The upcoming issue of MAD will be their annual “MAD‘s 20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of the Year” issue, which in the last several years has been getting quite a bit of attention on the interwebbys in the form of “exclusive first looks” of some of the various MAD 20.
Today Uproxx.com gives us the first of those exclusive first looks, this one is MAD’s Dumbest #10: a look at “Dennis Rodman, Our North Korean Ambassador”. Looks like the writer is Desmond Devlin, the artist is probably Gary Halgren, and I don’t have a clue who the colorist is because sadly this is the worst JPEG I’ve ever seen… looks like a thumbnail that was enlarged by 400%. Hopefully they replace it with a decent resolution image quickly, because it looks really funny but is unreadable.
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 89th birthday, Jack. Thanks for the inspiration and awe-inducing work you’ve thrilled us with for seven decades.
Q: Hey Tom! Not sure if you’ve covered this ever on your blog but here it goes. As we all know people come in all shapes and sizes. Now let’s say a lady is a little on the heavy side. Hopefully as she’s getting her caricature, she’ll know it’ll be somewhat exaggerated. But how do you find a balance on a “sensitive” person, so you’re not offending the person? In the case above, you don’t want to make the lady disgustingly fat and all that. But you don’t want to just ignore the fact that “she” is on the heavier side. It doesn’t have to stop at weight either. Say a bony nose, or big ears you get the idea. (Not so flattering characteristics we may or may not have). If a person has a bony nose, you can’t just skip that when doing a caricature. So I guess what I’m asking is, how do you keep that balance of “caricature-ism” but at the same time dealing with the sensitivity of some of your clients? Also has any clients been mad at the fact that you point these bad features out?
A: This question obviously pertains to drawing live caricatures, not illustration. It also is a question that pertains a bit more to caricatures done in a retail environment like at a theme park or a fair—in other words where the subject of the drawing is expected to pay for said drawing. You also bring up one of the biggest specific tarpits of the live caricaturist’s existence: a subject’s weight.
Firstly, in general: There are many schools of thought on the approach to retail caricature, and all of them fall somewhere along a scale with an extreme on each end of it:
Cute-acatures <————–> Fuckyou-acatures
On once end of the scale you have the complete artistic sellout: the Cute-acature. This is a drawing that has little to do with what the model actually looks like. It’s a drawing that is usually heavily based on a single look or style with some individual features shoehorned in, that makes the subject look cute, good-looking, cartoony, attractive, what have you. It ignores any and all features that might not come off as “ideal” and is meant to compliment and flatter the subject, even if it means giving a 300 lb man a jawline.
On the other end of the scale is the Fuckyou-acature. This is where the artist does a drawing that basically says to the subject: “Fuck you. I am an ARTEEST and I’m going to rip you a new one, and you are going to like it or you are an overly-sensitive moron.” This drawing goes out of the way to grotesquely exaggerate any flaws or blemishes the subject has… in fact it often OVER-exaggerates them far past any level of exaggeration the feature is actually asking for. For example, a subject might have a slight overbite/buck teeth. The Fuckyou-acature artist would draw the front incisors extending down past the chin, and in fact digging into the ground while the subject’s head pulls back and their feet barely scrape the floor. Hilarious, but few overbites are so severe they are demanding that sort of treatment. That becomes distortion not exaggeration, even if there is a glimmer of reason for it.
Neither approach is a very good one, although both can have their moments. The Cute-acature is usually the more commercially successful approach, but talk about a vapid and soul-crushing waste of artistic talent. The Fuckyou-acature will have its fans but without some tempering it will result in a lot of very pissed off customers, and not just the actually over-sensitive ones who would struggle with a good but honest caricature. Even people with a sense of humor don’t like being told to pay for a “fuck you” drawing that frankly is more about the artist than about the subject.
The best approach, both for all customers in general and in particular for one like in your example above, is a balance between the two. In fact, the really good live caricaturist develops a sort of sixth-sense about the tolerance levels of their subjects, and tempers their caricatures accordingly. This is especially true of a person’s weight, which is really in a class by itself when it comes to subject being sensitive. Why? Because it is viewed as something the subject can control, and therefore exaggerating it is like saying “you are guilty of being lazy and weak”. That’s hardly fair, because in many cases a person has only so much realistic control over their weight. Various conditions contribute to that, particularly genes. No one has control over how their nose looks, how big their forehead is or if they have freckles, but they do (or are perceived that they do) have control over their weight. Outside of surgery or some sort of cosmetic procedure, you were born with your features and they are what they are. Being overweight is considered (fairly or not) a correctable issue, and that makes it personal and therefore a subject of a far more sensitive nature.
