Sunday Mailbag

October 13th, 2013 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I’ve been meaning to ask you about how and at what point during a project do you normally send your roughs to MAD for approval. And since your originals are “twice-size’ how do you scan your work? Just curious.

A: The process goes this way:

  1. Sam Viviano, MAD’s Maddest Art Director, calls me to give me a heads up that I will be doing the art for a parody of some TV show or movie. This gives me a chance to go see the film or to get some episodes of the show to watch so I can familiarize myself with the subject. Yes, watching movies or TV is part of my job… I know, it’s a hard life.
  2. MAD sends me a script and the layouts for the parody. The script is usually 12-15 pages with dialogue and descriptions of the scenes being depicted in each, occasional art notes, etc. The layout is literally the complete parody with all balloons, text and panels in place…. just missing the art:layout
  3. I print out these layouts on bristol drawing paper at print size. On this paper I do my “roughs”, meaning I work out the entire parody in terms of composition, storytelling, and all the elements MAD needs to see to approve. I may or may not do actual caricatures at this stage. Often what I do is just take a quick stab at the caricature, and if I am off the mark I just move on knowing I will work on it at the final pencil stage to get the caricature right. Here’s an example:rough
    This is what I send in to MAD for their review. The important information is either drawn in enough for them to see and understand what I am doing in each panel… “selling” the gag that is in the dialogue, advancing the story, adding sight gags, etc, or sometimes I will add notes to the panels to indicate things I intend to do but didn’t work in at this stage. This example is a fairly “tight” rough, with very little not drawn out almost fully. In some cases I might be doing circles for heads with the name of the actor scrawled in it with no attempt at caricature… I usually spend a little more time on the splash roughs.

In answer to the second part of your question, I have an 11×17 inch scanner and can scan these roughs in as two page spreads in one scan. The larger final art I have to scan in two half and stitch together in PhotoShop.

Thanks to Frank Pryor 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. Rich Powell says:

    Another good post. I finally got myself an 11×17 scanner. What a relief! You didn’t mention what printer you use to print on the Bristol and, what do you work on for the final? Myself, I would simply ink over the rough. I like to have just a tiny bit of the rough included in the final (you’ve seen my slight,y messy style) so I erase the pencil more and less here and there. Please tell us folks in bloggyland how you go from a smaller rough to a larger pencil. I know you don’t ink digitally.

  2. Thanks for the Nice information Tom!

  3. anon says:

    a question: what do you think of the onion? i think the writing is better than mads. do u think mad could learn from them?

    • Tom says:

      I like the Onion but it’s a different animal. Essentially all their articles are the exact same format. It’s funny, but it would be like MAD having only Spy vs Spy cover to cover, every issue.

  4. N Gomes says:

    Man! it’s like making a movie. You are given a story, screenplay and then the artist brings alive a whole new world. Never knew so much goes into it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Frank Pryor says:

    Tom, thanks for the information. As always, you have helped more than you know! You’re the best!

  6. Ronnie says:

    Wow, That is way harder than I thought it would be. I’m even more impressed.


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