The next step in a MAD job is the package I get from the art department. In it is a copy of the script, printouts of the layouts and the reference materials they have gathered and the boards. The boards large pieces of Strathmore bristol with all the pages, panel borders and text boxes drawn in pencil. These are usually done by longtime MAD production guru Lenny “The Beard” Brenner. The boards are drawn at 200% of print size, so a full page is 16.25 x 21 trim size. That is big, being that comics are usually drawn at 150% of print size, but who am I to argue with 50 years of tradition? I now have everything I need to get started and really begin the creative process!
Thinking about starting my MAD job…
Okay, I have been known to procrastinate now and then, but sometimes I just need to gather my creative forces and begin to channel them into the job, focusing on the task…
Getting some “encouragement” from the missus
Okay, sometimes I need my lovely wife Anna to gently remind me she needs a new pair of shoes and to get busy.
Back on the job, my next step is the “roughs”. At this stage I work directly on the layouts that I printed on drawing paper.
I ‘rough in’ the basic action, design and layout of the art. I do use my reference loosely at this point, but I don’t knock myself out trying to do any involved caricatures or drawing. My goal here is to get the basics down quickly, just to be able to get the idea across to the guys back at MAD. Here’s where I demonstrate how I am “selling the gags” and how the storytelling elements will flow and indicate some sight gags I am adding. I’ll attempt a quick caricature of the main people, but if I miss them I don’t go back and sweat over it… that’s for the final pencil stage. Even so, this is where the heavy thinking goes into the job. I have to consider what the writer is trying to say in each panel, and make sure the art is backing that up and making it more clear if possible. This particular scene was very challenging, as three of the word balloons on top are coming from a single person, out of a TV screen. The group is also in a confining space on their converted luxury bus, and that complicates matters. In addition, the header takes up a lot of room on the left, leaving an awkward space for the lead character (Ty Pennington) to be placed, and he HAS to be in that space because of the two different word balloons attributed to him. I used the TV show’s gimmick of Ty always videotaping everything (especially himself) with the handycam, so that allowed me to have him leaning into the shot and work around that awkward area. I had the guy in the TV screen actually speaking out of three separate monitors so I could both space him out and illustrate each of his descriptions in time. I used warped and forced perspective (cheated it badly, one might say) to work the bus interior in. Whew. The rest was a piece of cake.
At this point I scan the roughs in and send it back to MAD. The editors and art staff review the art and get back to me (usually very quickly) with comments. Most of these I ignore, except if they come up with something boring but useful like pointing out I gave someone 6 fingers or that I neglected to draw something trivial like someone’s pants or something. To be fair, the art staff really knows it’s business and when they do make changes they are always for the better. I’ve learned a great deal working for MAD. One thing I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so don’t bother asking. Another thing is to cash my paycheck as quickly as possible.
Once the roughs are approved and any changes are made, it’s on to the big boards for the final pencils!
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