Let’s take your example as a demonstration. A heavy-set lady sits down to get drawn…. where on the scale do you draw her? That depends. In talking with her, you could get the sense that she’s very comfortable with her weight (a rarity, especially in terms of being okay with it being the focus of a caricature), or you might get the idea she’s sensitive about it (like if she says “don’t draw me FAT!”). You cannot ignore that fact that she has a double chin, because if you do you will not get a likeness. However you don’t have to go out of your way to exaggerate that fat face to the point where she looks like a balloon with tiny a nose, eyes and mouth sunk into a fleshy ball of dough. I would never draw her so she looks like a scrawny Angelina Jolie, but I would probably look for other things to exaggerate and emphasize… especially if they are attractive things. Maybe she has very lush eyelashes, or her hair is big and flowing. Maybe she has a radiant smile, and I’d be sure to capture that. I’d still do the double chin, but I wouldn’t exaggerate it so she looks like Jabba the Hutt. When I teach rookie theme park artists live techniques, I always caution them to err on the safe side with people’s weight. Don’t ignore it, but don’t make it the focus of your drawing either.
With other features, that’s up to your assessment of the tolerance of your subject. If you get the sense they are babies about their big nose, downplay it and look for other things to emphasize. If they seem like they are into it, let them have it. MOST people understand what a caricature is when they sit down and that’s in your favor. You’d think if they really are vain they wouldn’t get one done in the first place… but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t believe they have the big nose they do out of sheer self-deception.
Do people ever get mad at a drawing? Sure they do. Sometimes you just guess wrong, or more likely you never had a chance outside of a “cute-acature” anyway, and then you lose a sale. Big deal. Just politely say you are sorry they didn’t like it and move on. You are a caricaturist, not a self-image consultant.
Thanks to Cam 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!
Since I self-published The Mad Art of Caricature! I’ve had a lot of people ask me when or if I’ll ever have a digital version that can be downloaded and read on the ubiquitous iPad or other tablet devices. I have been reluctant to do that because I didn’t want to make it so easy for the inevitable pirating of my book and its distribution for nothing via unscrupulous “sharing” websites.
Why the change of heart? Well, it really isn’t so much a change of heart as it is both the appropriate passing of time since the book’s release, and facing the reality that pirating is going to happen no matter what I do, so I might as well make it available for digital purchase to those who are willing to part with a few dollars to have a good, digital copy. That’s really the only way to combat piracy: offer it anyway for as cheap a price as you feel you can, and let the people with a conscience and some respect for authors, artists and other creators have a legitimate way to pay for the digital copy.
Yes, I know a number of people who lack said conscience and/or respect for authors, artists and other creators will upload the file to several unscrupulous “sharing” websites, but that’s already being done by people who bought the book and then spent hours scanning every page to do just that. Yes, no doubt some people will download that illegal copy and have the results of about 9 months of writing, illustrating, editing, designing and production… not to mention the 30 years of experience learning the things I am imparting in those pages… for nothing. How many of those people would actually have ever bought the book anyway? That’s the real question. If that number is less than the number of people who end up paying for a legitimate digital copy, then it makes sense to offer it digitally and let the chips fall where they may. If that number is more than those who do buy a legitimate copy, then I am shooting myself in the foot. I believe it’s the former, but I guess we’ll never really know anyway.
I did add this message to the front matter of the PDF book:
Thank You for Purchasing a Digital Copy of My Book
Supporting artists and authors by purchasing legitimate copies of their works is the only way to ensure artists and authors can continue to create the work we all love to enjoy.
The contents of this book took many, many months to write and draw, and it took almost 30 years of learning and experience drawing caricatures to gain the knowledge being shared here. A PDF of this book is available for purchase on my website for a very reasonable price. If you downloaded this book illegally and you like the content, please consider purchasing a legitimate digital copy for about what it costs you for lunch at a fast food restaurant.
Help support self-publishing, ebooks and most importantly the artists and authors that create them by purchasing the books you download and get something from.
Thank you for supporting the work of creative artists and writers everywhere.
That will probably fall on deaf ears 99.9% of the time when we are talking about people who will download an illegal copy of a book, just like the FBI warning at the beginning of a DVD elicits mostly guffaws and snorts from bittorrent users. However it’s never a waste of time to remind people that the content they are stealing was created by someone, and creators need to be supported if anyone wants then to keep creating.
So, all those of you who would like to get a PDF copy of The Mad Art of Caricature!, follow this link to my Studio Store and you can get one for the low, low price of $9.99 (cheap) with instant access to the download, and no shipping fees!! The PDF is 16.2 MB, so while it is pretty big it’s not enormous. The link will allow you to download it only once, but from there you can add it to your iTunes library for use on your Apple devices, onto your Google, Nook, Kindle or Android devices or read it on your computer, laptop, etc… anything that will allow you to read a PDF file. The table of contents is fully inked to the various pages and chapters, and the entire book has been reformatted to single page reading for a better experience on your tablet.
