Richard Codors most recent book, Too Many Latkes! (Behrman House), is now avail­able. He will be blog­ging here all week for JBC and MJL.

The mem­o­ry of my cousin hand­ing me my first copy of MAD Mag­a­zine when I was 12 is still fresh in my mind. I can feel my hands trem­ble as I looked down at the cov­er paint­ing of Alfred E. Neu­man as a scare­crow. My cousin said this mag­a­zine was going to change my life and he was right. From that moment on I was hooked. I was a car­toon­ist. As I turned the pages I knew all I want­ed to do was to make draw­ings that every­body would laugh at, just like that group of tal­ent­ed idiots.

This was also the time when I was obsessed with the Marx Broth­ers movies. There was no Net­flix, Inter­net, VCRs, or 24/7 TV. There were just three chan­nels on our black and white set and they usu­al­ly went off the air before mid­night. I’d scour the TV list­ings for weeks look­ing for one of their films. If one did appear it was usu­al­ly sched­uled beyond my bed­time. That night, when every­one was asleep, I’d sneak down­stairs, turn on the TV with the vol­ume just above a whis­per and watch, my eyes as big as saucers, the incred­i­ble com­ic anar­chy of the Marx­es. The next morn­ing, I’d trudge to school where I’d spend the bet­ter part of home­room, Latin, and Geom­e­try class­es fill­ing the mar­gins of my note­books with super heroes, goofy weir­does and slimy mon­sters, inspired by my real mentors.

My first brush with noto­ri­ety came about from one of those doo­dles in Hebrew school. Sit­ting in the back of class, as the teacher pound­ed away at the black­board on the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Hebrew verbs, I drew a small lit­tle sketch of her danc­ing a hora, naked. Under it, I wrote Mrs. K…. Blows!” I passed it to the kid next to me. He sti­fled a delight­ed guf­faw. I thought he would pass it back but instead I saw it make its way around the class with the sound of sup­pressed gig­gles. The teacher, sens­ing some­thing was up, grabbed the offend­ing scrap. She went on a tirade, which con­sist­ed of what an offen­sive draw­ing it was and want­i­ng to know what she had to blow” about since she felt she was a very mod­est per­son. The poor lady didn’t get it.

My pop­u­lar­i­ty went way up. From being just a face in the crowd, I was estab­lished as The Car­toon­ist for the rest of my school career. How­ev­er, the teacher got her revenge when years lat­er I lived and worked in Israel and sore­ly missed not hav­ing a bet­ter grasp of the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of those Hebrew verbs. 

My obses­sion with car­toon draw­ing has enabled me to make a liv­ing from illus­tra­tions, edi­to­r­i­al car­toon­ing, sto­ry­board­ing for com­mer­cials, TV ani­ma­tion and fea­ture films. Now, with the pub­li­ca­tion of my own books, like Too Many Latkes!, I’ve returned to the seat at the back of the class. I still want to make peo­ple laugh when I draw. 

Check back on Wednes­day for Richard Codor­’s next post for the Vis­it­ing Scribe.