"drew Friedman"

Drew Friedman's fantastic book with his portraits of every U.S. President

The great Drew Friedman took time to draw a portrait of every U.S. President. His work always blows me away (as you might guess, given the number of times I've posted about him). Below, a few samples from the book, which is called All the Presidents. It's published by Fantagraphics.

Some of these portraits will be on display at a Drew Friedman exhibition being held at Friends of the Libraries Gallery, Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, in Columbus Ohio, from November 2, 2019 - February 9, 2020.

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Drew Friedman's homage to science fiction illustrator Frank "Kelly" Freas in MAD

In MAD #7, illustrator Drew Friedman has a fantastic portrait of the great science fiction illustrator, Frank "Kelly" Freas, along with a short essay about seeing a copy of the paperback Son of MAD (with a Freas cover) as a kid.

Beginning in the late 1950s, the renowned illustrator Frank “Kelly" Freas was hired by MAD to be their cover artist. His vivid cover for the 1959 paperback Son of MAD is the first MAD image I remember seeing, and it remains, to this day, my favorite cover. The abject fear in the poor gorilla's face, the terrified-yet-nuanced pose of his body, the curled toes -- all as he’s encountering the infant Alfred E. Neuman as seen from behind. Pure visual perfection!

The cover is memorable to me for another reason. In the Beatles' first film A Hard Day's Night, the character Shake is briefly seen reading Son of MAD in the opening train scene. Two towering icons forever converged in that moment, the Beatles and MAD! When I first watched that scene, I was so thrilled my head (almost) exploded.

The moment I discovered that cover at age 5, my life changed. From then on, I was a Son of MAD. Not only did it lead me to becoming an obsessive MAD fan, but it spurred my mission to someday join the “Usual Gang of Idiots," something I later (amazingly) achieved.

Here’s my take on that life-altering piece.

Drew's story and illustration page was art directed by Suzy Hutchinson, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of MAD. Read the rest

The Book of Weirdo - a history of the greatest magazine ever published

Robert Crumb launched Weirdo magazine in 1981. I bought the first issue from the comic book store I worked at in Boulder, Colorado, and it blew my mind. It had comics by Crumb (many people, including me, think Crumb's work in Weirdo is his best), a selection of incredible illustrations from the late Polish artist Stanislav Szukalski's bizarre theory about human evolution (Netflix has a new documentary about Szukalski produced by Leonardo DiCaprio), comics by homeless Berkeley cartoonist Bruce Duncan, tracts from the Church of the SubGenius (Weirdo was the first place I came across the Church), and Foto Funnies (starring Crumb and amateur models recruited from UC Davis). I had never seen anything like Weirdo and I instantly fell in love with it, looking forward to every issue.

Here's the intro, where Crumb describes Weirdo as, "another MAD imitation, another small-time commercial venture with high hopes, obviously doomed to failure."

Weirdo was partly inspired by MAD, but it really took the look and feel from the short-lived Humbug magazine, launched in 1957 by MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman. Like Humbug and Kurtzman's follow-up humor magazine, Help! (which Crumb drew comics for), Weirdo had a small circulation (never topping 10,000 copies per issue) even though both magazines were loaded with talent. During its 28-issue run between 1981 and 1993 Weirdo ran comics by Peter Bagge, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Kim Deitch, Julie Doucet, Debbie Drechsler, Dennis Eichhorn, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Phoebe Gloeckner, Bill Griffith, Rory Hayes, Gilbert Hernandez, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, John Kricfalusi, Carol Lay, Joe Matt, Diane Noomin, Gary Panter, Harvey Pekar, Raymond Pettibon, Spain Rodriguez, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Dori Seda, Art Spiegelman, Carol Tyler, Robert Williams, S. Read the rest

Artist Drew Friedman remembers Stan Lee: "a complex man"

Portrait artist extraordinaire Drew Friedman worked as an intern for Marvel boss Stan Lee, and went on to draw Lee's likeness many times. On his blog, Drew remembers Lee:

Stan Lee (1922-2018), Born Stanley Martin Lieber, was a complex man. He was both worshiped and vilified, and has been described as a tireless and shameless celebrity spokesman for Marvel comics. He was an imperious comics writer and editor, a persistent self-promoter, and a credit and publicity hog. His public persona was charming, funny and affable. He was the face of Marvel for over half a century and probably the most famous man to have ever worked in the comics industry.

