Over Easy: Humor in A Jugular Vein
Being that today is voting day, I thought it appropriate to do a diary on MAD Magazine. MAD was the brain child [if you can call it that] of Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines in 1952 and it began it’s life in comic book style taking satirical pokes at other comic books. But as we all know it did not end there. With artists and writers such as Bill Elder, Wallace Wood, George Woodbridge and Harvey Kurtzman. MAD did not leave much of popular culture and consumerism untouched by their satirical swords.
Bill Elder was probably the best artist and writer they had in the 1950s. Having his own unique style that was very detailed, he could also draw in any style and any other artists style he chose. Like Disney and Charles Schultz. Even some movie styles as well. The dialogue in each piece tried to match closely that of the subject they were lampooning.
MAD was responsible for entering many words into the American lexicon. Such as Potrzebie, veeblefetzer, axolotl, hoohah, furshlugginer, Moxie, ganef and halavah. Some of which came from Yiddish. MAD was also responsible for naming an import car with their Ad satire Pesky Import. After which the VW Cabriolet was forever known as the VW Bug. A VW Dealer in Central Florida had a poster sized print of that very MAD Ad hanging in their parts and service department.
MAD left little untouched, such as Archie, The Hounds of the Baskervilles, Disney [at least three times that I know of], Back Yard BarBQues, The High School Dance. It seemed like nothing was sacred. MAD never skipped a chance to take a swipe at the medium itself. Like in the last page on their Batman send up.
MAD was a social satire magazine and the humor was hardly ever political. It was thought that the audience – teen and pre-teen – would not get political humor but you really did have to know something to get the jokes. They also hit classic poetry and tales as well as contemporary items. Such as Herman Melville and H. Antoine D’Arcy and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Though MAD was not really political, when JFK was assassinated, Gaines had their collection paperback – The Frontier MAD – pulled from every bookstore and magazine stand. On it’s front cover was a picture of Alfred E. Neuman sitting in a rocker. It was later reissued with the What Me Worry Kid in a Conestoga wagon. Speaking of which, the first front cover of mad to feature Alfred E. Neuman was Mad #30 in late 1956. And his mug shot in various forms and settings has been there ever since.
It was around this time MAD switched from the comic book format to a full sized magazine format. Kurtzman and Elder left and Albert Fieldstien took over. The Usual Gang of Idiots was joined by Dave Berg and Don Martin. Sergio Aragones, Al Jaffee, Antonio Prohías, Mort Drucker and many others. But they were not the only ones. Stan Freberg, Ernie Kovacks, Bob and Ray, Steve Allen, Jules Feiffer and more.
Ringo Fonebone was a hopelessly inept boy. He was utterly absorbed in reading comic books, to the point that he was kicked out of his parents’ house, as well as a vocational school he tried to attend and a flophouse (the last expulsion left him in nothing but a set of red long johns and dotted boxer shorts). He realized what a mess his life was, and as he tried to commit suicide by hanging himself, the towel he used as a rope broke. He fell to earth, inadvertently acquiring a mask (originally a woman’s hat being thrown out by her irate husband), and finally crash-landed in the middle of a robbery, in long-johns, with his “mask” and towel-“cape,” distracting the robber long enough for the police to capture him. The robber’s angry exclamation: “Why, you klutz!” was taken by the dazed (and temporarily amnesiac) Ringo as his name, and he responded to the officers’ questions regarding his identity with: “I’m…a klutz, captain.” The police thought he had said he was “Captain Klutz,” and the rest was history.
[I think he said his name is Captain Klutz. Well good work Captain.]
A send up of every superhero ever.
Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s MAD was required reading and is probably responsible for an entire generation of cynics and sarcastics.
So enjoy, Potrzebeites.
And naturally since the subject this morning is MAD, ANYTHING goes.