Entries tagged “sergio aragonés.”

Letters to Sergio

Sergio Aragonés is my favorite cartoonist and creator of my favorite comic book series, Groo the Wanderer. I’ve been a fan ever since I found a second-hand copy of In MAD We Trust!, and quickly fell in love with the spontaneity, wit and inventiveness of his work. It’s just so effortlessly hilarious.

A gaggle of Groos greet Sergio at Comic-Con 2007. (That’s my dad and I front and center!)

 Today is Sergio’s birthday, so I thought I’d share a letter of mine that saw print in issue 11 of Sergio Aragonés Funnies a few months back:

Dear Sergio,

As a longtime fan of your work, I can’t overstate what a treat it is to read each and every issue of Funnies. Your pantomime gags, Plop!-esque vignettes and delightfully jam-packed puzzles crack me up without fail, but the autobiographical stories are by far my favorite feature. It’s fascinating (and a lot of fun) to read accounts of your amazing life experiences, each bursting at the seams with your signature expressiveness, hilarity and warmth.

Your work continues to entertain and inspire me, and this comic is a treasure. Thank you for drawing it!

Your pal,
Tyler Sticka
Portland, OR

 This is actually my second letter printed in a Sergio comic. The first was six years ago in issue two of the Groo miniseries, Hell on Earth. It was a tad less reverent:

Dear Groo Crew,

Thank you for allowing me the fantastic opportunity to meet almost all of you at the 2007 Comic-Con in celebration of Groo’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Sergio’s my cartooning idol, and it was amazing to show him in-person the Groo illustration I did for the souvenir book.

More importantly, I’d like to thank you for returning to this character after such a long absence. Not because I enjoy reading his adventures and laughing out loud every issue; surely you’re all too bright to buy that sort of half-hearted line of transparent compliments. No sirs, I’m thanking you for providing the structure my life so desperately needs and, up until recently, the gourd-nosed one so diligently provided.

You see, earlier this year I tracked down the last Groo comic I needed. I had all of them, every story, in English. The pursuit of this goal had taken me through all the ups and downs of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood (the latter term applied loosely given the fact that I still read comic books). As my initial excitement for this accomplishment waned, I found myself grasping for some sort of permanence and, having been abandoned by the pursuit of the last telling of that first joke, I spiraled into an abyss of disappointment and shame. Where once I was a wildly successful millionaire philanthropist with the world at my fingertips, my motivation now dissolved until I found my only professional pursuit to be that most deplorable of occupations: cartoonist. My mental state also worsened, as I complained to my psychotherapist of strange urges to change my name “Gary Grossman” and start hunting for copies of Groo in Tahiti.

But now, Groo is coming back! Normalcy will be restored and my life will regain balance. Perhaps soon I’ll finally land that much more respectable job as a puppy fur broker, maybe even move out of this box (which is already snug due to all the Groo comics). Thank you Sergio, Mark, Stan and Tom for answering my prayers.

Gradually stabilizing,
Tyler Sticka

P.S. You’ll be receiving an invoice for the sum total of psychiatric bills incurred as a result of your elongated “break.”

(You’ll have to track down that issue to read Mark Evanier’s response.)

Here’s the artwork that was published in that year’s black-and-white Comic-Con souvenir book:

I met Sergio at the convention. He was very nice and extremely encouraging, which explains my record-breaking grin in this photo:

There’s a brand-new Groo miniseries in publication right now that pits the titular swordsman against the legendary Conan (the barbarian, not the talk-show host). It’s available digitally or at a comic shop near you (if you’re in the Portland area, my favorites are Excalibur and Floating World).

Feliz Cumpleaños, Sergio! Thanks again for so many laughs!

MAD’s going quarterly (What, Me Worry?)

Alfred and II was saddened to hear today that after years of sagging sales, MAD Magazine is going quarterly (and all spin-off titles are getting the axe). While Peanuts was my first love in comics, MAD was assuredly my second. It was satirical but not pretentious, naughty but not malicious. With cartoonists as amazing as Sergio Aragonés, Antonio Prohias, Don Martin, Al Jaffee, Jack Davis, Harvey Kurtzman, Mort Drucker and many more represented therein, MAD ensured itself a dedicated section of my bookshelf that exists to this day.

That being said, the change is understandable and more than a little expected. With the exception of a year or so in high school, I’ve never been a subscriber. I was introduced to MAD through my dad, who enjoyed both the magazine and pocket books as a kid, and encouraged by my mom, who tolerated many quests through used book stores searching for volumes which lay undiscovered. While modern films were being parodied in it’s pages, I was reading older back-issues from the book’s heyday. As great as many of the contemporary artists are, they’ve always felt foreign next to my yellowed, dog-eared copies of Captain Klutz, and parodies of Harry Potter have always seemed less like a private joke between the artist and I than did old satires of the Godfather series, Star Trek and MAS*H.

The more obvious issue is that of online competition. In an age of Pitchfork Media and IGN, it seems absolutely comical that I ever paid for copies of SPIN and Game Informer. I still believe that MAD offers a level of quality cartooning largely unparalleled on the web, but sites like YouTube are overflowing with the sort of irreverence and subversiveness that was once the source of MAD’s immediate appeal.

Mark Evanier is right when he says that the brand and personality of MAD are still too valuable to die quietly. While there are a plethora of well-written comics online, very few of them are also well-drawn. If MAD could capture the web’s attention while maintaining the standard of cartooning readers have enjoyed for over 50 years, we’d be the “gang of idiots” for not reading.

Art as conversation and the power of cartooning

Groo and Buddy HollyI was grinning ear-to-ear as I walked up to Sergio Aragonés at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, opened the souvenir book to a page of the Groo 25th Anniversary section and proudly proclaimed “I drew this.”

Sergio was one of the first cartoonists I had been exposed to outside the traditional newspaper page, initially by my father who helped me a acquire a second-hand copy of the paperback In MAD We Trust! While many of my tastes have changed since, I’ve never lost my love for Sergio’s deceptively economic line work and an impeccable ability to distill basic human nature and emotion to its most effective (and humorous) form.

Cartooning is powerful and possesses a uniquely universal resonance because it focuses on the important aspects of an object and omits what isn’t relatable. As Scott McCloud said in his fantastic book Understanding Comics, “By stripping down an image to its essential ‘meaning,’ an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.”

Though my opinions are constantly evolving, I’ve recently noticed that this philosophy carries through all aspects of the aesthetic works I enjoy. While I can admire the craft evident in representational artworks (especially that of David and da Vinci), I gravitate much more powerfully toward modern art movements such as impressionism, cubism, expressionism, futurism and modernism itself. While I attempt to maintain a fairly eclectic collection of music, I am hopelessly enthralled with rock and roll.

What do cartooning and animation in visual entertainment, modernism in art and design and rock and roll in music all have in common? All three respect a conversational view of art and communication. Purely representational works are mind-blowing for the events they describe and their impeccable level of detail, but they allow little room for personal interpretation. On the opposite side of the spectrum, more arbitrary works operating on pure expressiveness provide little foothold for comprehension. Conversational artworks are those possessing enough elements to interest, inform and/or enlighten the viewer, but with enough mystique that the audience might impart their own experiences and insight.

Like any good conversation, the best art is give and take. Of course, I maintain the prerogative to change my mind.