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 Sergio (Domenech) Aragones  (1937 - )

About: Sergio (Domenech) Aragones
 

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Lived/Active: California/New York / Mexico/Spain      Known for: MAD Magazine cartoonist and comic strip artist

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Sergio Aragones
from Auction House Records.
The Groo Chronicles Book 1 Cover (Epic/Marvel, 1989).
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Sergio Aragonés Domenech (born September 6, 1937,[1] San Mateo, Castellón, Spain) is a cartoonist and writer best known for his contributions to Mad Magazine and creator of the comic book Groo the Wanderer.

Among his peers and fans, Aragonés is widely regarded as "the world's fastest cartoonist." The Comics Journal has described Aragonés as "one of the most prolific and brilliant cartoonists of his generation." Mad editor Al Feldstein said, "He could have drawn the whole magazine if we'd let him."

Born in Spain, Aragonés emigrated with his family to France, due to the Spanish Civil War, before settling in Mexico at age 6. Aragonés had a passion for art since early childhood. As one anecdote goes, Aragonés was once left alone in a room by his parents with a box of crayons. His parents returned sometime later to find that he had covered the wall in hundreds upon hundreds of drawings. Aragonés recalled his early difficulties in Mexico, saying, "I didn't have too many friends because I had just arrived. You're the new kid, and you have an accent. I've always had an accent... When the other kids make fun of you, you don't want to get out of the house. So you stay at home, and what do you do? You take pencils and start drawing."

Aragonés used his drawing skill to assimilate. "The earliest money I ever made was with drawings," he remembered. "The teacher would give us homework, which would consist of copying Chapter Eleven, including the illustrations... a beetle or a plant, the pistil of a flower, or soldiers-- that type of thing. All the kids who couldn't draw would leave a square where the drawing was, and I would charge them to draw that. The equivalent of a few pennies... That's probably why I draw so fast, because I drew so many of them."

He made his first professional sale in 1954 when a high school classmate submitted his work to a magazine without telling Aragonés. He continued to sell gag cartoons to magazines while studying architecture at the University of Mexico, where he also learned pantomime under the direction of Alejandro Jodorowsky. “I joined the class,” Aragonés recalled, “not to become a mime but to apply its physical aspects of movement to my comics.” In 1962, Aragonés moved to the United States. He currently resides and works in Ojai, California.

According to the artist, he arrived in New York in 1962 with nothing but 20 dollars and his portfolio of drawings. After working odd jobs around the city, Aragonés went to Mad's offices in Madison Avenue hoping to sell some of his cartoons. "I didn't think I had anything that belonged in Mad, said Aragonés. "I didn't have any satire. I didn't have any articles. But everybody was telling me, 'Oh, you should go to Mad."

Since his knowledge of English wasn't very extensive, he asked for the only Mad artist he knew of that spoke Spanish, Cuban-born artist Antonio Prohías, creator of the popular Spy vs. Spy. Aragonés hoped Prohías could serve as a translator between him and the Mad editors. According to Aragonés, this proved to be a mistake, since Prohías knew even less English than he. Prohías did receive Aragonés very enthusiastically and, with difficulty, introduced the young artist to the Mad editors as his "brother." Mad editor Al Feldstein and publisher Bill Gaines liked what they saw, and Aragonés became a contributor to the magazine in 1963. His first sale was an assortment of astronaut cartoons which the editors arranged into an article. As of the 500th issue in 2009, Aragonés' work has appeared in 424 issues of Mad, second only to Al Jaffee (451 issues). "They told me, "Make Mad your home," said Aragonés, "and I took it literally."

The cartoonist has a featured section in every issue called "A Mad Look At....", featuring 2-4 pages of speechless comic strips, all related to the same subject. Aragonés also became famous for his wordless "drawn-out dramas" or "marginals" which were inserted into the margins and between panels of the magazine. The drawings are both horizontal and vertical, and occasionally extend around corners. Prior to Aragonés' arrival at Mad, the magazine had sometimes filled its margins with text jokes under the catch-all heading "Marginal Thinking."

