Tony Millionaire

Drinky Crow

Maakies

Tony Millionaire (b. 1956) (real name Scott Richardson) is an American cartoonist, illustrator and author known for his syndicated comic strip ‘Maakies’ and the ‘Sock Monkey’ series of comics and picture books. The nautical settings of much of Millionaire’s work draw inspiration from his childhood memories of his grandparents’ artwork and seaside home in Massachusetts as well as the novels of Patrick O’Brian, of which he is an avid reader. He draws in a lush style that mingles naturalistic detail with strong doses of the fanciful and grotesque. His linework resembles that of Johnny Gruelle, whom he cites as one of his main sources of inspiration along with Ernest Shepard and ‘all those freaks from the twenties and thirties who did the newspaper strips’; many of Millionaire’s admirers adduce a similarity to the work of E. C. Segar in particular. He draws with a fountain pen.

When asked in interviews why he uses a pseudonym, Millionaire maintains that he does not, and that ‘Tony Millionaire’ is his real name: ‘It is my legal name, and it’s been around a lot longer than I’ve been a cartoonist.’ He has claimed that his unusual surname is an Old French word meaning ‘a person who owns a thousand serfs.’ Skeptics trace the origin of the name to a character in an episode of the ’60s TV series ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’ Millionaire has speculated that in the future he may publish some family-friendly works of his under a different moniker in order to dissociate them from his other, more ribald output.

Millionaire was born in Boston. He came from a family of artists – his father was a commercial illustrator, his mother and grandparents were painters – and was encouraged to draw from an early age. His grandfather, who was a friend of the cartoonist Roy Crane, had a large collection of old Sunday comics which were an early source of inspiration to Millionaire. He drew his first comic strip, ‘about an egg-shaped superhero who flew around talking about how great he was and then crashing into a cliff,’ when he was nine years old. At age 13 he lost his natural front teeth in a car accident; since then he has worn false teeth. During high school Millionaire continued to draw comic strips for his own amusement.

After high school Millionaire attended the Massachusetts College of Art, where he majored in painting, but left without graduating after getting three quarters through his fourth year. While in college he began drawing houses in wealthy neighborhoods for money; this, along with occasional illustration jobs, would be his primary source of income for the next 20 years. After college he moved from place to place, living in Boston, Florida, California, and Italy before settling in Berlin for five years during the 1980s. Returning to the U.S. in the early ’90s, he moved to Brooklyn, where he began drawing a regular comic strip, ‘Medea’s Weekend,’ for the Williamsburg newsweekly ‘Waterfront Week.’

One night at a local bar, the Six Twelve, Millionaire drew ‘a cartoon about a little bird who drank booze and blew his brains out’ on a napkin – the origin of his best-known character, Drinky Crow. The bartender encouraged him to draw more cartoons, offering him a free beer for each one he completed. After doing many of these cocktail napkin drawings, Millionaire began drawing more polished versions of his cartoons for publication in various zines, including ‘Ninny,’ Spike Vrusho’s ‘Murtaugh,’ and Selwyn Harris’s ‘HappyLand.’ He also did drawings for several trade journals and Al Goldstein’s notorious tabloid ‘Screw.’ Eventually the alternative newsweekly ‘New York Press’ asked him to draw a weekly strip, and in 1994 ‘Maakies’ debuted in its pages.

Besides ‘Maakies,’ Millionaire has produced a series of comics and picture books collectively titled ‘Sock Monkey.’ He has also occasionally contributed to comics anthologies including ‘Legal Action Comics,’ ‘Star Wars Tales,’ ‘Dirty Stories,’ and ‘Bizarro Comics.’ His illustrations are published in many leading venues including ‘The New York Times,’ ‘The New Yorker,’ and ‘The Wall Street Journal.’ Currently he does much of the artwork, along with Charles Burns, for Dave Eggers’ magazine ‘The Believer.’ Animated versions of his work have been featured on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ in the They Might Be Giants documentary ‘Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns),’ and on Adult Swim. In 2006 Fantagraphics Books published his graphic novel ‘Billy Hazelnuts.’

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