Trivia question: What Tempe comic artist is a favorite of Ben Affleck, has common bonds with Salma Hayek, and recently appeared in Kevin Smith's Dogma? Answer: Jim Mahfood. The artist hit the national comic scene hard in April 1998 with the release of Generation X Underground for Marvel Comics, and the comic-book version of Kevin Smith's Clerks.
Mahfood's first meeting with Smith happened at the 1997 San Diego Comic-Con International, the largest annual gathering of comic-book professionals in the world. Smith had just finished writing the story for his Clerks title, and Mahfood was one of the people being considered as the artist. They were introduced, and the creative juices started flowing. Mahfood has many stories about attending the 1998 convention with Smith and Jason Mewes (a.k.a. Jay, as in "Jay and Silent Bob"), none of them printable. Mahfood notes, "They're great people, and a lot of fun to hang out with, but I didn't get to see much of the convention. I spent most of the time with Jay, hanging out in hotel rooms."
The meeting with Smith led to the collaboration on the Clerks comic, which was the springboard that threw Mahfood into the national limelight, an illumination in which he's still not that comfortable. All celebrities have to deal with rabid fans, but with Mahfood the process started with the realization that he even had fans. "Kevin and I went to a signing at Golden Apple in Los Angeles, and the crowd was over 500 people. I couldn't believe we were in the right place. And they were all, like, 'You're Mahfood! It's Jim Mahfood! Draw me something! Sign my hand!'"
Not-so-rabid fans include Ben Affleck, who called Mahfood last year to buy some artwork for his Web site. Mahfood met Affleck in Pittsburgh during the filming of Dogma. During the weeklong shoot, he also met Matt Damon and Chris Rock, and found out that his name was familiar to Dogma cast member Salma Hayek. Mahfood relates, "Salma and I are both part Lebanese, and she's good friends with a Mahfood family in Mexico City, some relatives of mine."
Good things just keep coming -- another film is in the works for the Tempe-transplanted St. Louis native. A friend in L.A., Scott Morse, cast Mahfood in an independent movie that starts filming in February 2000. His art is still going strong, with Mahfood working up the next GRRL SCOUTS title, as well as Zombie Kid, Rocket Boy and the Badazz Mofo Zodiac 2000 Calendar. Uncomfortable fame notwithstanding, life seems pretty good for the twentysomething Mahfood.
Have no doubts, though -- Mahfood is one pissed-off artist. He doesn't look it, sitting in the Coffee Plantation, sketching for GRRL SCOUTS 4. He smiles at passing friends, and seems cheerful enough talking about his background, his ongoing projects, and his cameo role in Dogma. But the anger is there -- you just have to know what brings it to the top: plagiarism. On August 3, 1999, MTV premièred MTV's Downtown, a hip and cool animated look at life in the Big City, with characters funky and forlorn, divas in the making and dweebs to the bone. The animation was hot, the characterizations tight, and all with a distinctive Mahfood style. Mahfood had nothing to do with it.
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"Put out something original, people are gonna dig it. And, unfortunately, people are gonna imitate it. The animation community is pretty small," Mahfood says. "The guy designing Downtown has seen a lot of my stuff, and there are characters on the show that are obvious copies of my work. Artists were calling me from all over the country, saying, 'Man, why didn't you tell me you were doing stuff for MTV?' I said, 'I'm not, man! What are you talking about?' 'Oh, dude, get to someplace that has cable, and check it out! Somebody's ripping you off, man!'" Mahfood is still considering legal action, and is currently pursuing the strategy of "slamming the guy in every public venue that I can find."
So, if you're interested in seeing an artist, go see Dogma. Keep your eyes open in the first scene inside a church. See the guy in yellow sitting behind Linda Fiorentino? That's Jim Mahfood. Just don't tell him I told you.
See more of Jim Mahfood's work at www. 40ozcomics.com and www.newsaskew.com.