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Monday MADness- Religious Video Games!

Monday, September 8th, 2014

From MAD #471, Nov 2006, a two page feature called “When Video Games Become Religious” written by Jacob Lambert. The pencil roughs in the layout and the individual final art panels:

religiousvideoClicky to embiggen…




dancedanceClicky to embiggen…



contentsunderpressureClicky to embiggen…



Diary of a MAD Job Revisited: Part 5!

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Now that the inks are all done, erased and cleaned up, it’s computer time! First the pages need to be scanned in sections, then placed together to make a complete page. This is roughly as much fun as getting poked in the eye by a sharp instrument, but it is what it is.

I invested in a very large scanner to simplify my life and cut down on popping veins in my forehead. I use a Microtek ScanMaker 9800XL (Epson Expression GT 20000), which is a flatbed with a 12?x17? scanning area. I use their ScanWizard Pro software and scan directly into Photoshop.  Even so, a two page spread of original art is 21.5 inches x 33 Inches. I have to scan that in quarters and then place the sections into a master template, make adjustments, flatten and then prepare for color. This is very difficult to do, and not just because it’s time consuming. For some reason, these big scanners have a little trouble with their consistancy, and I often cannot line up the sections so they match. Part of the problem is that the center edge of a section, meaning the place where the scanner stops in the horizontal middle of a single page gets distorted because it is being lifted off the glass slightly by the raised edge of the scanner. I scan a full 12 x 17 but lop off an inch from that 12 inch height at that middle edge to eliminate the distortion. That still gives me a 1/2 inch overlap. I place the top section of the first page into the template and then the bottom section layered on top of it. Then I reduce the opacity of the bottom image so I can see through it, and line up the linework easily. I find the best way to do this is to line up one corner of the bottom artwork with one corner of the top, then switch to Edit-Transform-Rotate. This gives you a center + that is the point at which you rotate your layer around. I grab this and drag it to the aligned corner. Then I go to the corner on the opposite side and rotate the layer to align there. Then I accept the transformation by hitting “enter”. Unfortunately, what often happen is that while the image lines up well on the outside corners, the center will be off somewhat. No amount of rotating will fix this. So, I often have to do some repair work and digital ‘fixing’ in that center area. I think it has to do with the speed of the scanning lamp, which might slow down or speed up in the center for unknown reasons. This has been a problem with every large format scanner I’ve had. Frustrating. Single pages are much easier because I scan them in threes, one row per scan, and the rows are only 7 inches or so high.

I scan the art in at 300 dpi at 100% in grayscale mode. Why grayscale for linework, you say? My inks aren’t really just black and white. I use the density of the ink at times to create some depth effects. I have a bottle of ink diluted to 50% strength for such effects, and using markers will give you grayer lines as well, which you can use to advantage. Finally, the finer, tapered lines look better in grayscale than they do as a bitmap. You have to make sure you use settings that will not change with each overview (pre) scan, or you will have different black levels for each scan. Most scanning software defaults to an automatic levels setting, where it uses the pre-scan to adjust the levels setting for what it thinks is best for that piece of art. This will be different for each scan. I change to density settings of 1.40 (white) and .05 (black) for most scanning and keep it constant for all scans. BTW, don’t let the MAC OSX look to this screenshot fool you, I’m using my PC here. I just have a Mac theme on it as I love the look and elegance of the Mac OSX visuals (gave up on PCs after a Blue Screen of Death incident and have been all Mac for years)




Scan, scan scan. Hoo boy, that’s fun. Once all the inks are scanned in and placed together into full pages or spreads, I go though them quickly and fix whatever boo boos or issues I notice. Then I prepare it for color. Here’s where I use a powerful feature of PhotoShop: the Actions Palette. I have several saved actions there, and one is called “Mad Color Prep”. I recorded all the steps needed to take a grayscale scan at original art size and turn it into one ready to color at print size. Here are the steps:

  • Image-size-50%
  • Image-size-300 dpi
  • Layer-Duplicate Layer- name “Inks”
  • Layer Palette-Mode= Multiply
  • Image-Mode-CMYK
  • Switch to background layer
  • Edit-Select All
  • Delete

My method for separating lines onto it’s own layer is different now:

It’s called the “Channel” line art trick, and it works just as well and almost as easily, but results in a layer of line art where the white is literally not there and yet the black and gray lines are merely transparent as opposed to being in multiply mode, which results in a lesser ink density.

