Sunday Mailbag

June 24th, 2012 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Do you have an assistant or is there any part of a drawing that you farm out?  If so, What part and Why?

A: I just had a conversation about this very topic with my long-time friend, comic book artist super-star Doug Mahnke, who came down to the house with his wife Michelle for my daughter’s graduation party. I was telling him how utterly and completely swamped I was with all these freelance assignments, and he asked me if I’d ever considered hiring an assistant to whom I could assign some of the more tedious “busy work” like backgrounds or clean up or such to. He has done this on and off over the years, training someone to do the work they way he wanted it done and freeing his time up to concentrate on the central work and therefore being able to do more work overall.

I have done that sort of thing only three times in all the years I’ve been freelancing. Once, I was doing a series of t-shirt illustrations for a company that produced golf-related products and I got overwhelmed by another assignment that had gotten much more complicated than it should have. I paid an artist that formerly did caricatures for me (who shall remain nameless) to ink several of the illustrations, with disastrous results. I spent more time fixing the inks than I probably would have spent just inking them. The second time, I was doing a large number of illustrations for a CD-ROM game for Hasbro called “Super Scattergories”, and had a different artist I worked with ink many of those for me: caricaturist, comic book artist and illustrator Andy Blakeborough. Andy did a great job, and I didn’t have to spend any time fixing anything. However, when coloring the illustrations I couldn’t help but think “I wouldn’t have done this” or “I would have done that differently”. . . in other words it just wasn’t my work anymore. The third time I was doing a 13 page promotional comic book for the movie “Super Capers” in a very short timeframe, and I enlisted yet another former caricature artist of mine to do most of the inking on the book. This time the artist was another big name in comics, artist and inker Tom Nguyen. Tom’s work is brilliant, and the end result looked great. However narrative comic book work is different from single illustration work, and I have had my comic book pencils inked by other before, so I had no issues with the blending of styles for the final comic. In fact, I had a lot of fun on that job working with Tom, who is a pro’s pro.

In the end, I don’t think what I do is something that lends itself to having an assistant. If I did a comic book, or a comic strip, or some other continuing project that had a consistent format and process to it, I could see training someone to do aspects of that process in a way that would keep the style and look consistent and keep me happy with the results. Most everything I do is a single illustration job that requires a unique solution and, while many of my jobs are done in the same overall style, there is no set part of the process I could hand over to someone else and expect them to get it all right. They’d have to be a mind-reader. I suppose the work I do for MAD parodies might lend itself to having someone do the inks or coloring, but then it wouldn’t be my work anymore. I am too much of a control freak to be able to do that.

So . . . no. I do it all myself, and do not see that changing anytime soon.

Thanks to Jack Coleman 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. Bill Karis says:

    I agree. If you were doing a monthly comic or strip, it would be easier to train someone in your style. Otherwise, it just isn’t you!


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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