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What I Learned From Sergio Aragonés: An Appreciation By Jorge Gutierrez

Happy 80th birthday, Sergio Aragonés!

Mighty mustached maestro Sergio Aragonés taught me, and perhaps most of my generation, the importance of a clear, fast read in a funny cartoon drawing – and the universal power of no dialogue!

Sure – appeal, construction, line of action, etc. are all important, but they mean nothing without clarity, which is something Sergio mastered and makes look so effortless.

Paperback collections of Aragonés' work for "MAD."
Paperback collections of Aragonés’ work for “MAD.”

He studied architecture in Mexico City and didn’t speak English very well when he came to the United States from Mexico (and prior to that Spain, where his family escaped Franco’s dictatorship) so he spoke to the MAD Magazine editors with his wordless drawings. And this “voice” has been beautiful and hilarious ever since. Like many immigrants, he turned his weakness into his strength, and his countless books and MAD cartoons have traveled the world and found an international audience because of this.

Sergio Aragonés' long-running comic creation "Groo the Wanderer."
Sergio Aragonés’ long-running comic creation “Groo the Wanderer.”

But perhaps the biggest lesson he taught me was how humble and noble he was with his fans, both young and old, at any of his signings. Hearing his words meant the world to many young aspiring artists, like this little chubby Tijuana kid at the San Diego Comic Con that Aragonés went out of his way to give advice and encouragement.

To see my hero review my little kid drawing and hear him say, “Keep drawing as much as you can and you just might make it” was life changing. Like many before and after me, I am a cartoonist because of Sergio Aragonés.

Below is the story of how I first met him:

Sergio Aragonés and Jorge Gutierrez at a comic festival recently held in Queretaro, Mexico.
Sergio Aragonés and Jorge Gutierrez at a comic festival recently held in Queretaro, Mexico.
  • Pedro Nakama

    Back in 1980 I was in the audience of a live television show called “Speak Up America.” At each commercial break they would cut to Sergio Aragones drawing a comic. He was right behind me and my brother. At the pre-show they kept emphasizing it was “live television.” Sergio, under his breath said, “As opposed to dead television.” He got my brother an I laughing. Very funny.

  • That is so cool you got to speak with him. A very nice article.

  • Elsi Pote

    It takes a master to be humble enough to praise those who came before him/her.

    God bless you Jorge!

  • Capital_7

    This is wonderful.

  • Sergio taught me to be a cartoonist. When I was a young lad back in Dallas, Sergio would look at my portfolio at the Dallas Fantasy Fair. He was the only professional who took the time to give me notes and pointers and always encouraged me to draw.

    Each year I would see him he would spend time looking at my work and pointing out what worked, and what did not work. He would show me perspective in just a few strokes better than any book could explain to me. He taught me composition, expression, you name it! Each time we met, it would be a long discussion about cartooning principles and how I need to apply them to my work.

    After a few years of this ritual, I moved to California. I saw him at Comic – Con. I presented my portfolio to him. He looked through it very methodically and had nothing to say. I thought “Oh my God! I got worse!” after a few moments of me sweating it out, he handed me back my portfolio, stood up, shook my hand and said, “Congratulations! You are a cartoonist!”

    That was my “formal” education. Since that day I have worked professionally for the past 20 years. And every time I see him it is with a big hug and smile and spending time talking about life.

    So, Happy Birthday Sergio! And muchas gracias, Maestro!

  • Jack Rabbit

    Ha ha! Just this week, a stack of letters came back to me I wrote back in the 70’s to last year. In them, there are scotch-taped his Marginal Cartoons, which fit right within the width of the tape. Ha ha! Forgot about those till I saw them, now I need a magnifying glass to see them. Ha ha!

  • Atish Tripathi

    Sergio is fantastic!! Back in the days before E mail and Instant mobile communication, I used to copy Sergio’s drawings from MAD magazine in the margins of my letters to my pen friends and parents.