The last surviving title from the notorious and critically acclaimed EC Comics line, the magazine offers satire on all aspects of American life and pop culture, politics, entertainment, and public figures. Its format is divided into a number of recurring segments such as TV and movie parodies, as well as freeform articles. Mad's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, is typically the focal point of the magazine's cover, with his face often replacing a celebrity or character that is lampooned within the issue.
Owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment, the magazine is under the corporate control of subsidiary DC Comics. Over the course of its history, Mad has been published in over 20 countries, and has been adapted into different media including recordings, stage shows, games and a late night sketch comedy television series, Mad TV.
Graydon Carter chose it as the sixth best magazine of any sort ever, describing Mad's mission as being "ever ready to pounce on the illogical, hypocritical, self-serious and ludicrous" before concluding, "Nowadays, it’s part of the oxygen we breathe. Joyce Carol Oates called it "wonderfully inventive, irresistibly irreverent and intermittently ingenious American. Roger Ebert wrote, "I learned to be a movie critic by reading Mad Magazine... Mad's parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin—of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same old dumb formulas. I did not read the magazine, I plundered it for clues to the universe. Pauline Kael lost it at the movies; I lost it at Mad Magazine. Rock singer Patti Smith said more succinctly, "After Mad, drugs were nothing."
The phrase "Tales Calculated to Drive You" above the title Mad referenced radio's Suspense which often used the opening, "Tales well calculated to keep you in... Suspense!" With wordplay on "jocular," the vertical subtitle, "Humor in a Jugular Vein," hinted at a sinister satirical edge.
The first two issues of Mad spoofed only comic books and movie genres of romance, horror, sports and science fiction, without overtly specific references. However, with issue #3, Kurtzman turned to direct parodies, targeting two well-known radio programs with parodies of Dragnet and The Lone Ranger, and he soon began satirizing selected comic strips ("Little Orphan Melvin!"), comic books ("Superduperman!"), books ("Alice in Wonderland!"), films ("Hah! Noon!") and television programs ("Howdy Dooit!").
In 1955, with issue 24, the comic book converted to magazine format. According to popular myth, this was done to escape the strictures of the Comics Code Authority, which was imposed in 1955 following United States Congressional hearings on juvenile delinquency. Actually, Kurtzman had received a lucrative offer from the publisher of the digest periodical Pageant, and only stayed when Gaines agreed to upgrade Mad. The immediate practical result was that Mad acquired a broader range in both subject matter and presentation. Magazines had wider distribution than comic books, and a more adult readership.
However, the Comics Code Authority had proven fatal to most of Gaines's EC Comics line due to restrictions on title and content. Gaines suffered both financially and creatively from targeted industry censorship and the enmity of his fellow publishers. EC's national distributor, Leader News, was the nation's weakest and did not have the clout to withstand an undeclared industry boycott of EC product: the company's comics were frequently returned still in their original unopened bundles. These factors combined to drive all EC Comics from the stands, except for Mad, which was too profitable to ignore. The company's financial status grew shakier in 1956 when Leader News declared bankruptcy, leaving EC over $100,000 in debt. Only the Gaines family's investment of capital and a fortuitous deal with the much stronger American News distributor kept Mad afloat.
After the bulk of EC's line was canceled in 1954-55, the company was completely reliant on the improving fortunes of Mad. In a creative showdown, Kurtzman insisted on a 51 percent share in the company or else he would quit. When Gaines rejected the demand, EC was without its dominant creative force, and Kurtzman was separated from the magazine that crystallized his talents. Al Feldstein returned to EC and oversaw Mad during its greatest heights of circulation. Taking over with issue #29, Feldstein set to work assembling a phalanx of humor writers and cartoonists. His first issue as editor coincided with the debut of Don Martin: crucial longterm contributors such as prolific writer Frank Jacobs and star caricaturist Mort Drucker quickly followed. Before the classic Mad staff was assembled, Feldstein also relied on celebrity guest contributions to attract attention and fill pages. Some of these pieces, attributed to Bob and Ray, were actually the work of their main writer Tom Koch, who would flourish in Mad for decades under his own byline. By the early 1960s, with notables such as Antonio Prohias, Al Jaffee and Dave Berg well in hand, Feldstein had fully established the format that was to be a commercial success for decades.
