100 MJ Mangano Covers

100 Mangano Covers
By Chris Murphy

ModestoView began in late 1997 as a hobby to help educate and excite our local community about how cool Modesto is with a couple of downtown webcams. The Quixotic mission has been a lot of fun as we evolved into a community resource, a marketing force and a champion for telling our community stories, from our history, from Rockabilly, Graffiti, music, the arts, our non-profits and our local civic responsibilities and volunteer efforts. In 2006 we started printing ModestoView magazine supported by local writers that each had a section of the community that they wanted to promote and celebrate.

Each month, one of my projects is to come up with a monthly theme and a cover for each issue. Each cover was a snapshot of what was happening in the Modesto area at the time. In 2012, I met Michael Mangano at a Slosh Ball game in Enslen Park. After a couple of beers, we quickly learned that we could do something together. MJ took us to a new place of creativity. It is so fun to brainstorm and scribble out an idea and to see MJ bring it to life or just let MJ’s imagination run wild. It is magic and has changed ModestoView for the better and really helped us punch through and be a true community resource. It is hard to believe that MJ as done 100 covers. Time flies, our friendships have gotten stronger and I truly believe there is still so much to do.

Modestoview has really been fun and we are glad we have made a difference in our community, made people smile, think and see our city for the cool place it is and can be. Thanks to MJ Mangano for taking us to a new level and we have won many national art awards for our little local publication. I would stack up our monthly magazine against anything and am really proud of what our View Crew puts together each month with the great guidance of publishing pro Pete Grimaldi and the MAMA winning promoter Middagh Goodwin. So now, we get MJ out from behind the camera and get him to talk about this road to 100 covers.

Great Job MJ, It is so fun to work with you.

Telling a Story One Cover at a Time (The Road to Covers)
By Michael J Mangano

As I write this I think back on how I got here. After 18 years I left the video game art world and picked up a camera. I had no idea down the road I would combine photos and graphics together. In 2012 something interesting happens, with the help of my creative friends Jenn and Mike Allsup and the amazing costume shop of Dana Walters called Daydreams and Nightmares. In that store with all those costumes, my imagination was like the kid in the candy store. I started down the road of making creative portraits; photographing people in costumes and creating a graphic background. Years later I learned about a group of people called Cosplayers that do love to dress up celebrating comics, steam punk, and much more. That reignited my passion all over again.

In September of 2012, I met Chris Murphy the editor of ModestoView Magazine at a Slosh Ball game, he saw my art and asked if I could create the October cover. Halloween was both of our favorite seasons and when we shot the whole scene at Daydreams and Nightmares, a creative friendship was born. Now the ideas for the covers every month are a brainstorming effort between Chris and me; we sit together, over cocktails of course, and pitch ideas. I may get a scribble on a napkin of his idea and then I am off to try to create that vision. Inspiration often comes from pop culture like the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelly Frankenstein, and then we decide to put the Monster and his bride in a soda shop together or the 35th anniversary of Back to the Future, or put Marty McFly riding his Hoverboard through the 10th Street Plaza. Each June, Graffiti Summer, we try to pull out a scene from American Graffiti. There are some months where my imagination and inspiration have a field day and that Is May and October; Star Wars and Halloween are my preferred covers to create. Last year, we told the story of Modesto over 150 years during the pandemic with each month representing a different decade. My all-time favorite cover to this day is the 2019 May cover, an homage to Norman Rockwell’s “The Run Away” with a Star Wars twist. What made it even more special was the use of action figures to create the shot; yeah for a short while I got to play pretend with toys. It is not a stretch to say that Norman Rockwell is one of my idols and major inspirations for many of my covers. He always tells a story and I do my best to do the same. For most of my June Graffiti covers, I try to bring out that nostalgic art style. I also like putting little Easter eggs in the cover for people to discover.

On the road to 100 covers, what I most enjoy is meeting and working with all these amazing people like the Moradians for the Zombie family or the Victorines, our cosplaying Frankenstein Monster and his Bride, Eli and Jaci Lester our rockabilly 50’s couple; Rockin’ Santa Mike Allsup and Jenn Allsup, and let’s not forget Sam and Ruhi, the Ah You’s, Heather Brent, the Faros, the KAT Country crew, Abigail, Ryan and Madison, our local bands and musicians and so many others who have been part of this journey. There have been so many magic moments with them all as they followed me down the rabbit hole of my imagination; not blinking an eye when I would ask them to pretend to row a boat, point an imaginary space ship, or as a ghost standing in front of a haunted McHenry mansion. Even more fun is to tell a group car cruisers to pretend they are all getting busted by cops playing dice. Even when there were no props, they all went along for the ride. Many times I photograph them standing in front of a blank wall or black background, then later I would create the whole world in Photoshop.

Now Chris and I will agree our most loved covers are the ones with the kids. We love how excited they get when they come to shoot. After the magazine comes out we love hearing stories about how they got that 15 minutes of fame in school. We have seen many of my young cover kids grow up to great young adults; like the ice cream eating July 2013 cover model Sofia Johnson who we get to see grow up to become one of our writers. So many great memories creating these covers which always challenge me to find new ways to get inspired. I have been blessed that some of my covers have won awards but my true blessing is to be able to create and tell new stories. As long as I find people who will play pretend with me I will make 100 more.

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.”― Jim Henson

Posted in: news

About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.