'Wide Open!'.

Rich Powell is a North Carolina-based American illustrator and comic artist. In the 2000s, he was notable for his irregular contributions to Mad Magazine, while since 2014 he is a house cartoonist for the children's magazine Highlights for Children. Powell is the creator of the absurd one-panel cartoon series 'Wide Open' (2006 -) and the office webcomic 'Charlie Ciso' (2017- ), scripted by Ed Amoroso.

Early life and career
Richard Powell was born in 1963 on Long Island, New York, but grew up in Kinnelon, New Jersey. His father was an accountant and amateur painter. His parents had large collections of 1930s and 1940s editions of The New Yorker, which their son re-read over and over. Cartoonists Charles Addams, M.K. Brown, Sam Gross, B. Kliban and Gahan Wilson quickly became his favorites. He also devoured Creepy, National Lampoon and Mad Magazine. In the latter publication, he singled out George Woodbridge, Don Martin, Will Elder and Jack Davis as huge inspirations. Among his other graphic influences are Jim Woodring, Will Eisner, Gary Larson, Bill WattersonChester Gould, Harold Gray and Robert Crumb. Powell is also a jazz and blues fan, who enjoys making portraits of iconic musicians and designing posters for music festivals.

Magician cartoon for Genii magazine.

After high school, Powell served in the Marines and afterwards, from 1985 on, studied painting, drawing and sculpting at the California State University, Hayward. In the early 1990s, he started his career as a conceptual artist and art director for the seminal computer game company Sierra On-Line. His designs were used in games like 'King's Quest', 'Space Quest', 'Quest for Glory' and more. At this company, Powell also met fellow writer and game designer Josh Mandel, with whom he created the educational game 'D.M. Dinwiddie, Physician in Training' for the National Institute for Health. After Sierra-On-Line discontinued its activities, Powell became a freelance illustrator. Together with Mandel, he made several magic-themed cartoons for the magician & illusionist magazine Genii. Other early cartoons ran in Liberty's News, a local paper published in the town of Liberty, North Carolina. A highly unusual source of paid income was making cartoons of nude men for bachelorette parties. He left the genital era blank, so women could draw these parts themselves.

'Star Wars fans then... and now' (MAD #532, April 2015). The J.J. in the final panel is film director J.J. Abrams. 

Mad Magazine
Between 2005 and 2018, Powell's comics and illustrations also ran in Mad Magazine, usually in 'The Fundalini Pages', where guest cartoonists and new talent were allowed to do their thing. He livened up Neal Levin's 'A Rhyme For No Reason' column, where Levin wrote a funny rhyme about an everyday topic, like birthday cakes or children's swimming pools. Powell also published in Mad's short-lived junior edition Mad Kids. .

'Dixie Drive' of 3 March 2011 and 'Wide Open!' of 30 April 2021.

Wide Open
In 2006, Powell created the one-panel gag cartoon series 'Dixie Drive', inspired by the type of silly, quirky comedy typical for his home state North Carolina. Jokes revolve around absurd situations regarding people, animals and objects, comparable to Gary Larson's 'The Far Side'. The series originally ran in Get This, the Thursday supplement of the North Carolina paper The Courier-Tribune. Powell figured that making one badly-paid cartoon a week wouldn't be too exhausting. Thanks to the rise of the social network site Facebook, his cartoons reached a wider audience and, starting on 17 July 2010, they were made available on Universal Uclick's GoComics portal. At this occasion, Powell changed the title to 'Wide Open'.

Highlights for Children
Since 2014, Powell is a regular contributor to the children's magazine Highlights for Children. He mostly makes drawings where young readers have to spot something hidden. He also livens up the magazine's joke page. Collections of his illustrated jokes have been published in the 'Animal Crackups Joke Book' (2015).

'Charlie Ciso' (5 August 2020).