Here’s the process:

  1. Scan line art as grayscale image
  2. Create a new blank layer, rename it “Inks”
  3. Go to the “Channels” palette, there is only one channel called “Gray”
  4. At the bottom of the channels palette, click the “dashed circle” icon entitled “Load Channel as Selection”
  5. In “Select” drop down menu, select “Inverse”
  6. Go to your “Inks” layer
  7. Press “D” on your keyboard to reset swathes so full black in active color
  8. Press “Option” + “”Delete” to fill selection with black
  9. On background layer, press “Command” + “A” to select and then “Delete” to delete line art on that layer
  10. Convert to RGB or CMYK

Using this technique, your line art layer will contain all your lines but the white will be gone, rather than just inert due to the multiply mode. So instead of this:

© 2008 Tom Richmond

You get this:

© 2008 Tom Richmond

The great thing is that the channels trick also preserves the subtle gray lines and any washes or values you had in the original inks, as the selection of the channel is smart enough to not just select the absolutes but also the transparencies of the image. You can use this trick to create as many layers of line and colored objects as you want and merge them at will to create layered images. best of all, the transparent black reacts differently to merging than the “multiplied” black, resulting in lower ink densities.

The one caveat here is that you should scan your lines in at a higher resolution for this technique to make sure you do not lose any linework. I do most of my inks at 200% of print size, so that is plenty large if I scan at 300 dpi. If I was inking at 150% or closer to print size, I’d bump up the resolution of my scan to twice print resolution, or say 600 dpi as opposed to 300 dpi.

The end result here is that I have all the black linework on a layer above a blank background, in CMYK color mode, at 300 DPI and print size, ready to paint. Setting the ink layer to “Multiply” makes all the white areas transparent, essentially making the inks into an old fashioned “film-pos” like the old school comic book colorists used to use. The gray lines become transparent to a degree relating to their density, while black lines are solid. We are now ready to paint!

Whew, this scanning garbage made for a long entry. We’ll move on to the last stage, color, tomorrow.

Diary of a MAD Job Revisited: Part 4!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Now that the pencils are finished, it’s time for the inking. This has always been the toughest part for me. I don’t know too many comic artists who ever feel their inked work is as effective as their pencils are, and you can count me among them. No matter how much I’ve done it, I always begin an inking job with trepidation and a certain amount of nervousness. Over the years I’ve learned to trust myself a bit more, but I still wouldn’t say it’s easy. To get started, I take out a #3 (.80) Rapidiograph pen and rule the balloons and tails, bleed and panel edges. That’s the easy part. Now comes the real inking.

Inking is about drawing, not just tracing your lines. You have to follow the lines you’ve drawn but not be a slave to them. In order to do this I look at the same reference I used to draw the pencils when I ink. Essentially you are drawing it all over again, but with the ink this time. Now I am much more conscious of line weights, using black areas to create shadows and contrast, and trying to imply depth of field. In certain ways, because I know this work is going to be colored in PhotoShop, I don’t have to work that hard to lay down a lot of black areas, define forms with hard shadows or work up many values with crosshatching because all the value work can be done with the color. However, I have always felt the work looks best if the inks can mostly stand on their own, when the color is used to enhance the art, not carry it. So, I try to ink like I want the piece to look good in black and white. Of course, that’s a lot more work, so I pick and choose where I want to do this if pressed for time. In the example of the inks for this piece below, the large upper panel uses a lot of blacks and a fair amount of cross hatching, and it stands well enough alone without the color. The panels across the bottom have less contrast and values, and they’ll need the color to be more substantial. I’d say I did that for artistic reasons, but truth to tell I was getting tired and just wanted to go to bed.

Click for a closer look.

