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Diary of a MAD Job Revisited

September 1st, 2014

This week I am in lock down, do-or-die, 24-7, no foolin’ Deadline Demon mode trying to finish an eight (that’s right EIGHT page parody) for MAD by the weekend. No time for anything else. So… Welcome to flashback week! About eight years ago I posted this little walk through of a typical job for MAD entitled “Diary of a MAD Job”. I thought I would repost it this week. It’s a little dated (I have annotated these with updated comments) but most of the process is the same.

Diary of a MAD Job Part 1:

Whenever I meet someone who knows that I do work for MAD, I invariably get asked two questions. The first one is “Do they still publish that rag?”. The second is “How do you do the movie/TV parodies?”. Actually that question is usually phrased as a series of questions including “do you get to see the movie ahead of time?”, “does MAD provide you with pictures/copies of the film?”, “do you write the gags?”, and my personal favorite: “can you tell me where the bathroom is?” Over the next few days I will go through the process of doing a job for MAD from beginning to end, hopefully answering many of these questions in the process (except that last one).

First off, I have to get the job. MAD has no staff artists (or writers, for that matter). It’s all freelance, and unless you have a regular feature like “Spy vs. Spy” you aren’t given work in every single issue. Often I am waiting around for the phone to ring.

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Waiting for my next MAD job…

MAD assigns jobs based on things like the style of art they want for a particular piece, the availability of the artist, etc. Of course, there are some things you can do to get the ball rolling…

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Sending a reminder to the editors at MAD. The fact that I am sending ten dollar bills is an indictment of how much money freelance artists make.

Finally I’ll get that call. MAD art director Sam Viviano has a policy to only call an artist for a job when it’s a definite go and the final decision has been made for that artist to do that particular job. Sam would never call me and advise me to go see a film or to clear my board for a job that is still just a maybe… and that is something any freelancer appreciates. It’s always exciting when Sam calls me for a job…

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Hello, SAM??

Even if that job has a ridiculously short deadline…

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The first thing I get from the gang at MAD is a layout of the piece. For our example here I’ll use a TV parody I did a year or so ago of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition“. This is what I would get e-mailed to me from MAD (other pages as well, this is just the splash):

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Blank layout for “Extreme Once-Over: Home Repetition”
Click for a closer look

The artist is always the last stop on the wagon trail before the piece goes into the magazine. Before I get this layout, the writer has written and submitted a script, the editors have gone over it, argued and came to blows or called each other hurtful names a few times about it, finally making their changes (often taking out gags and reducing the number of panels/pages) and the art department assembles and lays out the articles with text and word balloons, panel placement and header/department text in place. That’s a lot of work before I even see the job… or at least they like to say it is. At any rate, this is what I get to work with. Sometimes Sam will do a ‘doodle’ on the splash to help set up the scene (haven’t see that in years… Sam knows what to expect from me these days and, despite that, still doesn’t do any preliminary doodles for me) primarily because the placement of the word balloons dictates where the characters speaking them need to be, and the one doing the layouts needs that set up. Regardless if I have a Sam doodle as a springboard or not (in this case not), the restrictions of the balloon placement complicates matters and makes the splash page and to a lesser extent the rest of the job into a kind of visual puzzle.

My job now is this: I have to place the characters in such a way as the word balloons make sense sequentially without the balloon ‘tails’ crossing or doing anything too hard to read within the environment set up by the story while doing (hopefully) convincing caricatures of several actors/actresses with many different expressions and angles throughout the story while simultaneously paying attention to storytelling design and panel layout/camera angles to advance the eye along the page while at the same time ‘selling the gag’ by which I mean I visually reinforcing and driving home the jokes written by the writer meanwhile adding visual gags of my own in the panel/backgrounds to add a second layer of humor all while trying to draw funny in the first place. That IS a lot of work, almost as much work as writing that last run-on sentence was, despite what those lazy-ass writers say. Memo to self: ask for a raise.

In the case of a movie, my first step is always to see the film if it’s in release. If, like in this case, it’s a TV show, I set the old DVR to record some episodes and watch several. It’s important to get a good feel for the show and what it’s all about before trying to do a parody of it. It’s the little details that make for a good lampooning of a show, and you don’t capture the little things unless you are familiar with the show. I will often tap friends or relatives who watch a TV show regularly about what to look for (one of my neighbors pointed out to me that one of the designers in the show “Trading Spaces” was always barefoot when she did her work, so I gave her stinky, dirty feet the whole parody). I always have a lot more fun doing a parody of something I really like (or really hate), as opposed to a show or movie I don’t care at all about.

