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MAD 530 Sneak Peek: Orange is the New Blecch!

Monday, October 20th, 2014

OitNB_1Clicky any to embiggen…

Uproxx.com’s Gamma Squad published an interview with MAD editor John Ficarra on Friday which included an exclusive look some of Desmond Devlin and my parody of “Orange is the New Black”, so after a few days of waiting I can show you a sneak peek of the art myself.

This was a BIG eight pager… the longest MAD parody I’ve done since the nine page “Harry Plodder and the Lamest of Sequels” back in 2002’s MAD #424. It was unique in it had what was essentially a three page splash. The first page was a left side page, followed by this two page spread:

Orange is New Blecch pg 2-3

I binge-watched the show and then tried to add as many of the less prominent characters as I could squeeze in, since one of the strengths of this show is a very rich list of secondary characters who are all very interesting and engaging. If you are a fan of the show, you’ll recognize some of these characters in the background or in some aspect of the scene in many panels… and the chicken will make sense to you as well. Here’s a few panels from the rest of the parody:

Orange is New Blecch pg 4

Orange is New Blecch pg 5

Orange is New Blecch pg 6

Orange is New Blecch pg 7

Orange is New Blecch pg 8

On the Stands: MAD #530!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

MAD 530

In comic book shops, on the iPad and in subscribers mailboxes now, on news stands everywhere tomorrow:

  • Cover (Mark Fredrickson)
  • The Fundalini Pages (Mike Morse, John Kerschbaum, Jeff Kruse, Hermann Mejia, Scott Bricher, Dick DeBartolo, Anton Emdin, Kenny Keil, Tom Cheney, Evan Waite, Paul Coker, Kit Lively, Teresa Burns Parkhurst, Sam Viviano (uncredited))
  • Orange is the New Blecch (Desmond Devlin, Tom Richmond)
  • Prohibitive Cost of Bathing (Scott Maiko, Scott Bricher)
  • Fun Facebook Facts (Frank Santopadre & Evan Waite, John Martz)
  • Planet Tad!!!!! (Tim Carvell)
  • Phrases That Left the English Language in 2014 (Matt Lassen, Kevin Pope)
  • MAD’s 2015 Middle Earth Calendar (Art: Hermann Mejia and Tom Richmond (uncredited))
  • A MAD Look at Puberty (Sergio Aragonès, colorist: Tom Luthl)
  • The Mad Vault- From MAD #251, Dec 1984 (Artist: Harry North, Writer: Tom Koch)
  • The Strip Club (Dakota McFadzean, David DeGrand, Kenny Keil, Christopher Baldwin, Box Brown, Kit Livley & Scott Nickel, Nathan Cooper)
  • Spy vs. Spy (Peter Kuper)
  • AAUGH Reverse Mortgages (Writer: Scott Maiko, Photogragher: Irving Schild)
  • MAD Deconstructs TV Talk Shows: TMZ Live and TMZ on TV (Desmond Devlin, Tom Bunk)
  • The Best of the Idiotical (Uncredited)
  • Questions We’d Like to Ask the Turkey Hotline (Scott Maiko, Josh Mecouch)
  • Drawn Out Dramas- Various places throughout the magazine (Sergio Aragonès)
  • The MAD Fold-In (Al Jaffee)
  • The iPad Air- A MAD Ad Parody (Uncredited)

This issue I do the art for Desmond Devlin’s whooping eight page parody of the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black”. I’d post a sneak peek of that, but the marketing guys at WB are busy trying to convince some putz to pay for a web exclusive of it, so until they give up on that hopeless idea I can’t post anything.

Now, What are you waiting for… a fershlugginer invitation?!? Go out and buy a copy, clod!

MAD Spoofs Politics

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Grist for the Schill Dept.

MAD-Spoofs-Politics

Just got my copy of MAD Spoofs Politics, the new “bookazine” from the Usual Gang of Idiots. Some great stuff in there from the 80’s onward. There are a couple of my pieces in there, including the fairly recent “National Buffoons’ Abysmal House” from MAD #525 written by Jay Rath, and “MAD Exposes Who’s Thinking What at the Obama Inauguration” from MAD #498, written by Desmond Devlin, Jeff Kruse, Jacob Lambert, Frank Santopadre and Dennis Snee.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go buy a fershlugginer copy already, clod!

One Evening at the White House

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

MAD-Magazine-One-Evening-at-the-White-HouseClicky to visit the MAD website for an Embiggened Look…

A quick turn-around job I did for MAD they posted today on The Idiotical, MAD‘s official website. Did this in about 14 hours, which was why I had to post the Dreaded Deadline Demon last night. Plus, I did the finishes on a Marlin poster also. No rest for the wicked!

MAD About New York Comic Con

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

MAD-at-NY-Comic-Con-2014_5429d5651869a9.65880275

From the MAD Website:

A VIEW TO A SHILL DEPT.

Are you going to be at the New York Comic-Con? Well that’s great news! Ready for the bad news? So will the Usual Gang of Idiots! Check out the MAD panel on Thursday, October 9th at 6:15 PM with staffers John Ficarra, Sam Viviano and Ryan Flanders; artists Peter Kuper and Tom Richmond; and writer Jonathan Bresman! Ask questions! Win prizes! Swallow your pride!

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…

madden

GTA2

phoenixwright

dancedanceClicky to embiggen…

metalgear

pokemon

contentsunderpressureClicky to embiggen…

sims

tetris

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)

 

scanner.jpg

 

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.

mad11.jpg
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:

madspot1.jpg

 

madspot2.jpg

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…

mad9.jpg

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.

mad8.jpg
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!

mad1.jpg
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…

mad6.jpg
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.

mad7.jpg
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!

 

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