I ink mostly with a dip pen. My primary nib is the Gillott 303, and I use “Pelikan’s Drawing Ink A”. This is a nice, flexible nib but has forgiving edges on the tip that allow for a reasonable amount of sideways movement. Try to do that with a crow quill pen like a Hunt 102, and you get a “skkkrritch” followed by a splatter of ink which is immediately followed by some serious profanity, gnashing of teeth and hurling of heavy objects… and that’s just how my wife reacts! You should see what I do when that happens. It isn’t pretty. For my heavy lines and ones I want to be especially smooth I use a brush. A Winsor Newton Series 7 to be precise, either a #1 or #2 depending on the thickness of line needed. Inking with a brush is easier in some ways and harder in others. It’s easier to get a smooth line, the ink dries almost right away and you can get very fine hairlines and thick, broad lines from the same brush. The hard part is that you cannot change direction very easily, and it takes a lot more concentration to ink well with a brush. I get sloppy with it after 15 minutes or so. Mixing a brush and pen nib gives you the best of both worlds, except for one problem. When you erase the pencils after inking, brush lines tend to lift up some and become gray, where as pen lines stay nice and black, and that shows up in the scans. To try and combat this, I use a thicker, denser ink for the brush like “Black Star” or “FW”.

I start with the thickest lines and the areas of the panels I want to be the focus. This is where I want the eye to go. Often that means that area or figure has the boldest lines and most contrast, but sometimes I’ll do the opposite so the lightness of the object makes it stick out. I try to think about where the thick and thin lines need to go to add interest to the focus of the panel. Backgrounds I use less contrast and less line variation, with thinner lines. I also do not ink all the way to the edge of a foreground or focal object, so there is a slight separation from it and the background elements. This helps bring objects or figures into the foreground. Here are two close ups of the inks for this splash:




Bored yet? I am by now. Inking can be tedious work as it takes time and I am often fighting the materials. I need to ink things out of sequence so I can allow some areas to dry before I can go back to do more inking in that spot. Otherwise my hand smears the ink, and there is more gnashing of teeth and profanity. I also run into bad nibs, nibs that need to get broken in a bit, nibs that break in too fast and I have to toss, and ink that is either too thin or too thick. I will struggle for a while, then get into a groove where I think, “Hey, this inking thing isn’t hard at all! I must be getting the hang of it!” Then my pen blops ink down my board and things get ugly. Another tip: if you drink soda or whatever from cans while inking, please remember which cans are the fresh ones and which you have dumped old ink into, or this could be you…


Once the main inks are done on a board I erase the whole thing with a white plastic eraser. These things leave eraser shaving everywhere, but kneadable erasers just don’t do the job… too many pencil lines left. They used to make these giant white plastic erasers (2 inches wide, I think) which really worked great until some genius at the product department level decided to discontinue them. Now I use the little ones.

Once the erasing is done, I go back in with some smaller markers like a Pitt, Copic or Micron or a roller ball pen and add little touches… maybe some cross hatching, or some scribbling for texture. I might thicken up a line here and there. I will go in with white-out and fix errors and add white buffers between some lines. I still use the white-out because it’s easier to spot your mistakes looking over the board than it is when scrolling across a computer screen. Half the time I forget I messed up in some spot and never fix it if I leave it for the computer stage.

Inking is a trying process for me, but eventually I get through it. I do my best inking late at night with the audiobooks going and distractions at level zero. I have to lay off the caffeine, though, or my lines would look like I did them in an earthquake. Once the inking is done, it’s all about the caffeine, baby. That’s because by now the deadline is really looming, and the next step, the scanning and the color don’t require a steady hand.

Tomorrow: Scan-o-rama and Color Me Stupid or Bring on the Monster Lo-Carb!

Diary of a MAD Job Revisited: Part 3!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Once the pencil roughs are approved with the gang at MAD, I can move on to the final pencils. This is the stage where most of the hard work occurs. The first thing I do is transfer the roughs on to the final boards. I do this by blowing up my scans of the roughs to 200% of original size, and then printing them off on 11×17 paper. In the case of a splash, I have to use the 13×19 paper and print the image in quarters, then trim and tape them together. With the story pages, a typical row of panels fits an 11×17 page and I print each row separately. I then use a large, home-made light table to redraw the roughs onto the final boards. I just do very quick sketches at this point, to get the basic shapes and panel layouts on the boards.

