The Twilight Toilet Saga (or Drawing a MAD Parody)
Prologue: In early August I received a phone call. One of those phone calls that sits you down and gives you butterflies. On the other end of the line was MAD Magazine's Sam Viviano calling from New York. He was asking me if I'd be interested in a job; a MAD parody.
An 8-page MAD parody.
Now, you're looking at a guy that has spent his whole life reading MAD Magazine. A guy whose childhood dream was to draw for MAD. But in this dream was never the movie parody. I just didn't think I was capable of it*. I mean, guys like Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and the master, Mort Drucker drew the parodies, right? And then came along more talented scribblers like Sam Viviano, Hermann Mejia, and Tom Richmond. So what the hell where they calling me for? Obviously every other one of the 'Usual Gang of Idiots' were sick that week! I'd just been passed the ball and I wasn't even sure what game I was playing (yeah, I'm not too good with sporting metaphors, gimme a break).
What could I do? I had to say yes, even though I was a little nervous about it all. I had big shoes to fill. Clown size.
So I find out the movie we're doing is Twilight. Actually, it's the Twilight Saga. All five movies. In four weeks. No sweat right?
Preparation: The first step to drawing a MAD movie parody is watching the film, or in this case, films. But as we are talking Twilight, this turned out to be the hardest part of the job. They suck!
You see, I'm a vampire film fan, and these ones seemed to lack all the cool parts of vampire films; little things like horror, suspense, plot, action. And you know how cool it is in a vamp flick when the bad guy goes to bite his prey and those fangs grow long and menacing? Guess what? In Twilight, no sharp teeth! And no weakness, either. What happened to vamps turning to dust in the daylight? That was a human's only way to beat the damn thing. So now they're all-powerful and just sparkle a bit in the light?
The good news is that after watching the sequels, the first film seemed almost bearable.
Taking Notes: After viewing each movie once, I took another pass (yes, I'm a masochist), sitting with a sketchbook (and a glass of wine to dull the pain), taking notes and getting the characters down. I was waiting on the script, so I was guessing at the scenes that might make it in, as well as trying to think of little side gags. Once the script arrived (written by the very funny Desmond Devlin) I was pleased to see that along with the dialogue were notes for the artist with suggestions of background gags, or 'chicken fat', as coined by the great Will Elder.
So, with the script at my side, I could start getting reference for the scenes I'd need to draw. I used a mixture of internet image search results and screenshots from the films I'd been watching on the computer. I compiled these in a big folder, and would eventually drag them into my working file. I later realised that I'd wasted a lot of time doing this, as it was much easier to just have the films paused, and drag the slider to scenes as needed. Live and learn. There were a lot of moments like this in the project; I had a big learning curve to tackle.
A little later, the layouts arrived from MAD HQ. A lot of people think that there is to-ing and fro-ing in regards to the parody layouts. This isn't the case at all; it has already been pondered, revised, and sweated over by the editors and art department, and the blank pages arrive with panels and speech balloons all drawn in and ready to go, as you can see, below.
Creative Process: Below is a sneak peek into some of the steps I took to complete a page; from thumbnails to roughs, sketches, inks, and colour. Please click for a closer look (open your window nice and wide)...
Epilogue: In all my years as a freelancer, I have to say that the MAD parody is one of the toughest jobs I've done. Not only do you have to draw caricatures of all the movies' characters (including smaller roles), but you have to draw them over and over and over and... well, you get the point.
You need to draw a ton of different scenes (with some level of accuracy), plus look at the plot, character traits, colour (Twilight films changed hue throughout the series), composition, flow, and of course background gags.
And you need to do all this FAST.
Bowing and Scraping: Phew. I now see the regular MAD parody artists in a new light. Richmond seemingly does these with one eye closed (it's how he sleeps, I hear), but for me it's been three months and I still twitch at the sound of the word 'Bella'. Sentimental Bit: Jokes aside, it's a great honour to have been included in the Parody Club. Especially for a little Aussie kid that grew up dreaming of working for MAD.
I've also just learned that Aussie readers will be able to read it in the next issue of Australian MAD, too. Out late December, I'd guess.
Name Dropping: And it's nice to know that Robert Pattinson has seen the parody (shown here with Jimmy Kimmel). He hasn't called to say thank you, though...
Sign off: Thanks for looking!
The Copyright Notice: All MAD images © E.C. Publications 2012
*Admittedly, I had previously drawn a TV parody of Glee for Aussie MAD