For tax reasons, Gaines sold his company in the early 1960s to the Kinney Parking Company. Kinney was in the process of becoming a conglomerate, including acquiring National Periodicals (aka DC Comics) and Warner Bros. by the end of that decade. Though technically an employee for 30 years, the fiercely independent Gaines was named a Kinney board member, and was largely permitted to run Mad as he saw fit without corporate interference.
By early 1978, Mad was obliged to include a UPC symbol on its covers. The magazine responded by devoting the entire front cover of issue #198 to a giant UPC bar code, saying they hoped it would "jam every computer in the country" for "forcing us to deface our covers with this yecchy UPC symbol from now on." For more than two years, subsequent issues labeled the normal-sized symbol with a series of humorous captions, such as "Closeup of the gap in Alfred E. Neuman's teeth" or "Hair of man watching horror movie."
Following Gaines' June 3, 1992 death, Mad became more ingrained within the Time Warner corporate structure, which did not share Gaines' idiosyncratic ideas about marketing Mad. Time Warner turned the magazine over to DC Comics' publishers Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz, and DC Vice President Joe Orlando became the magazine's new associate publisher. Closely involved with DC licensing, Orlando had also been a staff artist with EC Comics in the 1950s, and a prolific contributor to Mad during the 1960s. Time Warner put a much stronger emphasis on Mad merchandising and licensing, including products for its chain of Warner Studio Stores. Orlando's Special Projects department at DC Comics hired Bhob Stewart to edit a new Mad Style Guide (1994), featuring artwork by Sergio Aragonés, Angelo Torres and George Woodbridge.
Eventually, the magazine was obliged to abandon its long-time home at 485 Madison Avenue (printed as "MADison" Avenue in the masthead), and in the mid-1990s it moved into DC Comics' offices at the same time DC relocated to 1700 Broadway. Although Orlando retired from DC Comics in 1996, he continued to design cover layouts for Mad right up until the month of his death in 1998.
In 2001, the magazine broke its long-standing taboo and began running advertising. The outside revenue allowed for the introduction of color printing and improved paper stock. Some black-and-white material, however, remains in each issue.
Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding on the radio, Ernie Kovacs on television, Stan Freberg on records, Harvey Kurtzman in the early issues of Mad: all of those pioneering humorists and many others realized that the real world mattered less to people than the sea of sounds and images that the ever more powerful mass media were pumping into American lives.
Bob and Ray, Kovacs and Freberg all became contributors to Mad.
In 1977, Tony Hiss and Jeff Lewis wrote in The New York Times about the then 25-year-old publication's initial effect:
Mad is often credited with filling a vital gap in political satire in the 1950s to 1970s, when Cold War paranoia and a general culture of censorship prevailed in the United States, especially in literature for teens. Activist Tom Hayden said, "My own radical journey began with Mad Magazine. The rise of such factors as cable television and the Internet have diminished the influence and impact of Mad, although it remains a widely distributed magazine. In a way, Mad's power has been undone by its own success: what was subversive in the 1950s and 1960s is now commonplace. However, its impact on three generations of humorists is incalculable, as can be seen in the frequent references to Mad on the animated series The Simpsons.
Mad's satiric net was cast wide. The magazine often featured parodies of ongoing American culture, including advertising campaigns, the nuclear family, the media, big business, education and publishing. In the 1960s and beyond, it satirized such burgeoning topics as the sexual revolution, hippies, psychoanalysis, gun control, pollution, the Vietnam War and recreational drug use. The magazine gave equal time, generally negative, to counterculture drugs such as cannabis and LSD, as well as towards mainstream drugs such as tobacco and alcohol. Mad always satirized Democrats as mercilessly as it did Republicans. It also ran a good deal of less-topical material on such varied subjects as fairy tales, nursery rhymes, greeting cards, sports, small talk, poetry, marriage, comic strips, awards shows, cars and many other areas of general interest.
In 2007, the Los Angeles Times' Robert Boyd wrote, "All I really need to know I learned from Mad magazine", going on to assert:
In 1994, Brian Siano (The Humanist) discussed the eye-opening aspects of Mad:
Pulitzer Prize-winning art comics maven Art Spiegelman said, "The message Mad had in general is, 'The media is lying to you, and we are part of the media.' It was basically... 'Think for yourselves, kids.'" William Gaines offered his own view: when asked to cite Mad's philosophy, his boisterous answer was, "We must never stop reminding the reader what little value they get for their money!"
