MAD magazine legend SERGIO ARAGONES has attended 34 of the previous 40 San Diego Comic-Cons and increasingly, he's found that the convention-going helps introduce MAD to a whole new generation.
Now, he's about to get a big boost in that noble mission.
The DC-owned MAD is pairing with Warner Bros. and story editor/producer KEVIN SHINICK to bring its brilliant satire and dazzling array of artists to TV by creating 15-minute animations.
"It's going to be fast-paced because it's geared to a younger audience," Aragones tells Comic Riffs. "It's for a new audience that probably hasn't read MAD before -- it's a different generation. It's a well-paced modern cartoon with a lot of modern humor -- though they'll also [feature] a couple of us old farts."
(In four decades of drawing for MAD, the California-based Aragones has appeared in every single issue but one -- years ago, he says, when the mails were slow from Europe one week.)
A younger MAD artist, TOM RICHMOND, also is hopeful about the program's potential influence. "I think this show will definitely help introduce MAD to a new generation of fans," Richmond tells Comic Riffs. "Too many kids today think MAD is either their dad's magazine or don't even know it is a magazine and think that the uneven Fox show 'MADtv' was it. Hopefully there will be a synergistic effect between the magazine and the show."
The Emmy-nominated Shinick -- well-known for his work on "Robot Chicken" and "The Ugly Americans" (as well as his one-man stage show "Spider-Man Live!") -- is at age 40 old enough to have been weaned on MAD magazine in the '70s and '80s.
"I've been a huge fan of MAD for a long time," Shinick tells Comic Riffs. "Since it began in 1952, it has influenced so much comedy, from Monty Python to 'The Simpsons' to you and I. ... Its influence seems to have been overshadowed a bit, so we want to bring it back into the spotlight ... to push it back into the foreground."
Shinick recalls the moment this project started to click.
"I was at 'Robot Chicken' and a friend was working at Looney Tunes," says Shinick, who got his show-business start as a young theater actor. "We sat with [Warners Animation honcho] Peter Girardi and others to discuss this and it just felt so natural.
"For some reason, during the meeting, I remembered a floppy disc that came with the magazine in the '70s. It was of a song called 'It's a Beautiful Day.' I began singing it, and then several other people joined in. It was just as I imagined it in my head from 1977. They turned to me and said [wryly]: 'You just might be the guy for this.' "
Neither Aragones nor Richmond has yet seen how their print art will be adapted as animation -- and both say they are eager to get a "first look" at Comic-Con.
"Everything is compartmentalized so I have no idea what the other show elements will be like, or even what they are," Richmond tells 'Riffs. "Based on the direction of the work I am participating in, the writers and directors definitely 'get' what MAD is about and I am sure what we'll see is literally MAD in motion. Should be a lot of fun.
"I have yet to see anything animated. ... I'm looking forward to seeing something moving about. The most challenging thing for me has been simplifying my linework and style to translate into the needs of the animated characters."
Says Richmond: "Sergio's work is going to be great to see. I'd like to see some work from John Caldwell and Hermann Mejia animated."
So what was be the litmus test for whether animated MAD is a success?
"Our objective to capture that flavor [of MAD magazine] and move that flavor onto a television show," Shinick says.
Richmond echoes that point. "I think success will be translating the essence of MAD-style humor into 21st-century animated form," he says. "The humor in modern cartoons is different from that on the page, and blending the two is going to be an interesting challenge."
Richmond then quickly notes: "Obviously, it being a hit on the Cartoon Network would be a good test of its success."
[The "Mad About MAD! panel -- also featuring MAD magazine staffers John Ficarra and Sam Viviano -- will be Saturday at 10 a.m. Pacific time in Room 7AB. ]
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