I have my reference printouts strewn all around me as I dig into the final pencils on the bristol boards with a mechanical leadholder and an HB or F 2mm lead. Here I need to work out the drawings fully including backgrounds, caricatures, etc. How long this takes me depends on how I am drawing at the time… sometimes everything just flows off the pencil and it’s almost effortless, but sometimes I get stuck on something and it drives me crazy. I will whip out several panels very fast and things will be moving along, then I get stuck on a particular body or hand or some other element. For some reason I can’t translate what I see in my head to the paper. That’s when I need to walk away for a little while and come back fresh. It can be very frustrating. I once set up a heavy bag in my basement and went in and boxed with it to clear my head, then it occurred to me I was smashing my drawing hand over and over with all my might into an 80 pound leather bag of sand… this did not seem smart to me, so now I just go and throw rocks at the neighbor’s dogs for a while.

Usually by this time my previous procrastinating and/or the usual distractions of working in my home have tightened the deadline somewhat, so endurance now comes into the equation. I don’t knock off after dinner every night, but spend one or two late nights working the final pencils up. Not too late at this point… those nights are coming. The pencil stage still demands too much focus and concentration to pull all-nighters.

Final pencils on Strathmore bristol
click for a closer look

I work my drawings up to provide a good base for inking, but don’t add every fingernail and hair follicle… some drawing needs to be left for the inking. I am still very insecure about inking, so my pencils are probably still too tight for their own good. Inking is at it’s best when the inker actually draws with the ink, rather than trying to duplicate the line qualities of the drawing itself. I’m still a little intimidated by the permanence of the ink (White-Out cannot bail you out of everything) so I do more work with the pencil than I need to.

At this stage I am still brainstorming for background gags. Many of the ones I came up with in the roughs I keep, but some I dump and come up with new ones. I try and reference other pop-culture elements or famous people/images that relate to the subject. My favorite sight gags are either total non-sequiturs, or ones that play on current events. Adding Dick Cheney with a shotgun in the background of any scene in the woods, for example, was begging to be a sight gag when the hunting incident went down (see: ancient history). Will Elder filled his panels for MAD with sight gags in a technique he called “Chicken Fat”, squeezing gags into every available space. I have always considered that a highlight of the MAD experience, and try to follow suit. I do try and avoid the easy “sign” gags, though. Sometimes I use them, but I prefer a real sight gag, which makes people think a little.

Concerning caricatures, at this point I am drawing them all the time. Typically I will have to draw the lead characters in a parody between six and a dozen times, at different angles and with different expressions to match the action. Naturally it’s impossible to have reference pictures of each person doing just what I need them to do at the angle I need them in, so many of the caricatures are ad-libbed. The way I do this is I try to pick out what is really important about the subject’s features… the head shape, the mouth, the eyebrows… whatever makes them unique. I then follow through with these elements as anchors in each drawing I do. Along the way, I have several “keystone” caricatures of each character. The keystone caricatures are detailed ones I did from actual reference from the film or TV show. This way, it makes the ones I fake in between more convincing. Of course, if I blow the keystone ones the whole house of cards falls apart, but unless your name is Mort Drucker you can’t win them all.

I also draw the final pencils with bleeds on all panels and page edges. For the outside bleeds, I draw and extra 1/4 inch past the panel edges so at print size the production department has a 1/8 inch bleed to work with. In the gutter between panels, I just draw a line down the middle of the space and draw the panels to the line. Sam Viviano taught me that trick. It’s just important to remember this is wasted space and not to put anything important too close or into this bleed area or it might get lost. You might also notice that I leave all the word balloons drawn in. I will be inking their borders by hand and coloring around them. I never saw any logic in drawing, inking and painting areas that will never be seen. With the bleeds I understand the need, but unless there is some question as to the placement or sizing of the text, I include the word balloons in the final art.

Once I am done with the final pencils they are ready to ink. In very rare occasions MAD wants me so send them parts of the final pencils that might need review… usually only if we changed something drastically from the roughs at the first review stage. Honestly I cannot remember the last time that happened. If everything is a “go” then it’s on to the inking!

Tomorrow: Inking a go-go or scratch-scratch-scratch-SPLAAATTTT!

Diary of a MAD Job Revisted: Part 2!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

The next step in a MAD job is the package I get from the art department. In it is a copy of the script, printouts of the layouts and the reference materials they have gathered and the boards. The boards large pieces of Strathmore bristol with all the pages, panel borders and text boxes drawn in pencil. These are usually done by longtime MAD production guru Lenny “The Beard” Brenner (I get nothing from MAD other than the emailed script and layout images these days. I layout my own boards with the text boxes etc. This deal has been getting more and more onesided over the years!). The boards are drawn at 200% of print size, so a full page is 16.25 x 21 trim size. That is big, being that comics are usually drawn at 150% of print size, but who am I to argue with 50 years of tradition? I now have everything I need to get started and really begin the creative process!

