Posts Tagged ‘cartoonist’

Photo: Gage Skidmore.
Cartoonist Sergio Aragonés speaking at the 2017 WonderCon in Anaheim, California.

I always feel admiration for people who love their work so much that they keep doing it well into their advanced years.

In today’s post, Michael Cavna of the Washington Post writes about the staying power of Mad Magazine’s oldest active artist.

“Sergio Aragonés had long read Mad magazine back in Mexico by the time he first landed in New York, toting fresh artwork and hope. He stepped through the humor outlet’s front doors 60 years ago, expecting to find the place as wild in spirit as the publication’s satirically hip pages. This was, after all, the home of the staff’s self-anointed ‘Usual Gang of Idiots.’

“Instead, the recent college student was introduced to a relatively staid Madison Avenue office. Where was the whimsy? The Mad-cap frivolity? This was no clubhouse of high jinks.

“ ‘I thought it was going to be a lot of jokes on the walls,’ Aragonés says by Zoom from his home in Ojai, Calif., where he celebrated his 85th birthday last month. After he was hired that day he walked in to sell his work, he suggested to publisher William Gaines, ‘Why don’t we paint one of the doors to make it look like an elevator, putting fake numbers at the top?’ and befuddling visitors attempting to exit. Or perhaps better yet: ‘Why don’t we put a bomb in the roof with the sound effect “tick-tock-tick-tock”?’

“ ‘Bill looked at me like: “Sergio, this is an office of working people.” He wanted the office to be very functional.’

“What cartoonists cannot create in life, however, they are armed to imagine on the canvas. So for a new comic, Aragonés has drawn busy Mad office workers momentarily donning character masks … to entertain kid visitors taking phone photos.

“That strip is among a selection that Aragonés contributed to a special edition of Mad [that] marks the magazine’s 70th anniversary. Although the outlet has predominantly reprinted past material since it ceased regular publication in 2019, most of this special edition will be original content, including a Johnny Sampson back-page ‘fold-in,’ a film parody of Robert Pattinson as ‘The Batman,’ and a mini-essay by fanJordan Peele, whose film Nope features a fictional Mad cover.

“The special edition also spotlights Aragonés’s status as the oldest artist currently drawing for Mad. … He says he has been blessed with six fruitful decades at the iconic magazine, which reached millions of monthly readers at its 1970s peak and influenced writers at such shows as The Daily Show and The Simpsons, as well as Judd Apatow and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

“Aragonés’s high standard for consistent creativity is legendary. For decades, he only missed contributing to a single issue, and that was because the mail from Europe was slow in the 1960s. The cartoonist, who also produces the fantasy comic book series ‘Groo the Wanderer,’ attributes his mental fertility to mixing things up creatively, from narrative stories to the wordless art for the Mad margins, his signature domain. ‘The variety of my field,’ he says with gusto, ‘allows me to never get tired of it.’ …

“ ‘I suspect if Sergio were to go and donate blood, ink would come out of him,’ says John Ficarra, former Mad editor in chief. ‘He is incapable of not drawing.’

“Aragonés acknowledges that he does not suffer writer’s block because cartooning is second nature: ‘Drawing has become like walking.’ …

“Aragonés was born in the Spanish province of Castellón, in Sant Mateu, but within six months, his mother fled the Spanish Civil War — Sergio in tow — while his father fought for the Republic. The family reunited a few years later, but by 1942 they were World War II refugees in Nazi-occupied France. They headed to the North American nation that would take them in: ‘I have a debt with Mexico I will never be able to repay.’ …

“In high school, Aragonés drew his own cartoons (a creative ‘form of escape,’ he says), which a classmate submitted to a humor periodical unbeknown to him. They were purchased and published, sparking his self-belief. …

“ ‘The humor that I do wasn’t popular in the United States because American humor is always based on words, the British inheritance of the punchline,’ he says. Pantomime humor lacked such respect in the States. …

Mad editors, though, valued Aragonés’s work immediately. They bought his cartoons featuring astronauts and asked for a piece on motorcycle cops. …

“ ‘When Mad accepted me, that was a change of life, a change of mind, a change of everything. Somebody liked what I did.’ ”

More at the Post, here.

