Q: If I send you something in the mail, with you autograph it for me?
A: First off, I will never get used to anyone asking for my autograph. That said, the answer to your question is: probably, but it depends.
It used to be that I would only very occasionally get something forwarded to me from MAD or sent directly to me from a fan asking for an autograph, and I would be happy to sign whatever and send it back (most kindly thought ahead and included a self addressed and stamped return envelope). These were always very specific and obviously came from a real fan genuinely interested in a signature because they enjoy MAD and/or my work.
These days the “fan” mail is more frequent, and often of a different variety.
I seem to get a lot of letters from people requesting an autograph that contain obviously generic notes that could pertain to almost any illustrator or comic artist. Here’s an example:
Dear Mr. Richmond,
My name is so-and-so and you are my favorite illustrators of all time. I think you have excellent talent. I am a huge fan of yours and admire your illustrations a lot. Your contributions to the art of illustrations will always be remembered, and I enjoy seeing your fine works.
The main reason I am writing to you, is in hopes, of you signing the pictures I have included. I know that you are very busy, but this would mean a very great deal to me. I am disabled and can’t get out much so I get a lot of enjoyment from reading your works. They help me forget about the pain I am in. You have so much passion when you draw.
I have enclosed a self addressed stamped envelope for your convenience. Thank you.
The bad grammar is verbatim and typical of these kinds of letters. Notice no specific mention of anything I’ve actually done. There is sometimes, but not always, the mention of being disabled/sick/on-death’s door. Included are 4 x 6 computer prints of stuff taken off my website, usually in such low resolution they are pixelated mush. These types of prints seem to be universally used by most of these autograph-seeking letters, as I get multiple ones in a similar format constantly.
Some of the letters are typed out and some are actually hand-written, but still in the same very generic language. Some do mention specific things I have done but in a weird way, like they are inserting them from a list they got from Wikipedia. I had one hand-written note from a person telling me they loved my work in “the Marvel Comics”, then they raved about my “CD-Rom graphics”, and my credit in the movie “Super Capers”. No mention of MAD and, let’s face it, if anyone actually wanted my autograph for any reason it would be because of my work in MAD. Some of these just don’t seem to pass the “smell test”.
I am puzzled over this. Clearly most of these odd requests are part of some autograph-seeking campaign, but for what? I cannot believe there is any market for autographs of obscure cartoonists on bad computer photo prints . . . so what’s the point? Just collecting as many autographs as they can get? I don’t know. Granted, it would only take me a few seconds to scrawl my name on these cards and send them back in the SASE, but given the generic nature of these requests (and the occasional playing of the ill/disabled card) it seems like some kind of scam somehow. I remember years ago getting a letter from some guy in Indiana or someplace who told me he was in a wheelchair and wen ton and on about getting my autograph and a sketch on an index card, which I did. Later I was talking to veteran comic book artist who stopped me mid-story and not only knew this guy’s name, but quoted the letter almost verbatim. Apparently this guy was infamous in collecting signatures and sketches from comic artists. I never did know if he really was in a wheelchair, not that it matters.
In consideration of all that, I universally ignore the obvious generic autograph requests…just on general principal.
However, I am more than happy to sign something if I am sure it’s from a genuine fan of MAD or my work. That means a handwritten note, personalized in a way that makes it obvious it’s specifically meant for me like mentioning some of my actual work. True, someone who is just looking to collect autographs could fake such a note, but I figure if he or she goes to the time a trouble to create that illusion, they have more than earned my worthless autograph.
I like the way Sergio Aragon?¬©s handles autograph requests. He won’t sign index cards, computer prints or blank autograph book pages for free. He will only sign copies of a comic book, magazine or publication he has done work in for no charge. He tells me that is because by buying something he did work in, the autograph seeker has supported his career by supporting the publisher/client who hired him and produced the work, so they get a free signature with his thanks. That makes sense to me. I am more than happy to sign copies of MAD, books, etc. that are sent to me so long as it includes adequate return postage, and I have done so many times.
So, you can send me a copy of MAD or something else I have done work in (like “the Marvel Comics”) with a SASE and I’ll send it back to you with my name written in it. Woo hoo. You scored there, brutha . . .¬¨‚Ä† that and $5.00 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Address here (mine, not Starbucks).
Thanks to Grant 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!
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