Aragones convinced Feldstein to use his cartoons by creating a dummy sample issue with his Marginals drawn along the edges. The staff of Mad enjoyed his marginals, but expected him to only last one or two issues. They did not expect him to be able to maintain the steady stream of small cartoons needed for each issue.  However, Aragonés has provided marginals for every issue of Mad since 1963 except one (his contributions to that issue were lost by the Post Office).  Associate Editor Jerry DeFuccio said, "Writing the 'Marginal Thinking' marginals had always been a pain in the butt.  Sergio made the pain go away."

Aragonés is a very prolific artist; Al Jaffee once said, "Sergio has, quite literally, drawn more cartoons on napkins in restaurants than most cartoonists draw in their entire careers." Writer Mark Evanier estimated that, as of 2002, Aragonés had written and drawn more than 12,000 gag cartoons for Mad alone.

In 1967, he began writing and illustrating full stories for various DC Comics titles, including Angel and the Ape, Inferior Five, Young Romance, the company's Jerry Lewis comic book, and for various horror anthologies.  He also wrote or plotted stories that were illustrated by other artists.  Aragonés created DC's Western series Bat Lash, and the humor title Plop!. However, Aragonés broke with DC when the company began insisting on work-for-hire contracts; when Aragonés balked, an editor tore up Aragonés' paycheck in front of his face. He'd been trying obliquely to sell a comic book premise to DC or Marvel, but neither company would allow Aragonés to retain the copyright. "I didn't want anyone stealing the idea," said Aragonés, "and they weren't able to talk on a theoretical basis."

Aragonés had created the humorous barbarian comic book Groo the Wanderer with Mark Evanier in the late 1970s, but the character did not appear in print until 1982. (Groo was so named because Aragonés sought a name which meant nothing in any language.)  Evanier's role originally was as something of a translator, as Aragonés was still somewhat shaky at expressing his ideas in English.  Eventually the two began collaborating on story ideas, and there have been several Groo stories in which Evanier is credited as the sole writer. Aragonés has since become fluent in English. The other regular contributors to the book are letterer Stan Sakai (himself the creator/artist of the equally famous Usagi Yojimbo), and colorist Tom Luth. As a creator-owned book, Groo has survived the bankruptcy of a number of publishers, a fact which led to the industry joke that publishing the series was a precursor to a publisher's demise. The book was initially published by Pacific Comics, briefly by Eclipse Comics, then Marvel Comics under their since-discontinued Epic Comics imprint (which allowed creators to retain copyrights), then Image Comics, and currently Dark Horse Comics.

On 2 December 1982, Marty Feldman died from a heart attack in a hotel room in Mexico City. This occurred during the making of the film Yellowbeard. Aragonés, who was filming nearby and was dressed for his role as an armed policeman, introduced himself to Feldman that night. He encountered Feldman abruptly, startling and frightening him, which may have induced Feldman's heart attack. Aragonés has recounted the story with the punchline "I killed Marty Feldman". The story was converted into a strip in Aragonés's issue of DC Comics' Solo.

Aragonés's work has won him numerous awards.  He has won Shazam Awards for Best Inker (Humor Division) in 1972 for his work on Mad Magazine, and for Best Humor Story in 1972 for "The Poster Plague" from House of Mystery #202 (with Steve Skeates).  He won the Harvey Award Special Award for Humor in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001.  He received the National Cartoonist Society Comic Book Award for 1986, their Humor Comic Book Award for 1973, 1974, and 1976, their Magazine and Book Illustration Award for 1989, their Special Features Award for 1977, their Gag Cartoon Award for 1983, and their Reuben Award in 1996 for his work on Mad and Groo the Wanderer. In 1985 he was awarded the Adamson Award for Best International Comic-Strip or Comic Book work in Sweden. In 2003 he was awarded La Plumilla de Plata (The Silver Inkpen) in Mexico.

In 2009, an exhibition, Mad About Sergio, was held at the Ojai Valley Museum. Visitors saw examples of his cartooning dating back to childhood, publications he has appeared in, some of his awards, and Marginal-style sketches by Aragonés literally drawn onto the museum's walls and display cases.

When not winning awards, Aragonés has inspired one. The Comic Art Professional Society award's prize's name is "The Sergio," an homage to his work.

Source:
Wikipedia: Sergio Aragones
 


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