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A WORD FROM OUR FOUNDER
Douglas Paszkiewicz is an nationally (Eisner Award and Harvey Award) and internationally (comic-dom Award) award nominated writer for his own books and numerous national and international magazines. Here are his thoughts this week.
I'm tired of hearing about my big brother...
Babe Ruth couldn't hit one single modern day pitcher
Let's be relists...Babe Ruth couldn't hit a modern day curve ball, Jack Dempsey wouldn't last two minutes in a boxing ring in 2012, Vince Lombardi and his Green Bay Packers would lose 65-3 against any of the coaches/teams who made it into the playoffs this year. We are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, better prepared and so on ...People forget this. They mistake first for best, and ground breaking for good.
Does the same go for writing? Take the first season of Saturday Night Live ...groundbreaking? Absolutely! Good?...mmmm not so much. You kids out there tired of hearing from your parents about how much unsophisticated your generations sense of humor is, go youtube up "landshark" ...bad comedy. I am sure allot of you people out there don't want to face that fact, but the first season of Saturday Night Live had about 15 minutes of funny per episode (and those 15 minutes were only funny because John Belushi could make you laugh by blinking)...that's not good. That's allot of BAD that you all have seemed to forgotten about. Compare that to the seasons of SNL that featured John Lovets, Dana Carvey, Mike Meyers, Phil Hartman, and Dennis Miller. Those seasons averaged about 70 minutes of Good comedy per 90 minute episode. Of course now the show averages about 2 minutes, suggesting that perhaps it is cycular. Talent comes and goes and for short periods it is very very good, and for short periods it is very very bad. NOW...if you happen to be very very bad but FIRST i.e. groundbreaking, you will most times be confused with - good. shock will be confused for skill, and new will be confused for talent...and eventually nostalgia will muddy the waters and you will be called legendary, instead of what you truly where-mediocre but a little gutsy.
Let's get to my real purpose with this particular blog- Mad Magazine. I am easy to find on the internet and I make no secret I am a contributor to Mad and so one day awhile back, I get invited to this "Mad Collectors" page of FB. I go there and of course see post after post about the good old days...and what Don Martin did, and what was in issue 102 and so on...so I scroll through some more...and some more....and some more ...I found exactly TWO references to Mad still being published ...TWO IN THREE YEARS OF THIS PAGE EXISTING. TWO brief mentions that Mad magazine still does in fact exist. pardon me for straying off point for a moment...but I travel ALLLLLL across the country, to every comic book convention you can think off, and when i started doing work for Mad i had hopes that i would no longer have people look at me like I am a man child when i answer the question "are you traveling for business? what do you do?"...I had ASSUMED, that answering "I do freelance work for magazines like Mad" I would get, if not a surprised and impressed look, at least not be looked down on ...instead what I get EACH AND EVERY TIME...IS THIS
"Oh they still publish Mad?".
SO you can see how going onto this FB fan page and seeing no mention of the Magazine still existing annoyed me. As you can imaging I mentioned that annoyed me...as you can imagine I met with opposition at the idea that modern Mad should be given any time, as you can imagine several Mad Nerds rose to the defense of the old greats calling me a baby, and saying i was jealous and vain, even though I had not actually (not yet) slighted the old greats, simply asked for more time for ( not ever myself specifically...not yet)modern Mad. See I worked my ass off to be in Mad, and I and many others work their ass off to make sure Mad magazine survives, and when every Mad forum or page I see is puked up with old moldy memory after old moldy memory and never mentioning the fact that a CURRENT ISSUE IS ON STANDS NOW ...I become ...annoyed.
I appreciate the old greats as much as anyone..in fact unless someone on that page spent over ten years of their life learning how to do what the old greats did ...i would say they they ALL come in FAAAAAAAAR second to ME in DEDICATION to MAD, and I don't care how much you spent on trading cards, trinkets, or dolls, it is a pebble next to the mountain that is my ten plus years of WORK and STUDY and SACRIFICE. You know which issue Spy vs Spy first appeared? hey that's great ...I can look at the illustration and tell you what size brush he used (he used a pen not a brush by the way, you can tell on the curves, if you know what to look for) and if he was left or right handed, I can tell you why the fuse on the bomb is leaning to the right or the left...and then redo the illustration with the same precision. So ...pardon me if i don't feel your collection of Mad Magazine scratch and sniff cards make your opinion more valid than mine. And when a bunch or guys with moth balled copies of Mad the board game, tell me I'm being pompous for daring to ask for more mention of current Mad ...I do what I usually do ...i accept their argument and use it against them. They all went on as though I claimed to be better than the old greats (something i never did ...yet.) BUT if that is what they think they read ...fine by me, because guess what? I AM.
I asked for one the Mad geniuses to give me a page to compare against mine side by side. They are all professors of madology and I shouldn't have had to explain that I do ONE page stories for Mad and so a one page story should be pitted against mine...but they choose a six page Wally Wood story anyhow. Fine... frankly this makes my job easier, if they had chosen some spy vs spy or Don Martin one page story I would have had my my work cut out for me. But a six page hack job from what was left of Wally Wood for issue 5? PFFT!
here we go (you can find reprints of this issue anywhere and even online, for the whole story)...first off here is a couple pages from that story, focusing first on the illustration...
and here is what a Wally Wood page looks like when he's NOT phoning it in.
let me drive the point home here to those of you thinking "well ones a cartoon so..."
here's some lines from the older Wally pages, note the long thin lines on the building
Amazing precision yes?
and here some lines from the Wally Wood Mad page...