This precedent-setting case established the rights of parodists and satirists to mimic the meter of popular songs. However, the "Sing Along With Mad" songbook was not the magazine's first venture into musical parody. In 1960, Mad had published "My Fair Ad-Man," a full advertising-based spoof of the hit Broadway musical My Fair Lady. In 1959, "If Gilbert & Sullivan wrote Dick Tracy" was one of the speculative pairings in "If Famous Authors Wrote the Comics".
In 1966, a series of copyright infringement lawsuits against the magazine regarding ownership of the Alfred E. Neuman image eventually reached the Supreme Court. New York's Federal Appellate Court had invalidated all previous copyrights, thus establishing Mad's right to the character. This decision was also allowed to stand.
As a comic book, Mad had run the same advertisements as the rest of EC's line, and the magazine later made a deal with Moxie soda that involved inserting the Moxie logo into various articles. Mad also ran a limited number of ads in its first two years as a magazine, helpfully labeled "real advertisement" to differentiate the real from the parodies. The last authentic ad published under the original Mad regime was for Famous Artists School; two issues later, the inside front cover of issue #34 featured a parody of the same ad. After this transitional period, the only promotions to appear in Mad for decades were house ads for Mad's own books and specials, subscriptions, or promotional items such as ceramic busts or a line of Mad jewelry. Mad often explicitly promised that it would never make its mailing list available to anyone to exploit.
Both Kurtzman and Feldstein had wanted the magazine to solicit advertising; each editor felt this could be accomplished without compromising Mad's content or editorial independence. Kurtzman remembered Ballyhoo, a boisterous 1930s humor publication that made an editorial point of mocking its own sponsors. Feldstein went so far as to propose an in-house Mad ad agency and produce a "dummy" copy of what an issue with ads could look like. But Bill Gaines was intractable, telling 60 Minutes, "We long ago decided we couldn't take money from Pepsi-Cola and make fun of Coca-Cola." However, Gaines' primary motivation in eschewing ad dollars was less philosophical than practical:
Four months after the last Berg artwork was published, his final set of gags, which Berg had written but not penciled, appeared as a tribute. These last "Lighter Side" strips were divided among 18 of the magazine's regular artists, including Jack Davis' last original work for Mad. In 2007, an occasional feature called "The Darker Side of the Lighter Side" debuted. These consist of reprinted Berg strips, with rewritten word balloons that change the gags to references about disease, sex offenders, corpse disposal and other unsavory, un-Berg-like topics.
When Martin first joined Mad, he employed a nervous, scratchy art style, but this developed into a rounder, more cartoony look. Many of his cartoons used similar titles (e.g., "One Exceedingly Fine Day at the Beach"), and these titles became increasingly elaborate (e.g., "One Night in the Acme Ritz Central Arms Waldorf Plaza Statler Hilton Grand Hotel," "One Hot Sunny Afternoon in the Middle of the Ocean," or "One Fine Day at the Corner of South Finster Boulevard and Fonebone Street").
Martin's 31-year association with Mad ended in some rancor over the ownership of his original artwork. Not long after leaving Mad, Martin ended up working at Mad's competitor Cracked, which, unlike Mad, allowed creators to keep their pages. In 1994, Martin left Cracked and published a handful of issues of his own self-titled publication.
Aragonés also provides the "Mad Marginals" or "Drawn-out Dramas", which are small gag images that appear throughout the magazine in the corners, margins or spaces between panels. Aragonés debuted the feature in Mad #76 (January 1963), and it has appeared in every issue of the magazine since, except for Mad #111. According to Aragonés, his work for that issue was lost in the mail.
These articles run for several pages, and are presented as a sequential storyline with caricatures and word balloons. The opening page or two-page splash usually consists of the cast of the show introducing themselves directly to the reader. In some parodies, the writers sometimes attempt to circumvent this convention by presenting the characters without such direct exposition. Many parodies end with the abrupt deus ex machina appearance of outside characters or pop culture figures who are thematically tied in to the nature to the movie or TV series being parodied, or who comment satirically on the theme. For example, Dr. Phil arrives to counsel the psychologically damaged Desperate Housewives, or the former cast of Sex and the City are hired as the new hookers for another HBO series, Deadwood.
