Evanier, Mark

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Evanier, Mark

Personal

Surname is pronounced "ev-uh-near"; born March 2, 1952, in Santa Monica, CA; son of an Internal Revenue Service employee.

Addresses

Office—5850 West Third St., No. 367, Los Angeles, CA 90036-2860. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Author of cartoons, comic books, and television scripts. Hanna-Barbera comic-book division, former head; Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate, former head of overseas comic-book division; author and editor of comic books for American Disney Comics, Gold Key Comics, DC Comics, and Hanna-Barbera; author of foreign comics for Disney Studios.

Awards, Honors

Three Emmy nominations; Will Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication (with Sergio Argonés), 1999, and Harvey Award Special Award for Humor in Comics, 2000 and 2001, all for Sergio Argonés' Groo; Animation Writing Award/Lifetime Achievement Award, Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America, 2003.

Writings

COMIC BOOKS

(With Steve Rude) Space Ghost in the Sinister Spectre, Comico (Norristown, PA), 1987.

(Author of introduction) Bugs Bunny and Friends: A Comic Celebration, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.

Boogeyman, illustrated by Sergio Argonés, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1999.

Fanboy, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.

Coauthor, with Sergio Argonés, of comic books, including Sergio Argonés' Boogeyman, Sergio Argonés Destroys DC, Sergio Argonés Massacres Marvel, Sergio Argonés Stomps Star Wars, Sergio Argonés' Dia de los Muertos, and Sergio Argonés' Blair Which?

Author or editor of comic-book series, including (with Will Meugniot) "DNAgents," "Space Circus," (with illustrator Dan Spiegle) "Crossfire," "Fan Boy," "Daffy Duck," "Walt Disney's Super Goof," "The Amazing Chan," "Garfield and Friends," "Superman and Bugs Bunny," "Space Ghost," "Tom, Dick, and Harriet," "DC Challenge," "Bugs Bunny," "Flaxen," "Walt Disney's Moby Duck," "Superman Adventures," "Looney Tunes," "Yogi Bear," and "The Flintstones."

"GROO THE WANDERER" SERIES; ILLUSTRATED BY SERGIO ARGONÉS

(With Sergio Argonés) The Life of Groo, Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1993.

(With Sergio Argonés) Sergio Argonés' Groo: The Most Intelligent Man in the World, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1998.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Houndbook, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1999.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Inferno, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1999.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Jamboree, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2000.

(With Sergio Argonés) Groo and Rufferto, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2000.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Kingdom, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2001.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Library, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2001.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Maiden, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Nursery, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.

(With Sergio Argonés) Groo: Mightier than the Sword, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2002.

(With Sergio Argonés) Groo: Death and Taxes, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2003.

(With Sergio Argonés) The Groo Odyssey, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 2003.

The "Groo" series encompasses numerous comic book titles.

OTHER

Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life, TwoMorrows (Raleigh, NC), 2002.

Mad Art: A Visual Celebration of the Art of Mad Magazine and the Idiots Who Created It, Watson-Guptill (New York, NY), 2002.

Wertham Was Right!, TwoMorrows (Raleigh, NC), 2003.

Coauthor, with Dennis Palumbo, of television scripts for series, including Cheers, The Nancy Walker Show, Bay City Rollers, Pink Lady, Bob, Mother Goose and Grimm, and The McLean Stevenson Show. Also author of scripts for cartoon series, including Scooby Doo, Plastic Man, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Trollkins, ABC Weekend Special, CBS Storybreak, Rickety Rocket, and Superman: The Animated Series. Author of pilots for cartoon shows Dungeons and Dragons and The Wuzzles. Story editor for Welcome Back, Kotter.

Author of weekly column in The Comics Buyer's Guide 1994-2002.

Adaptations

The comic-book character Groo, based on the series by Evanier and Argonés, is featured in a card game created by Archangel Entertainment; adapted the film Shrek as a three-comic book series in 2002.

