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And was Prison Jumpsuit Luthor even areound at the same time as this? I can’t even remember now.

§ July 18th, 2022 § Filed under mad magazine, publishing § 4 Comments

So I was processing some new acquisitions at the shop (said shop being Sterling Silver Comics in lovely midtown Camarillo, CA — shop early, shop often) when I peeped my peepers at the back cover of Cracked #317 (July 1997):

I don’t know why this struck me as oddly as it did. It feels awfully…insular a gag to put in a nationally-distributed magazine, maybe? The whole “Electric Superman” thing (featured in this long-ago post of mine with the possibly increasingly-inaccurate title) got some real world coverage at the time, as I recall, but I don’t feel like it was a lot. Remember, by 1997 non-comics-initiated folks were still coming into the shop, seeing Superman titles on the stands, and asking “hold on, isn’t he dead?” That feels like it was the primary public perception of Superman at the time. Not to mention comics were still in, or crawling out of, a market crash, so they didn’t have the huge cultural cache they did only a few years prior.

But of course, not every gag needs to, over even can, hit with everybody, and this one (drawn by Alan Kupperberg) may have received a brief flicker of amusement from those Cracked readers who also had a foot in the door of the comics hobby and were aware of Superman’s then-current status.

I know, I know, I’m overthinking it. Maybe the gag was conceived during that very brief window the new costume was getting some publicity and everyone thought “oh, yeah, this’ll still be a thing everyone will be talking about in three or four months.” Or maybe Cracked was increasingly being sold through the direct comics market and thus more likely to find readers who’d appreciate this joke.

Anyway, I just thought it was odd. Also, “person getting shot is funny” doesn’t, um, play quite as well at this current moment, needless to say.

Coincidentally, I also received in the same collection a copy of Mad Super Special #96 (1994):

…which, as you can see, was their big Super Hero issue. The gags are a little broader, either playing off characters’ more general perception or placing them in jokes that require no special comics knowledge (man complains about a fly in his soup, which is promptly webbed out of there and eaten by Spider-Man), or parodying specific events that anyone reading the mag would know (like the 1989 Batman film), or making jokes about things that are eternal and forever embedded in our culture, like, er…Yellow Pages ads:

…or, um, phone booths:

Okay, admittedly that’s mixing two different things here, the eventual aging of once-current gags versus a gag that kinda hit the ground limping in the first place. But it seemed to me an interesting contrast between humor that, though near archaic, is still amusing, versus a joke attached to an event that’s irrelevant now and was barely relevant to its potential audience then.

Progressive Bully #6: Sluggo Saturday #136½: MAD About Sluggo.

§ June 11th, 2022 § Filed under Bully, mad magazine, sluggo saturday § 3 Comments
















from various issues of MAD magazine, credits in alt-text

“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.

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.

Jack Davis is fine, thank you very much!

§ August 16th, 2013 § Filed under mad magazine § 6 Comments

So a long time ago, shortly after I entered the high-flying life of comics retail, I decided to pick up a copy of this on New Comics Day:

A coworker asked what exactly made me decide to pick up this oddball indie comic, and I told her the truth: it was that awesome Jack Davis cover. I wasn’t certain I was going to enjoy the non-Jack Davis contents, but good gravy, what a cover. I couldn’t resist it.

It seems like Jack Davis drew for everything. We all know his Mad work, and his movie posters, and his awesome EC Comics stories, and his video game ads, and his Sesame Street drawings, and his TV Guide covers, and his album covers, and his ad containing the second greatest* sound effect in comics (“SLAMDUNK!”) of all time, and surely much, much more.

Anyway, a rumor spread late last night that he’d passed away, and it turns out, nope, Mr. Davis is still with us, and thank goodness for that. When the “news” started to spread, I put together this post, but realized that I hadn’t seen any official confirmation yet so I’d better hold off putting it on the site, and I was right to do so. However, there’s no reason to wait to enjoy the man’s work, so please, visit some of those links or pull out your Mads or your ECs and appreciate that one of the legendary giants of cartooning is still with us.

Thanks, Jack!

* The greatest sound effect in comics of all time.


image borrowed from the Grand Comics Database

There might be a minor spoiler or two for The Omen, which is nearly 40 years old, but you know someone would complain.

