It really is not surprising how many cartoonists grew up with MAD magazine.
On July 3, I lost a childhood friend who was the greatest influence in my cartooning career. Mad magazine is dead at 67.
We first met in the magazine aisle of Danner’s five-and-dime store in Danville. It was June of 1969 and I was just 12 years old. The goofy, gap-toothed, freckled face of Alfred E. Neuman on the cover caught my eye. I picked it up and was hooked.
Gary Varvel is one who is sad to see MAD go.
Though I must protest one bit:
Four decades later, Mad is still influencing my work. In fact, the first cartoon I drew for IBJ on April 8 was of Mayor Pete Buttigieg as Alfred E. Neuman on the cover of Mad magazine. I might have been the first cartoonist who saw the resemblance. But I wasn’t the only one. In May, President Trump nicknamed Buttigieg “Alfred E. Neuman.”
Mayor Pete responded, “So, I’ll be honest, I had to Google that. I guess it’s a generational thing. I didn’t get the reference.”
Then Mad tweeted, “Who’s Pete Buttigieg? Must be a generational thing.”
I took Mayor Pete‘s rejoinder as seriously as I took Don Martin pages.
Not for one minute did I believe Pete didn’t recognize the name Alfred E. Neuman.
The Mad “idiots” subverted the comic form into a mainstream ideological weapon, aimed at icons of the left and the right—attacking both McCarthyism and the Beat Generation, Nixon and Kennedy, Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Their urban sensibility was elevated into a national platform for contrarian and anti-authoritarian rebellion, led by a mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, whose misaligned facial features and insouciant grin graced nearly every Mad cover.
Jordan Orlando writes The New Yorker eulogy for MAD.
Sixty-seven years is a good run for anything, but, when Mad confirmed that it was joining National Lampoon and Life and Spy in the magazine graveyard, and the Elysian Fields of online archives, the pang that many felt, as if leaving a childhood bedroom for the last time, was that its departure was nonetheless abrupt and premature. Wherever we are headed, we must now get there without “the Usual Gang of Idiots.”
Mark Evanier, who has a cottage industry correcting articles about comic books,
corrects a couple alternative facts in the above Jordan Orlando article.
Alfred E. Neuman, by the way, is not dead. He’s been seen on the streets of Burbank near the DC Comics offices, holding a cardboard sign that says “Will worry for food!”
Mark Evanier is among those who think MAD will soon return.
Joining Evanier’s sentiments are Sergio Aragonés and Tom Richmond.
But hang on, said a pair of Mad artists with booths at Comic-Con on Sunday morning. Things are changing, but maybe not to the drastic degree everyone expects.
“It’s not really closing, it’s changing,” said Sergio Aragonés, who has worked for Mad since 1962 when the Spanish-born cartoonist arrived in New York City.
Richmond, who has movie parodies — long a Mad staple — of both “The Lion King” and “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” in the issue that reaches newstands in August, said there is talk of doing Year In Review annuals and other specials going forward.
Even DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio suggested during a Comic-Con panel on Saturday that we’ve likely not seen the last of Alfred E. Neuman’s gap-toothed smile, saying that there still will be new material, though the format it will take is still to be determined.
We shall see.
In the meantime we, like The Village Voice, reminisce.
hat tip to Grand Comics Database for MAD covers.