Work in Progress

An unnamed pilot for the Cartoon Network.

Sidelights

Comic book writer and historian, television writer, essayist, and comic Mark Evanier is perhaps best known for his over-two-decades-long collaboration with cartoonist Sergio Argonés on the series "Groo the Wanderer," featuring the antics of an intellectually challenged barbarian. Since starting his career as an assistant to noted comic-book creator Jack Kirby in the late 1960s, Evanier has worked with many of the industry's greats. He is the author and editor of many other comic-book series, hundreds of columns, and several television shows, including cartoon programs such as Scooby Doo, Rickety Rocket, and Superman: The Animated Series. Awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 from the Writers Guild of America for his work in animation writing, Evanier was lauded for standing "'head and shoulders above most others in the field,'" as Craig Miller noted on the Writers Guild of America Web site.

Blame It on Mary Tyler Moore

Born on March 2, 1952, in Santa Monica, California, Evanier had a thorough education in the effects of choosing the wrong career from his father, an employee for the Internal Revenue Service, who hated his job. "As a result," Evanier commented on his Web site, POV Online, "[my father] urged his only kid—me—to do whatever he wanted to in life, as long as he loved it." So Evanier, as an eight-year-old, decided he was going to be a professional writer. On his Web site Evanier confessed that he has "never had a 'Plan B' since." He began reading and collecting comics as a child, and felt that his writing might be only in the field of comics. Then came a chance meeting at the Los Angeles Airport with one of the cast of the then popular sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, starring Van Dyke as a comedy writer and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife, Laura Petrie. The cast member gave the twelve-year-old Evanier a card that would get him into a taping of his favorite show. Sitting in the seats arranged for him and his family and watching the behind-the-scenes world of television, he knew suddenly this was for him. "A thought hit me at that moment," he wrote in "POV: The Dick Van Dyke Show," an article originally published in Comics Buyer magazine, and reproduced on his Web site. "A thought not-unimportant in my life. I hope, at some point in your life, you've had a similar thought . . . or that, if you haven't, you will. The thought was this: 'That's what I want to do.'" Evanier further explained in his "POV" article, "Every time I've read a biography of some great actor, there's a moment when they have that thought. Usually, they're sitting in a darkened movie theater, looking up at a Vivien Leigh or a Clark Gable or someone Larger Than Life. Or it happens in a legit theater or while watching TV. They point at the screen and say, 'That's what I want to do.' Sitting there in the Desilu bleachers . . . is where I had my moment." Evanier continued, "And I already knew the fictionalized version of what a professional writer was; like I said, The Dick Van Dyke Show was my favorite show. But suddenly, I was looking at two professional writers in their natural habitat; suddenly, I had a real scene into which I could imagine myself. And it didn't seem so unattainable: I wasn't imagining myself as President of the United States or pitching for the Dodgers or singing on The Ed Sullivan Show with women squealing or anything of the sort; I was just seeing myself standing in the wings, wearing a sweater, holding a three-ring script binder and watching people laugh at what I'd written." Evanier concluded by saying, "'Yeah,' I thought. 'I could do that.' It looked like it was fun and, besides, you got to hang around with women who looked like Mary Tyler Moore."

This epiphany stuck with Evanier; graduating from high school in 1969, he had no dreams of college. Instead, he intended to become a writer. Which he did. Within a week he sold several articles to local magazines, and never looked back.