The parodies frequently make comedic use of the fourth wall, breaking character, and meta-references. Within an ostensibly self-contained storyline, the characters may refer to the technical aspects of filmmaking, the publicity, hype or box office surrounding their project, their own past roles and clichés.
Several show business stars have been quoted to the effect that the moment when they knew they'd finally "made it" was when they saw themselves thus depicted in the pages of Mad. Many celebrities parodied by the magazine have posed for photographs which were printed in Mad's letters column, holding up the copy of the magazine they appeared in, and reacting in some comical way. an example came from Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, who told Mojo, "The magazine cover that has meant the most to me was probably when I appeared in Mad Magazine, as a caricature of Alfred E. Neuman (#330, 1994). That was when I felt that I'd arrived.
Besides the above, Mad has returned to certain themes and areas again and again, such as fullblown imaginary magazines, greeting cards, nursery rhymes, Christmas carols, song parodies and other poetry (including several versions of "Casey at the Bat"), comic strip takeoffs and others.
Each Table of Contents cites one article that does not actually exist. Examples of these imaginary listings have included "Santa Claus, Porn Star"; "What if Cap'n Crunch Was Brought Before a Military Tribunal?"; "If Bobby Knight Coached the Special Olympics"; "Only the Assistant Undersecretary of Transportation Would Possibly Believe..."; and "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions During the Bombing of Belgrade." In one instance, the fake title listed, "If Chickens Could Time Travel," showed up as a genuine article in the next issue.
Each Table of Contents also includes a quote or aphorism attributed to Alfred E. Neuman. With a handful of exceptions, this is the only time the character ever "speaks."
There have been a few recurring sub-departments, including the "Make a Dumb Wish Foundation" which promises to make readers' stupid requests come true (a parody of the Make a Wish Foundation); "Antiques Freakshow with Hans Brickface", in which photographs of readers' bizarre household items are appraised by the slightly psychotic Hans; absurd one-sentence observations called "MAD Mumblings", which are typically non sequiturs posted online by the readers; and celebrity "Two-Question Interviews" which are essentially over before they begin, thus revealing nothing.
The magazine solicits reader photos of famous people posing with a copy of Mad. A reader who sends in such a photo gets a free three-year subscription (provided that the celebrity is touching the issue). Once a year, Mad publishes "The Nifty Fifty," listing 50 famous people they hope to see in upcoming "Celebrity Snaps". The magazine was delighted to publish a photo of Dan Quayle unwittingly holding the "PROOFREADER WANTED" cover of Mad #355, on which the magazine's logo appeared as "MAAD." During a photo op in 1992, Quayle incorrectly "corrected" an elementary school student about how to spell the word "potato."
A Wikipedia parody has appeared twice, first called "Wonkypedia," and then "Wakipedia." Both entries featured a convoluted assortment of unrelated facts, in the style of an inaccurate or vandalized Wikipedia page (e.g. the "article" on Pearl Harbor discussed Mao Tse-Tung's surprise attack and how it led to the bombing of Chernobyl). Wonkypedia is now an actual website.
Truncated versions of two preexisting features, *Celebrity Cause of Death Betting Odds" and *Melvin and Jenkins' Guide to..." have been moved to Fundalini.
Though the "20 Dumbest People, Events and Things" are numbered 1-20, the "rankings" appear to be essentially random. The "20th dumbest" slot of 2001 was awarded to Mad itself for its "slide down the slippery slope of greedy commercialism" in finally permitting advertising in its pages.
Keeping in mind the indiscriminate positioning, these were the "#1" selections for the various years:
Mad has made frequent use of esoteric words, including potrzebie, furshlugginer, veeblefetzer and axolotl, and humorous names such as Melvin, Bitsko, Kaputnik, Cowznofski, and Fonebone. Mad used the word "ecch" or its cousin "blecch" as an all-purpose expression of disgust so often that even The Simpsons made passing references to the practice, showing Mad covers with the unseen parodies "Beauty and the Blecch" and "NYPD Blecch". The word "hoohah" was an early running gag, often exclaimed by excited characters in the comic book issues written by Harvey Kurtzman; the very first story in the first issue of Mad was titled "Hoohah!". Its Eastern European feel was a perfect fit for the New York Jewish style of the publication. (The word's precise origin is unknown, although it may have sprung from the Hungarian word for "wow," which is hűha ). "It's crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide" was a non sequitur-ish phrase that found its way into Mad on several occasions in the 1950s; this was dated British slang meaning "it is foolhardy to bribe a policeman with counterfeit money."
