” and had a conversation with an agent from one of the biggest rep firms in the business, Gerald and Cullen Rapp. He told me that much of the work they get for their artists these days involves concepts and visual design rather than finished art. This issue’s cover story (meaning The Cartoon!st) features a cartoonist whose bread and butter is that sort of work, Cedric Hohnstadt. His career trajectory is another excellent example of how traditional illustration is evolving into work that is part of a multimedia creative universe. Like most forms of creative work, freelance illustration is experiencing a tectonic shift right now, but also a renaissance. The demand for art and the people who create it isn’t going away. If anything, it’s increasing. What’s changing in the way it’s used, who wants it and how those people find the creators they are looking for.

The eternal bane of all freelancers is fear, mainly the fear that the job you are working on is the last one you’ll get for a month or longer… or forever. This usually leads to an inability to say “no” to jobs that maybe don’t pay as well as they should or that you shouldn’t take on as the deadline is too tight or you have too much on the board as it is. No matter how busy I am, I experience a physical pang every time I turn down a job that is offered to me. A freelancer is always afraid that the phone is not going to ring again for a long time, and he or she can’t say no to a job no matter how overworked they are.

That’s one part of the business of freelancing that hasn’t changed, and never will.

Bid On My Original “Usagi Yojimbo” Art to Benefit the Sakais

Monday, June 16th, 2014

I’ve written here about the ongoing auction by the Cartoon Art Professionals Society to benefit the Sakai family. My contribution is now on the auction block (see above). It’s an ink and watercolor piece the will be part of the Darkhorse Comics special book, “THE SAKAI PROJECT; Celebrating 30 Years of Usagi Yojimbo”, Being release in July, 2014 (at San Diego Comic-Con) with all proceeds going to Stan & Sharon Sakai.

If you have any interest, please go and bid as the money is going to a good cause. Stan’s wife Sharon is have serious health problems and any financial help they can be given is a major help. I don’t think this little piece will go for very much, so you might be able to get a good deal. Plus, how often do you see Usagi and M.C. Hammer together? If you rightly are thinking “meh”, go check out the other items up for auction by real artists!

Internet Woes

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Yesterday the internet connection in the studio, and the Richmond household for that matter, abruptly went belly up. A technician visits later today to figure out the problem. In the meantime the blog may suffer. My apologies.

Special Guesting at Grand Rapids Comic-Con

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


I’ve been invited to be a special guest at the Grand Rapids Comic-Con this fall. The event is taking place November 21-23rd at the Deltaplex on 2500 Turner Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Lovely Anna will be my booth babe, and I’ll be hawking my prints, original pages of MAD art, books, and doing sketches and caricatures all weekend.


I’ll also be doing a presentation at some point during the con, and it will be a combination caricature drawing lesson and how caricature and MAD Magazine fit together… so not my usual boring talk about my work. Should be fun! Hope to see some of you there!


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