Johnny Sampson, The Last Idiot Standing?

Johnny Sampson began his comics career with a sideways tribute to Al Jaffee.

In Tru-ly MAD-ly, the Chicago illustrator gets an assignment in 2013 from the editors of Pitchfork’s new magazine, The Pitchfork Review, to duplicate MAD‘s secret weapon: the Fold-In, an intricately designed transformer painting invented by MAD‘s scientist of cartooning, Al Jaffee.

Like most irreverent nerds, Sampson grew up worshipping MAD, so he sends a copy to Jaffee, along with a gushing fan letter. Months later he receives an envelope with familiar handwriting…

At that point the 40-year-old comics virgin, who up until then had devoted his talents to storyboards, gig posters, and illustrations, realizes his life has changed. He soon is doing gag panels for MAD, comics for Vice, and a recurring strip for The Stranger. He becomes Johnny Sampson . . . cartoonist!

Last year he took over the MAD Fold-In page with Al’s blessing,
now Johnny may be the last regular contributor to MAD magazine.

As The Chicago Reader notes:

Solicitations for the spring issue list no new artwork other than Sampson’s. There are a few optimistic signs. Hutchinson was excited to acquire new marginals (the tiny comics that appear in the margins) from Aragonés, tempering the pathos of his exit illustration, and Kuper‘s final panel, while literally apocalyptic, left a sliver of hope for future entries. But if MAD does not reverse course, and if Sergio’s batch of pantomime magic is finite, Johnny Sampson may be the final MAD artist, the last idiot standing.

Read The Reader’s cover featured profile of Johnny Sampson.