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Thanks, Sam. This is your fault. Sam is my cousin, and I thought his Mad magazines were funny and cool. So I started buying them, too. I was maybe 13.

It wasn't long before I drew a gag and mailed it to Mad, totally inspired by Sergio Aragonн©s, Antonio Prohн_as and Al Jaffee. Now, why did a sixth-grader think he could get published in Mad? I have no idea. Call it the naivetн© of youth. Or no good sense.

An editor at Mad (I swear it was the legendary Al Feldstein himself) was nice enough to send a handwritten rejection letter. I recall being upset - how dare they! - but I distinctly remember the note: "Maybe someday, you'll join the gang of idiots here at Mad."

There was hope! Maybe someday "...

Photo 1
Re-creation of what my Mad rejection letter looked like after I read it and before I threw it in the trash.

I moved on to comic books (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Byrne) and newspaper strips (Berkeley Breathed, Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz), devouring most everything I could get my hands on. In the meantime, I must have thought any company that printed comics was all right, so after attending the University of Texas (around the same time as Breathed, Michael Fry and Sam Hurt), I began working as a newspaper reporter. My crime stories appeared in the A section. Watterson appeared in the C section. Nice.

Photo 2
My contribution to the 1980s comic book market crash.

By the late 1990s, I was neck-deep in my journalism career, but my dream of creating comics was still alive. That's when I called a professional buddy of mine - Carlos Castellanos - and pitched the idea of together launching Baldo. The strip would focus on a Latino kid who (taa-dah!) had an active imagination.

Write what you know, right?

Photo 3

The most exciting days of my life:

1. Getting married (you're the best, Boo boos)

2. Birthdays of my kids (pass the cigar)

3. Getting a call from Universal Uclick that they wanted the comic (pass the tequila)

Photo 4
Inspiration can come from novels, biographies, graphic novels, reference books and caffeine-fueled deadline panic attacks.

I'm always writing. I'm always reading. Ultimately, the collision of two ideas inspires me. And that can happen anytime. Pad/pencil/cell phone are always handy to jot/tap down/sketch out ideas. Then it all sorts itself out at my desk (or at Starbucks), where sketches, scripts and final art come together.

Photo 5
A world without clutter is a world without creativity. I just made that up.

While coming up with ideas isn't easy, my goal with each strip is pretty simple: Deliver some kind of emotion (joy, anger, sadness, surprise, anticipation, the warm fuzzies).

 

Photo 6
When strips play off real-life news events, lots of people get mad and we get lots of angry email. I can live with that.
Photo 7
One of the most requested can-you-please-send-me-a-copies.

 

There are way too few achievements to list them all here. But I do have another most exciting day to add to my list. 

4. Opening the April 2014 edition of Mad magazine and seeing this on the letters page (a strip we did mentioning Sergio Aragonн©s):

Photo 8

Maybe not exactly the way Feldstein envisioned it, but close enough for me. Finally, after all these years, I was officially (if only for one issue) an idiot.

Read Baldo here or follow along on Facebook and Twitter!

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