Some of the magazine's visual elements are whimsical, frequently appearing in the artwork without context or explanation. Among these are a potted avocado plant named Arthur (reportedly based on art director John Putnam's personal marijuana plant); a domed trashcan wearing an overcoat; a pointing six-fingered hand; the Mad Zeppelin (which more closely resembles an elongated hot air balloon); and an emaciated long-beaked creature who went unidentified for decades before being dubbed "Flip the Bird." In late 1964, Mad was tricked into purchasing the "rights" to an optical illusion in the public domain, featuring a sort of three-pronged tuning fork whose appearance defies physics. The magazine dubbed it the "Mad poiuyt" after the six rightmost letter keys on a QWERTY keyboard in reverse order, not realizing that the existing image was already known to engineers and usually called a blivet.
Mad cartoonists have regularly drawn themselves, fellow contributors and editors, and family members into the articles, most famously Dave Berg's self-caricature "Roger Kaputnik." Al Jaffee sometimes incorporates a self-caricature into his signature. The magazine's photo spreads have typically featured Mad's own staff. Originally, the magazine tried hiring models for its photo shoots, but found that many were unwilling to make the exaggerated faces the magazine wanted. While trying to prompt the reluctant outsiders with demonstrations, the magazine soon decided that they were better suited for foolish posing than the professionals, and more cost-effective.
In the 1990s and 2000s, the magazine has made periodic references to "the monkey juice," generally in the context of overimbibing with same. Many letter column responses are punctuated with the breezy interjection "Fa fa fa!" The mysterious name "Max Korn" has popped up for years; reader requests to clarify Korn's true identity have been greeted with increasingly outlandish explanations.
The image most closely associated with the magazine is that of Alfred E. Neuman, the boy with misaligned eyes, a gap-toothed smile and the perennial motto "What, me worry?" Mad first used the boy's face in November, 1954, on the cover of the comic book's first reprint paperback, The Mad Reader. His first Mad cover appearance was in miniature, amid the novelty products parodied on the front of issue #21 (March 1955). From #24 through #30, Neuman was a part of the ornate border design on each cover. His first iconic full-cover appearance, in which he was identified by name and sported his "What, me worry?" motto, was as a supposed write-in candidate for the 1956 presidential election on the cover of issue #30 (December 1956).
The original image was a popular humorous graphic for many decades before Mad adopted it. It had been used for all manner of purposes, from U.S. political campaigns to Nazi racial propaganda to advertisements for painless dentistry. In the 1950s and 1960s, the magazine was sued by multiple claimants over the copyright to the image but prevailed by producing similar images dating back to the late 19th century.
Harvey Kurtzman first spotted the image on a postcard pinned to the bulletin board of Ballantine Books' editor. "It was a face that didn't have a care in the world, except mischief," recalled Kurtzman. The name "Alfred E. Neuman" was derived from the 1940s radio show of comedian Henry Morgan, which included a running gag trumpeting the imminent arrival of Hollywood composer Alfred Newman, which was supposed to create intense excitement, after which Newman would appear for mere seconds, then vanish. According to Kurtzman, Morgan used "the name Alfred Newman for an innocuous character that you'd forget in five minutes." Later, Morgan was a contributor to Mad.
The face is now permanently associated with Mad. With the "What, me worry?" motto, Neuman has often appeared in political illustrations as a shorthand for unquestioning stupidity or naive innocence, as in publications such as The Nation. and National Lampoon.
In 1958, Mad published letters from several readers noting the resemblance between Neuman and England's Prince Charles, then nine years old. Shortly thereafter, an angry letter under a Buckingham Palace letterhead arrived at the Mad offices: "Dear Sirs No it isn't a bit – not the least little bit like me. So jolly well stow it! See! Charles. P." The letter was authenticated as having been written on triple-cream laid royal stationery bearing an official copper-engraved crest. The postmark indicated it had been mailed from a post office within a short walking distance of Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the original disappeared years ago while on loan to another magazine and has never been recovered.
