Rick Tulka considers himself a caricaturist and humorous illustrator rather than a cartoonist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1955. He grew up reading Archie Comics and Mad Magazine. Among his graphic influences are Charles M. Schulz, Winsor McCay, Honoré Daumier, Al Hirschfeld, David Levine, George Woodbridge, Mort Drucker, Norman Rockwell, Bill Watterson, Hergé, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, Hans Holbein and Ben Sargent. Tulka studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the Art Students League of New York, after which he majored in illustration at Pratt Institute. In 1976 he became a professional illustrator and sold his first drawings to Cue Magazine.
In 1988 Tulka was asked to provide drawings to a colouring book based on Michael Jackson's direct-to-video film 'Moonwalker'. The project took about a year to see the light, because the King of Pop had a busy schedule and couldn't find time to take a look at Tulka's work. After receiving free tickets to one of his concerts in New Jersey, Tulka met the pop icon backstage. He was amused by his graphical portrayals and greenlighted the publication.
That same year Tulka made his debut in Mad Magazine, where he still publishes to this day. He doesn't draw actual comics, but illustrates articles, most of which allow him to draw celebrity caricatures. Some of these do follow narrative sequences, though. For instance, he has made satirical drawings to several articles which compare phenomena from the past with the present, side by side. In the same vein Tulka illustrated satirical predictions of what the not-too-distant future will bring us, such as the 'Chilling Thoughts For The Future' series and, since 2012, the 'Celebrity Cause-of-Death Betting Odds' page. Probably his best known work is the 'Six Degrees of Separation' series, which first saw light in the November 1997 issue. It features satirical links between various celebrities, pop culture characters and phenomena. The links are visualized in six tiny cartoons, which are juxtaposed next to each other in the form of one chronological sequence. The gags have traditionally been written by Mike Snider, who is also Tulka's most frequent collaborator up to now.
Tulka has worked with many of Mad's scriptwriters and artists over the years, including Russ Cooper, Chris Hart, Dennis Snee, Matthew T. Smith, Desmond Devlin, Charlie Kadau, Tom Koch, Joe Raiola, John Prete, Frank Jacobs, Andrew J. Schwartzberg, Matthew A. Cohen, Barry Liebmann, Dave Berg, Lori Kolman, Sam Viviano, Greg Leitman, Greg Theakston, Barry Liebmann, Mark Evanier, Scott Bricher, Scott Maiko, Dave Croatto, Jeff Kruse, John Biederman, Butch D'Ambrosio, Jacob Lambert, Arie Kaplan, Drew Friedman, Ray Alma, Hermann Meija, Dana T. Graf, Greg Leitman, Steve Jarczak, Stan Sinberg, Mike Mikula, Darren Johnson, Scott Bricher, Timothey Shamey, Mike Slaubaugh, Kenny Byerly, David Shayne, Jack Davis, Ryan Flanders, Tom Luth, Jacob Lambert, Matt Lassen, Emo Philips, Teresa Burns Parkhurst, Leonardo Rodriguez, Emily Flake, Jim Campbell and Arnie Kogen.
Apart from Mad, Tulka's work has also appeared in People Weekly, Reader's Digest, Money Magazine and Rolling Stone. In 1995 he and his wife moved to Paris, where they still live today. He has contributed to publications such as Le Monde, Spirou, Cadre Courrier, Le Soir, and L'Etudiant. In 1998 Tulka was hired by the Belgian newspaper Le Soir to work as a courtroom artist during the trial against the perpetrators of the Augusta-Dassault corruption scandal. He illustrated the children's book 'Today I Am A Ma'am' (2001) by Valerie Harper and Catherine Whitney and, together with Noël Riley, the book 'Paris Cafe: The Sélect Crowd' (2007), about the Parisian café Le Sélect where he is a regular visitor. He made a series of caricatures of French politicians which are on permanent exhibition in the Parisian parliament. In January 2015, after the terrorist attacks on the office of Charlie-Hebdo in Paris, Tulka joined the peaceful demonstration that was held in the wake of the tragedy. He also made some sketches during the event.
Tulka is a productive sketch artist. He has kept personal sketch books since 1973 and still enjoys drawing from life, either in cafés, museums or during airplane trips. The man prefers to keep his drawings textless, only adding an additional speech balloon if necessary. Apart from sketch books he also owns a huge collection of celebrity caricatures, signed by the famous faces themselves. Among the big names who autographed his caricatures are Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Spike Lee, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Liza Minnelli, Lucille Ball , Stephen Sondheim and Johnny Carson. Even fellow artists like Al Hirschfeld, Paloma Picasso (daughter of Pablo Picasso), David Levine and Andy Warhol have put their signature on his artwork.
A Mad guide to Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong (Mad 381, 1999)