After getting familiar with the show, I start digging up reference. MAD will be sending me a bunch of scrap of the main characters as they have art staff Google pictures and print them out for me (this also hasn’t been the case for years, I am on my own with references these days), but I do a ton of research myself as well. If there is a book out I’ll go buy it (tax deductible, you know). I get all the mindless celebrity-chasing entertainment magazines and clip pictures out of them as well (it’s all internet image searches these days). If an actor or actress I’m drawing was recently in a film or TV show that is out on DVD, I’ll rent that and do some screen captures to use as reference (that’s right, Steve Jobs (he’s dead), that’s a legitimate and FAIR USE reason why users of your computers should be allowed to screen capture from DVD) but I primarily farm the Internet for pictures. I assemble them on 13×19 inch sheets and print them out so they are handy (now I use an iPad for all reference, thanks dead Steve Jobs). I also print the layouts at print size onto a decent piece of drawing paper. With my reference in hand and my layouts ready, I can get started with the roughs.

Tomorrow: “Getting to work” or “Procrastinating for Dummies”

Stan Goldberg: 1932-2014

August 31st, 2014

StanIt’s with great sadness I pass on the news that comic book legend Stan Goldberg passed away today at age 82 from complications of a severe stroke he suffered a few weeks ago. Stan and his wife Pauline were two of the most wonderful, friendly and genuine people the Lovely Anna and I ever had the privilege of getting to know through the National Cartoonists Society… and that is saying a lot as we count many, many NCS members as very good friends.

Stan had the kind of career in comics that in some ways flew under the radar, but in others was one of rare influence and greatly respected by industry pros. He was best known as a principal artist for Archie Comics for over 30 years, but he also freelanced for many others. He worked for Timely Comics, which would become Atlas and then Marvel, and was the colorist for their early titles, coming up with many of the color schemes for the costumes for The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk and other eventual staples of the Marvel superhero world. After a split with Archie, Stan continued to work for companies like Bongo, DC and others on a variety of titles.

Stan was such an easy person to talk to. Soft spoken, he had so many stories of the old days in the Marvel bullpen, his time with Archie and the people he’d met and worked with you could completely lose track of time listening… yet at no time did you ever get the feeling any of the things he said were about himself. He was as humble and selfless a man as one could meet. He had a joy for comics and cartooning that was infectious.

The last few years at the NCS Reuben Awards were special ones for Stan and Pauline. In 2012 in Las Vegas, the NCS honored him with the “Gold Key” award, inducting him into the NCS Hall of Fame. A very humble man, Stan was really moved by the recognition, but it was undeniably well-deserved. You should know you are a big deal in the world of comics when Stan Lee sends in a long video tribute to you for your award presentation! It was wonderful to see him get that award.

This past year was another special Reubens for the Goldbergs. Back in October of last year, Stan and Pauline were involved in a terrible car accident that badly injured them both. I was told that one of the first things they said after beginning their long roads to recovery was that they were determined to get better and go to the Reubens in San Diego that following May. In fact, they had their room booked right after the accident as incentive. At the Reuben Awards dinner we recognized them and let them know how glad we were they were there and how important they are to the NCS family with a thunderous round of applause. They are such special people. Little did we know we were also saying goodbye to Stan.

I saw Stan and Pauline back in June at the annual NCS “Bunny Bash” party hosted by Bunny Hoest-Carpenter in her backyard on Long Island, and I had a chance to sit and talk for a good long time with Stan about things. I almost did not make it to that event, and I am sure glad I did. It’s very easy to say the cartooning world will miss someone who had a long and influential career in the industry, but it hits hard when you also counted them a real friend.

It was a delight and a privilege to know Stan Goldberg. The Lovely Anna and my heart goes out to Pauline and the Goldberg family. the NCS and the world is a little poorer place tonight, and our hearts are heavy. God bless, Stan. Thanks for being you.

Sunday Mailbag- Working From Home?

August 31st, 2014

Q: I have a series of questions for your blog regarding the mental state one goes through when working from home as a freelancer (or just working from home in general). Do you ever get depressed from being locked in one room by yourself for an extended period of time without speaking or seeing anyone else besides your family? (And by family I mean your wife and children who live with you). Do you ever wish you were in a studio environment alongside other artists you could have lunch with or just casually chat to on a break?

Continuing on with the theme of working from home, do your family members take advantage of you for being at home by asking you to do errands? How do you stop your family members from distracting you? Do they ever barge into your office/studio and ask questions or stop you from doing work?

A: There are pros and cons about having a studio in the home as opposed to having studio space in some other location. The pros are you are never far from the studio. The cons are you are never far from the studio.