Charlie Ciso
In 2017, scriptwriter Ed Amoroso and Powell launched the webcomic 'Charlie Ciso'. In the 1990s, Amoroso worked as a TA for Linear Algebra, where he entertained the students by pinning newspaper comic gags to his door, like Scott Adams' office comic 'Dilbert'. However, he often altered speech balloons to include specific inside jokes about the academy and its teachers. As funny as this practice was, it became more difficult to continue from the mid-2000s on. By that point, Amoroso ran his TAG Cyber lessons as a virtual institution operating from an open space. He could share his digitally altered comics online, but there was the danger of being sued for copyright infringement. In 2017, he therefore approached Rich Powell to make his own office-themed gag comic, 'Charlie Ciso'. Title character Charlie Ciso is a cyber security provider, who has to deal with a tyrannic boss, clueless co-workers, overly demanding clients and annoying hackers.

'Callahan's Quest for Adventure'.

Commercial artwork
In 2005, Rich Powell livened up articles in the North Carolina magazine Our State Magazine. In 2013, he created a line of humorous wildlife art called 'Callahan's Quest for Adventure'. Appearing in all sorts of products, the project won the Reuben Award for "Best Advertising and Product Illustration". Since 2006, Powell has illustrated text books teaching English as a second language. Powell has also designed greeting cards and T-shirt prints, while his illustrations have appeared on Playboy.com. Powell designed logos and posters for the Randolph County Public Library, the Youth Environmental Service, Four Saints Beer labels and various jazz and blues festivals, including the Carolina Blues Festival, Yosemite International Jazz Festival and the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society. Powell also designed numerous T-shirts for the company Gear Ink, whose 'Black Cat Bone Design' featured blues musicians like Lightnin' Hopkins and Otis Spann. He made additional shirts for the company Crazy Shirts. He created Randolph, the turtle mascot of the monthly magazine Asheboro & More.

'What It Was, Was Football' (2014).

In 2014, Rich Powell was approached by Our State Television to illustrate an updated version of comedy actor Andy Griffith's comedy routine 'What It Was, Was Football', about a game of American football. The original 1953 monologue had quickly become a comedy classic in the United States, on par with Abbott & Costello's 'Who's on First?' routine. In 1958, the text had first appeared in Mad with illustrations by George Woodbridge. Since Powell admires Woodbridge, he instantly agreed to do the updated version. An Our State Television camera crew shot a documentary about the comedy routine and Powell's working progress. Premiered at Red Cinemas, the documentary won a Midsouth Regional Emmy Award for "Best Magazine Program".

In 2014, Powell made several illustrations for the exhibit 'Bugs! An Epic Adventure' at the North Carolina Zoo. It was a challenge for him since he had to anthropomorphize the invertebrates so they would look less scary, but at the same time still be biologically accurate. In addition, he has designed storyboards for a special effects sequence in the German TV series 'Jets: Leben am Limit'. Powel also livened up the album covers of 'Born Certified' (2015) and 'Double Parked' (2017) by the bluesrock band The Luxuriant Sedans and the 'Dark Lanterns' logo.

Rich Powell's 2023 'Dilbert' spoof, after creator Scott Adams had been fired over racially offensive comments. 

Dilbert spoof
In early 2023, Scott Adams' long-running comic series 'Dilbert' was cancelled after he called black Americans a "hate group" and told white people to "get the hell away from them" during a YouTube livestream. By that point, his comic had polarized readers for quite some time, especially since he used it more and more to promote his personal political viewpoints and opinions many felt were racist. A day after Adams was dropped by his syndicate, Powell made a 'Dilbert' spoof, in which none of the 'Dilbert' cast are seen, except for one single black man whose delightful comment is: "Well, this is refreshing".

In May 2014, Powell's 'Callahan's Quest for Adventure' received the Reuben Award for "Best Advertising and Product Illustration" from the National Cartoonists Society. In 2021 and 2022, 'Wide Open!' won Reuben Awards for "Best Online Short Form Cartoon".



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