Recently on Facebook, cartoonist extraordinaire Scott Shaw! created a new group to celebrate the work, talent, and incredible generosity of Sergio Aragonés … El Maestro, himself. Fittingly enough, the group is called ¡Viva Sergio!
The group has been filled with lots of anecdotes of encounters with Sergio at conventions, signings, and random places around the globe. Every single one is a testament to El Maestro’s graciousness, sense of humor, and love of comics (not to mention life). There have also been a string of photos—some showing covers or pages from Sergio’s well known comics (Groo the Wanderer, MAD Magazine, etc.), others the sketches he made when signing people’s books, and a few excerpts from books that you may never have known he was involved with.
One from the latter category caught my eye. It was an ink wash cartoon of a 1960s era Jewish mother serving a meal to a young fellow in a police uniform and saying, “That’s a job for a nice Jewish boy?” (See the comic here.) Funny enough on its own, but seeing that cartoon caused a nearly palpable flashback for me. I remembered being . . . I dunno, eight years old, maybe . . . in my family’s den, poring through the bookcase and coming across a little red book of cartoons entitled “Memoirs of a Jewish Madam.”
Now, I knew that “madam” was a polite word for a woman … so this must be a book about a nice Jewish woman, right?
Well, the comics certainly featured a middle-aged Jewish woman, but they ALSO had a slew of pretty women in very skimpy outfits. And jokes that I kinda got . . . but I knew I missing SOMETHING. So I brought the book in to my mom and asked her to explain it to me.
I wish I remember exactly what she said. All I recall was that she gave me technically accurate, but not terribly enthusiastic explanations and sent me on my way. I was too young to really get the context anyway . . . but I LOVED those cartoons! So I was unhappy when, a few weeks later, I went looking for the book again, and it had mysteriously disappeared from the bookcase, never to be seen again.
I’d pretty much forgotten about that book until a week or so ago. I never met anyone else who’d heard of it, and never saw a copy in any of the hundreds of used bookstores I’ve visited over the past 40+ years. But once I saw that single comic with the young police officer, it all flooded back to me. I had NO IDEA that those cartoons had been done by Sergio (at the time I hadn’t even encountered him through MAD Magazine yet) . . . but in my newly awakened mind’s eye, it was clear to me that this book HAD been drawn by El Maestro. Who else COULD it be!
So I hopped online, did a Google search, and quickly found used copies of both the original book and its sequel (it had a SEQUEL!) for sale from a used bookstore in Tucson, AZ. Inexpensively, too . . . because who knew that such things even EXISTED?!
A package arrived the other day. A package from Tucson. And inside I found charmingly naughty jokes, beautiful comics by a man I’ve admired for as long as I can remember admiring artists, and a whole slew of memories I didn’t know I’d forgotten.
¡Viva Sergio! indeed! ¡Viva El Maestro!