Thinking about starting my MAD job…

Okay, I have been known to procrastinate now and then, but sometimes I just need to gather my creative forces and begin to channel them into the job, focusing on the task…

Getting some “encouragement” from the missus

Okay, sometimes I need The Lovely Anna to gently remind me she needs a new pair of shoes and to get busy.

Back on the job, my next step is the “roughs”. At this stage I work directly on the layouts that I printed on drawing paper.

Rough pencils on the layout
Click for a closer look

I ‘rough in’ the basic action, design and layout of the art. I do use my reference loosely at this point, but I don’t knock myself out trying to do any involved caricatures or drawing. My goal here is to get the basics down quickly, just to be able to get the idea across to the guys back at MAD. Here’s where I demonstrate how I am “selling the gags” and how the storytelling elements will flow and indicate some sight gags I am adding. I’ll attempt a quick caricature of the main people, but if I miss them I don’t go back and sweat over it… that’s for the final pencil stage. Even so, this is where the heavy thinking goes into the job. I have to consider what the writer is trying to say in each panel, and make sure the art is backing that up and making it more clear if possible. This particular scene was very challenging, as three of the word balloons on top are coming from a single person, out of a TV screen. The group is also in a confining space on their converted luxury bus, and that complicates matters. In addition, the header takes up a lot of room on the left, leaving an awkward space for the lead character (Ty Pennington) to be placed, and he HAS to be in that space because of the two different word balloons attributed to him. I used the TV show’s gimmick of Ty always videotaping everything (especially himself) with the handycam, so that allowed me to have him leaning into the shot and work around that awkward area. I had the guy in the TV screen actually speaking out of three separate monitors so I could both space him out and illustrate each of his descriptions in time. I used warped and forced perspective (cheated it badly, one might say) to work the bus interior in. Whew. The rest was a piece of cake.

At this point I scan the roughs in and send it back to MAD. The editors and art staff review the art and get back to me (usually very quickly) with comments. Most of these I ignore, except if they come up with something boring but useful like pointing out I gave someone 6 fingers or that I neglected to draw something trivial like someone’s pants or something. To be fair, the art staff really knows it’s business and when they do make changes they are always for the better. I’ve learned a great deal working for MAD. One thing I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so don’t bother asking. Another thing is to cash my paycheck as quickly as possible.

Once the roughs are approved and any changes are made, it’s on to the big boards for the final pencils!

Next: The Final Pencils or Stop Screwing Around and Get Busy, Putz!

Diary of a MAD Job Revisited

Monday, 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.

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…

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…

Hello, SAM??

Even if that job has a ridiculously short deadline…


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):

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”

MAD About Spy vs Spy Sundays!

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Betcha didn’t know that back in 2002 MAD produced a Sunday only comic strip version of Spy vs. Spy, which was syndicated by Tribune Media Services (Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley, Broom-Hilda, etc). Written by Don “Duck” Edwing and drawn by Dave Manak, the strip had a run of 39 weeks… guess the humor just didn’t translate well to the Garfield crowd.

Anyway since April MAD has been posting these Sunday comics every Wednesday… I guess because they had something better to do on Sundays. This week was #22, and you can check them all out here. Check into MAD‘s website every Wednesday for another Spy Vs. Spy Sunday, which they probably prep and pre-post on Tuesdays since most of the staff call in sick on Mondays, Thursday is half-price tacos at the Applebees next door so everyone takes a 3 hour lunch, and no one gets anything done on Fridays.

Sneak Peek: “Snark Tank” from MAD #529

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

As promised, here’s a sneak peek at my art from the Dick DeBartolo scribed parody of “Shark Tank” in the latest issue of MAD (clicky any to embiggen…):

Snark Tank_big




If you are familiar with the show, it’s a reality series where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch product ideas to a panel of rich business people, who then either reject them or bid on investing in a portion of their concept. Most of the time the entrepreneurs are inventors of some process or idea, thus the scene with lots of inventors both dead and alive (mostly dead).

