Sergio Aragonés: MAD’s Oldest Active Idiot

… Aragonés contributed to a special edition of MAD, publishing Tuesday, that marks the magazine’s 70th anniversary.

The special edition also spotlights Aragonés’s status as the oldest artist currently drawing for MAD. He says he’s been blessed with six fruitful decades at the iconic magazine…

Once Aragonés left for New York in 1962, he didn’t know whether editors there would appreciate these wordless cartoons.

MAD editors, though, valued Aragonés’s work immediately. They bought his cartoons featuring astronauts and asked for a piece on motorcycle cops. Aragonés decided then and there not to return to Mexico.

“When MAD accepted me, that was a change of life, a change of mind, a change of everything — somebody liked what I did,” Aragonés says. Yet despite this “radical mind change,” he appreciated: “I didn’t have to change at all. It was what I had been doing since I was a kid: drawing, drawing, drawing.”

Michael Cavna, for The Washington Post, profiles Sergio Aragonés
on the occasion of MAD’s 70th and Sergio’s 60th year with the magazine.

above: MAD #76 (January 1963), Sergio's first appearance in the magazine

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?” — 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.”

© EC Comics                          h/t: Mike Lynch

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