I Went MAD!
Any day now, everyone's favorite humor magazine, MAD, will publish their 500th issue!
Back when I was growing up, Mad magazine's cartoonists were a major influence on me. This, of course, is something just about every cartoonist can say. The cartoons of Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Paul Coker Jr., Al Jaffe, Don Martin, et all, were a big inspiration to a legion of young, wanna-be cartoonists. (Especially Jack Rickard! A big influence on my drawing. Anytime you see me draw a figure with their pinky finger extended, I am channeling Jack!) Not only were the cartoons drawn so freakin' well, they were really funny too! Every young cartoonist dreamed of someday working for MAD, of one day joining the ranks of the "Usual Gang of Idiots".
Except me. The artists at MAD were just too damn good. Why would they ever need to replace one of them? Not that I didn't have lofty hopes and dreams, but even as a young lad, I could never conceive of the idea that the editors of MAD would ever think enough of my work to say to one of their artists, "Hey, Bob Clarke, thanks for all your good work, but we think this Bill kid is much better than you, goodbye".
So I never, ever, considered submitting material to MAD, even at the start of my incredibly naive freelance career, when I thought all you did was send in some samples, and art editors would give you all the work you wanted and/or needed. (Note to young cartoonists: It's a little harder than that.)
I did write a lot of fan mail to MAD however, usually questions to the cartoonists, asking about the materials they used in their work, etc. Once in a while, I would illustrate the envelope, perhaps hoping someone would write back and tell me how good I was. Sometimes they wrote back and answered my questions, sometimes they didn't. When they wrote back, they were always very gracious and very kind, and even when they didn't, I didn't take it personally. After all, they worked for MAD! They were busy!
One Summer, in 1985, I sent one last letter to MAD. I have no idea what the topic of the letter was, but I do remember that as an afterthought, I doodled a cartoon of publisher William Gaines as a caveman with a dinosaur on the front of the envelope. My letter was never answered, and I went on about my life.
Imagine my surprise, when, 4 years later, I opened an issue of MAD (#291, 12/89) and saw that my envelope was on their letters page as the envelope of the month! Many thoughts raced through my mind as I looked at my cartoon, among them: "I'm in MAD!", "What took them so long?!", and, "If I had known they were going to publish this, I would have done a much better drawing!" (The drawing really makes me cringe now. A lot.)
I would love to know the story behind how it took 4 years for my drawing to get published. Knowing the magazine industry as I do now, I'm sure it had to do with some space to fill and my drawing lying around somewhere.
I don't really care. I was published in MAD!