Sunday Mailbag

June 5th, 2011 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I noticed on MAD‘s website they mention that they don’t want any one submitting ideas to send in movie/TV parodies. I can fully understand this, but I was wondering how does someone eventually break through and get to cover these things? Your second published article in MAD was a TV parody. For writers, do they use the same again and again?

A: I’m not a part of MAD‘s editorial staff, so all I can tell you is my personal experience and how I understand it usually works.

You have to work your way up to doing things like the movie and TV parodies in MAD. Nobody starts out jumping right into them… there is too much involved with those jobs. It goes way past just being able to draw well, do constantly good caricatures or even do good comic-style storytelling. You have to demonstrate the ability to understand the tone and direction of the writing and craft your artwork to reinforce it. You need to be able to prove you can do your homework and bring something more to the parody besides just doing some funny faces by writing visual gags that work within the scope of the satire. You need to show you can “sell the gag” that the writer has written in each panel or series of panels. Your storytelling, pacing and the”acting” of your characters must be strong within the framework of also being funny. Finally you have to show you can meet deadlines and are able to produce this kind of complex work under time constraints. That’s a lot of stuff that the editors really only find out about an artist by working with them. Most of all, though, I think the movie and TV parodies are very special features of the magazine, and you have to earn your way into doing them.

For the record, it was actually my fourth published article that ended up being my first MAD parody (Malcontent in the Muddle, MAD #403), and if you count the article I did that got “evergreen-ed” and didn’t see publication for 9 months, plus the two website-only jobs I did, my first parody was really my seventh job for MAD. Even so, it was unheard of to be fast-tracked like that into doing parody work. I was lucky to come in at exactly the time they needed artists to do color parody work, and I had a digital color technique at the ready plus had done several for Cracked. Had that not been the case, who knows how long it might have been before I got that opportunity?

As far as writing goes, MAD has three freelancers that seem to be doing the bulk of the parody writing lately: Dick DeBartolo, Arnie Kogen and Des Devlin. I can’t remember the last time someone other than one of those three writers did a TV or film parody script, but there have been others in the past. I don’t know if that means they don’t want to use anyone else, or they just don’t find the need or opportunity to. That’s a question for the MAD editors.

You may notice that MAD says the following on their submission guidelines page on the website:

Here’s what we’re NOT looking for:

  1. Movie & TV Satires: Unless they’re entirely different in format and approach from the ones we’re currently using.

So, they do say they (in a round-about way) that they would be looking for submissions that take a different approach. I think that, considering so many people are so familiar with MAD and their regular features, it is pretty easy to mimic their approach. MAD doesn’t need to see that. They have plenty of freelancers already doing what they usually do. They want to see something fresh.

I always encourage people wanting to work for MAD to start small. The Strip Club feature is a good place. Spot gags for the Fundalini Pages is another. Artists and writers have started out there and eventually graduated to more involved features for the magazine.

Thanks to Calvin Vinlac for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. Calvin says:

    Thanks so much for answering! I thought I hadn’t even sent the e-mail to you, because my computer messed up, and I just learned you answered now.


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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