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Illustration: Rube Goldberg
From 1914 to 1964, cartoonist Rube Goldberg ran a series called The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. This one involves postage stamps. (1929, ink on paper)

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist known for his fanciful designs for machines, many of which inspired admirers to try to build a “Rube Goldberg” chain reaction. I myself at age 12 partnered with Joanna Pousette-Dart to make a contraption we called an “egg-breaking machine.” It was loads of fun, but my 7th grade science teacher, though genuinely amused by my demonstration, wasn’t thrilled that I forgot the egg in the classroom for days.

Recently Nadja Sayej reported at The Guardian about a new Rube Goldberg show in Queens, New York. You can catch it before February 9, 2020.

“There’s a cartoon hanging in the Queens Museum in New York – a drawing of a man with a shovel, digging through piles of paper.

“The papers symbolize government corruption, but they wind up in the dump. The caption explains: ‘Senate investigating committee digs up huge mass of evidence which passes before startled eyes of indignant but apathetic public, and then slides into obscurity, making room for next investigation.’ …

“The cartoon is from the 1940s, by the New York cartoonist Rube Goldberg. … The pioneering 20th-century artist created more than 50,000 cartoons in a career that spanned seven decades. This is the first retrospective in 49 years to look at Goldberg’s work. It also highlights his overlooked career as a Pulitzer prize-winning political satirist. …

“Goldberg wasn’t primarily a satirist but made a significant impact with his political cartoons. He received a Pulitzer prize in 1948 for a drawing called Peace Today, showing an atomic bomb teetering towards the brink of destruction.

“Goldberg … got a job at the Evening Mail in 1908 with a cartoon series called Foolish Questions. It was based on the premise: ‘Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.’

“In one cartoon, a woman asks her husband, who just came in from the rain: ‘Why, dearie, did you get wet?’ He answers: ‘Of course not – the rain is dry today.’ The series was so popular, readers started mailing in their own foolish questions for Goldberg to answer. …

“From 1914 to 1964, he ran a series called The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. Before becoming a cartoonist, Goldberg studied engineering, and here put his knowledge to work. He turned seemingly useless tasks into complicated chain reaction invention machines (in one, a car gets a windshield wiper from a dog’s wagging tail; in another, there’s a 20-step way to brush your teeth).

“It didn’t stop on paper, either. Goldberg’s invention machines made it to Hollywood. He created a feeding machine that allowed Charlie Chaplin to sip on soup without raising his arms in the 1936 film Modern Times.

“Much later, his breakfast machines were featured in blockbuster films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, where a toy train pushes plates along a kitchen, while in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a statue of Abraham Lincoln flips pancakes (which end up stuck to the ceiling).”

More here.

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Asakiyume writes a blog I enjoy a lot, and this week she had an intriguing post on Jackie Ormes, generally considered the first female African American cartoonist. See examples of work by Ormes at Asakiyume’s blog, here.

According to wikipedia, Ormes (1911 to 1985), “started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly African American newspaper that came out every Saturday. Her 1937-38 Courier comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club.”

The strip waxed and waned as Ormes pursued her many career interests, bur she always returned to Torchy.

“In 1950, the Courier began an eight-page color comics insert, where Ormes re-invented her Torchy character in a new comic strip, Torchy in Heartbeats. This Torchy was a beautiful, independent woman who finds adventure while seeking true love. …  The strip is probably best known for its last episode in 1954, when Torchy and her doctor boyfriend confront racism and environmental pollution. Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.”

Being a cartoonist seems harder than writing a blog. You not only need to find daily topics that interest you enough to dwell on, but you have to encapsulate them in a piece of art. Asakiyume sometimes illustrates her posts, but art is one thing you won’t find me doing here. (Unless maybe a collage.)

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