Sneak Peek: “MAD 20: Loan Wars” piece

December 16th, 2008 | Posted in MAD Magazine

My MAD 20 contribution

Every once and awhile I am asked to get outside my comfort zone by MAD and do something very different from the usual sort of work. Those scenarios have their good and bad sides, but mostly I enjoy thinking “outside the box” and doing something that is a departure from my ink and color style. Since I work digitally in PhotoShop (at least for my color), I occasionally get called upon to do a combination PhotoShop/illustration image for some specific need. In this year’s MAD 20, I was asked to do just that… as you can see in the final above.

No doubt my having just done this cover for MAD KIDS brought my name up for this particular assignment, and as a result I found myself right back to painting “Clone Wars” style characters, but this time rather than doing actual characters I needed to do caricatures of real people in the “Clone Wars” style. The job entailed spoofing the movie poster for “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to target the major players in the economic disaster of the fall of this year. In my version ObiWan was to be replaced by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Anakin by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, Yoda by chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank and Ahsoka Tano by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I also needed to add other elements like the NY Stock Exchange and U.S. Capitol, somehow make the stormtroopers into stock floor traders and throw in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as the droids.

I started with the original Clone Wars poster as the basis of the illustration.

The Clone Wars Poster Image

I would be using this as the base of the new illustration, replacing elements and covering elements up with new painted images that (hopefully) would match the look of the original art. My first job was to take this base image and do a pencil layout with the new elements in place.

Pencil sketch

I anticipated placing this pencil right on top of the original image and painting the new elements on layers on top of that, eventually ending up with a seamless final. However the first step to that end was removing all the elements from the original poster that were not going to be needed and would not be covered up. That meant the ships, non-green lightsabers and Obi-Wan and Anakin’s heads. I really hate that kind of PhotoShop busywork, but you have to do what you have to do. I used a combination of the rubber stamp tool and good, old fashioned painting to remove those elements that were unwanted:

Poster revised
Looks like there was a bad lightsaber accident…

From there it was just your basic digital painting sweat and tears that created the new elements. I painted them on their own layers and then flattened the whole image at the end. The faces were pretty straightforward, blending caricature with the video game style of the “Clone Wars” characters. I also sampled nearby colors from the original poster to blend the color in, although I punched up some of the colors later like Frank/Yoda’s skin tones. Here’s the final image:

"Loan Wars" Final Art
Click on the image for a closer look…

And here are some close ups of some areas:

"Loan Wars" detail

Bernanke and Paulson were just heads and necks that got flattened onto the bodies. I made them a little bigger than the original heads on the poster, and I also lessened the shadow elements to make them more visible. I also replaced the shoulder pad symbol.

"Loan Wars" detail 2

Barney Frank makes a good Yoda! I tried to introduce a similar texture to that of the poster’s Yoda skin with limited success.

"Loan Wars" detail 3

The buildings were a pain, as you can imagine. For the Stock Exchange I actually painted it by hand, using a picture as reference and as a base for the painting. Took forever. I added the suit jackets, IDs, ties and stock papers to the stormtroopers and erased out the area for the belts and other elements.

"Loan Wars" detail 4

The lightsabers with the money symbols were done using a single “$” and duplicating it, finally adding some glow effects. Pelosi’s face was the hardest to do bcause I wanted to keep her likeness but still get the tribal tattoos, orange skin and head gear of Ahsoka. I added Bush and Cheney in a manner reminiscent of the original Hildebrandt “Star Wars” poster but keeping to the “Clone Wars” versions of the characters and just adding the oversized heads in. These elements were going to be so small that I did not sweat the exact matching of Bush’s face colors to the C-3PO body. The capitol building on this side of the poster I got smart with and just used a photo image, put it through a few filters and then hand painted certain elements on top of it. Again, given the small print size, it would have been silly to spend the time painting a building from scratch like I did with the Stock Exchange.

I did the original image as a full page illustration enven though I knew it was likely they would go the “DVD Cover” route. Much of the detail work I did in the original got lost in the printed version, but that’s the breaks. An interesting job, but I am glad I don’t make a living doing photo retouching work.


  1. Mugshotz says:

    Got mine in the mail today… glad you posted this on your blog. Unfortunately as you pointed out, the printed version doesn’t do your hard work justice. I think a better layout would have been just as effective and still shown.

    I’m not really a fan of the animated style they used in this movie. I think you pulled it off well, while still maintaining a good percentage of your style.

  2. Rick W says:

    Wow!! Great job Tom!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. cvanoni says:

    Incredible appreciation for good ol’ hard work, Tom.
    It’s great to see someone take pride in their work – and you always do.

    PS – These days, if I’m not drawing caricatures for you or working on freelance at home – I’m doing photo retouching for a company in N. St. Paul 🙂
    For a wrestling magazine no less!
    Try fielding requests like, “Please reduce bulges”
    (They’re not talking about their biceps)

    – C

  4. R2-D. Cheney is my favorite part of this piece. He doesn’t look happy to be stuck in a can.

  5. Tom says:

    Cheney never looks too happy!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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