By the way, if you’re wondering if younger me would have lost his mind knowing he’d someday interact with one of his favorite cartoonists on a regular basis, the answer is “yes, yes he would have.”

§ March 25th, 2019 § Filed under collecting, mad magazine § 3 Comments

So in response to my post about the comic strip reprint books from last Monday, some of you mentioned the many Mad paperbacks that were part of our childhoods, too. Are any of those classic paperbacks still in print in that original format, or have they all been supplanted by larger trade editions and new repackagings and such? Been years since I’ve seen any on a shelf that were new…the last 30 years of dealing with them in comics retail has affixed them firmly in my head as “vintage items,” always used, always a thing firmly of the past.

But that wasn’t always the case with me. As a young Mikester, I had an uncle give me a paper sack full of his old Mad magazines that he had bought in previous years, which coincided with my own then-burgeoning love of the newest issues. I was buying (or cajoling my parents into buying) the new issues starting around 1976 or 1977, and the Mads I got from my uncle were from around the late 1960s through the early-to-mid 1970s, though there were a few stragglers that were earlier still. A small handful of the paperback reprints were also passed along to me, also from my uncle but from a couple of other relatives as well.

Okay, that doesn’t quite explain how I didn’t always see the paperbacks as being “old” things, since, you know, even as a kid I was getting those books second-hand. I found those old, beat-up books and magazines fascinating. I seem to remember mentioning, either here or on the Twitters (it all blurs together sometimes) that the “new” Mads I was getting off the shelves at the supermarket or newsstand were “my” Mads, fresh and current. The slightly older Mads, like the stack of mags I got from my uncle, were just similar enough to what I was getting new to be recognizable, but there was just a very slight “off-ness” to them, that there was just enough different in these previous editions to create some kind of reaction in me. Might have been the subject matter (“What’s this ‘Vietnam’ they keep talking about?” “Boy, there sure is a lot of this Nixon guy in these issues”) or the presentation (seem to remember photos being incorporated into more of the articles), and the other occasional oddity (“Whoa, there was a grey Spy?”).

But the paperbacks dug back even farther into the Mad archives, heavy on the early 1960s stuff, which looked and felt quite a bit different from the then-modern Mad I was reading. Sure, many of the creators were the same, doing work that was still somewhat famliar, but earlier Dave Berg and Don Martin cartooning in particular felt drastically different from what I was used to as a late-1970s Mad adopter. …Not to say I didn’t like it, of course. I was fascinated by the evolution of this magazine.

Anyway, the paperbacks. I started looking for new copies of the paperbacks in bookstores, buying (or, again, cajoling my parents into buying) copies when we could find them. This filled in more gaps in my…well, “understanding” isn’t really the right word, since the reprints tended to be context-free, though I would check the copyright page to get an idea of the approximate years they were reprinting from. Perhaps filling in gaps in my appreciation for the many forms Mad has taken over the years.

I also realized that there was new material being offered by Mad in their paperbacks as well. Just books filled with new cartoons I never saw in the pages of the mag, by creators I loved from there. My specific favorites were ntonio Prohías, who did Spy Vs. Spy, and Sergio Aragones, who did purt’near everything. Finding out there were whole new paperbacks featuring the Spies and Sergio’s cartooning was astounding to me, and became the focus of my Mad paperback collecting.

I did eventually track down most of them at the many bookstores that used to be in our area, but a couple still eluded me. Thas, circa 1980, I made my first sojourn into the world of mail order. I mean, I’d had subscriptins to magazines at around that time (like Pizazz, or Ranger Rick) but I had never written in to specifically oreer certain individual items before. But Mad made it easy…there was an order form for the paperbacks in one of the mags, where I could check off the ones I needed (one Spy Vs. Spy book, don’t remember which one, the Sergio book Viva MAD!, and a third book I do not recall, but I think it was an Al Jaffee one). Totalled up the price with postage, my dad took me to the local convenience store to get a money order, we dropped it in the mail, and thus began the kid-equivalent of an eternity waiting for the package to arrive.

And arrive it did, and lo and behold was my collection of Spy Vs. Spy and Sergio paperbacks complete…until the next book, and the next book, and so on.

I kept getting Sergio books for a while after I stopped following the new issues of the magazine itself, which I’d mostly stopped getting around 1982. I certainly had stopped getting the Super Specials, because by that point it was feeling like I’d already seen most of the material they were reprinting.

That wasn’t it for my Mad reading, however. I did get the occasional issue here and there, and was way into it again at some point in the mid-2000s. I bought those specials that reprinted, in full and in chronological order, all the original Mad color comics from the 1950s. I have a copy of the infamous middle finger cover. And I have this issue, which Sergio was nice enough to scribble on for me during one of his many visits to my former place of employment:


Here’s a better look:


So anyway, I still have all my Mad books…some of my magazines have gone to the wayside, but I still have quite a few of those, too, I’ve even added a few more of the old paperbacks to the collection as I’ve come across ones I’ve not yet read. However, I haven’t been reading the new Mad, though I’m certainly carrying it at the shop (where it sells nicely, thank you). I may not be a regular Mad reader anymore, but I’m still a Mad fan, and I’m glad it’s still around.

3 Responses to “By the way, if you’re wondering if younger me would have lost his mind knowing he’d someday interact with one of his favorite cartoonists on a regular basis, the answer is “yes, yes he would have.””

  • Ward Hill Terry says:

    Rip Jagger is currently counting down his favorite Mad artists at his website. (ripjaggerdojo.blogspot dot com)

  • Chris K says:

    (Long comment coming up, apologies in advance)

    So I’ve mostly lived in the Midwest and the East, but I did spend the summer of 1989 in Ventura CA, and I did shop at your old place of employment during that time. (Maybe I even met you then! I read Progressive Ruin for a few years before I put together that that was where you worked.)

    There was one afternoon when I was actually not headed toward your store, but was out and about a few blocks down to get some lunch. I happened to see a Mercedes Benz parked along the street with a license plate that read “VIVA MAD!”

    I nearly plotzed (more appropriate for Don Martin, I know). I’d read a number of places that Sergio Aragones drove that car, and immediately recognized it.

    I lingered around the car for, oh, 2 or 3 minutes, hoping to catch him on the way back and meet him, but I started to feel like a creepy stalker, and I left.

    My NEXT impulse was to go the few blocks up to your store and just announce that, “Hey, I saw Sergio Aragones’ car parked outside!”, since that would be a place where I could actually have a receptive audience. But it was out of my way (I was out for lunch after all), so I didn’t do that either. For years, this was the story of “how I almost met Sergio.”

    It only occurred to me, like, 20 years later that I probably should have gone to your store then because… MAYBE THAT’S WHERE HE WAS GOING! Maybe I could have met him that day!

    And now… it looks like I could have after all! Argh!

    Oh, well. I’ll always have the memory of the car…

  • Rob says:

    “Are any of those classic paperbacks still in print in that original format, or have they all been supplanted by larger trade editions and new repackagings and such?”

    Around ’00-’01, an outfit called iBooks was putting out anniversary reprints of the first dozen or so Mad paperbacks. They seem to have better printing and have new intros by one comedy person or another. They’re all out of print now. I think the latest, most affordable reprints of at least 2/3 of the Mad color comics were the paperbacks each focusing on an artist (Elder, Wood, Davis).

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