I got to know Stan when I was a young kid in the early to mid 1960s. My dad was a magazine editor at Martin Goodman's "Magazine Management" publishing company, and he shared an adjoining office with Stan for a decade, between 1954-66. Mario Puzo's editorial office was also nearby. My brothers and I would often visit and I always made a beeline for the Marvel comics offices, where Stan held court. He couldn't have been nicer to me, like a favorite uncle handing out candy, although in Stan's case, brand new Marvel comic books. Stan took a liking to me, especially after he learned I liked to draw cartoons. He'd often exclaim "Someday Drew is going to draw for MARVEL!" That was not to be although I did intern at Marvel for a week at age 14 in 1972 as part of a school work-study program.

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Incredible portraits of chosen people by artist Drew Friedman

I've said before that Drew Friedman is the greatest living portrait artist, and his new book, Drew Friedman's Chosen People, offers proof of my claim. It's available for pre-order now.

Featuring over 100 of Drew Friedman’s hyper-realistic portraits of the greats, the near-greats, and the not-so-greats, created over the past decade. Artists, cartoonists, comedians, musicians, actors, politicians, the famous and the infamous, these chosen people are just that: People chosen to be rendered by the man Boing Boing calls “The greatest living portrait artist.”

Subjects include Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash, Robert Crumb, Rory Hayes, Jay Lynch, Spain Rodriguez, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Chris Ware, Al Hirschfeld, Marc Maron, Redd Foxx, Gilbert Gottfried, The Marx Brothers, Phil Silvers, Lord Buckley, Hillary Clinton, Anthony Weiner, and, of course, Friedman favorite, Shemp Howard. No one is spared the loving Friedman treatment, including Drew Friedman himself!

You can catch Drew at two upcoming appearances: first in NYC at the Strand on Nov 15th, and second in LA at Book Soup on Dec 2nd, along with Merrill Markoe.

Here are some of Drew's portraits, which may or may not be in the book:

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Jerry Lewis’s last (Fore)Words

The next afternoon the phone rang.

“Hello?” came the unmistakable voice. “This is Jerry Lewis and I would be honored to write a foreword for your book.”

Only hours before; with zero expectations, we had dropped our (then-slender) draft into a Fed-Ex envelope with a brief query. Might Mr. Lewis kindly consider writing a Foreword for How To Read Nancy?

And now, here was the King of Comedy, enthusiastically consenting.

The snappy talking-point for How To Read Nancy (due this fall from Fantagraphics Books) is that “everything that you need to know about reading, making, and understanding comics can be found in a single Nancy strip by Ernie Bushmiller from August 8, 1959.”

Our backgrounds are as cartoonists and educators, and our short 1988 essay on this topic took on an extended second-life in comics curriculums around the globe. When it was time for a book-length expansion, we naturally sought an introduction by a serious scholar to lend credence to our book’s seriously improbable conceit. Luckily art historian and critic, James Elkins, the author of such books as How to Use Your Eyes and The Object Stares Back was intrigued. Professor Elkins has devoted a lot of serious thinking to the benefits of deep-reading visual texts and helped frame How To Read Nancy in a thoughtful, scholarly and substantive Introduction, replete with footnotes, photographs, and maps.

While our book is, in part, a serious reflection on some serious things, it is also a serious reflection on some funny things, particularly Nancy. Read the rest

Drew Friedman's "Heroes Of The Comics" exhibition

The great illustrator Drew Friedman will be exhibiting the portraits he painted for Heroes of the Comics and More Heroes of the Comics at the Museum of Illustration in NYC May 2 to June 3, 2017. (Read my reviews here and here).

Drew Friedman’s two recent books Heroes of the Comics and More Heroes of the Comics, published by Fantagraphics books, depicted the great early comic book creators who entered into the dawn of the business between 1935–1955, a milestone in the early history of comic books. The Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is proud to present 100 original, meticulous color illustrations from Friedman’s two books.

