Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MAD About MAD; MAD At MAD





I grew up on MAD comic books.  True.    After we moved from the Clay Homes my grandmother and her daughter moved in the Clay Homes.   When we visited them I usually went next door to visit my friend and schoolmate Archie Richardson. 

Archie was quiet but had a laugh that sounded like a hoot-owl and he had the ability of peeing all way up to the top of the wall at the boy's urinal trough in the basement of Waterman Street School.  It was something we admired him for.  Such talent!

Once when visiting Archie he had a new comic book I had never seen before.   The title of it was MAD.  It was so different, so daring, so anti-establishment I instantly fell in love with it.  Archie had issue number 4. the one that featured Wallace Wood illustrating SUPERDUPERMAN! 

It did not take me long to buy up the back issues and found other kids who liked MAD and we were always trading and stealing MADs from each other.  I studied it in detail.   I studied their method of punch-line deliveries, boldness of big print, I studied it all.  I knew I owed all my MAD knowledge in personality ingrained  from the editor, Harvey Kurtzman.

I remember in about the 8th grade I was reading the latest MAD, which had promoted  itself to a magazine format, looked differently.  The punch lines were not surprises - it seemed the Harvey Kurtzman had changed his style - like have ever heard of a comedian explaining his own jokes?  Well, MAD was doing that, which is a sin in the sophisticated-style of humor department.  Your audience either gets it or they don't.  Drop the bombshell joke and move on. 

This was MAD issue #30 or 31, if I remember correctly.  Also that had a couple new artists:  Don Martin and Bob Clarke.  Don Martin was pretty good but I didn't like Bob Clarke, his art was too fluid.  I looked at6 the credits page to see what other changes they slipped in.  Harvey Kurtzman was no longer editor.  Albert Feldstein was editor.  I knew of Albert Feldstein.   He was the editor of the EC horror line of comics, such as TALES FROM THE CRYPT

I didn't know at the moment that Harvey Kurtzman was offered a  better job for a proposed bigger and better humor/satire magazine by Hugh Hefner, publisher of PLAYBOY.  The new magazine Kurtzman was over was called TRUMP.   It lasted two issues.

After TRUMP was HUMBUG and then HELP.

Harvey probably left after issue number 27 or 28 but because they worked  on material for advance issues, MAD had enough Kurtzman material to last it for maybe a half year or so.
After that Kurtzman had a long history of heading different magazines, but other than MAD, he will probably be most remembered for his and Will Elder (the artist) cartoon strip story ANNIE FANNY in PLAYBOY.

I disliked the new style MAD took on with Al Feldstein as editor.  I forgot to mention that Kurtzman took his artists with him to his different magazines, mainly Will Elder.

However, if I liked it or not, doesn't count, because MAD increased circulation.  It had a broader mass appeal.   But I still didn't like Al Feldstein - and didn't until I met him face to face.

He is a very likeable guy.




I met him at the DragonCon in Atlanta about a dozen years ago.   He smiled the whole time I talked to him.  He nodded and smiled when I told him the problems I had with his humor  vs Kurtzman.  He was still a lovable guy!  He was editor of MAD for over 30 years and made it a financial success, along with the help of the publisher William Gaines.



Also at DragoncCon that year I met Denis Kitchen.  He was an underground cartoonist who found his niche not in drawing, but in publishing.  He started Kitchen Sink Press and I thought did very well in publishing off beat kinds of things, until he went bankrupted.  This picture was before he went bankrupted.  We had a nice conversation.


Last but not least, well, none of them are least - is Skip Williamson.  Skip is also aN underground cartoonist who lived in West Cobb, on Gordon Combs Road.  He also is a very likeable guy and one time he, our common friend Bluto, and I drove around all day and drinking beer.  Those were the days I wish there were more of.

Now, I am back with MAD.  I receive a digital subscription.  It has changed again.  This time the humor seems more wry, a little bitter, maybe more like if Lenny Bruce or Paul Krassner was the editor..


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