Monday, August 31, 2009

Friends of THWAK - STAY TOONED Magazine

Here's a great read for anyone who is into cartooning, humorous illustration or just reading about your favorites and how they do what they do. Stay Tooned, edited and published by John Read (Gorilla Graphics) continues in the great tradition of the publication - Cartoonist Profiles. Each issue is jammed full of cartoons, spot illustrations and terrific interviews all within 88 big pages! It's definitely the kind of magazine where you can really learn about some of your favorites as well as be introduced to others you may not have heard of.

For me this happened after I read issue#3 and learned about an Alaskan cartoonist named Chad Carpenter and his strip Tundra. Not only did I really enjoy the interview but I was so intrigued that I went out and bought one of his books - and loved it! To me it is reminiscent of elements of my favourite strip ever, Gary Larsen's The Far Side. Check it out at
The above MAD flavored cover is rendered by none other than MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond himself, who also has a column in each issue entitled "The MAD Mailbag". This particular issue contains interviews with all the incredible talent mentioned on the cover. Two of which were conducted by John with Sergio Aragones and Jack Davis while at the Jack Davis lecture series in Athens, Ga earlier this year. Check previous post. This issue is still in the works but should be out shortly. Highly recommended!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sergio Aragones - The fastest Cartoonist on Earth...

Every year for the past few years Jack Davis hosts the "Jack Davis Lecture Series" at his Alma Marta the University of Georgia in Athens, where he honors an artist/cartoonist. Last years recipient of the "Bronze Shoe" award was Atlanta Journal Constitution's cartoonist Mike Luckovich. The award itself looks just like one of Jack Davis's exaggerated boots and according to this year's recipient is pretty heavy. Sergio Aragones has won every major award there is, although he was genuinely touched to receive this from his esteemed colleague at MAD magazine.

I was extremely fortunate to have been able to attend this function and the activities that took place leading up to the event. The day started off with myself and my friend, caricaturist Wade Collins driving about an hr and a half to Athens. After arriving at what we thought was the correct building we promptly realised that we were in fact in the wrong section of the campus. 15 minutes later we arrived at the "Draw done" where members of the Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society (who meet regularly at our favorite Mellow Mushroom Pizza place and who were involved in the Southern Fried Comics project - see earlier post) and other cartoonists, including Sergio were facing off drawing UGA students. It was a wonderful sight to see students drawing Sergio and he them, in as realistic a style as he could. Wade immediately jumped right in and took his place drawing feverishly. I took the opportunity to mingle and finally met Stay Tooned editor John Reed, who had the foresight to bring a good camera to take the pics you see above (more in a future post on his great publication). During a slow period I also got to hang out with Sergio for a good 15 mins during which time we discussed everything from the current state of MAD magazine, to publishing in general to his own ideas about future projects. I have heard many a person talk about Sergio's approachability and how down to earth he is and every word of it is 100% true. He was unassuming and genuinely interested in differing opinions and other people's work.

After the session ended we all went to lunch together in the Student Union building and then Wade and I drove around town while the rest of the crowd went back to their hotel rooms to rest before the festivities that night. The lecture started at 7pm with Jack Davis presenting Sergio with the Bronze Shoe award and then Sergio talked about his career, how he started drawing cartoons for his classmates in high school and how that led to him selling cartoons locally in Mexico and how he ended up at MAD magazine. Over the last 30 years he has been very active in the comics industry with projects such as PLOP!/GROO/Louder Than Words etc... As a matter of fact one of the GROO trade paperbacks was just about to be released and he was excited about that.

