Mark Matcho (c. 1965- ) is an American illustrator. You can see his pictures in the New York Times, Esquire, BusinessWeek, Mother Jones, Time magazine and others. He draws in a retro 1940s comic book style.
He comes from Washington, DC and has lived in New York, Oakland and, currently, Pasadena.
In 1985 he gave up being a short-order cook to become a freelance illustrator. He recalls:
They laughed when I turned in my hairnet. But someday I’ll show them all.
His drawing style: the clothes, hairstyles, cars, planes, etc, seem like they are from the 1940s. Even the drawing style itself seems to be from the 1940s! Yet people use computers, iPods, mobile phones and all the rest. It gives his pictures a strange sort of timelessness.
Influences: He does not tell us how he learned to draw, but it seems like it came from copying comic books from the 1940s, particularly Superman, Archie, Captain Marvel and Tintin. His style, though, is generally cleaner and less busy.
Period: I tried to find out what year his drawings are set in. It most closely matches the look of things from 1947 to 1950 with maybe five years on either side of that.
But he does not directly copy anything from that period. Instead he copies cartoonists whose ideas of how things look come from that time. But Matcho is affected by his own time too, so there are fewer hats, shorter skirts, less styled hair and more streamlined cars than the 1940s had. It gives his drawings the strange in-betweenness that drew me to them in the first place.
Race: Since I talk about race and representation on this blog, it would be odd if I did not point out that nearly all his people are white. Like 99% of them. They are generally middle-class men who play golf, live in the suburbs and work in the city.
What makes that strange is that Matcho himself never seems to have lived in such a world: New York is 45% white, Oakland is 37% and Pasadena, 53%, none of them anything like the whitebread world he draws.
Even the magazines and newspapers his work appears in do not seem to be that white – maybe 90% to 95% white but not 99% – so it does not seem to be coming from them or their art directors either.
Instead it seems to come from the 1940s comic books themselves, which were very whitebread. Blacks and Asians were rare and often only appeared in a stereotyped way that is no longer acceptable among whites. As with the trains and everything else, he is not so much drawing the world he knows, but the world as presented in a 1940s comic book.
Imitators: Matcho has at least one shameless imitator: Chris Gash.
Other pursuits: Matcho likes to take pictures with his Chinese camera and play with Flash. One Flash movie he made was “Google Maps Street View: The Movie” (2007). A simple yet cool idea.
- Mark Matcho at drawger.com – currently his most up-to-date website
- Brand Video interview with Mark Matcho – from December 2011, a year after I wrote this.
- Chris Gash
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow – another retro world that never was
- Default Human Being
- Covarrubias – another illustrator
- McDull – cartoon pig from Hong Kong