I’d love feedback on how the book looks on your various devices. I can increase the resolution if people think that’s warranted, although it will also increase the file size. It looks good on my iPad as it is, but results may vary.
EDIT- So I already have been told that if you download it on an iPhone, you need to make sure you save it as a PDF in iBooks before navigating away from it in Safari. Here’s a link on how to do this.
This is a wonderful time of year for most of us. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that isn’t about commercialism, selling toys or candy, or giving presents… it’s about the gathering of family and friends to enjoy a meal together and give thanks for the things that are important in life—health, family, community and any other blessings we might be lucky enough to have been granted in the last year.
For some people, the things they are thankful for can seem very distant in the face of the challenges life has placed in their path. As with any group, some of those in our cartooning family have had such challenges to contend with this year, but there is one couple who are in particularly great need that I want to make you aware of.
Stan Sakai and his wife Sharon are beloved figures in the cartooning and comic book world. Stan’s three decades of work on Usagi Yojimbo are examples of the triumph of great talent, great storytelling and creator-owned comics. Sharon has been a fixture at comic-cons and both are great supporters of the cartooning industry. Sharon’s health has been devastated by cancer and the extent and costs of her care have placed great hardship on the Sakais. Some background from Stan:
“A bit of background with what this is all about: In 2004, Sharon woke up one morning and said, “I can’t hear anything out of my left ear.” It was traced back to a meningioma brain tumor. It is benign, but large and inoperable. There was no hope of it getting smaller. The most we could hope for was that it would not grow larger. She underwent radiation therapy, and that seemed to control it. She went in for regular MRIs, and no growth was detected.
However, it started growing in 2010, and very aggressively. She has facial paralysis on the left side (everything happens on the left side). The paralysis includes her throat, vocal chords, and it has even deteriorated her neck bones. She had lost almost 40% of her body weight in a year. She is undergoing chemotherapy. Doctors don’t see any end in sight for this. There are complications because of the tumor, medications, or just coincidence–diabetes, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, compromised immune system. She has a tracheostomy tube for breathing and a G-tube connected to her stomach for a liquid diet. She can take nothing through her mouth. She is bed-bound, but we try to give her daily physical therapy–walking a couple hundred feet with a walker and/or sitting in a wheelchair.
She had been in the hospital and nurse care from April to September, but we are glad she is home. She requires 24 hour care, so daughter Hannah and her family moved in with us. This includes 18 month old grandson Leo, and another grandchild due in February/early March.
A lot of you do know Sharon, as she had been a fixture at my booth at San Diego and many other conventions. Thank you all for your help, good thoughts, and prayers.”
CAPS, the Cartoon Art Professional Society, is conducting ongoing auction of original art to benefit the Sakais in their need. 100% of the proceeds will go directly to Stan & Sharon to help pay their ongoing medical expenses. Please visit this page to find out how you can donate original artwork to help these wonderful people.
You can also donate directly via a PayPal account, the link to which is also on that page linked above (as of the writing on this, overwhelming response has temporarily shut down the PayPal link… if it’s not working please return later if you want to donate.
Please consider giving at this time of Thanksgiving to help one of our extended family through some truly trying times.
Exclusive first look courtesy of perezhilton.com. No doubt more sneak peeks of MAD’s “20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2013″ to follow on various websites. I can neither confirm or deny I did the art on “Dumb Thing #1″, nor that it has to do with our current U.S. Congress, nor that perezhilton.com is one of the 20 dumbest things of the year… Fa Fa Fa!
This week’s subject is superstar director JJ Abrams. JJ is a huge fan of MAD Magazine, so there is clearly something wrong with him. However, he makes great movies and TV shows, and I recently did a little project for him and sent this sketch to him as a thank you along with the original art. At some point I will be able to share the art I did for him… it was a sort of personal commission so nothing as exciting as a Star Wars illustration. I did ask to be paid for the work by being cast as a Jedi in the next movie, but he elected to pay me in money instead. You can’t blame a nerfherder for trying.
A Wyakin is a Native American “spirit guide” that legend says appears to a young warrior during a rite of passage where he is left alone on a mountainside to await a vision. Usually an animal such as a wolf, bear, or eagle, this “Wyakin” becomes a guardian angel for the young warrior and follows him throughout his life, offering guidance, strength and support.
