Yirmi Pinkus is an Israeli illustrator, author and associate professor at the Shenkar College of Art, Engineering and Design in Israel. In 1994-1995 he co-edited the Israeli edition of MAD magazine (together with Rutu Modan).Pinkus is one of the founders of the alternative comics group Actus (founded in 1996), that has won international acclaim and was listed in 2007 by the American ID design magazine as one of the most prominent contemporary design groups.
Works by Yirmis Pinkus
In 2008 Pinkus's illustrated novel entitled Professor Fabrikant’s Historical Cabaret was published. The book was awarded the Sapir Prize for Debut Literature, and was translated into Italian and published by Cargo Publishing, and into French by Grasset Publishing. In 2010 he was awarded the Israeli Prime Minister's Award for his achievements as an author of fiction and graphic novellas. In 2011, an exhibition of Pinkus' work was shown at the Cartoon museum Basel (Basel Caricature Museum). His comic book Mr. Fibber the Storyteller, based on stories by Lea Goldberg, won the 2014 Israel Museum Award for Children's Book Illustration.
In 2013, he founded, with Prof. Rutu Modan (Bezalel Academy of Art) Noah Books - an independent, experimental publishing house whose goal is to nurture and foster visual literacy among pre-schoolers. Noah Books focuses on creating comics for children based on classic Israeli texts, and has gained the support of the Ministry of Education. Selecting the texts and their adaptation is a research and exploration process conducted in collaboration with researchers and academics in the humanities.
Some questions to Yirmi Pinkus
Did MAD magazine influence you and / or your work before you started with the Israeli MAD?
As a teenager I was influenced by Don Martin's style of drawing. I did not read MAD as a youngster, I've seen it at my friends', but what I was mostly interested in was the images rather than the text.
How popular is MAD magazine in Israel? What kind of comics / cartoons are usually ready by Israeli people?
Mad is not popular here and it was never played a major role in the cultural life here. It always had a though steady and loyal audience, mostly teenagers and some adult readers. The numbers were never impressive. Local stuff is more popular, and comics is a relatively young medium in Israel, and it still struggles to establish itself as a mass medium.
Some of those readers became comics artists later, and although they developed their own visual style, they used some aspects of the MAD spirit in their own creations.
What was the idea behind starting a MAD magazine in Israel? Did you want to import the American humor style?
Modan publishers got an offer to purchase the rights to translate MAD material, including the fantastic old issues of MAD from the 50's to the 70's, and since they were probably the sole publisher who constantly dealt with comics in Israel in that period they decided to take the chance. The MAD license enabled the local publishers to dedicate up to one third of each issue (if I'm not wrong) to local comics, which was for us a great opportunity to promote local artists. We liked the old issues better, so we translated mostly comics from the golden age of MAD rather than up to date stuff.
Which Israeli artists were involved in this MAD edition? Many Israeli artists participated in our MAD, the most important ones are Rutu, Michele Kichka, Itzik Rennert, Zeev Engelmeyer, me and the two talented and very young and the time Hanuka brothers.
Did you work together with the US MAD artists? Did you meet some of them?
We had no connection to the American artists.
What kind of topics could be found in the Israeli version of MAD? Any political stuff, maybe about the Israeli - Palestinian conflict?
The local stuff was partly political but mainly we dealt with ridiculous aspects of the Israeli culture and the everyday life. Some of the material was, what you might call, local nonsense which was more international. Political issues included the big conflicts: Palestenians, religion, holocaust. We had full freedom from the publisher and we certainly did have Chutzpa (we were both 28 years old as we edited MAD!) for example, for the first issue we sent letters to some MPs in Israel, including the prime minister Rabin, and we published photocopies of their official replies as letters from devoted readers, including ridiculing editorial comments.
The Israeli MAD magazine lasted only 10 issues. Why was this edition so short-lived? Didn’t the humor match the taste of the average reader?
We published only 10 issues. MAD in Hebrew was financially a failure, and I'm afraid we were responsible for that. Our personal taste was more radical than what the MAD readers here were willing to take, and the Israeli part of the issues was too alternative, so we lost on both sides - the old timers hated the local stuff, and the younger readers did not find the MAD classics that interesting.
On what kind of cartoons are you working right now? I became a novelist, and nowadays I'm editing my third book. As a comic artist today, I create today comics for younger children.