Tom Richmond was a longstanding contributor to DC Comics' MAD Magazine. This year that came to an end for everyone. But Tom wants to keep the spirit living on with Claptrap. He writes for Bleeding Cool.
Back in December of 2000, I had only had a couple of pieces published so far in MAD when I got the phone call I had been hoping to get from MAD art director Sam Viviano. He wanted me to do the art on a parody of the TV Show Malcolm in the Middle for the magazine.
That's one thing I got to cross off on the "dream comes true" list.
Like millions of others, I grew up reading the TV and film spoofs in MAD Magazine. Written by, among others, the likes of Frank Jacobs, Stan Hart, Lou Silverstone, Arnie Kogen, and Dick DeBartolo and drawn by legends like Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres, and Sam Viviano, the movie/TV parody was a centerpiece of the magazine. Similar parodies endlessly appeared in other publications like Cracked, Crazy, Sick, and other MAD clones, but no one ever did it better. The comic art format movie/TV parody became an actual comics genre, entertaining readers for over 60 years while poking fun of everything from box office/ratings bombs to Oscar and Emmy winners.
Even the very people who were getting skewered loved the art form! Michael J. Fox famously answered Johnny Carson's "When did you know you'd made it?" question with the answer "When Mort Drucker drew my head in MAD Magazine". Film critic Roger Ebert credited MAD's movie spoofs for teaching him to think critically about films. Just last year on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, Quentin Tarantino held up a copy of MAD with his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on the cover and said, "THIS is my Oscar!". Directors and creators like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Jerry Seinfeld, Chuck Lorre, Judd Apatow, and many others have the original parody and cover art that spoofed their movies and shows hanging on their walls. The movie/TV parody has been a big part of American pop culture over the last six decades. That Malcolm in the Middle spoof I drew was the first of what would be 90 movie/TV parodies I would draw for MAD over the next twenty years, over a third written by long-time MAD scribe Desmond Devlin. Those jobs have been the highlight of my career as a cartoonist.
Last year, amid many other cutbacks, DC Entertainment cut new material in MAD down to about 20% of the content, the majority of pages being reprinted material. One of the first things they axed was the film and TV parodies. Recently they cut back even further, and MAD is basically 100% reprints. With Cracked and all other MAD wannabes long gone, this effectively ended the printed movie/TV parody genre. It made Des and I very sad, and not just because we weren't going to get paid to do them anymore! We loved reading them as much as we loved writing and drawing them. We looked forward to seeing the spoofs of shows we loved or hated, whether we did them or not. The kind of art and writing found in these spoofs were timeless, unique, and very entertaining.
After collaborating on over 30 of these parodies in MAD, and both of us having worked on many more with other writers and artists, Desmond and I thought we'd try and keep this genre alive by doing a book full of them.
The book is called Claptrap, and it will be a hardcover, full-color collection of at least ten parodies of movies in the classic tradition… with a little 21st-century twist. We've already completed the first spoof, the subject being Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. MAD had published parodies of all of the previous eight Star Wars trilogy films, so we thought the spoof saga needed completion. We'll be doing parodies of both new movies and a number of films that never got spoofed in MAD for whatever reason, but are well known, critically acclaimed, or cult classics today. In fact, we are already at work on our second parody, which is of a film that wasn't a big hit at the time but is now considered one of the best movies ever made. Claptrap will also have some shorter gag features, also film-related, here and there to round out the contents. The book is being crowdfunded on IndieGoGo.
Des and I really want to keep this genre alive. It's been a staple of American pop culture for a long time, and it's as relevant today as it was when MAD first spoofed a film with King Kong back in 1953 because Hollywood keeps making new movies! Most of all, we want to keep reading them as much as creating them. If MAD won't do these anymore, we'll just have to do them ourselves. I'm sure Mort, Jack, Stan, and Bill Gaines would agree.