The highlight of the evening was without a doubt watching him draw with the aid of a projector we could all see the amazing speed for which he is so known for. And he was truly incredible. He'd ask the audience for a gag premise and then BOOM! he was off drawing a million miles an hr! WOW - we were all cheering and laughing. It was amazing. When the event was over Jack and Sergio signed whatever people had brought for them to autograph. A bunch more cartoonist and artists that I knew were all there and it was a great kind of reunion. About 30 people were invited to eat at Jack's restaurant in Athens, although unfortunately Wade and I had to bid everyone farewell as we both had prior commitments. We drove back home relishing the great time we had that day and the wonderful memories of meeting another legendary cartoonist.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Amazing Jack Davis

Back in 2003 we heard that there was to be an exhibit
of Jack Davis's work at the Atlanta History Center and
that on the opening night he would be there himself!
A showing of his work had just concluded in NY so it
was a very special treat
that this exhibit was now back in his home state.
The evening started out with my friend Buddy Finethy and I going for a bite to eat (a bucket of hot wings - if I'm not mistaken) and then on to the center. When we arrived we realised that the majority of the over 200 guests were UGA alumni, many of whom were classmates of his. We also realised that the $50 entrance fee also allowed us to partake in a wonderful buffet. Now we've both never been known to turn down food but for some reason we were too distracted by the variety of amazing paintings and illustrations that were displayed throughout the center.
We caught up with some collector friends who put out the very limited CFAAPA (a quarterly publication for a select group of original art aficionados). We all had the opportunity to meet Jack and he was gracious to sign whatever we had with us. This ranged from books, magazines and record albums to original art. One friend, artist Dave Newton (CRACKED/THWAK/JOKESTER) had a 1950's EC page, upon seeing that Jack remarked that he hadn't seen any of that material in many years. Even when presented with THWAK #3 our monster issue that parodied CREEPY #1 he didn't seem to recollect that piece either.
After some mingling there was a speech and lecture that went over Jack's various accomplishments culminating in a standing ovation for a vast body of work. I mean Jack Davis really has done it all. Not only being a premiere comic book artist, but his work for MAD and about a dozen of its imitators in the '60's while he was away from MAD, work for Coke (which afforded him the opportunity to go to NY in the 1st place!), to his movie poster work, bubble gum cards and ultimately his advertising work. Known as being able to render projects in record time, his every line screams ACTION! Even his signature connotates movement!
Again another humble, down to earth gentleman who has been instrumental in spreading the MADness among the masses even beyond MAD magazine.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Don Martin - The MADDest of 'em all!

It is no secret as to how much this man's work has been not only inspirational to me but a cause for continual comfort over the years. As you read the above article entitled "The Influence of DON MARTIN" from the Journal of MADness #10 or my bio to the right of this page - Don Martin for me and millions of others was the epitome of crazy, wacky, slap stick hilarity.

I am deeply saddened that I was never able to meet the man, although within a couple of months of his passing I was able to correspond with him via some letters through his wife Norma. In them I found out about what he was currently working on (the finished product is above entitled "Don Martin Brain Games for Kids") which is a book of puzzles with artwork taken from many of his prior works as well as a few new pieces.

While working on material for THWAK #5 back in early 2003 I purchased some original artwork on ebay of one of my favorite CRACKED artists, Bruce Bolinger. We began corresponding and I found out that he was in fact Don Martin's inker for all Don's output at CRACKED from '87-'93. An interview with Bruce and his collaboration with the Martins can be seen in The THWAK Bonfire of Insanity collection. It was interesting to hear about the process they worked out.

About 2 years ago I resumed my correspondence with Norma Martin, and after receiving a generous gift of a number of printed shirts, sent her the above picture of my daughter and I wearing the tees while reading one of her late husbands books. Incidentally we still love reading the brand new Completely MAD Don Martin although it's a little more of a chore to do as each book is like 8lbs or something : )
While we had this communication I suggested many different possibilities regarding material that has of yet not come out such as: The Completely CRACKED Don Martin, The NUTheads strips in their entirety (some were printed in the DROLL book - which the above signed page is from), Reader for the Unexpurgated Adult (revealed during his 10 page interview with HONK magazine in 1986), collected reprints of all his paperbacks and finally The Art of Don Martin - a book to encompass all his work from his early sci fi and Jazz record albums in the '50's through his advertising work, posters, T-shirts, calendars, greeting cards and the multitude of international books and magazines that were published over the years. After all Don Martin was even more popular in Europe than here in the States!
Hopefully one day such a long delayed book will be published! Now who's gonna step up to the plate and make it happen?

