Sunday Mailbag

October 1st, 2006 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: How long does it take to do a MAD movie/TV parody?

A: As long as they give me.

The process of doing a parody involves a lot of people, and it all depends on how fast the editors want it in the magazine as to how much time I end up getting for the art. I don’t know whether the editors assign a movie to a certain writer, or if writers suggest doing a movie and submit a rough draft or outline of the parody (I suspect it’s mostly the former these days), but either way first the script needs to be written. Then the editors have to go over it and make changes/correction/clarifications and often edit out panels and gags. Then the art dept. does the layout, putting the word balloons and other text in place, making panel sizes to match and placing them on the pages. The boards are then prepared, usually by longtime MAD production artist Lenny (The Beard) Brenner. Lenny recreates the layouts in pencil at 200% of print size on bristol boards. The layouts, script, boards and usually a stack of reference is then sent to the artist. After the artist returns the finished art, the production dept. still has to place it in the layout and do the final production work on it.

How much time is left depends on how much they took for the other steps, but also on which issue the parody is meant to appear in. Typically the deadline for a MAD issue is between the 21st and 25th of the month, with that issue appearing on newsstands about 7 weeks later. If I get the job on the 1st, I’ve got over three weeks. If I get it on the 10th, I’ve got about two weeks, etc. Since I turn in digital files, I usually get an extra day or two since there is no need to send the art out for scanning. I’ve had as long as five weeks and as little as 10 days to get a parody done. I take the full amount of time regardless… if I have a long time I just take my time and can do other jobs as well. If I have a crazy deadline on it, I’ll have to turn down other work in order to do it.

Back to how long it actually takes to do the work. In general it takes 3 days per page in “Scotty time”. Half a day to rough it out, one day to pencil it out completely on the board, half a day to ink it and a day to color it. I say “Scotty time” because in “Star Trek”, Chief Engineer Mr. Scott would tell Captain Kirk that repairs would take “et least twenny foor hours, cap’n!” and he’d do it in six. I can do it faster, but 3 days per page is time enough to do a thorough job without killing myself. Doing art “fast” is a misnomer. For me “fast” is a function of efficiency and endurance, not physical speed. I draw at one speed. I ink at one speed. I color at one speed. I can cut corners here and there… perhaps skipping backgrounds in panels more often than I’d like or using some other tricks, but getting things done faster means spending less time not working on it, and less time sleeping, or blogging!


  1. craig says:

    Longtime lurker, first time poster.

    Love your work… and your blog.

    I’m hoping that Mad does a a job on “Rocky Balboa” and you get the assignment. Either way, I’ll continue checking in regularly!


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