Dick also wanted to use a couple of people he works with as some of the pitch teams, including his co-host of “Giz Wiz” Chad Johnson, and The Tech Guy’s Leo Laporte (who is in that last panel with his fiancee Lisa).

There was one other couple who pitched an idea in the script, and they were not supposed to be anyone specific according to Dick De. So, just for fun I had it be The Lovely Anna and I (see the second panel above). The editors even changed the names in the script to “Anna” and “Tom”, so we are officially in the parody.

As it turns out I also appear with one of my dogs McCartney as one of the twitter avatars in the article “When Twitter’s Maximum Character Rule Saves People From Saying Too Much”, photo by The Lovely Anna. That was a surprise cooked up by associate art director Ryan Flanders, who saw the pic on facebook and asked Anna if they could use it. So there is an overabundance of Tom in this issue.

You can also see a sneak peek of this article featured on the website Zap2it, where I am credited as “colorist”. Usually they give me no credit at all, so I guess that’s better than nothing. :roll:

The Folding Man

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Paste Magazine has a terrific article on the incomparable Al Jaffee and the MAD feature he created and made famous… the “Fold-In”. Al talks about the thinking behind his favorite Fold-Ins from the last five decades. Go check it out.

Incidentally, Al still does the Fold-In every issue. He still hand delivers the art to the MAD offices. He’s 93.

Monday MADness- Al Feldstein

Monday, July 14th, 2014

I’m going to do something different today for Monday MADness and send you all via this magic link to the blog of Mark Evanier, to read a terrific piece about the late MAD editor Al Feldstein he wrote this past weekend. Feldstein was the editor of MAD for about 29 years, and Mark’s post really lends some insights into Al’s career and why it was very unique. He talks a lot about some of the things that made Al Feldstein a polarizing figure in MAD history. Some people will tell you Al had nothing to do with the things that made MAD great, that we was nothing but a manager and organizer and did almost nothing creative, that he made a disproportionate amount of money compared to the writers and artists that were the heart of the publication. Others might say he didn’t get enough credit for the magazine’s success.

I never met Al Feldstein, and I certainly never worked with him. He left MAD in 1984 or 1985 (depending on who you talk to) and I was busy graduation high school about then. I have gotten to know many of the people who did work with Feldstein, and the feeling I get is that Al was a hard-nosed editor that demanded respect of deadlines, didn’t tolerate sloppy work, was not very friendly, and ran an ultra-tight ship. One can argue that the creative people that made the funny content of the magazine needed someone like that or the magazine would never have gotten published some months, and I cannot disagree. As a creative type, deadlines are the only thing that keep me on task.  Some of the animosity Mark mentions over the money I have seen some hints of from long-time MAD guys, and I would be hard pressed to blame anyone for that. Let’s face it, getting a magazine out like clockwork every issue doesn’t meant a thing if what’s inside that magazine is not something anyone wants to read, and MAD hasn’t been around for 60 years because it came out on time and with all the pages nicely keylined. Some of the other long-time editors, particularly Nick Meglin, had a lot more to do with the content that ultimately made MAD MAD than Feldstein, and Mark seems to agree in his article.

I do think Feldstein deserves a lot of credit for the success of MAD for several reasons. First, he did corral a whole cast of creative geniuses who probably desperately needed corralling, and got a magazine full of brilliant cartooning and writing out regularly… no mean feat. Anyone who thinks brilliant content is all that’s required for success need only look at what happened to Harvey Kurtzman after he left MAD. Second, as I understand it Al was instrumental in finding and contracting most of those creative geniuses who made that great content. Kurtzman took most of the contributors to his MAD with him to Hugh Hefner‘s camp and Trump, and when Bill Gaines hired Al to take over as editor he advertised and found the creative people who became the Usual Gang of Idiots like Mort Drucker, Frank Jacobs, Bob Clarke, Dave Berg, Don Martin and many others. Maybe finding one or two of those would be dumb luck, but the all-star cast he assembled speaks of shrewd judgement of talent and a vision of what he wanted for the magazine. That alone is reason for major credit for the success of MAD, even if Al didn’t provide any of the humor himself.

Anyway go read Mark’s post if you are interested. It’s well worth the time.


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