Dan Clowes interviewed by Mike Sacks: "Sylvester P. Smythe is the most unappealing character of all time"


Here's a great interview with Eightball's Dan Clowes that didn't make it into Mike Sacks' book, Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers On Their Craft.

Q: Were you even a fan of Cracked?

A: No one was ever a fan of Cracked.

Growing up, my friends − okay, "friend" − and I used to think of Cracked as a stopgap. We would buy Mad every month, but about two weeks later we would get anxious for new material. We would tell ourselves, Okay, we are not going to buy Cracked. Never again! And we'd hold out for a while, but then as the month dragged on it just became, Okay, fuck it. I guess I'll buy Cracked.

Q: It was like comedy methadone.

A: Right. Then you'd bring it home, and immediately you'd remember, Oh yeah, I hate Cracked. I don't understand any of the jokes, and [Cracked mascot] Sylvester P. Smythe is the most unappealing character of all time.

Shown above, Dan Clowes cover for DC's Bizarro Comics, which was rejected. I thought it was fitting for this rejected interview.

Dan Clowes interviewed by Mike Sacks


  1. Hilarious answer.

    BUT, I do remember a Chris Rush flexidisc in an issue of Cracked that, years later, I mentioned to him when I discovered he lived in my building (he’s still active and hilarious).

  2. That was a perfect answer, and pefectly true. I have to admit that cracked.com is pretty funny at times, though.

  3. I used to buy and devotedly read MAD, Cracked, and Crazy.

    Cracked was definitely an also-ran, but they did have a few good cartoonists, and did some ingenious stuff. One issue had a off-the-wall Tarot card deck. There was only one set of minor arcana cards (Cups, as I recall).

    Crazy was strange. Low-budget and a little surreal. Their TV and film parodies were all one page long, but still effective. One strip consisted of nothing but a picture of an old radio, with voice balloons coming out showing the dialogue of an old radio adventure. The only thing I remember about that was that one of the characters was a weasel who’d occasionally say “snert!” One issue had a lightly-illustrated short story about a suicide pact.

  4. The answer is funny, but the (long) interview should be read in its entirety. It’s very good and touches on a number of topics besides his days at Cracked magazine

  5. I’m from Bizarro world. I hated Mad when I was growing up–I bought Cracked and read it every month.

    Actually, I didn’t completely hate Mad; I liked Dave Berg and Sergio Aragones.

  6. During the mid-’70s, Cracked Magazine had one thing going for it that MAD didn’t, and that was the artistry of the great John Severin. Severin (whose style could best be compared to my favorite MAD artist of all time, Will Elder), did for Cracked what Will Elder did for MAD in the ’50s… he drew many a fine movie/TV parody story, capturing the likenesses of everyone from the Fonz to Darth Vader to Mr. Kotter.

  7. I subscribed to Cracked. I rarely read Mad. I loved and still do love Severin’s art. Then for a while Cracked got Don Martin too when Martin wanted Mad to return his art once it was published.

  8. I never really dug Cracked too much on the whole but I was a huge fan of the horror/monster-themed issues they did.

  9. Severin! He’s one of the “good cartoonists” I mention in #4. As I recall he had a recurring strip about a scruffy prospector. I believe he did work in the early MAD comic book.

    Don Martin moved to Cracked long after I’d stopped reading either it or MAD.

  10. Ha ha! True words, indeed. Cracked was the kid humor equivalent of Hydrox cookies. Not as good as the real thing at all.

    I still bought it once in a while, though.

  11. Great interview! I can’t say I know much about Clowes apart from his Ghost World work, but I enjoyed learning more about him. Makes me want to go pick up some of his stuff.

    I used to buy Mad Magazine like it was going out of style back in the 80s. I think I must have stopped by the time Don Martin left and I had no idea he moved over to Cracked. Sounds like Mad really took advantage of him, so it’s nice to find out that he was appreciated and rewarded in his later years.

    He was a big influence in my adolescence, that’s for sure!

  12. I bought a few issues of Cracked when Clowes and Peter Bagge were in it. I don’t remember anything being that funny – it was more of a novelty. After a short while I decided to stick with their Fantagraphics work.

  13. As with many other artists, you can be a Dan Clowes fan while accepting that sometimes he’s just completely full of shit.

  14. I read Cracked for only one reason. John Severin. He could nail anyones image and never missed a beat. I grew tired of both MAD and cracked after about twenty years of reading because I was tired of repeating material. For my money Lampoon outdid them both.

  15. I agree with the earlier comments that John Severin was the best thing about CRACKED; when he withdrew and was replaced with a hack named Walter James Brogan is when I myself withdrew as reader. (Later, Brogan dropped what I thought was a poor aesthetic & went on to design the characters for the Pirate’s Booty packaging.)

    I thought the relaunched magazine from a few years back was a good idea that had the misfortune of coming out just as the bottom was falling out of print media. In the long run, they may prevail over MAD, who is still making a go at print, albeit with diminishing returns.

  16. Great interview with Clowes. As a kid, I read Cracked, eschewed MAD, and remember the UGGLY family strip that Clowes did. I got into Eightball (First issue I bought was #12)because the looked seemed familiar to the UGGLY Family strip, though I totally missed LLoyd Llewellyn. I’m looking forward to more issues of EIGHTBALL, but Clowes is taking his time. Also, the comments about John Severin are absolutely correct and I’m glad that he is remembered, in the 80s he also worked for Marvel on their Vietnam-themed comics “The ‘Nam”, and another book called “Semper Fi”, which defnintely displayed both what a great artist and what a great storyteller in general he was. Back issues of the The ‘Nam and Semper Fi are probably available for next to nothing at your local comics store. It’s awesome to see people remember artist that mean something to you, but that the whole world seems to have forgotten. Keith Giffen’s Ambush Big or Legion work, anyone? How about John Romita Junior’s run on DD? Walt Simonson on Thor or FF? Howard Chaykin? John Byrne’s run on FF? Ok, I’ll stop.

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