Sunday Mailbag

December 2nd, 2007 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Have you ever turned down an project because you disagreed with the content/subject matter of the project the client approached you with? Subject matter that was too “adult/explicit”, violent, racist, clashed against something you supported etc.? The reason I ask is that artists who may encounter such projects may get project offers in that vein and need the money but also wonder about possible future work loss from drawing such content. However the flipside is also drawing such controversial project may also get you exposure as suddenly your work is more noticed/discussed than ever before.

A: An excellent question.

Yes, I have had many occasions to turn down work that was of a subject matter I did not find palatable. I’ve been contacted to do adult content illustration many times, and been asked to do some work that I thought glorified drug use. Some of these jobs would have paid quite well, but I turned them down. There have even been the occasional jobs for MAD where I thought the borders of good taste (did I just write “good taste” and “MAD” in the same sentence?) were being stretched, but the staff at MAD also find that some lines should not be crossed, and we’ve always figured out ways to get the gag across without being overtly graphic. I’m no prude but there is a difference between being risk?¬© and being crude. Risk?¬© can be clever and funny… crude is just lazy, unimaginative humor for the shock value.

To each their own, but I think once you start down that path you will find that it’s easy to get typecast as an artist that works “blue” (a term actually meaning a comedian who’s jokes are very sexually graphic). Then you get that kind of work all the time, and some clients will avoid you for more conventional work because of your reputation. It’s a slippery slope, because the pay is often very good but getting pigeonholed into only that kind of work limits you.

That said, I recently provided a promotional blurb for a cartoon book by a friend of mine about an animated penis. Coming soon to a bookstore near you… or the ones with 25 cent video machines in them.

Thanks to Quikdraw 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!


  1. Bucky says:

    Slippery slope,….indeed.


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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