Among the colorful subjects are comics pioneer Max (M.C.) Gaines, the creators of Superman Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Superman publishers Harry Donenfled and Jack Liebowitz, and comic book legends including Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Will Eisner, (the subject of a large concurrent exhibition also at SI celebrating his 100th birthday), Jack Kirby, Martin Goodman, Harvey Kurtzman, Stan Lee, Wally Wood, William M. Gaines, C.C. Beck, Joe Kubert, Jack Cole, Steve Ditko, Al Jaffee, Carl Barks, Jules Feiffer, James Warren, and many more. Also included in the gallery will be several early female creators including Marie Severin and author Patricia Highsmith who began her career writing for comics, and several African American creators, among them Matt Baker, Alvin Hollingsworth and Orrin C. Evans. The greats and the near greats, many long forgotten with the passage of time but who deserve recognition for their work, now revived in Friedman’s two books and this exhibition.

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Illustrator Drew Friedman writes about working for Jared Kushner

"Hi Drew, I'd really like to talk to you, but there are many far more important people here for me to talk to right now." -- Jared Kushner, publisher of the New York Observer

In 1987, Arthur Carter began publishing The New York Observer, the salmon-colored broadsheet covering NY politics, show business, gossip and media. The Observer's first editor was SPY magazine co-founder E. Graydon Carter. Journalist Peter W. Kaplan became the Observer's new editor in 1994 and one of his first objectives was to line up four artists to create the newspaper's weekly covers each month. Peter first called me with an assignment to draw senator Al D'Amato and we instantly hit it off, realizing we shared a mutual love of old comedy films, Frank Sinatra and MAD magazine. Peter soon lined up the great caricaturists Philip Burke, Victor Juhasz and Robert Grossman as his other cover artists. He referred to the four of us as his "Murderer's Row", referencing the unbeatable 1927 New York Yankees starting lineup. Working directly with Peter, The four of us would create weekly covers for the NY Observer, (the NYO), for the next 15 years, with Barry Blitt drawing the small black-and-white cover caricatures.

In 2006, 25 year old real estate developer Jared Kushner bought the Observer and Peter Kaplan continued on as editor. When I first talked with Peter about the new publisher, he seemed excited about the future prospects of the NYO with this young, wealthy new publisher, equating him to Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, purchasing a money-losing newspaper and injecting new life into it. Read the rest

Don Rickles 1926-2017

Legendary insult comic Don Rickles died today at the age of 90.

From the LA Times obit:

Well into his 80s, Rickles continued to headline in top showrooms and concert halls around the country with his patented brand of insult humor aimed at everyone in his audiences from unknown “hockey pucks” to big-name celebrities.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter captured Rickles' act in 1998 at the Desert Inn when the “balding pit bull of a comedian” was 72.

To the strains of a bullfight trumpet fanfare as the curtain rose and a spotlight was trained on center stage, Rickles unexpectedly burst through a side door and immediately began pelting his audience with insults as he made his way to the stage.

“Sit up,” he said to one audience member.

“Who picks out your clothes, Ray Charles?” he said to another.

“Look at the old broad,” he said. “I'm workin' a home here!”

Image by Drew Friedman from his book, Old Jewish Comedians. Read the rest

Upcoming documentary about artist Drew Friedman

Drew Friedman is one of the best illustrators alive today. His work has appeared on the cover of MAD, Spy, and The New Yorker and his recent books about comic book heroes and Jewish comedians will go down in history as masterpieces.

I'm glad someone is making a documentary about Drew, called "Vermeer of the Borscht Belt." Kevin Dougherty is asking for $50k on Kickstarter. Read the rest

Drew Friedman's stupendous "More Heroes of the Comics" (Plus NYC EVENT 10/18/16)

I raved about Heroes of the Comics when it came out in 2014. Now I'm going to rave about More Heroes of the Comics, the new companion volume. This large book has 100 meticulous color paintings of people who were involved in the early days of comic books, painted by Drew Friedman, the great portraitist of our time. Each hero portrait is accompanied by an interesting one-page biography.