For many years, Mad sold prints of the "official portrait" of Alfred E. Neuman through a small house ad on the letters page of the magazine (claiming that these prints were also useful for wrapping fish). In the early years the price was one for 25 cents; three for 50 cents; nine for a dollar; or 27 for two dollars. A female version of Alfred, named Moxie Cowznofski, appeared for a very brief time in the late 1950s.
Two of Mad's most memorable covers have omitted Neuman's face. The highest-selling issue in history, #161 (September 1973) featured a survivor of a sinking ship - presumably Neuman - submerged upside-down in a life preserver with only the feet visible. The following year brought the controversial cover to #166, which declared Mad to be "The Number One Ecch Magazine," illustrating the claim with a human hand giving the profane "middle finger" gesture. Some newsstands that normally carried Mad chose not to display or sell this issue. To date, only a dozen Mad covers have not depicted Alfred E. Neuman since his appearance on issue #30. Two issues featuring Alfred have depicted him without his trademark gap tooth: the 1982 issue featuring the parody of the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which featured the titular alien on the cover healing the gap in Alfred's tooth with his finger; and the first issue to be published following the September 11, 2001 attacks, which featured a closeup of Alfred's smile, but with an American flag motif in the place of the gap.
Within the industry, Mad was known for the uncommonly prompt manner in which its contributors were paid. Publisher Gaines would typically write a personal check and give it to the artist upon receipt of the finished product. Wally Wood said, "I got spoiled... Other publishers don't do that. I started to get upset if I had to wait a whole week for my check." Another lure for contributors was the annual "Mad Trip," an all-expenses-paid tradition that began in 1960. The editorial staff was automatically invited, along with freelancers who had qualified for an invitation by selling a set amount of articles or pages during the previous year. Gaines was strict about enforcing this quota, and one year, longtime writer and frequent traveller Arnie Kogen was bumped off the list. Later that year, Gaines' mother died, and Kogen was asked if he would be attending the funeral. "I can't," said Kogen, "I don't have enough pages." Over the years, the Mad crew traveled to such locales as France, Kenya, Russia, Hong Kong, Monte Carlo, England, Amsterdam, Tahiti, Morocco, Italy, Greece, and Germany.
Although Mad was an exclusively freelance publication, it achieved a remarkable stability, with numerous contributors remaining prominent for decades. Critics of the magazine felt that this lack of turnover eventually led to a formulaic sameness, although there is little agreement on when the magazine peaked or plunged. It appears to be largely a function of when the reader first encountered Mad. Like Saturday Night Live or The Simpsons, proclaiming the precise moment that began the magazine's irreversible decline has long been sport. Mad poked fun at this dynamic in its "Untold History of Mad Magazine," a self-referential faux history in the 400th issue. According to the Untold History:
Among the most frequently-cited "downward turning points" are: creator/editor Harvey Kurtzman's departure in 1957; the magazine's mainstream success; adoption of recurring features starting in the early 1960s; the magazine's absorption into a more corporate structure in 1968 (or the mid-1990s); founder Gaines' death in 1992; the magazine's publicized "revamp" in 1997; or the arrival of paid advertising in 2001. Mad has been criticized for its overreliance on a core group of aging regulars throughout the 1970s and 1980s and then criticized again for an alleged downturn as those same creators began to leave, die, retire or contribute less frequently. It has been proposed that Mad is more susceptible to this criticism than many media because a sizable percentage of its readership turns over regularly as it ages, as Mad focuses greatly on current events and a changing popular culture. The magazine's art director, Sam Viviano, has suggested that historically, Mad was at its best "whenever you first started reading it."
Among the loudest of those who insist the magazine is no longer funny are supporters of Harvey Kurtzman, who had the good critical fortune to leave Mad after just 28 issues, before his own formulaic tendencies might have become oppressive. This also meant Kurtzman suffered the bad financial timing of departing before the magazine became a runaway success. However, just how much of that success was due to the original Kurtzman template that he left for his successor, and how much should be credited to the Al Feldstein system and the depth of the post-Kurtzman talent pool, can be argued without resolution. During Kurtzman's final two-plus years at EC, Mad appeared erratically (ten issues appeared in 1954, followed by eight issues in 1955 and four issues in 1956). Feldstein was less well regarded creatively, but kept the magazine on a regular schedule, leading to decades of success. (Kurtzman and Will Elder returned to Mad for a short time in the mid-1980s as an illustrating team.)