A Career in Comics and Television

Not long after these first sales, the young Evanier met a legend of comic books, Jack Kirby, who Evanier dubbed "one of the true geniuses of my lifetime" on his Web site. Kirby offered him a job as an unpaid assistant, and Evanier jumped at the opportunity. Kirby, a pro from the Golden Age of comics, was the creator or co-creator of superheroes such as Captain America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, and Sgt. Fury. Evanier further explained on his Web site the importance of Kirby in his life: "I was fortunate enough to be [Kirby's] utterly-unnecessary assistant for a few years, and to have him as friend and mentor for more than a quarter-century. Never a day goes by without me applying something I learned from the Man . . . and never a day goes by without someone asking me a question about him." After apprenticing with Kirby, Evanier started writing comics for Disney and Warner Brothers. For Disney, he began by writing versions of series such as "Donald Duck" and "Goofy" for publication overseas. This, in turn, led to Evanier writing comic books for Disney's domestic market, published by Gold Key Comics. Soon he was writing on other Gold Key imprints from Warner: "Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Woody Woodpecker," and "Scooby Doo." Working on the last series, he teamed up with artist Dan Spiegle, with whom he has several other collaborative efforts. By 1974, he was also writing for the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, scripting books for the characters Tarzan and Korak.

Television soon drew Evanier when he teamed up with another young writer, Dennis Palumbo. Together they wrote for The Nancy Walker Show and The McLean Stevenson Show. They also worked as story editors for the popular program, Welcome Back, Kotter. "I somehow became typed as a variety show writer," Evanier noted on his Web site, "and wrote many a special or series in that dying genre, thereby hastening its demise. Most of them were for the legendary Sid and Marty Krofft and included the infamous Pink Lady and Jeff, which toplined two Japanese ladies who spoke almost no English, and a series with the Bay City Rollers, who spoke English but were no more intelligible" After these early ventures, Evanier returned to comic-book writing, joining the Hanna-Barbera comic book division on books such as "Scooby Doo," with art by Spiegle, while also continuing to write for numerous television shows, including cartoon programs including Scooby Doo, Plastic Man, Thundarr the Barbarian, The Trollkins, ABC Weekend Special, CBS Storybreak, and numerous others. With Spiegle he also began writing and editing the series "Blackhawk" for DC Comics.

"Groo the Wanderer"

Evanier became friends with cartoonist Sergio Argonés in the late 1960s. At a party in 1977, Argonés showed him some sketches of a goofy looking barbarian he was toying with for a new comic book, and Evanier was impressed. The two had long meant to collaborate on a book, but for a couple more years nothing came of it. In 1981 Argonés published the first installment of "Groo the Wanderer" in Mad magazine and was overwhelmed with the response he got to the comic. People wanted more, and Argonés did not have more at the time. That is when he and Evanier teamed up on the title, making it a creator-owned book—something of a rarity at the time. They went through a series of publishers with the book: Pacific Comics, Eclipse Comics, Marvel/Epic Comics and Image Comics. "Of those," Evanier noted on his Web site, "three have declared bankruptcy (though Marvel has somehow managed to linger on) and the fourth has internal legal problems." In the 1990s publication was taken over by Dark Horse Comics and the book continues to sell well after more than two decades.

On his Web site Evanier explained the premise of the comic with his usual tongue-in-cheek tone: "It's the story of a barbarian who is as dangerous as a stampede of cattle . . . and almost as smart. Along with his intrepid, oddly-loyal hound Rufferto, he roams another time and place, leaving destruction in his wake. We pass this all off as a humor comic and have not only succeeded in fooling readers for many years but have actually won a few awards, at least one of which I've mislaid." Glenn Carter of Silver Bullet Comics Online explained that Groo "is accessible to both young and old. Adult readers will enjoy the biting wit, sarcasm, and keen sense of irony, and the young will enjoy the silliness."

Numerous "Groo" collections have also been published in paperback format or in graphic novel editions. With Groo: The Most Intelligent Man in the World, all new material is provided in a story that finds the IQ-hindered Groo spouting words of wisdom and advice, much to the surprise and confusion of friends, enemies, and most especially of his canine pal, Rufferto. Groo: Nursery is a reprint of four stories previously published in comic-book format. Included is a tale about how dumbstruck Groo manages to sink his own armada; another one details his despoiling the ecology of a tropical island he stumbles upon; a third looks at the disastrous results of his attempts to turn minstrel; and in the fourth, villagers try to give him the cold shoulder, but with no success.