Kelly Freas - Sci Fi artist extraordinaire

I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Freas at Dragon Con in 2001 while promoting THWAK #1. I had seen his name on the guest list and knew that I had to meet him. He was set up a floor above me in a spacious booth with a large array of his fantasy art adorning every square foot of his wall space. The body of his work was huge, as could be seen from the numerous books, calendars, posters and postcards that were available for sale.

Luckily I was able to have about a half an hr to talk with him during which we discussed his coming to MAD after Norman Mingo, his appearance on the backcover of a Journal of MADness issue (check out the JOM pin I'm sporting in the picture!) and one of his favorite paintings of his wife that he had recently done. Incidentally his wife and daughter were both helping at the booth , or should I say running it as she was his manager.

I had specifically brought the above MAD for him to sign and it turned out that this cover had some memories of when he lived in Mexico and how he almost got arrested because the cover depicted gambling. The Comics Journal is issue #225 and depicts 2 iconic characters that kelly painted (for a full interview with Kelly check out the THWAK Bonfire of Insanity Collection book available from this site). Kelly was drawing either himself as Alfred or just a regular Alfred and to this day I am still upset at myself for not having an Alfred E. Neuman face drawn that day but it was out of my price range.
The last time I was involved with this amazing artist was in 2004 with CRACKED when he painted the cover to our final issue #365 (check out earlier post) which he signed and his framed on my wall in my studio along with all the other covers.
What a great humble gentleman and super talented artist and painter he was. He will be missed!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Al Feldstein "THE MAN"

I have had the pleasure of meeting Al Feldstein aka "THE MAN" firstly about 4 years ago at Dragon Con (huge Sci Fi and Comics show) here in Atlanta where he was one of the guests of honor and then about 2 years ago at the Alfred We Hardly Knew Thee exhibit put on by my buddy John Hett (The Journal of MADness" in Michigan (For an in depth account of this exhibit and show check out an earlier post on this blog from March).
While at Dragon Con I was able to talk with Al for about half an hr and discuss my passion for MAD magazine and what an impact it had made on me growing up in Kuwait, leading me to enjoy drawing, and then publishing and editing. He was warm and happy to connect with someone who truly understood what an impact he personally had made on not only those wonderful EC comics of the early 50's but on pop culture as a whole through his editorial leadership at MAD for almost 3 decades. I myself, although I admire Harvey Kurtzman's contribution to satire (it is huge from his "Hey Look" strips to MAD to TRUMP to HUMBUG to HELP to LITTLE ANNIE FANNY) can't help but feel that MAD would most probably have dwindled into obscurity like these other, albeit great works, too specific a commentary to be publications for the masses. It was through editor Feldstein's formulaic approach that America and the world embraced this now iconic magazine through familiarity and education. I know I learned plenty about the world around me just by reading MAD and always knew that every issue would bring no less than the very best in art and writing.
It was while having these great dialogs with him that he signed the above 2 issues of MAD, #29 which marked his debut as Editor (and coincidentally Don Martin's 1st appearance) and #30 which was Alfred's 1st fully rendered image by non other than Norman Mingo, who would become MAD's all time best cover artist and setting the standards to all the amazing talent that would follow him including Kelly Freas, Jack Rickard, Richard Williams and recently the excellent Mark Fredrickson.
The above picture is myself, Al Feldstein, John Hett and Doug Gilford (MAD cover site) - check out cool links on this site.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Unused MAD cover concept art

I painted this back when Teletubbies were first making a big splash on TV. It just so happened that my oldest daughter loved watching them at the time so I had to endure all the ridiculous cooing etc... I'm glad everyone in my household is into SpongeBob these days. That I like!