Many of the magazine's mainstays began slowing, retiring or dying in the 1980s. Although the magazine had always been open to new talent in theory, the influx increased from this stage onward. Newer contributors include Anthony Barbieri, Scott Bricher, Tom Bunk, John Caldwell, Desmond Devlin, Drew Friedman, Barry Liebmann, Kevin Pope, Scott Maiko, Hermann Mejia, Tom Richmond, Andrew J. Schwartzberg, Mike Snider, Greg Theakston, Rick Tulka and Bill Wray.
On April 1, 1997, the magazine publicized an alleged "revamp," ostensibly designed to reach an older, more sophisticated readership. However, Salon 's David Futrelle opined that such content was very much a part of Mad's past:
Mad has continued to receive complaints from fans and foes alike, sometimes over its perceived failings, sometimes because of controversial content, but generally over its decision to accept advertising. These accusers sometimes invoke the late publisher Bill Gaines, asserting that he would "turn over in his grave" if he knew of the magazine's sellout. The editors have a ready answer, pointing out that such protests are completely invalid – because Gaines was cremated.
According to the "Mad Magazine Contributor Appearances" website, close to 700 contributors have received bylines in at least one issue of Mad but fewer than three dozen of those have contributed to 200 issues or more. Al Jaffee has appeared in the most issues (445 as of October 2008). The other six contributors to have appeared in more than 300 issues of Mad are Sergio Aragones, Dick DeBartolo, Mort Drucker, Dave Berg, Paul Coker Jr. and Frank Jacobs. (The list calculates appearances by issue only, not by separate articles; e.g. if two "Spy vs Spy" episodes by Prohias appeared in a given issue, his total would have increased by one.)
Each of the following contributors (including those noted above) has created over 150 articles for the magazine: Writers:
Contributing just twice are such luminaries as Tom Lehrer, Gustave Doré, Danny Kaye, Stan Freberg, Mort Walker and Leonardo da Vinci. (Mr. da Vinci's check is still waiting in the Mad offices for him to pick it up.) Frank Frazetta (3 bylines), Ernie Kovacs (11), Bob and Ray (12), and Sid Caesar (4) appeared slightly more frequently. In its earliest years, before amassing its own staff of regulars, the magazine frequently used outside "name" talent. Often, Mad would simply illustrate the celebrities' preexisting material.
In the 2000s, the magazine ran occasional guest articles in which notables from show business or comic books have participated. In 2008, the magazine got national coverage for its article "Why George W. Bush is in Favor of Global Warming." Each of the piece's ten punchlines was illustrated by a different Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.
Mad also frequently repackaged its material in a long series of "Super Special" format magazines, beginning in 1958 with two concurrent annual series entitled The Worst from Mad and More Trash from Mad. Various other titles have been used through the years. These reprint issues were sometimes augmented by exclusive features such as posters, stickers and, on a few occasions, recordings on flexi-disc, or comic book-formatted inserts reprinting material from the 1952-55 era.
One steady form of revenue has come from foreign editions of the magazine. Mad has been published in local versions in many countries, beginning with the United Kingdom in 1959, and Sweden in 1960. Each new market receives access to the publication's back catalog of articles and is also encouraged to produce its own localized material in the Mad vein. However, the sensibility of the American Mad has not always translated to other cultures, and many of the foreign editions have had short lives or interrupted publications. The Swedish, Danish, Italian and Mexican Mads were each published on three separate occasions; Norway has had four runs cancelled. United Kingdom (35 years), Brazil (33 years), and the Netherlands (32 years) produced the longest uninterrupted Mad variants.
Some of the foreign editions have spoofed material that is completely unfamiliar to American audiences, or is not in keeping with Mad's general avoidance of obscenity (for an example of both, see the Swedish Mad parody of Fucking Åmål (known in English-speaking countries as Show Me Love).
Most of these productions aped the format of Mad right down to choosing a synonym for the word Mad as their title. Many featured a cover mascot along the lines of Alfred E. Neuman. Even EC Comics joined the parade with a sister humor magazine, Panic, produced by future Mad editor Al Feldstein.