...drinkin' early there Wally?
Wally wood was a talented artist, but this was one of his early attempts and drawing in a cartoonish fashion and you can tell. It is inconsistent, and he can't make up his mind if he should clutter up the page or not, because he has no (at this point ) concept of how to modify his realistic style for a cartoonish story. So, the art is...not great. As Far as the visual story telling goes, in the first page five out of seven panels is a woman sitting on a desk...wow...he really busted his ass on that layout...
and in 6 out of 8 panels in the second page there are no backgrounds. this i think is a perfect time to bring in one of my pages...here is my Mad version of a superman story.
arguably the actual drawing skill is apples and oranges, BUT the case could be made that THIS page is more consistent and polished as far as remaining cartoonish as opposed to very cartoonish men and realistic women and backgrounds that are inconsistent or just missing. BUT where I pass up Wally is the skill of layout.
panel 1- you need to convey allot with one pic especially in the opening shot. The child is small so the horizon line is set at his head so he isn't lost in the composition. The mother is talking and her concern is paramount to the entire gag. Curved lines imply femininity to the subconscious, so most of the background has curved lines. The end table on the right boxes in the shot so the eye pauses there before going into the next panel.
Panel 2- not much is needed here other than to keep the eye moving so the baby is facing the next panel.
Panel 3- again, merely leading the eye is enough so the dad is looking down towards the next panel.
Panel 4- more leading the eye, this time with the implied motion of the father and mother walking towards the next panel.
Panel 5- The dad is looking down into the shot (simple stuff) the meteor is plowing towards the next panel, but keep the line of panicked heads in mind...it will come up again
Panel 6- the ships hull is pointed into the next panel...and in true Mad form the background is used for a gag too i.e. the futuristic rings on simple hammers.
panel 7- see that swooping line of rocket blast? why it just about connects to the smoke from the next panel doesn't it. This way the implied motion of the rocket still anchors into the next panel, more than one way to lead they eye y'see.
Panel 8- see that row of corn? see how it mirrors the line of panicked heads from panel 5? this keeps the complex panel 5 from taking over the whole page and keeps the uninteresting panel 8 from seeming out of place.
Panel 9- admittedly not much going on here but the gag...and that too is for effect. The gag is all that matters and so less is more here.
quite a bit different than - a woman on a desk over and over and over and over and over no?
As for the writing in the Wally page, it's bad too. Lets be honest, changing super man to "superduperman"... not exactly sophisticated...or let's be honest ...funny. OR LETS BE HONEST NEW or GROUNBREAKING. One fallacy that i hear over and over again in regards to old Mad is that no one had ever done satire like that before and that Mad invented the movie pardory...absurd...absolutly false and absurd. Ever hear of Jack Benny?! Jack Benny was doing satire and movie parody's (including silly names ) and lampooning the pop culture for TWO DECADES before Mad was hatched. Benny and other radio Shows were doing EXCATALLY THAT before the first issue of Mad was a gleam in a paper mills eye. They merely started doing it in comic book form...and I suppose they did originate adding funny little signs in the background, and for that i give them a great big golf clap ...although ...i seem to remember seeing a silly sign or two in some WW2 loony toons cartoons ...i take back that golf clap.
That puts the ball in my, as a contributor to CURRENT MAD, court then doesn't it? This Wally Wood piece has been given too much credit as being a story that juxtaposes old with new, and childhood icons with more modern adult problems...well here is a boogie man page i did awhile back opperating under that same standard premis...
All you Madophiles seem to have either forgotten or never learned what early Mad truly was....it was a life boat, a shot in the dark, an arrow launched blindly into the air alone with several other arrows as Gaines attempted to hedge his bets and get some publications running that wouldn't be affected by the Comics Code Authority. Mad worked out the best and so it got the bulk of Gaines considerable willpower behind it, and the bulk of his considerable bullpen, and so it grew and got better and so on...And while you reread and pontificate on what Mad was, you miss out on was it is now, along with Douglas Paszkiewicz there are other contributors working hard to make current issues every bit as good as what your mind remembers old issues to be, young punks like Sergio Argones, All Jaffee and Paul Coker. Perhaps you'd like to explain to them why Mad now isn't as good? hmmm? or explain to them why current Mad doesn't deserve more than two mentions in three years hmmmm? Explain it to them if you think i'm a blowhard. and by if anyone reading this is shocked that someone from current Mad would thumb his nose at old Mad it makes me wonder if that person truly gets what the spirit of Mad was/is all about in the first place. Mad is/was about slaughtering sacred cows, and I am more than happy to pull the trigger on the bolt gun...even if it's pointed at Mad itself.
In the end publishing a magazine or doing any form of entertainment regularly is like baseball, the season is long and it's a marathon not a sprint. The 27 Yankees were pretty damn good, but they lost a few games, and they should not overshadow the fact that the current New York Yankees are pretty damn good too, unless you have something in your disposition that makes you adverse to seeing things that you don't already know the ending of. Current Mad is, to quote an old Gaines ad "only just as good". I would contend that since current mad is competing with every two bit web comic, the Onion, Cracked, and thousands of other satirical shows, movies, and websites, the notion that it is coming up with funny original content that you haven't seen before makes it better. So, how about living in the "now" once in awhile. There is a current issue on stands right now....and it's still "Cheap".