Me spending some quality time with the kids at home…

This has always been something I have wrestled with. I know many freelance artists that swear having a studio away from home is the only way they stay productive. Some tell me that sharing space with other artists begets a creative atmosphere that they need and that makes them better artists. I have always wondered if that would be a better way to go for me, but I have never taken the plunge to try because it frankly would cost too much money and the intangibles of working out of the home are too important to me. My studio in the lower level of our home costs me nothing in terms of rent, extra equipment or commute time, and I have never been able to justify the extra expense just to try having a studio outside my home. Just setting up internet service, paying for electricity, getting furniture and stuff would be expensive. I’d have to do a lot more work per year to cover those expenses, and I find it hard to believe I’d see enough extra productivity to make up the difference.

I would not say I ever get “depressed” working in a solitary environment, but I do sometimes have trouble staying on task. Mainly it’s because there are a lot of distractions here, but when I take a hard look at it there would be as many of the same distractions at an outside studio. Email, phone calls, NCS/business stuff… that’s all going to be in the way at any location. Personally I get my best work done when I am alone and in a quiet environment, which is why the hours of 9pm-7 am seem the best times to get serious work done. I would probably not be able to work during these hours in an outside studio, and if I could it would defeat the purpose of having an outside studio as those are quiet hours anywhere. I can see the argument that, by having a studio outside the home, you would be able to be more productive during business hours and not need to work the wee hours to get quiet time, but I disagree. The world itself is loud during business hours, and I think I’d struggle with the same distractions in a separate studio as I do at home.

I often do think about what it would be like to work in a studio with other artists. In a way I think it would foster a highly creative environment and might add a lot of energy to my day and work. Then again I might end up chatting too much with everyone and get less done. I’d have to find the right person(s) to share space with, which would be tough to do. I’d also have to establish the same kind of guidelines about when you can and cannot bother me when deadlines get nasty, which I have to do at home with the family anyway.

Which brings me to your last question about dealing with family members interfering with work. I am sure you did not mean to phrase your question to suggest family would “take advantage of me” in terms of them being knowingly intrusive or demanding. That has never, ever been an issue, and we had four kids in six years so there was a lot of family about. The Lovely Anna and the kids always respected my studio time and would always ask if I was busy when they needed something. When the kids were little I would have a drawing area for them in the studio and they would come in and draw sometimes, but they had many more fun things to do about the house so they didn’t spend much time hanging out with dad. Anna has never been anything but a huge help with my work, either by dealing with the kids and family stuff herself or also by helping me the business end of things… she still does a lot of that. Now that the kids are all grown up it’s only the dogs that demand my attention, and believe me they are more demanding than the kids ever were.

Sure, there are times when I have to put down the pen and go do something in the house that Anna needs my help with. If things are really getting serious with a deadline I am not afraid to say “I can’t do that right now”, but honestly very few things are too time consuming for me to have to say that. Anna knows exactly what I am working on at any given time, and so she knows when I am getting behind and when I need to be left alone, or when she can ask me to help move something in the garage without being too distracting.

The pros of family distractions are worth it all, though. I never missed a first step, lost tooth, first bike ride, holiday school singing show, choir concert, play, or any other growing-up milestone. More importantly, I was there when the little things happened and shared in all the important and not-so-important but still special moments of my kids growing up. I feel sorry for the many parents out there whose jobs and careers only give them a few hours a day of time with their children. I had all day, every day. Only when I was doing the theme park thing full time did I have significant time away from home,. That was only during the summers and I ended my personal time in the parks when the kids were still very young. Likewise The Lovely Anna and I spend all our days together. I know more than a few married couples whose relationships I seriously doubt would survive spending that kind of time together. We are lucky in that it’s not a cliché for us to say we are not just husband and wife, but best friends as well.

All in all I’m quite content with having a studio in my home as opposed to outside the home. In fact, I feel very blessed to be able to have done that all these years.

Thanks to Hugo Z 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!

The Ice Bucket Challenge

August 28th, 2014

I officially succumbed to peer pressure and did the Ice Bucket Challenge:

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Embarrassing, but I ended up donating to ALS research anyway…

BTW I was challenged by illustrator Howie Noel, comic book superstar Doug Mahnke and Reuben award winning “Baby Blues” cartoonist Rick Kirkman, and I in turn challenged my brothers-in-law Joe, Paul, Dave and Chris Voss.

Don’t forget to donate here: http://www.alsa.org/donate/

Sketch o’the Week- Mel Brooks!

August 27th, 2014

Mel Brooks © 2014 Tom RichmondThis week’s SotW subject is legendary comedian Mel Brooks. Quick study actually for a job I am working on.

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Chicago Comic Con 2014!