The name is very apt for this program. The Wyakin Warriors is a lot more than just a privately funded source of free tuition for several wounded veterans. They provide mentors that aid and guide their charges throughout their continued education, and for a year beyond when they help find them placement and assist in their assimilation into civilian life. They also provide a lifetime membership in a tight, fraternal group that provides a source of support, friendship and continued resources like networking for the rest of a Wyakin Warriors life. These wounded veterans can have a particularly hard time mixing back into civilian life. Most were medically “retired” so they have no options for continued military service, and many deal with post traumatic stress and other mental challenges on top of their physical ones. Just throwing money at them is not enough, they need the kind of support the Wyakin Warriors program provides in order to stay on task and follow through on their education, developing workplace skills and ultimate entrance into the workplace with an eye on upward mobility.
How effective is the Wyakin Warriors program? The national average for injured war veterans successfully completing their post-military college educations is only 12%. The Wyakin Warriors graduation rate? 100%. That is due to the tireless efforts of the Wyakin Warriors board, staff, and support personnel. They are truly inspirational. I expect this program to become the prototype for future wounded warrior support initiatives all over the country.
So what do a bunch of cartoonists have to do with it? Well, not much except for trying to do our part to raise funds to keep this terrific program going, and adding more and more wounded warriors to their family.
Paul Combs, Jeff Keane, myself, Steve Moore and Jeff Myers getting filmed for a TV spot
Actually the Wyakin Warriors program was the brainchild of a fellow cartoonist, retired navy captain Jeff Bacon (Broadside, Greenside). You can read all about Jeff here, but that only scratches the surface. Jeff’s tireless work and advocacy for our wounded veterans and those still serving have made an enormous difference in the lives of countless men and women who have served our country. When Jeff needs me to do something in support of any of his efforts, I will set aside anything and everything do do whatever he asks of me.
Drawing at the Guardian Ball
In the case of the Wyakin Warriors, Jeff has invited groups of cartoonists to Boise to appear at their annual Guardians Ball to help raise money for the organization. For us, this amounts to no more than putting on a tux, drawing a few pictures for people and meeting and greeting sponsors and individuals who are there to support the WW. We also take the opportunity to visit the local VA hospital to draw for veterans there getting medical attention. We also donate artwork to a silent auction, and the official artwork for the Ball is created by one of the cartoonists (this year by Paul Combs) and auctioned off. I don’t think we really do much for the actual raising of real money for the WW, but we do have a lot of fun drawing for everybody. This year’s crew of cartoonists were:
Bill Amend (FoxTrot)
Jeff Bacon (Broadside/Greenside)
Todd Clark (Lola)
Paul Combs(Firefighter cartoonist)
Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace)
Jeff Keane (The Family Circus)
Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues)
Mason Mastroianni (B.C.)
Glenn McCoy (The Flying McCoys)
Steve Moore (In the Bleachers)
Jeff Myers (The Simpsons)
Here’s a link to a TV news story about our visit (sorry, can’t embed), and the pictures posted here are by The Lovely Anna.
Jeff, me and Mason drawing for WW supporters
The Wyakin Warriors recieve no funding from any government sources, it is 100% privately funded. Like any such organization, they are always short of funds to accomplish all they’d like to accomplish. Whatever your politics, whether you think these wars are fair or foul, these wounded warriors deserve our support. You can donate to the Wyakin Warriors directly here, if you are so inclined.
In honor of the opening of the latest “Hunger Games” film, here’ a look at 2012′s parody of the first movie. As always, clicky images to embiggen. The writer of the parody was Desmond Devlin.
First pencil rough
Above is the first pencil rough of the splash. This was a complex splash, because all the word boxes were being spoken by one person (Stanley Tucci’s host character “Cesear Flickerman”), there were a LOT of word boxes, necessitating three rows, and most of them described a character that needed to be near the box that describes them. So, I did something I seldom do . . . I drew the different elements separately and scanned them in as layers, allowing me to move and resize them as needed while the art dept played with word balloon placement. After some messing about, this second version was done:
Revised splash . . .
This worked better, and then I was able to go to finals. Here are the inks (final at top of post):
Hunger Pains inks
Here are some pencil roughs of other pages:
Pencil roughs page 3
Pencil roughs page 4
If I remember correctly, I really got behind on this job for some reason so for the last two pages, the roughs are REALLY rough, like barely there at all. In fact I added labels for the characters rather than attempt anything more than a circle for the heads or a scribble. I just needed the MAD editors to sign off on the bare-bones basics and I would do the heavy lifting on the final art:
There was a short period of time, right after MAD‘s iPad app came out, where the editors asked me to not draw the word boxes in the art anymore. This was supposed to have something to do with some sort of animation they were going to have in the iPad version of the issue, but that never really happened so eventually I went back to doing the word boxes myself. This job has no work boxes, however. Here are the final story pages: