Stephen Kroninger
Mark Alan Stamaty
Mark Alan Stamaty's latest book is Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down!: How Elvis Shook Up Music, Me & Mom  and it's terrific. From the bookflap. "For his eighth birthday, Mark Alan Stamaty’s parents gave him his very own radio. Little did his mother realize that that innocent-looking plastic box would one day be the gateway for a new kind of sound that would “rock” her nearly out of her mind. . . .
Mark first heard the howling thunder of Elvis Presley singing “Hound Dog” on the radio one lazy day and his life was forever changed. Soon he was styling his hair like the King and practicing his dance moves with a tennis racket as his pretend guitar in front o f the mirror. But his mother lived in constant fear that her son’s new love of rock ’n’ roll would turn him into a juvenile delinquent. Could Mark’s performance at his Cub Scout talent show change her mind?"
 This was a project born of love for Mark and it comes directly from his heart. Told in comic book form it's a story most of us can relate to, of being a kid in the insular world of our parents, family, school and then being knocked for a loop by some outside influence that shows us that there is a much bigger world out there, filling us with an insatiable curiosity and desire to explore it. This is a wonderful book for kids and adults.

Mark is well known in certain circles for his impromptu Elvis impressions at various events throughout the years. Here's a great story about one of them.

Stamaty performing as Elvis for President Clinton 1993
You did your Elvis impersonation for President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. How did that come about?

Our visit took place on Saturday, March 13th, 1993 in the midst of a huge blizzard that was burying Washington in heavy snowdrifts. We were a group of political cartoonists who were in the nation's capital for an annual cartoonists' dinner that was hosted by The Washington Post. It was a small group of about ten or twelve cartoonists, each allowed to bring one guest. Normally, we would meet for dinner on the 9th floor of the Post building. Normally in attendance, in addition to us, were the owner and publisher of the Post, the editorial page editor and a few well-known journalists from print and TV. Added to this each year were two currently prominent political figures - senators, cabinet members, etc. and their spouses. These were one-time invitees. Through the years, the special guests included Sen. Howard Baker, former VP Walter Mondale, Dick and Lynne Cheney (before Cheney had been VP), Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Al Gore (before he was VP), Sen. John Glenn, etc., etc. (The party had originally been started by the former managing editor of the Post, Howard Simons in the early '70s.)

After the meal part of those dinners, the floor would be opened for any of the guests to say whatever he or she might like to say. But essentially this was the time when the cartoonists in particular were kind of expected to tell funny stories. I think this expectation might have originated from the fact that in the early years of this party, Jeff MacNelly and Mike Peters, once they got going, were two hilarious guys. And some of the others could, at times, be too. My political cartooning career started later than some of the other guys, so I got invited into the club after it had been going for a several years. And while on occasion I could come up with a funny story, the thing I could bring to the evening that no one else could was my Elvis impersonation which I had been doing since I was a kid. So, at the very end of every one of those dinners, I would be called on to do my Elvis impersonation to finish off the evening. Meg Greenfield, my editor at the Post, called it "the benediction."

More details, please

The day of our White House visit it was just us cartoonists and our guests. Not everyone had been able to get to Washington on time because of the blizzard. Our group included these cartoonists: Jeff MacNelly, Jim Borgman, Mike Peters, Doug Marlette, and myself. Also with us was the legendary animator of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and creator of the Roadrunner, Chuck Jones, who had been a regular attendee since Mike Peters had befriended him and invited him into our group years before. Tony Auth might have been with us, but I can't recall for sure.

So, first off, we got a tour of the White House and met Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin somewhere downstairs. He was very friendly and spoke with us a bit.

When we finally entered the Oval Office, President Clinton was on the phone and seemed rather preoccupied when he finished and joined us. He was wearing a sweater. He seemed relaxed but rather low-key. We started talking about one thing and another. I asked him a question about health care reform. At some point, Al Gore came in and joined us all. After a while, the Vice President spoke up and said: "In his lifetime, Elvis only visited the White House once, but he's here among us today." I had actually known Al Gore since 1982 when he was in the House of Representatives and professed to be a fan of my comic strip WASHINGTOON that ran on the Washington Post op-ed page every Monday.

