Interview: Jay Lynch Pt. 3 [of 3]

Categories:  Interviews

[Art by Frank Cammuso]

Before his reinventing himself as a children’s book author through Toon Book properties like Otto’s Orange Day with Frank Cammuso and the Dean Haspiel collaboration, Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever, Jay Lynch was a driving force in the Chicago’s underground comics movement of the early-70s, publishing Bijou Funnies, which brought the comics world pioneering works by the likes of Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, and, of course, Lynch himself.

In the interim years, Lynch has worked on a wide range of projects, both comics and not, including the Spiegelman-created Wacky Packages series for Topps, and its successor, The Garbage Pail Kids. The artist also contributed to Mad, shortly after the return of counter-culture cartooning legend, Harvey Kurtzman.

In this final part of out interview with Lynch, we discuss working on Mad, whether today’s children’s books are a bit too safe these days, and the battle to stay afloat financially.

[Part One] [Part Two]

Do you think that children’s books have become a bit too safe?

Hypocritical? Well, it’s like a regular children’s book publisher will say that you can’t have the main character die—unless you’re Shel Silverstein.

His work was also a product of a different era. It would be interesting to see if he’d be able to get away with that now.

Well, Shel Silverstein’s books can be read by adults or kids. The Toon Books, possibly too. Actually, Art wrote some of the dialogue when they’re fighting and they say snappy things.

Do you find that you tend to work better when you’re collaborating on something?

Yeah. I think of myself as more of an editor than a cartoonist. The end product is better. Like, if I do a rough, I can put 2,000 people in one panel, and whoever draws it can draw 2,000 people. But if I were to draw it myself, I’d only put 50 people in it. So I think the end result is better. It all comes from Kurtzman’s Mad stuff. Kurtzman would do the rough, and Elder or Wood would be required to intensify it.

You’ve done some work for Mad, as well.

Relatively recently. Whenever it was that Kuyrtzman came back to Mad—I guess it was in the late-80s.

Did he play a role in bringing you on-board?

No, I just thought it would be—I never tried to work for Mad, because of the old idea that Kurtzman should have gotten a better deal. What happened was, Bob Stewart, who used to work at Topps, became Joe Orlando’s assistant, and I did a Mad stylekit. And I pointed Monty Wolverton out, because Monty draws just like Basil. They didn’t know that.

That’s his son?

Yeah. They started using him, and I wrote stuff for him. I wrote about three or four articles in the 80s, but it’s hard to do stuff for Mad, because you do it and it’s a year between the time you do it and when it’s printed, and it’s hard to predict what will be known in a year.

Especially in terms of the magazine’s pop culture satire.

Now I can do Obamalot. But what if he’s not elected?

You’ve since stopped working for Mad?

Well, it’s speculative. You write something, and maybe they’ll use it, maybe they won’t I’m in a position where I have to constantly do stuff to get money.

So what are you working on right now?

This very second, I’m drawing an old Wacky Package character for some guy who paid me $300.

So it’s a lot of commissioned personalized artwork?

Yeah, a lot. I did about 200 in the last three years. And I did a t-shirt for some kid’s Bar Mitzvah. On my Webpage, it says I’ll draw a piece of art for $300. I do that and some of the people get Mineshaft to print them, and then they’re original art, as well that’s worth more because it’s printed. Let’s talk about the new Toon Books book. I get royalties off of that.

Dean mentioned that if the book does well, he’d be happy to do a sequel. You’ve definitely left the door open for a part two. Is that something that would interest you?

Oh yeah. So it’s good that we can’t kill of the characters [laughs]. Yeah, there could be sequels now. It’s like twin superheroes. They’ve learned to get along, so next time they can learn something else.

–Brian Heater

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