In the 2000 offering Groo and Rufferto, the barbarian Groo desperately tries to retrieve his faithful sidekick when the canine is caught in a time warp and transported to a modern urban world from his medieval home. Reviewing the title in School Library Journal, Douglas P. Davey praised the "insight, humor, and eye for detail" in the story. "Never has a warrior been so dim-witted or determined as Groo," Davey further noted. In The Groo Maiden, Groo is in love, but not with some simpering damsel in a tower. The object of his affection turns out to be the most dangerous woman warrior in the kingdom. School Library Journal's Michele Gorman felt this title was "just as good if not better" than Groo and Rufferto. In Groo: Death and Taxes, the "hapless hack-and-slasher," as a Publishers Weekly contributor described the bumbling barbarian, decides to reform. Instead of demanding protection money from helpless villagers, he figures it is time to go nonviolent. His dog is alarmed; the local mortician is appalled. But such a decision backfires and actually initiates various wars, leading to higher taxes. The Publishers Weekly contributor further praised Evanier for his text that "saunters through delightful style changes, from minstrel rhymes to sage proverbs to Groo's ever-fascinating thought process," and commended the author and illustrator for creating a satire "both timely and funny." Writing in School Library Journal, Paul Brink felt that the "enduring presence of both war and taxes will continue to make this graphic novel meaningful."

Humor, Men in Tights, and History

Evanier has written several other creator-owned series. In the "Fanboy" comic-book series, Finster, a high school student, comics fan, and employee of Grudge's Comic Shop, spends much of his time fantasizing about battling bullies, teachers, and other enemies with the help of comics superheroes. "Fanboy" manages to poke fun not only at itself, but also at the comics code, overly simple plots, exaggerated bodies, teen angst, and almost everything dealing with comics. The book lasted for six issues, which were later collected in paperback format. More in the mold of the old superhero comics is his DNAgents. Evanier explained the concept on his Web site: "[It's] the story of five genetically-concocted special agents . . . Surge, Rainbow, Tank, Amber and Sham. At the time they debuted (1983), genetic engineering seemed to be a century away. Now, of course, it looks to start edging out Starbuck's as the industry of its era. Though the agents were grown and 'programmed' by the Matrix Corporation, they somehow refused to be as inhumanly obedient as the company had planned." The series lasted several years and inspired spinoffs such as "Surge" and "Crossfire," drawn by Spiegle. In "Boogeyman," with art by Argonés, Evanier tells weird, offbeat tales narrated in song and rhyme by the odd little gravedigger, Mr. Diggs.

Evanier is also a long-time chronicler of the media. His Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life presents a collection of his essays, columns, and commentaries. He explained the genesis of the prose collection to an interviewer for the Dark Horse Comics Web site: "In the back of my various comics I was writing silly little essays for awhile about my career, . . . and people kept asking me for more of them." "If you don't agree with the premise embedded in its somewhat whimsical title, then Mark Evanier's Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life probably won't have much to say to you," concluded Bill Sherman in a review for Blogcritics.org. "Most of the collected . . . columns focus on one of three areas: ironic tales from the world of comic-book collecting, anecdotes and reminiscences about some of the industry's most prominent and/or colorful figures, and reflections on the artistic state of mainstream comic books today," explained Sherman. Alan David Doane in Comic Book Galaxy Online called Evanier "a first rate essayist whose stories are uniquely personal and terrifically funny." Doane added that Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life "is essential reading for people with an interest in comics." More such columns are gathered in the 2003 offering, Wertham Was Right!, which deals with the history, creation and appreciation of comic books. The book takes it title from a piece Evanier wrote about Dr. Frederic Wertham, American psychiatrist, whose 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, blamed comics for corrupting young minds and inspiring young people to commit crime.