August 26th, 2014

Chicago Comic-Con Booth

Spent a good part of last week manning a booth at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. Had a great time and met a lot of fans of MAD… the animated (and now lamentably cancelled) show on the Cartoon Network really started a lot of kids on the magazine. The pic above is of my booth. The new Batman print sold pretty well, as did the Sherlock print and a good portion of the extra Doctor Who prints I had left over from the original printing, which I am selling as “artist proof” prints. I still have a few handfuls left but they are going fast. I’m only selling them at these conventions.

I also did a lot of drawing at this con, both caricatures of people and of requested celebrities. Here’s a couple celebs I was asked to draw:

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“Bats in the Belfry” LE Print Now Available!

August 25th, 2014

As promised, “Bats in the Belfry” is now on sale in the Studio Store. For those looking for one of the inked originals and “special edition” prints that accompany it, I will be posting the ones that have not already been claimed later today. Here’s the copy from the print product page:

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Batman is one of the most enduring and beloved comic book characters of all time, and has been portrayed in many different ways on television and in film since the mid 1900s. This limited edition print caricatures, and pokes a little gentle fun at, the eight different portrayals of the fictional Dark Knight spanning over 70 years of Batman on the big and small screens:

  • Lewis Wilson- “Batman” movie serial series from 1943
  • Robert Lowery- “Batman and Robin” movie serial series from 1949
  • Adam West- “Batman” television series series, 1966-68
  • Michael Keaton- “Batman” and “Batman Returns” films, 1989 & 92
  • Val Kilmer- “Batman Forever” film, 1995
  • George Clooney- “Batman and Robin” film, 1997
  • Christian Bale.- “The Dark Knight” film trilogy, 2005-2012
  • Ben Affleck- “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice” upcoming film, 2016

Fans of the Caped Crusader will love this unique collectible, created by MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond (me… duh)! Shipped in a sturdy cardboard tube, and signed and personalized if directed.

“Bats in the Belfry” Limited Edition Print

  • Artwork by award winning MAD Magazine artist Tom Richmond
  • 450 signed and numbered prints
  • 11″ x 28″, elegant matte finish professional print
  • Only $25.00 (cheap) plus shipping

Studio Store

Here’s a gallery of the different Batmen caricatures from the print:

 

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Sunday Mailbag- “Bats” Print Info

August 24th, 2014

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Today’s mailbag is an amalgamation of many of the questions I have been getting on my new Limited Edition Print “Bats in the Belfry”, which goes on sale online here tomorrow:

Q: How many prints in your limited edition?

A: Just like the last two prints, there will be 450 of them, all hand numbered and signed.

Q: How much will they be?

A: $25 plus shipping, just like the others.

Q: How big is it?

A: Big. 11″ x 28″.

Q: Will you ever reissue the print after the limited editions are sold out?

A: Nope. Both the James Bond and Doctor Who prints are completely sold out (although I do have a few of the Doctor Who prints left from the original print run, which I am selling as “Artist Proofs”), and I will not be printing them again.

Q: Will you be selling the original art as well like before?

A: Yes. Just like the last two, I did the original inks of each of the Batmen as individual pieces and will be selling them as “Special Editions” along with a signed and numbered “SE” print series of eight. They will be priced at $125 each. Several of them all already spoken for, though. I will post the individual ones still available sometime later tomorrow.

Q: This is your second print in less than 4 months. Are we going to be inundated with new prints several times a year now?

A: No. My intention was always to do only one print a year, but the Sherlock print was sort of a special extra one. Most of the time I will have a new print released in the early summer. I’ll do it as long as people are interested in buying them. Don’t worry, if you are a completist kind of collector you won’t be looking at “Disney Water globe” syndrome here, where 20 new items are released each year.

Q: Why didn’t you draw the bat on the chest of the Batmen?

A: Because that bat symbol is a trademarked property, and even though this is a parody of the subject matter including a trademark is hard to defend legally.

8 Days of Batmen- Ben Affleck!

August 23rd, 2014

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One of the stars of the upcoming movie “Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice”, Ben Affleck. I’ve come to terms with the choice of actor here, and will give Affleck a chance to make me forget he’s Ben Affleck and believe he is Batman… not sure he can pull that off, but he’s got the benefit of my doubt. One of eight caricatures from my upcoming limited edition print “Bats in the Belfry”, which debuted this week at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, and will be onsale in The Studio Store on Monday!

Look for the full print image on Monday, and details on how to order your signed, limited edition print!

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8 Days of Batmen- Christian Bale!

August 22nd, 2014

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Star of the Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” movie trilogy, Christian Bale. One of eight caricatures from my new limited edition print “Bats in the Belfry”, debuting this weekend at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con, and onsale in The Studio Store on Monday!

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