So this was my cue to do my Elvis for the president, who, as I understand it, is an Elvis fan. Somewhere I'd heard that the president did an Elvis impersonation–I'm not sure if that was true–so I asked him to do his Elvis but he demurred. So I stood up, took off my jacket and tie, unbuttoned a few shirt buttons, turned up my collar and did my a cappella version of All Shook Up.

What was Clinton's reaction?

It seemed to go over quite well. The president liked it so much he sent an aid up to the closet of his bedroom to get an Elvis Presley necktie he had there, which he signed and gave to me. When we were all leaving and he shook my hand, he leaned in close to my ear and said quietly: "You made this day." As we were heading out of the office, the defense secretary and several other advisers were hurrying in for an emergency meeting about the situation in Bosnia.

Read the full interview at Linda Davick: SHAKE, RATTLE & TURN THAT NOISE DOWN!: Interview With Mark Alan Stamaty
Originally published in 1973, this is one of my favorite childrens books---ever.

Mark's early works don't lend themselves well to the internet. His images are often very dense and filled to the breaking point with characters and detail. Brilliant stuff. I encourage anyone reading this blog to seek out his work and behold it in all it's printed page glory.

opening page drawing and signature on my copy of WHO NEEDS DONUTS?

Don't despair if you don't already have a copy (and everyone should have a copy). As the button reads, back in print and available here
Greenwich Village
 This is one of two centerfold spreads that ran in the Village Voice in '77 and '78. I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of the Voice offices on University Place back in 1979 obsessively studying these images. They were available as posters and used to hang in the window there. I have a signed copy of the Times Square poster but for some odd reason didn't pick-up the Village one. Something I regret to this very day. Maybe they were sold out.
To view them larger and marvel as I did and do
Greenwich Village 1979

Times Square 1979
 The posters proved to be so successeful that VOICE art director George Delmerico offered Mark his own weekly strip. To me it's a masterpiece full of hallucinatory tangents, wildly inventive imagery and a story line that just couldn't be bothered with sticking to a consistent narrative.

The long view.

A doodle on the title page of my copy of MacDoodle St.

 From MacDoodle Street, this is one my favorite comics panels ever. I remember seeing this in the VOICE while still living in Pennsylvania and it just cracked me up. Who can't relate to a comic that wakes up on a beautiful spring day and decides to ditch the weekly narrative in favor of hanging out in the park?

 I've always admired Mark's insight into capturing the feel of New York City. As much as Marks drawing here is about his personal style it is also keenly observed. The people in his park, and NYC images in general, live and breathe.

 In 1981, Meg Greenfield, who was the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, asked Mark to create a weekly strip about Washington for the paper's op-ed page. “Washingtoon” was published in the Washington Post, the Village Voice and syndicated in about forty-five other newspapers for twelve-and-a-half years. It was then picked up by TIME magazine where it ran for another two years.

 Brought in by Steven Heller, Mark did a lot of work for the The New York Times Book Review from the nineties into the 2000s including the brilliant back page comic BOOX. Here's some work from the book review of record era.

 Stamaty's been devoting himself to writing of late and has several books on the shelves including ALIA's MISSION. From BOOKLIST's starred review, "The story of Iraqi librarian Alia Muhammed Baker, who, fearing looting and bombs, hid more than 30,000 books prior to the invasion of Iraq, is so compelling that two author-illustrators have retold it: Jeanette Winter, in her parable-like picture book The Librarian of Basra, and Stamaty, in this graphic novel. Sequential panels concisely depict complex sequences of actions and emotions, allowing Stamaty to pack more detail into 32 pages than is possible in a traditional picture book. Stamaty's black-and-white ink, graphite, and wash artwork is equally nuanced; one can even discern the eerie, flickering shadows cast by the burning library across townspeople's faces. Younger readers will be instantly drawn by the story's anthropomorphic book emcee, but this sophisticated and timely work will also appeal to adult admirers of Spiegelman's Maus books and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis memoirs..."
Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down! (back cover)
This has been a hop, skip and a jump through Mark's career. For more check out his official website at Mark Alan Stamaty

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