“Yecch!” indeed.

§ July 5th, 2019 § Filed under mad magazine § 6 Comments

So as far as I’m able to tell, looking at the cover gallery on the Grand Comics Database, the above issue of MAD Magazine was the very first one I (or rather, my parents) purchased new off the rack. I was six years old. I picked up subsequent issues on a more or less regular basis up until the early 1980s, as well as getting several older issues either at used book stores or in that paper sack filled with older editions an uncle gave me (discussed here just back in March). And of course, I would pick it up now and again after that, even until relatively recently.

As I’m sure you’ve likely heard, MAD is ending its run of new material, going all-reprint and leaving the newsstands for solely comic-shop sales. According to the linked article, apparently end-of-year editions with new material are planned, and the reprint paperbacks and themed collections will continue. I guess that recent relaunch with a new first issue was a last-ditch attemnpt to save the magazine, and it didn’t work. I mean, sales went up on MAD a little for me, but it appears it didn’t improve enough across the boarde to save it.

This is terrible news. As I said on Twitter when I heard about this, MAD did a lot to teach children about how to spot bullshit in the world, letting them know that there are a whole lot of people, and companies, and products, and news organizations, and pretty much everything else in the world, all devoted to trying to pull a fast one on you. Yes, there were just plain ol’ jokes, too, but this was the first introduction to sometimes very biting satire a lot of children were exposed to, and it makes me sad that, even as MAD‘s influence has diminished over the years, that it won’t be here at all, at least as current, topical, and more relatable material that will educate children.

Not that there isn’t lots and lots of great (and still relevant) articles in MAD‘s near-70 years of publishing. And who knows, maybe today’s youth fill learn something about Nixon, and hippies, kind of like how I did reading my uncle’s old issues. A lot of the material is just straight-up funny, and timeless, and still absolutely worth reading. But the lack of freshness and topicality…that can’t help but hurt.

Let me tell you one thing from MAD that’s stuck with me all these years. I mean, literally, for decades. There was one of those features taking on product packaging by manufacturers who were trying to deceive you, the consumer, about the items they were trying to push on you. I don’t even recall the specifics of the whole article, or even who did it (I feel like it was Al Jaffee) but one of the gags was about how the wrapping on a candy bar would remain the same size, but the size of the candy bar itself would get progressively smaller as time went by. But, of course, you couldn’t tell because the cardboard holder the candy rested in was still at that larger size. When I saw that, it was like a light went on in my head, and I was all “hey…YEAH, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?” That image came to mind every time I bought a candy bar, or essentially any food itew where the packaging size belied the actual goodies within.

It’s an unfortunate loss, but I feel like maybe, someday, a new batch of funny people wtih an askew vision will get a chance to bring it back, teaching kids how to critically view the world while simultaneously aggravating parents witih “this trash,” just like MAD always should. I prefer to think MAD isn’t gone, just resting, waiting to return to us in our time of greatest need. …Which is, you know, now, so I hope HAD hurries the hell up and comes back already.

6 Responses to ““Yecch!” indeed.”

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    I am going to be that horrible person, and note that the surprise to me in this news was that MAD was still being published. I cannot recall when I last saw it in a store. Which, I suppose, explains a lot about this news.

    This is the least relevant response to your post possible, but: I can remember a period–the ’80s, I think–when candy bars actually got a bit bigger. My theory is that this was due to the baby boomers finally having all become adults. To keep up the level of sales to which they had become accustomed, the candy companies had to keep appealing to the boomers, which meant having proportions appropriate for adults (and also, perhaps, having the thing seem a good deal: “All this for just fifty cents!”). That is my guess, anyway. Nowadays, of course, selling candy to adults means keeping it in 100-calorie portions, or stressing the healthful qualities of the ingredients (dark chocolate, blueberries, etc.).

  • Daniel says:

    I agree with Turan. It’s probably been 30 or 40 years since MAD was still relevant. People’s tastes change and evolve, but MAD didn’t change with the times. Reading MAD today would (I assume, since I haven’t seen an issue in at least 10 years) be essentially the same experience as it was in the late 1950s (once it moved from being a comic book to a magazine format). That would be like watching a continuously produced TV show from the 1950s that looked and sounded the same as it did when it first aired. (The fact that DC and WB as a whole are an incredibly mismanaged company as a whole probably didn’t help things)

    Also, to echo what Turan said, this is largely irrelevant to the main point of the story, but in regards to your comment about food packaging deceiving the customer on the portion size contained within, I would argue that in the last 20 or 30 years that portion sizes have actually gotten larger and costs lower (adjusted for inflation) due to industrialized food processing techniques. It’s one of the reasons that their is an obesity epidemic in this country. Again, totally irrelevant to the larger point about MAD ceasing publication.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    I have a “no idea why it stuck in my head” MAD moment. It must have been…1982 or so? It was a parody of new novels and one of them was “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m sleeping with Jessica Lange, by Sam Shepard”. I have no idea why that was funny to 10 year old me, or why it’s stuck in my head all these years later, but it has.

  • Turan, Emissary of the Fly World says:

    Hey, now, Sam Shepard was a catch. For one thing, he looked like Gary Cooper. For another, he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and those are always babe magnets*–just look at Arthur Miller, husband of Marilyn Monroe.

    *Well, those who were straight men, anyway.

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    Quite frankly, it seems like YouTube has provided my teenage daughter with all the cynical education she needs. She’s not interested in reading much of anything, sadly, let alone something as wordy as MAD, but she loves those smart-ass YouTubers. Maybe there’s a future for the brand and its value in pursuing some kind of internet-video-oriented approach like that, though that naturally leaves the cartoonists out in favor of writers and actors.

  • I would disagree about the period of relevance. They skewered the Orange Guy quite well. Every FCBD, I’d buy a copy or two.