Published in 2002 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Mad magazine, Evanier's Mad Art: A Visual Celebration of the Art of Mad Magazine and the Idiots Who Created It celebrates the people who have worked on the magazine since its conception. It contains in-depth interviews and biographical sketches of the magazine's original artists, writers, and production staff. Jerry Beck noted in CartoonResearch. com that Mad Art serves as a "terrific tribute to the mad-men whose humor influenced the latter half of the twentieth century—and continue to be an inspiration to many of today's top cartoonists and animators." In the book, Evanier presents a complete history of the comic book and magazine, including biographical information of the more recent Mad staff. A reviewer for National Caricaturist Network Web site called the book "a hilarious look at five decades of America's premiere showcase for parody, satire, and wit." Reviewing the volume in Publishers Weekly, a contributor noted, "About the shape and weight of a telephone directory, this book has room enough to live up to its subtitle—and more." The same reviewer went on to explain that "this is a book for people who are curious about individual artists, the history of Mad magazine or comics as a business." Booklist's Gordon Flagg called the book a "sprightly, informative commentary," and a "showcase of the artists who have been Mad mainstays over the years." Similarly, Maud Lavin, writing in the New York Times, commented that "reading Mark Evanier's Mad Art is a chance to see who our teachers in sarcastic manners are." Lavin found the book "particularly valuable . . . [in] its reporting on artists from the early years of the magazine and interviews of those still at work," and further noted that the book's "wealth of information makes it a combined portrait of sociological as well as artistic interest." And for Library Journal's Joe J. Accardi, Evanier "does a fine job of collecting and synthesizing his material into a treasure trove of illustrated humor."

If you enjoy the works of Mark Evanier

If you enjoy the works of Mark Evanier, you might want to check out the following books:

Larry Gonick, The Cartoon History of the Universe, Volumes I-III, 1992-2002.

Usual Gang of Idiots, Mad about Super Heroes, 2002.

Bradford W. Wright, Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America, 2003.

Such a "treasure trove" of humor can also be found throughout the work of Evanier in his many roles as comic book writer and editor, television writer, and commentator on the daily scene in his essays and columns.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2003, Gordon Flagg, review of Mad Art: A Visual Celebration of the Art of Mad Magazine and the Idiots Who Created It, p. 966.

Hollywood Reporter, October 23, 2003, "Evanier to Get Ani Writer Award," p. 4.

International Herald Tribune, September 27, 2003, Maud Lavin, review of Mad Art, p. 24.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Joe J. Accardi, review of Mad Art, p. 139.

New York Times Book Review, September 14, 2003, Maud Lavin, review of Mad Art, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, April 28, 2003, review of Mad Art, p. 50.; June 2, 2003, review of Groo: Death and Taxes, p. 36.

School Library Journal, April, 2002, Michelle Gorman, review of The Groo Maiden; August, 2003, Paul Brink, review of Groo: Death and Taxes, p. 190; December, 2003, Douglas P. Davey, review of Groo and Rufferto.

ONLINE

Blogcritics.org,http://blogcritics.org/ (September 1, 2002), Bill Sherman, review of Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life.

CartoonResearch.com,http://www.cartoonresearch.com/ (February 16, 2003), Jerry Beck, review of Mad Art.

Comic Book Galaxy Online,http://comicbookgalaxy.com/ (June 6, 2003), David Doane, review of Comic Books and Other Necessities of Life.

Dark Horse Comics Web site,http://www.darkhorse.com/ (November 15, 2003), interview with Evanier.

Groo the Wanderer Web site,http://www.groo.com/ (February 24, 2004).

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com (February 24, 2004).

National Caricaturist Network Web site,http://www.caricature.org/ (June 9, 2003), review of Mad Art.

POV Online: Mark Evanier Web site,http://www.povonline.com/ (November 16, 2003), "POV: The Dick Van Dyke Show (originally published 3/17/95)."

Silver Bullet Comics Online,http://www.silverbullet.com/ (June 6, 2003), Glenn Carter, review of "Groo the Wanderer."

Writers Guild of America Web site,http://www.wga.org/ (February 24, 2004), "Animation Writers Honor Mark Evanier with Lifetime Achievement Award."*