In 1967, Marvel Comics produced the first of 13 issues of Not Brand Echh, which parodied their own superhero titles as well as DC's; the series owed its inspiration and format to the original "Mad" comic books of a decade earlier. From 1973–1976, DC Comics published Plop! which featured Mad stalwart Sergio Aragonés and frequent cover art by Basil Wolverton, but was less slavish in its Mad mimicry, relying more on one-page gags and horror-based comedy.
Other U.S. humor magazines of note include former Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman's Humbug, Trump and Help!, as well as the National Lampoon, Spy Magazine, and The Onion. However, these titles had their own distinct editorial approach, and did not directly imitate Mad. Of all the competition, only the National Lampoon ever threatened Mad 's hegemony as America's top humor magazine, in the early-to-mid-1970s. However, this was also the period of Mad's greatest sales figures. Both magazines peaked in sales at the same time. The Lampoon topped one million sales once, for a single issue in 1974. Mad crossed the two-million mark with an average 1973 circulation of 2,059,236, then improved to 2,132,655 in 1974.
Gaines reportedly kept in his office a voodoo doll into which he would stick pins labeled with each imitation of his magazine, removing a pin only when the copycat had ceased publishing. At the time of Gaines' death in 1992, only the pin for Cracked remained.
An early 1970s Mad television pilot using selected material from the magazine was not picked up. In 1995, a sketch TV show produced by Quincy Jones using the magazine's logo and characters debuted: MADtv, which aired comedy segments in a fashion similar to Saturday Night Live and SCTV. However, there is no editorial connection between the sketch comedy series and the magazine, which are unrelated in style. Don Martin's cartoon characters and the "Spy vs. Spy" cartoons were animated as bumpers during the show's early years. "Spy vs. Spy" sequences have also been seen in TV ads for Mountain Dew soda.
In the 1980s, three Spy vs. Spy computer games, in which players could set traps for each other, were made for various computer systems such as the Commodore 64. While the original game took place in a nondescript building, the sequels transposed the action to a polar setting and a desert island. In 1996, Mad #350 included a CD-ROM featuring Mad-related software as well as three audio files.
In 1999, Broderbund Software/The Learning Company released Totally Mad, a Microsoft Windows 95/98 compatible CD-ROM set collecting the magazine's content from #1 through #376 (December 1998), plus over 100 Mad Specials including most of the recorded audio inserts, thus becoming one of the first magazines to make a comprehensive archival release available in digital form (others such as National Geographic, Rolling Stone and The New Yorker have done the same). The seven discs of Totally Mad were divided chronologically, from "The Earliest Years: 1952-1960" and "The Early Years, but Not the Earliest: 1961-1968" through "The RELATIVELY Late, but not as Late as, the Latest Years: 1988-1994" and "The Latest Years: 1995-1998." The product's "Totally" claim was misleading, since it omitted a handful of articles due to problems clearing the rights on some book excerpts and text taken from recordings, such as Andy Griffith's "What It Was, Was Football." Some of this deleted material can be viewed at Collect Mad.
In 2006, Graphic Imaging Technology's DVD-ROM Absolutely Mad updated the original Totally Mad content through 2005. A single seven-gigabyte disc, it includes more than 600 issues and specials, and is missing the same deleted material from the 1999 collection. It differs from the earlier release in that it is Macintosh compatible. All the printed content can be read on any platform for which a PDF viewer is available, whereas Totally Mad had used a special viewer program that was compatible only with Microsoft Windows. Absolutely Mad also includes numerous video clips including interviews with the editorial staff, several "Spy vs. Spy" segments from MADtv and the "Spy vs. Spy" Mountain Dew commercials. It is missing the audio music files that had been included on Totally Mad.
Grade schooler's crucifixion drawing sparks religious row; The boy's father says an elementary school in Taunton, Mass., suspended his son for drawing a picture of Jesus. The school says his version of events is 'totally inaccurate.'.(USA)
Dec 16, 2009; Byline: Tracey D. Samuelson Contributor Did a Massachusetts school attack Christmas or was it trying to prevent one of its...
Ramona And Beezus: hhh A comedy following the misadventures of young grade schooler Ramona Quimby from Beverly Cleary's popular children's book series. Starring Joey King, Selena Gomez, above, Bridget Moynahan (2010). Director: Elizabeth Allen.
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