Sunday Mailbag

September 11th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: When did you publish your first artwork? And where? When did you publish your first artwork in Mad magazine?

A: My first really published work, not including stuff for local restaurants or ads for realtors or similar, was for the comic book Married… with Children, for NOW Comics (as to how it all came about, you can read about my NOW Comics story here). I did the pencils for Vol. 1, issue #7:

This comic book job was a disaster. Originally the story was supposed to be about Al Bundy getting mixed up in some kind of caper with an “Elvira” type character. But the people at Columbia Television, who approved all the comics before publishing, objected to this either because it was too racy or, more likely, because they didn’t want a possible lawsuit from the Elvia people. Regardless, somehow NOW had the Elvira character replaced with a GAME SHOW HOST (not kidding) and changed the story and some of the environments to suit. Another artist did the new character art. Columbia also thought I made Peggy’s nose too big, so NOW had someone white out her nose and draw this weird looking line in it’s place with what looked like a very well used Sharpie. I had no idea about any of this until I excitedly got a copy in a comic book shop about 6 weeks after I’d turned in the pencils. I was devastated… half my artwork had been replaced.

Regarding the art I did on that job for NOW in 1990- it was awful. Not just sort of bad, but truly terrible. I got that job because I could do decent caricatures and no one with any real credibility in the comics world would work for NOW because they had a horrible reputation about paying badly, late or not at all. My storytelling and drawing were terrible…I was making it up as I went along. That didn’t stop NOW from (mostly) paying me to draw about 600 pages over the next 4 years, and towards the end I was starting to get the hang of it.

My first published magazine illustration was for Mpls/St. Paul Magazine circa in 1991. I can’t really remember the exact details, and I have no tearsheets of that job, nor any other record of it. All I have is an old scan of the original:

I remember I got a call to do it because one of the art directors on the magazine was a former classmate of mine from art school, and they needed a caricature of a local Minnesota politician who had gotten involved in a scandal with some young interns or something. I did the piece in a combination of airbrush, colored pencil and watercolor. This was also some pretty rough work.

My first published job for MAD was a piece called “Gadgets to Make your Home Theater More Like the Movies” written by Dick DeBartolo.

It appeared in MAD #399, Nov. 2000. That issue, BTW, was really the LAST completely old school MAD, all in black and white on the old, crappy paper, just like many hundreds of issues before it. Starting with #400, each issue had some form of color in it. #400 was a special issue loaded with color on the slicker paper. #401 had half the issue on the old stock in B&W, and the other half on the new stock in color. #402 was all on new stock, although about 1/3 of the content was still in B&W. #403 was the official beginning of the full-color MAD and, of course, the advertising.

So, there you have it. My sorted sordid firsts in publishing.

If you want to know the first time I ever got paid to do a piece of art, it was to paint a giant copy of the cover of the album Van Halen II for a high school classmate named Lori, who commissioned me for the unheard of rate of $60. I painted it on the back of an 8’x8′ piece of kitchen floor linoleum, and I had to deliver it on my ten speed bike on the other side of La Crescent, MN. I was 15.

Thanks to Marcel Recasens 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. Love the B&W MAD art. What movie are they watching? Looks like Julia Roberts and Peter Finch (or maybe Martin Balsam?)

  2. Well, it WAS your first time…

  3. Calvin says:

    aw…..i liked the crappy paper from the old days.

  4. Tom Faraci says:

    That Mad Magazine article sticks with me to this day. I had no idea it was your first job with Mad. Brings back fond memories…


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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