Sunday Mailbag- How long per page?

July 13th, 2014 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: The pages you do for your MAD parodies are very detailed and full of a lot of little gags and touches, especially the opening pages. How long to you spend on each page?

A: I get this question a lot when people look at my originals. The only accurate answer is that it takes as long as they give me.

Doing the physical artwork is only part of the work and time I put into a movie or TV parody for MAD. I spend quite a bit of time doing research and getting familiar with the show or film as well as looking for reference photos or stills before I even pick up the pencil. Doing TV show parodies are harder in terms of research, because I need to watch a number of episodes to get the feel of the show and search for “inside” gags I can incorporate into the art. When we do serial shows like the recent “True Detective”, I really have to watch the whole run to completely get it. I know what you are thinking… “Poor baby, you have to watch TV for your job!” Yes, but it’s a two way sword. First, if I hate the show I still have to watch it, and that gets pretty tedious. I’ll never get back the hours of my life I spent watching “Samantha Who?”, “Glee” or “Pimp my Ride”. Second, it’s a lot of hours spent. One season of a typical serial show is 13 hours. If we are talking multiple seasons that’s some major binge watching. Of course, if I love the show like I did “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men” or the previously mentioned “True Detective”, that’s not very arduous… just very time consuming.

Movies are easier from a research perspective as they are usually less than 3 hours long, and if I see it twice that’s plenty. I usually watch a movie I’m doing the parody art for once when I get the assignment, then again after I’ve read the script and know what scenes we are doing, so I can pay close attention to the visuals during those scenes. Then I download trailers and search the internet for stills or promotional photos to use as reference.

Once I start the actual artwork I do a page in about 2 to 3 days. It takes about a day per page to pencil it out, including roughs and final pencils, 1/2 a day to ink it and 1/2 a day to color it. That’s 2 days per page, but If I take my time it stretches out to 3 days per page. 2 days per page is pretty much my top speed. Any faster and the work suffers. By a “day” I mean about 12-15 hours. I have been known to color and entire 6 page parody in under 48 hours, but that is a function of endurance rather than speed. I simply stop sleeping or doing anything but work, eat and use the restroom¬¨‚Ć (and it’s not out of the question to do all three at the same time) until the job is done. Not healthy but deadlines wait for no man.

Thanks to Steve Barber 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. Richard Buff says:

    Do you quote each Mad project individually or do they basically say, “we have X amount of dollars for this, take it or leave it”? A TV series versus a movie would seem to represent a huge difference in total number of project hours and a longer TV series would dramatically reduce your effective hourly rate if you watched each episode. From a pure art perspective, what you are doing is very commendable, but from a business perspective I could see you groaning when an TV assignment comes across your desk if you make the same amount of money no matter how much “research” is involved.

    • Tom says:

      It’s a flat page rate. Some jobs just require more time. I do mostly parodies these days so MOST of my jobs require a lot of extra work, but I occasionally get some extra credit from MAD in the way of other work thrown my way and such to balance things out. The staff knows the parodies are a huge amount of work and I do not feel unappreciated.


On sale tomorrow everywhere fine books (and this one) are sold!

Doctor Who 2105 Ad

Batman 2015 Ad

Sherlock Holmes 2015 Ad

Superman 2015 Ad