Last year ComicScene intended to publish a story by Marc Jackson about the relaunch of MAD, to tie in with our humour issue. Unfortunately it was dropped at the 11th hour – so we thought today might be a fitting day to put it online. MAD magazine, a new gang of idiots by Marc Jackson
Last year something not very funny happened and it happened to MAD magazine. In it’s 65 year reign as the world’s greatest satire magazine (my words, but don’t argue with me, I AM right) every issue was put together and brought to the people from their New York offices. Founded in 1952 by Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines, MAD was initially a comic book that then became the magazine as it is known today. Famed for it’s movie parodies and spoofs of popular culture it pushed the envelope and poked fun all at the same time. Sometimes, it might have even poked fun at the envelope, with MAD, it wouldn’t be a surprise if so.
Over the year’s it openly mocked politicians, particularly the slew of goons inhabiting the White House and no movie was safe. Star Wars, Jaws, West Side Story, Bond, The Wizard of Oz, Superman and the Graduate all got the MAD treatment. But the thing was, not only were the spoofs funny, they were beautifully drawn. The talent and time spent to create these great strips showcased not just a spoof but a love of all things cartoony and how you can poke fun, but still love your subject matter. Well, apart from in the Trump related comics of course.
But back to that first line. Something not very funny happened last year. It was announced that MAD was moving from New York to Burbank, California. That didn’t sound funny. Job losses? California? The sun might have been guaranteed, but the spirit of the streets of New York was slowly being sapped from this much-loved mag. But then, saviour The Simpson’s own Bill Morrison was appointed Editor, only the 5th in MAD’s rich history. Bill had co-created Bongo comics with Simpson’s creator Matt Groening, so he knew funny. MAD was saved!
Or maybe not?… Early this year the first visuals starting appearing for the new re-vamped MAD and something had happened. Cover star the gap-toothed, big-eared icon Alfred E Neuman had received a Hollywood makeover! His teeth were fixed, his eyes no longer lob-sided and his hair was slicked back, standing tall in his businesses suit with a slick new logo. What? They changed the logo?!!? Hell yes and it didn’t stop there. They announced MAD was no longer a magazine, it would be a comic and be comic book size (wait, that kind of sounds ok) and they were starting again, the new issue would now be a brand-new issue one. Wait! that’s sounds like they feel it’s time to start again, to put things right. MAD is fine as it is, don’t mess with MAD!
Then, the penny (CHEAP!) dropped. This was the first of many new gags coming from the new team. Hold the phone… MAD is still funny! California is funny! MAD is saved! New York who??
It was revealed many of the things teased were a joke. MAD indeed was to receive a new logo, but this time it was a homage to the original Kurtzman angular and frantic style. Alfred hadn’t received a makeover and judging by the cover reveal, he still had his finger on the pulse of what was funny. The page size wasn’t to change to comic book format, but what was to be revealed inside was a lot more comic book content. Alongside MAD royalty like Sergio Aragones (who only missed one issue of the magazine and that was down to a postal error) was still creating his marginal comics, were brand new strips featuring up and coming new idiots to add to the usual gang. Cartoonist Luke McGarry, a young British creator now residing in the US, created the 27 club, a team of dead celebrities who all died at the age of 27, who save the world from a crazed Sting intent on stealing the world’s bee population! Curse Sting! Curse him!
The spoofs were still front and centre, starting off with The Last Jedi (a film that felt like it was the actual sequel to Spaceballs, but not as amazing as that sounds) illustrated by MAD’s resident parody artist and caricature master Tom Richmond who also lampoons an Archie and Riverdale cross-over to masterful effect. His subtitles in the backgrounds in his work are what MAD is all about. Tom says “The movie and TV parodies have been a part of the magazine for so long they are simply part of its identity. I think it’s one of a handful of things that, without them, it’s not really MAD. They continue to have appeal because everyone can identify with popular TV shows and films, love them or hate them, and enjoy seeing them spoofed” Veteran fold-in illustrator, 96 year old Al Jaffee was still part of the team. No longer able to walk his artwork to the offices and deliver in person, Al now has to deal with the postal service, which hopefully won’t let his loyal fans down like it did Sergio, just that once. Al has been creating these wondrous pieces of art for the most part since 1964. 52 years of fold-ins! Now that is MADness! Most of all, when the first issue arrived in April, it was still CHEAP! You can’t ask for anything more.
MAD is a quick funny fix, but it’s also one that on repeated views, will reward the reader (Eagle-eyed fans will spot the appearance of Aragones’ GROO the Wanderer in the new first issue) Morrison and his team have not just put their mark on MAD, they have redefined it. The new design and layout is fantastic and something that you didn’t realise that MAD needed, but now you see it, you know it’s more than welcome. Tom Richmond, now in his 18th year working for MAD comments that “The new MAD is a lot more lush and modern in a design sense. Some of the old staples like the layout of the contents page, the reader mail pages, etc that have not changed substantially since the 60’s are very different now. Content-wise MAD is still MAD, but the vernacular is more reflective of today. Some of the humor and themes, as well as the language, is more racy and daring that it used to be”
This is MAD for a new age, the age that will one day see the back of Donald Trump and all of his mis-givings. But until then, expect to see him lampooned to the highest degree. It’s what the NYC team would have wanted.
But just not in the first issue, that is all about a fresh new start.