From Mad 298 by Rick Tulka
'Villains Awaiting Batman's Return to TV' (Mad #298. 1990), starring comedian Jackie Mason as the villain. 

Rick Tulka is an American cartoonist, best known as one of the "usual gangs of idiots" at Mad Magazine. He nevertheless considers himself to be a caricaturist and humorous illustrator, rather than a cartoonist. Tulka stands out because of his grotesque caricature work and hilarious exaggerations of people's behaviour. His longest-running series for Mad are 'Chilling Thoughts For The Future' (1996-2017) and 'Six Degrees of Separation' (1997-2014).

Early life and career
Richard Tulka was born in 1955 in Brooklyn, New York. 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.

Moonwalker by Rick Tulka
'Moonwalker' coloring book. 

Moonwalker colouring book
In 1988, Tulka was asked to provide drawings to a colouring book based on Michael Jackson's direct-to-video film 'Moonwalker' (a movie with production design by Mike Ploog). The colouring book 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. Jackson was amused by his graphical portrayal and greenlighted the publication. Around the same time, Blackthorne Publishing also released an actual 3-D comic book based on 'Moonwalker', illustrated by Abel Laxamana, but this unfortunately flopped.  

Six Degrees of Separation

'Six Degrees of Separation' (Mad #472, December 2006).

Mad Magazine
Tulka debuted in Mad Magazine in issue #282 (October 1988). While he collaborated with many different writers and artists, his most regular creative partner was Mike Snider. Tulka was usually hired to make drawings that showed off his gift for celebrity caricatures and hilarious facial expressions. Contrary to other Mad cartoonists, he never drew a film or TV show parody, nor illustrated a full-blown cover. He didn't draw much actual comics either, but illustrated various articles, some of which made use of sequences. 

Chilling Thoughts For The Future
In issue #314 of Mad (October 1992), scriptwriter Tom Koch and Tulka collaborated on an article named 'Why the 21st Century May Be Even Worse Than This One!'. The article looked at present-day celebrities and phenomena and made satirical predictions how they might evolve within the nearby future. The concept became a fully-fledged, long-running series under the title 'Chilling Thoughts For The Future' (issue #345, May 1996), written by Desmond Devlin and again visualized by Tulka. The final episode ran in issue #364 (December 1997). In 2012, 'Chilling Thoughts' was revived, again with Devlin as writer, but with Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer as illustrators. The final two episodes were illustrated by Jonathan Edwards, before 'Chilling Thoughts' ended its frightening future predictions in issue #547 (October 2017). 

Tulka also worked on other Mad articles which humorously compared past phenomena with present-day phenomena. One example was 'Mad Studies the First Day of School 30 Years Ago and Today' (issue 323, December 1993), scripted by Barry Liebmann, where the first day in school was illustrated by Dave Berg, while Tylka showed a more cynical, modern-day equivalent. Another example was 'The 60's and The 90's' (issue #356, April 1997), where Russ Cooper juxtapose phenonema from the 1960s with equivalents from the 1990s. 

Six Degrees of Separation
With Mike Snider, Tulka co-created their best known ongoing series, 'Six Degrees of Separation (Between Anyone and Anything', which first saw light in Mad issue #363 (November 1997). The concept was based on the idea that most people, especially in the entertainment industry, are connected to each other. Some directly, others indirectly, but most of the time there are only a few people or media between them to link them together. A popular theory claims that it's usually down to six degrees. Snider and Tulka pushed this idea into more absurd, far-fetched territories. Their 'Six Degrees of Separation' features links between various celebrities, pop culture characters and phenomena. They are visualized in six one-panel cartoons, juxtaposed in the form of one chronological sequence. Snider and Tulka continued the series until October 2011. Afterwards, new episodes were written by Stan Sinberg and drawn by John Kerschbaum. The final episode of 'Six Degrees' ran in issue #528 (August 2014). 

Spot Your Parents
With scriptwriter Jeff Kruse, Tulka was also responsible for the 'Spot Your Parents' feature (Mad Magazine, issue #390, February 2000), in which parents deal with embarrassing situations such as divorce or explaining where babies come from? The reader is invited to see which of these reacions is most reminscent of their own parents. The series ran until issue #401 (January 2001). 

Celebrity Cause-of-Death Betting Odds
From Mad issue #514 (April 2012) until issue #529 (October 2014), Tulka took over the 'Celebrity Cause-of-Death Betting Odds' page. The page shows a tombstone shaped in the face of a celebrity. On the stone the most likely ways he or she might die are summarized. Each suggestion comes with a ranking. Mike Snider scripted each episode. Other cartoonists besides Tulka who illustrated the feature were Thomas Fluharty, James Warhola, Hermann Mejia, Jon Weiman, Bob Staake and Sam Viviano

From Mad by Rick Tulka
'The startling similarities between ancient mythology & modern rock' (Mad #306, October 1991).

Graphic contributions
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 sketch artist during the trial against the perpetrators of the Augusta-Dassault corruption scandal. 

Tulka livened up the pages of Ray James' 'The Man Show on Tap: A Guide to All Things Beer' (Gallery Books, 2004), a personal look on beer brands and various trivia surrounding the beverage. He also illustrated 'Today I Am A Ma'am; And Other Musings on Life, Beauty and Growing Older' (Harper Entertainment, 2001) by Valerie Harper and Catherine Whitney, a book for women leaving their younger years behind. Together with Noël Riley, Tulka made the book 'Paris Cafe: The Sélect Crowd' (Soft Skull, 2007), a historical look at the Parisian café Le Sélect. Since Tulka is a regular visitor, he was the perfect artist to provide illustrations about the café, its clientele and famous people who were once regular customers. Tulka additionally 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 held in the wake of the tragedy. He also made some sketches during the event.

Tulka 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.

From Mad, by Rick Tulka
'A Mad guide to Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong' (Mad #381, May 1999).

Series and books by Rick Tulka you can order today:


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