|Alfred E. Neuman, immortal idiot.|
X-day came and went, and although the world has sadly survived, we have one major casualty. It has been announced that MAD Magazine will soon be canceled, and possibly replaced with a yearly annual magazine instead. The Conspiracy is all powerful and vile and it has finally struck down the pillar of truth that is MAD.
To describe how MAD has influenced my life, or the life of so many outsiders, artists, cynics, and anarchists would take me several eons. So instead I will say this; MAD Magazine was for a long time the only reputable news source in the world, the world's greatest art and literature magazine, the worlds greatest comic book series, and on that note, it was the only comic book DC comics never screwed up.
We need MAD. We need more literature like MAD. Reading MAD brings out the best in the young people who read it; it teaches them to question authority, to mock the world and it's all important cultures, and most importantly of all, to not take life so seriously. When society is pushing you one way, institutions like MAD teach you to push back.
MAD mascot and ambassador, Alfred E. Neuman, is known the world over and is very much beloved by all people of a certain intelligence quotient. Alfred's evolution dates back almost 150 years (more or less, he might be much older) which just adds to the air of mystery that surrounds him. Perhaps his immortality derives from his lack of worry. No matter what his situation, he's always happy. It's as if he's finally reached nirvana and created his own heaven on earth.
Here are just some of the proto-Neuman from his Pre-MAD days...
|The Primordial Neumans|
MAD's influence, as well as Alfred's influence, could be felt everywhere. With MAD's popularity other creators got on board and decided to create humor magazines with mascots of their own. MAD wasn't the first humor magazine, but it was probably the best of it's kind, and people couldn't wait to ride on it's coattails. I should also mention that all of these books, although clones of MAD and the MAD formula, weren't just cheap knockoffs or anything like that. Most of them shared artists, writers, etc., with MAD, but created content under different publishers who all had different perimeters for what they ultimately wanted. In essence, they're all pretty great, but MAD and Alfred will forever be the greatest.
|A parody from CRAZY Magazine|
CRACKED magazine was the one I read the most growing up. Even more than MAD to some degree but I was always aware that MAD was king. Still, CRACKED had it's own charm. Sylvester P. Smythe was the CRACKED janitor and mascot, and, he wasn't as dimwitted as Alfred. Sylvester was really active in the magazine, appearing in comics, the cover, and generally cleaning up the artists mess. CRACKED became an amazing YouTube channel for a bit after it's transition from print to it's internet presence, but now, very sadly, it's just a clickbait website. Makes me wish it just ceased to exist altogether. With MAD possibly soon to be non-existent, I guess CRACKED won the race (so to speak), but at what cost!
|Sylvester P. Smythe; the "P" stands for Phooey!|
CRAZY was Marvel's version of MAD. From what I hear it was pretty good. I have actually never even seen an issue in person I don't think. Older collectors tell me it was alright but nowhere near as impactful or important as MAD. Crazy, so I'm told, would avoid political controversies and just focus on comic book humor. But again, this is just second hand knowledge. I think I'm going to try and find an issue or two of CRAZY before the year is done to see for myself.
Irving Nebbish was the original mascot for CRAZY. He was a small, quiet hoarder, dressed in a manner of a vagrant or hermit. He was later replaced with the far more popular and beloved Obnoxio the Clown, who I'm aware of because he's actually appeared in Marvel comics and cartoons as a side-character.
|Irving Nebbish, weird hermit|
There's actually a CRAZY one-shot coming out later this year, which marks the return of not only the magazine itself, but also of Obnoxio. I hope Irving makes an appearance as well though.
|Obnoxio the Clown, maybe the most disgusting Marvel character|
Archie Comics had their own MAD clone as well, called Archie's MAD HOUSE. I'm sure this was meant to be an homage more than anything. MAD HOUSE would feature the Archie gang in weird adventures, or bizarre situations. Nothing as edgy as actual MAD, but still fun. I've seen an issue here and there in my life, but the content was so tame I actually didn't even realize it was a MAD clone until I started researching for this post.
The mascot for MAD HOUSE was Clyde Diddit. He looks different every time he's drawn, as far as I've seen, but I'm pretty fond of the gross teenager looking version of Clyde. He looks like the kind of skinny, dweeby kid who would steal porno mags from the newsstand and creep on girls in Riverdale. Later, Clybe was replaced by Captain Sprocket, a superhero parody who looks... just boring if I'm honest.
|Clyde Diddit, gross teen|
SICK magazine was yet another clone of MAD, and it was pretty good from what I've heard. It lasted longer than most other MAD clones from it's time, and it had three different mascots! Or maybe five?
Well the first mascot was this strange doctor called "The Little Physician", who looked like Billiken and would have odd patients. The second mascot was the logo in the corner, of a sick man in a bathtub trying to electrocute himself. The third mascot, and my favorite, was Huckleberry Fink!
Huckleberry Fink was a very blatant copy of Alfred E. Neuman. He even had a catchphrase similar to Alfred's; Huckleberry was known to say "Why try harder?" on covers. Later on, Huckleberry would don a suit of armor (with his red hair still sticking out) and ride a goofy looking horse. I still prefer his original village idiot attire though; it suits him and does make him a bit different than other mascots because it locks him in a particular time.
There was also, apparently, some controversies around SICK because the magazine would sometimes push the boundaries of good taste to be as edgy as possible, but also, steal jokes from popular comedians. Nothing new of course, especially today, but still worth mentioning.
|Huckleberry Fink, a village idiot|
The last MAD clone I'll bring up is THWAK, and I think this one is pretty interesting because like MAD HOUSE, THWAK was more of a homage and celebration of MAD and it's sensibilities than anything else. THWAK was created by fans of MAD, who had all worked previously in other humor magazines. There's an amazing blog that catalogs a lot of the work put into making THWAK that you can check out by clicking here. There's so much amazing art from all the creators, you gotta check it out.
THWAK's mascot was Stupid Cupid, and I gotta say, I love this guy. Just a big surly cherub who doesn't seem to like what he's stuck doing for a living. Look at his dumb little wings, Mickey Mouse shorts and massive under bite. Perfectly designed in every way.
I have the vaguest memories of this series, especially of Stupid Cupid, but I don't think I ever picked up an issue of it. I'm definitely hunting them down now, issue 4 especially since it's the tribute issue for humor magazines!
|Stupid Cupid probably hates you|
So, is this truly the end for MAD? No, probably not. We live in an era where nothing goes away. I do feel, having picked up a few issues from this year, that MAD did lose some of it's bite. Everyone these days is too afraid of offending other, and I understand why those fears exist, but art cannot and should never had any restraint. Especially satire, which is the cosmic swords cynics use to destroy the enemies of freedom.
|He'll be fine folks.|
MAD is an IP of DC comics, and I'm sure they'll find use for it again. Maybe another relaunch (which would be like, the third or fourth time in 20 years), maybe more of an online presence like CRACKED attempted. There's too much money for DC to make with the MAD IP, but it really needs to remain a magazine. Cartoons, skit shows, and whatever else are all well and good for taking the piss out of popular culture, but we need biting, jugular crunching commentary on our current world culture as well.
|See, they're all old friends.|
The powers that be may have thwarted Alfred E. Neuman for now, but he'll be back. Much like his cousin, High Epopt of the Church of the SubGenius, J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, Alfred E. Neuman is far too stupid to stay dead.
And besides, we need a sequel to "Up the Academy" (1980). Maybe something good this time.