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CSotD: Loved You Madly

My father brought this magazine back from a business trip. I was on the verge of turning 8, which was a little young for it, though I liked the parts I could figure out.

But my brother was 12 and right in the sweet spot. He got himself a subscription and so I was able to grow into the magazine, which didn’t take long.

And when he left for college, he gave me his bust of Alfred E. Neuman which at some point fell off a desk and that was that.

Well, they wouldn’t be valuable if they were all still around.

 

This Frank Frazetta back cover appeared on the October, ’64, issue and became an instant classic, including, as I note in a 2013 CSotD posting, prompting a gig for him to do the poster for Woody Allen’s “What’s New, Pussycat?”

However, I think that, as the funeral orations for Mad begin to flow, the more important topic in that posting is the observation on shared culture then, versus now.

Others will likely note that, when Mad began, there weren’t many sources of satire and pointed commentary in the US; even Playboy wouldn’t appear on newsstands for another year.

That’s true and that matters, but another part of why Mad’s parodies carried so much impact was the fact that we shared a common culture, exemplified in the Ed Sullivan Show, which was programmed to gather Mom, Dad, Bud and Sis around the TV each Sunday and offer them each something to enjoy.

Such that Mad Magazine could satirize a broad swath of culture and everybody would get the jokes.

 

I wrote more briefly about Mad last April in my MOCCA coverage, because I’d run into Ed Steckley, a former (aren’t they all?) contributor to the magazine and former Mad art director Sam Viviano, here seen in his collectible-NYC Mad Jacket as the pair of them stand around blocking Maria Scrivan from selling anything.

 

Proof of the durability of the magazine’s spoofs came when I referenced a line that Viviano immediately recognized, completed and sourced with full credits, which was from “East Side Story,” a 1963 spoof, which is to say, published 12 years before Viviano sold his first piece to the magazine.

Oh, and Roger Ebert credits the magazine with inspiring and mentoring his entire career, so there’s that.

 

And if all that clicking on links has not been enough, I also covered a sort of farewell appearance of the whole furshlugginer gang of idiots at the AAEC convention in 2017 which is worth a look.

I have to say a lot of my affection for the magazine is nostalgia, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and, when you add, to the increase in satiric competition they faced, the loss — by death or retirement — of the magazine’s old Yiddish founders, well, if I’m going to inveigh against remakes of classic movies, it’s only consistent to feel that Mad today wasn’t Mad yesterday because it wasn’t and it couldn’t have been.

Still, it was lovely, wasn’t it?

 

Two other MOCCA moments:

 

That MOCCA coverage also included — as you’ll know if you read the whole furshlugginer thing — running into Abrams Editor Charlie Kochman, who sang the praises of Brian Fies’s then-upcoming “A Fire Story.” 

Friend-of-the-Blog Fies was interviewed about the book on PBS Newshour last night and you can catch him at about the 45-minute point.

And, BTW, the book is as good as “Editor Charlie” had said it was going to be.

 

 

Plus it included discussion of a panel with, among others, Steve Brodner, whose latest grand exploit is a delightfully sharp piece in the LA Times pointing out the new Bill of Rights as written by Dear Leader.

And we know it’s really Brodner who wrote it, and not Donald Trump, because it’s a funny parody and you can’t do a funny parody of something if you’ve never read the original.

Which reminds me that, if the White House posts a picture tomorrow of the massive crowd on the National Mall for his celebration, I’d recommend you check it carefully for Peter, Paul and Mary, and Martin Luther King, because they probably won’t really be there today.

Meanwhile, here’s a holiday salute for art directors and graphic designers everywhere, which I am pretty sure white supremacists won’t seize for their own nefarious purposes, though they can have the one with fleurs-de-lys.

 

Community Comments

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#1 Brad Walker
July/4/2019
@ 10:22 am

Talking about shared culture — towards the end there Harvey Kurtzman kept trying to recapture the four-color MAD spirit with things like the NUTS! paperbacks or Strange Adventures (https://www.amazon.com/Harvey-Kurtzmans-strange-adventures-Kurtzman/dp/0871356759/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=harvey+kurtzman+strange&qid=1562256871&s=gateway&sr=8-1). I remembered thinking that Harvey didn’t always get what topics would resonate with the then-contemporary kids (Errol Flynn in the ’90s?) and when he did hit on a current topic, such as slasher movies, he didn’t understand it and thus couldn’t spoof it. Which I guess is the long way of saying MAD really was lightning in a bottle.

#2 Paul Berge
July/4/2019
@ 10:59 am

Thanks for posting the Brian Fies interview.

(I wish I could disable the comments. They were awfully distracting.)

#3 Richard John Marcej
July/4/2019
@ 12:00 pm

Among all the comments and posts I’ve read today many are blaming others because, though they may be bemoaning this news, they haven’t actually bought Mad in years.

I haven’t bought Mad recently because as I’d page through a random new issue, for me, the work inside didn’t match the price on the cover. But I believe the main reason I hadn’t bought it in years is, it’s NOT for me.

Mad, for most of their history, was the perfect gateway for kids and teens into satire and political humor. It bridged a gap for them from their childish humor as kids to a more sophisticated humor as they got older.

Not everything that’s published is for everyone, and Mad hadn’t bren for me in years. But then, it wasn’t supposed to be.

#4 Mike Peterson
July/4/2019
@ 1:25 pm

Bingo, Richard. I subscribed out of loyalty after the AAEC gathering, but ended up giving my copies to the grandkids, and that’s okay. Teaching kids to be iconoclastic and to question not only authority but major marketing is extremely valuable.

Which I think ties into Brad’s comment, because the earlier issues were more iconoclastic than simply wise-assed. That is, they were both, in a PG-13 mode that changed the world.

(Though a comics historian could probably trace a line back to people like Fontaine Fox, Jimmy Hatlo, Rube Goldberg and Clare Briggs, whose observations were shorter, but not all that different than, for instance, how Kurtzman and Davis took on Supermarkets.)

#5 Kip Williams
July/4/2019
@ 4:19 pm

Bill Gaines himself said that people read MAD for ten years, and then they age out. It was approximately true for me, except that I also went back and got as many back issues as I could, and found reprints of all the comics (which were pure gold, even compared to the magazine at its best).

Frank Jacobs’s biography of Gaines is great reading (and re-reading), and helped make sense of the otherwise enigmatic dedication to him that is in the front of MAD ABOUT THE SIXTIES:

FUN AROUND THE CLOCK
YOU BET WE HAD OUR FILL!

I looked at it in puzzlement and then realized that it was a fold-in, and (in context of chapter 2) an affectionate one, at that.

I’m sorry that the ensuing generations won’t get their ten years. I hope whatever they do get is as rewarding for them as MAD was for me when I needed it.

#6 Marland
July/5/2019
@ 9:29 am

Like many other cartoonists I was introduced to the art of satirical illustration through MAD magazine. Aragones, Davis & Martin were my ink gods. I knew I had “aged out” when in my twenties while doing the weekly grocery shopping, the checkout girl, slightly older than myself said, “This is for the kid down the street, right?”. I was initially puzzled by her remark ( what? doesn’t everyone read Mad Magazine?) Eventually I got it. R.I.P. MAD.

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