Where for art thou, MAD movie parodies?

June 13th, 2008 | Posted in MAD Magazine

I occasionally peruse MAD Magazine message board forums like Mad Mumblings and the Official MAD Message Boards, and one common subject keeps getting brought up…

… where are all the movie parodies?

In years past, you could almost always count on at least one parody of a movie and/or a TV show in each issue of MAD… often one of each. TV show parodies are still fairly plentiful in the magazine, but in the last few years there has been a decline in the number of movie parodies. In 2007 there was a grand total of three movie parodies in MAD, “Spider-Man 3”, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “300”. I drew the Harry Potter parody. In May I did my first movie parody since completing the Harry Potter one the previous May.

Splash for “Harry Plodder 5” MAD #480
Click on image for a closer look

Some people are wondering why the sharp decline? The truth is I don’t really know for certain, but if you examine how movies and their dynamics have changed, it’s a little easier to see a possible explanation.

Back in the day, a movie debuted in a small number of large cities, notably the coasts and in theaters that had only one screen. Demand for tickets to highly anticipated movies was so great that you often had to wait weeks to see it in New York, LA, Chicago and other major markets. There were very limited numbers of theaters and screens in those days. The movie would run for many months and sometimes over a year in the same theater if it was very popular. After a month or two the film would make it’s way into mid sized cities like Cleveland, Minneapolis, Denver, etc., again in theaters with only one screen. It would run there for several months again, being seen by the folks who had not yet gotten a chance to see it at all. Then it would work it’s way into smaller and smaller markets, until it eventually played in the small town drive-in or mom and pop theater. In this fashion, movies had very long lives in terms of being hot topics and staying in the moment. The MAD parody, which would come out about 3-4 months after the initial debut of the film, was therefore making fun of something that was still very much being buzzed about and had only been seen by half the country. Those films were still the subject of magazine and newspaper articles, reviews, etc.

Superman Returns SplashSplash for “Stuporman Reruns” MAD # 468
Click on image for a closer look

Today it is routine for a movie to debut in New York City, New York and PoDunk, Idaho and on over 3,500 other screens across the country at midnight of the same day. Nobody who wants to see the film need wait past the first weekend with those kinds of available seats, no matter where they live. Even the biggest of blockbusters are gone from theaters within a month or two, and in the meantime 6 other blockbusters have come and gone. By the time the MAD movie parody has been written, edited, drawn and published the film is long gone from both theaters and the public’s attention. It’s old news. Given that, it is that hard to understand why movie parodies might be less prevalent in the magazine these days?

Splash for “Brokebutt Mountain” MAD #465
Click on image for a closer look

A few times MAD has tried to beat that timeliness issue by doing parodies in advance of the film’s release, so they can be in the issue that comes out roughly when the movie premieres and is still a hot item. This is a risky proposition, as working from advanced scripts or from the movie’s source material (like the book) means possibly getting plot points wrong. Every Harry Potter parody contained at least one scene from the book that didn’t make the film. We got the ending of X-Men 2 completely wrong, as they changed it with reshoots at the last possible instant after it screened badly. The parody was already finished by then, based on advanced material. Plus, you can’t really do a full parody of a movie without seeing it, since there is a lot more to make fun of than just the plot… the acting, pacing, direction and many other factors can be fodder for the writer and artist that a script will not impart to them.

Splash for “Battyman Begone”, MAD #455
Click on image for a closer look

I am speculating here, as I am not one of the editors and don’t really know why movie parodies are becoming so rare in MAD. There may be many other factors involved, but the changing face of movie distribution and shelf life is likely one of the main issues, IMHO. All magazines face the time-lapse factor involved with the publication process in the face of a world where instantaneous access to information via the internet and 24/7 news coverage is taken for granted. MAD is no different.

All that said, there will be a fair amount of movie parodies in the coming issues. For sure there will be ones of “Narnia: Prince Caspian”, “Iron Man” and “Indy 4” this summer (according to MAD‘s Maddest Writer, Dick DeBartolo on the Mad Message Boards), although the one of “Iron Man” may get some special treatment… more on that when it’s clear. So there will be plenty of them this summer.

Although movie parodies are arguably the hardest thing to do for MAD, they are my favorite thing to do. TV shows are also fun but movies parodies have “classic MAD” written all over them. I’m always looking forward to the next one.


  1. JWB1 says:

    Good Post! I flashed back to seeing the first “Star Wars” ( I guess it’s now called Episode 4: A New Hope). Caught it in the only theater (the Esquire) playing it near downtown Chicago on opening night (5/25/77). It took another week for it to open in several more Chicago screens. I went back to southern Illinois for Summer break and had to wait a month to share it with my hometown friends (and only in Carbondale). I believe the film played in the Chicago suburb of Woodfield for over a year ( they placed an ad in the paper with a photo of a birthday cake decorated with action figures for the one year celebration). Such days are long gone now. Now,if you’re interested in a film you really need to make an effort to see it the opening week otherwise you’re out of luck. I’m such an old Mad fan I’m always surprised when an issue doesn’t have a TV or movie parody.

  2. oh my, I am so glad you said that there will be an iron man parody because I have been waiting a long time for one! I am also glad you said it might be getting special treatment, because that means a good artist is going to be making it!

  3. Antzo8 says:

    I too would like to see more film parodies, but they seem to be a massive job that only a handful of artists and writers do. People complain about how long a movie parody is published from when the film opens in cinemas, which is about 3 months later. The people on the sites like MadMumblings need to be told that from when a film is viewed, written and drawn, about 3 issues have already past. I always enjoy your movie parody art, Tom. And with the parodies disappearing, they are becoming more sacred than the time 30 years ago when movies parodies were being written and drawn willy nilly. For a few years now, the September issue has had 2 parodies of May/June hit blockbusters. I wonder if MAD will parody The Dark Knight. They will probably give this a miss, unless they feel like giving Ledger a posthumous ribbing. Oh well. Times change.

  4. craig says:

    I loved the movie parodies… in fact, they were often what made the difference in buying or passing on the issue!

  5. “Barebutt_big.jpg”? Oh that’s so funny.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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