Monday, August 17, 2009

CRACKED Cover Reference #3

Here's the final installment of these CRACKED magazine cover reference posts. In the last official "Kulpa/Mega Media" issue and the last "Real" CRACKED magazine as a visual satirical humor magazine. This was without a doubt a huge honor for CRACKED as this cover was painted by non other than the legendary Sci Fi artist Kelly Freas, who had been MAD magazine's cover artist for many years during Norman Mingo's hiatus. Kelly also drew the covers to the 1st half dozen CRAZY magazines by Marvel which came out in the early '70's. With Marie Severin serving as Art Director and a brief appearance by Mort Drucker in issue #3, CRAZY had a certain MAD feel early on, changing quite dramatically with a new cover mascot "Obnoxio" towards the end of its run. My connection to this magazine comes in the great Kent Gamble who did all the CRAZY parodies from issue #20 throughout the end of the run with issue #94, with his cover contributions to The Journal of MADness, THWAK, and CRACKED, as well as some interiors his art continues to inspire me. Check out the THWAK Bonfire of Insanity Collection trade paperback. (Incidentally only a handful of this cover are left - a brand new painting will adorn the cover when the book hits Amazon later).
One can see some elements from both the EXTRA and TIME magazine covers. I thought that Kelly really captured the "goofiness" of both men. Overall a nice cover, and most probably the lat piece of published art that Kelly produced before his death early the following year on Jan 2nd 2005. For a full interview with Kelly Freas and how he came to work at MAD - check out the aforementioned THWAK trade paperback book available on this site.

CRACKED Cover Reference #2

In this cover by artist Michael D'Antuono (he also did a great spot illo of the infamous "Omarosa" from "The Apprentice" in this issue) we can again see how important good reference material is. In this case Michael labored long and hard to get the "Donald's" look, with numerous revisions before finishing all the color work digitally.

Incidentally this cover idea came from Scott Gosar (my editorial counterpart) who wanted a similar feel of the background of a dingy office like that on the Sept 1986 cover of The National Lampoon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

CRACKED Cover Reference #1

It is a known fact that all artists use various forms of reference material in order to draw virtually anything. In many cases they will also borrow a panel layout and make it their own by adding additional elements. I myself have often gone to my cartoon book library in order to find an animal, scene angle or personality.

In the example above we can see how artist Jason Seiler (in a sample of his early work) this NEWSWEEK cover to craft his caricature of Arnold Schwarzeneggar.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Steve Tyler & Rick Nielsen Definately CRACKED!

Not much more to say here !?

The Date

Here's a one pager from CRACKED #362 by Steve Herold and Ben Boling. Always loved the way this one turned out.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Local Atlanta GI Joe club interviewed on CNN

Here's an interview that recently appeared on CNN that some of the local GI Joe club members had an opportunity to be involved in. The main reason for the article was to showcase GI JOE & Action Figure collectors and highlight the new movie "The Rise of COBRA".
The prior day the entire club was invited to a sneak peak screening of the movie (which I personally give 3 thumbs up to! - intense action from start to finish - what a rush!!!) courtesy of Paramont Pictures (THANKS). We had a blast as we got to set up a visual history of Gi Joe in the lobby of the theatre for all to see as well as share the news of our very own JOElanta Action Figure Toy Show on March 28th 2010 (10th Anniversary) and The Cody Lane Foundation TOY & DIORAMA MUSEUM that we are in the process of initiating. Check out for more information and links.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Another peak behind the scenes from the artwork to the finished page. In this case a "crappy" one! This appeared in THWAK #1 and I must say I am happy with the layout. I know, I know it's not exactly sophisticated humor but I enjoy a good feces joke just as much as the next person. Also I have always gotten a huge kick out of drawing animals so this just seemed like a natural premise for me to tackle. Watch your step!