Back in April I got a very unusual job from MAD. The client was actually Ballpark Franks (well, actually the Sara Lee Corporation), and they were about to launch a new ad campaign called “hunger”. This campaign was to feature TV and magazine ads with men who, upon seeing a Ballpark Frank hotdog, sprout a hairy and muscular arm from their stomachs which in turn seizes said hotdog for it’s own consumption. Ooooookay.
Ballpark Franks and MAD were collaborating on a kind of mini-MAD insert, which was to go into a number of DC comic books as well as the newsstand versions of MAD (for some reason the subscription versions were not going to get it). It had a MAD cover, six pages of “content” and then a back page ad with the guy and the arm. The “content” was done by MAD artists (myself, Sergio Aragones, Hermann Mejia and Sam Viviano) and were gags about the arm/hunger concept. I also did the cover. Here are my contributions:
Sergio did two pages of “A MAD Look at Hunger”, with several Sergio gags about the arm and hotdogs. Hermann and Sam collaborated on two pages of “The Museum of Hunger”, with several famous pieces of art redone to include the arm at a hotdog (American Gothic, David, The Scream, etc.). Mine is of course a send up of “The March of Progress” image (not my concept, just my art), here retitled “The Evolution of Hunger”.
My buddy Mark Engblom commented in an earlier post:
Say, speaking of MAD, I was hoping you’d talk a bit about the ad campaign appearing in this month’s comic books. You did a piece for it that was a take-off on the classic “evolutionary progression” image that I thought looked great. Yeah, all the fanboys are griping (as usual) about the insert , but I thought it looked great.
Thanks for the compliments, Mark. Yes, I expected some venom from comic readers and particularly from older MAD fans. I’ve read some comments on some message boards by fanboys whining about have to page through so many ad pages in the middle of their comics. Give me a break. Comics have been littered with ads since their inception. The amount of content of the comics they read is not being compromised. Is their attention span so short they lose their place after paging though a center section of ads?? That is truly pathetic. As for the MAD purists, there is certain to be a similar backlash as there was when MAD went to color and started accepting ads like their DC comic book counterparts. There will be a certain amount of “sell outs” and “Gaines must be spinning in his grave” comments. Gaines was cremated, by the way. All I can say to those people is welcome to the 21st century. We all wish MAD was still selling close to two million copies per issue and they could afford to thumb their noses at ad revenues. Sadly this is not the case for MAD or virtually any modern magazine. There isn’t a magazine in production today that existed 20 to 30 years ago and doesn’t pine for the “golden days”. At least these ads are creative and fun. I loved the 3-D Spy vs. Spy Mountain Dew commercials, and nobody seemed to have a problem with them. What’s the difference? I admit I winced slightly at the use of MAD‘s format itself as an advertisement, but it was short lived. This is a job, after all, and MAD is a working magazine, not some holy relic.
An ad for hotdogs in comic books is just another job, as far as I’m concerned. If there are rabid MAD fans out there who feel betrayed by first the ads and then this kind of campaign, then I’m sorry you feel that way. MAD is doing what it is required to do to stay viable and in print.
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918 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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