§ September 7th, 2012 § Filed under doctor who, mad magazine, misfit toys, retailing § 18 Comments

So the other night I saw that The Omen was on Netflix Watch Instantly, and I realized a couple of things. One, it had been years since I’ve seen it…in fact, I probably wasn’t any more than about 10 years old, and I probably only saw parts of it on whatever local pay-cable channel we had as a precursor to HBO at the time. Two, my memories of the movie were primarily of the Mad Magazine parody from issue #189 (March 1977):

Actually, that’s not the panel burned into my head, but the ones specifically concerned with the fate of David Warner’s character, which might be a bit much to hit you with without any warning, so I picked that panel above as being a little more representative of the parody as a whole.

I wonder how many more movies and TV shows with which I have passing familiarity mostly because of the Mad parodies, versus actually seeing the darned things. I keep meaning to get around to watching A Clockwork Orange, which, yeah, I know, I haven’t seen it yet, I’m a bad person, but I’ll tell you I still have images from the George Woodbridge-illustrated Mad parody stuck in my brain. And since it seems like I’ll never get around to actually watching Blade Runner, I should find its Mad parody and just settle for that.

Anyway, speaking of what happens to David Warner’s character, I thought I’d be a smart guy and post this to the Twitter the other night:

I thought I’d just remembered the images from the Mad parody involving this scene, but apparently I remembered the joke, too, since I apparently just up and stole it. (Not the “pageboy haircut is adorable” part, but the “losing your head” part. Though David Warner is adorable in this movie.)

Another thing I hadn’t remembered about the film is that Patrick Troughton, Doctor Who‘s Second Doctor, has a significant part:

…Which of course caused me to make Yet Another Obvious Twitter Joke™:

Yes, I think I’m hilarious.

…And this has been another installment of “What Mike Does in His Spare Time.”

• • •

A couple of you had more questions from the other day, re: Spawn and related merchandise:

Heli asks

“…Have you covered the ‘party Angela’ phenomenon?”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, I’m going to strip away your innocence forever: McFarlane Toys produced an action figure of Spawn supporting character Angela (the warrior angel character created by Neil Gaiman), but, alas, lacked the paint job beneath the figure’s loin-armor or whatever that is to give her warrior angel-appropriate undergarments. Thus, this figure, and, according to my brief-but-probably-getting-me-on-watch-lists Googling, other figures that have similarly gone commando are referred to as “party” figures. And in case you’re wondering, that term does seem more appalling the more you think about it. …I remember a brief hubbub about it at the time, but it seemed to die down once people realized they were getting overly excited about a toy not having paint-panties, and hopefully that nipped it in the bud. Well, except on eBay, where no bud is ever nipped.

Tim O’Neil asks

“What about modern sales of Spawn? Has the series picked up new readers since it entered its 20 year anniversary with all the variant covers and such?”

I haven’t seen any real boost in sales, no…I think we may have gained a new reader or two on the series, but otherwise sales have been very consistent as a low-to-mid range seller. During 2010, when only four issues were released, that may have…well, “put the nail in the coffin” is a bit strong. Maybe “pushed it down the stairs” is more like it.

• • •

COMING NEXT WEEK: Yes, I’ll probably talk about Swamp Thing #0, don’t nag me. Also, more comic book talk! Maybe! And not so much about the pogs!


Special thanks to Bully the Little Stuffed Bull for providing the Mad image.

The pull-quote master.

§ June 18th, 2004 § Filed under indies, mad magazine Comments Off on The pull-quote master.

1. Mark Evanier posted a link to an excellent, if disturbing, Mountain Dew commercial that features Mad Magazine mainstay “Spy Vs. Spy.” Bonus: a pitch for a Spy Vs. Spy movie.

2. Somehow I managed to miss Big Larry as much as calling me out for a “cover blurb” for Scurvy Dogs (under June 1st). Now, I loves me the Scurvy Dogs…that was one of the very first links I put on this weblog of mine…and it’s one of the few titles that we keep every in-print issue on the new comics wall at the store (along with Demo, Girl Genius, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and Lenore). Well, unfortunately, the best I’ve come up with is “It’s really, really good…but maybe if there were fewer pirates in it, and maybe if it wasn’t as funny, and if there were a talking dog somehow involved, it would be even better. Oh, and more car chases” — but I’m afraid he’d use it, and everyone who saw it on the cover would think I’d experienced some kind of debilitating head injury as a child.

3. For God’s sake, don’t let Nana die! Help out Jason Yungbluth by buying some of his funnybooks and T-shirts so he can put out another issue of America’s Funniest Comic Book Starring A Clown And A Talking Cat, Deep Fried!