While Friedman's first book covered the famous heavy hitters of comics (Kirby, Barks, Kurtzman, Wood), More Heroes digs deeper, profiling people who deserve recognition for their work, even though it was sometimes behind the scenes. I'd say about 75% of the names were familiar to me (Otto Binder, Ray Bradbury, Gene Colan, Dan DeCarlo, Jim Warren, John Buscema) while the other 25% were new, and, for that reason, even more interesting (Olive Bailey, Bob Haney, Louis Ferstadt - colorful characters!).

The two volume Heroes set, is scholarly and popular at the same time, and represents a milestone in the early history of comic books. Drew Friedman himself is a hero of comics for making it.

Also, there's an event tonight about the book at the Museum of Illustration in NYC. Drew Friedman will be signing advance copies of the book and join in conversation with Karen Green, MAD's Al Jaffee, and moderator Danny Fingeroth. Also, Jim Warren, the legendary publisher of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, and Famous Monsters of Filmland, will be there with Drew. I wish I could be there. Read the rest

"Imagine" rewritten by Donald Trump, from this month's MAD

The amazing illustrator Drew Friedman created this art based on the back cover of John Lennon's 1971 Imagine album for the latest issue of MAD. Parody lyrics by Stan Sinberg.

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The American Bystander Comedy Quarterly #3

The new issue of American Bystander Comedy Quarterly is on Kickstarter. It features talent from SNL, Letterman, The Simpsons, The Onion & National Lampoon. Issue 3 has a cover by the great Drew Friedman! Read the rest

R. Crumb poses with Drew Friedman's autobiographical comic about R. Crumb

Drew Friedman says:

The world's greatest cartoonist Robert Crumb was in Portland, Oregon earlier this week, and paid a visit to the office of a private art collector and mutual friend who also owns the original artwork to my 8-page comic strip "R. Crumb & Me." The work was originally published in Monte Beauchamp's book Masterful Marks, published by Simon & Schuster in 2014.

The comic will also be included in The Best Comics of 2016, due out this Oct. Crumb happily posed for some photos with the original art, (I had been told awhile back that he greatly enjoyed the piece), after carefully studying each page. Crumb and I go way back, I had been a regular contributor to Crumb's magazine WEIRDO back in the early/mid-eighties.

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"We should still bomb motherfucking banks" – Robert Crumb

Jacques Hyzagi of The New York Observer has a long interview with cartoonist Robert Crumb. It's called "Robert Crumb Hates You." He's as cranky and fascinating as ever. The cover image was illustrated by the incredible Drew Friedman.

"I’m fascinated by the birth of the industrial revolution, the Victorian era too and this period when the Nazis occupied France. The documentary The Sorrow and the Pity by Marcel Ophuls is one of the best documentaries ever made, just people talking for hours, it’s fascinating, everybody should watch it. The Nazis could have never survived without the help of big banks and corporations, many of them American. If the Weather Underground was bombing banks I’m all for it as long as they weren’t killing too many people,” Mr. Crumb said.

“That was their creed at first, to bomb empty buildings,” I said.

“We should still bomb motherfucking banks,” he said.

“What did you make of Occupy Wall Street?” I asked him.

“I thought it was a worthy effort,” he said.

“I walked through Zuccotti Park and these fools were calling for ‘good’ banks, the church and Thomas Jefferson’s ideals.”

“That’s sad. 2008 was the biggest robbery in history and who goes to jail? Some poor black kid who stole some sneakers at a fucking Wal-Mart if he gets lucky enough to not get shot in the back on his way there,” Mr Crumb said, “A black kid recently in New York ended up at Rikers Island for stealing a backpack.

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Robert Johnson portrait by Drew Friedman

"This is my newly completed portrait of Robert Johnson," says artist Drew Friedman, "being released as a limited edition print to coincide with his 104th birthday, May 8th." Read the rest

Old Jewish Comedians - funny, nostalgic portraits of Borscht Belt superstars in their twilight years

Drew Friedman is the great portrait artist of our time. He’s always had an interest in the eccentric and the oddball, focusing on D-list celebrities like Swedish professional wrestler and actor Tor Johnson and late night monster movie hostess Vampira. Read the rest

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