Sunday, February 27, 2011

culture shock: MAD

I'm ten years too young for the original Mad, but these comics were still around, in one form or another, throughout my childhood in the 1960's. I think my first exposure to the original Mad was via those great paperback collections somebody's older brother had. They got passed around the neighborhood
--the way most comics did in those days. Somebody had a comic book, it was community property. Passing comics around was a way in which we educated each other--and developed a shared sensibility. We didn't want to keep them to ourselves.
Matter of fact, I think my first exposure to a lot of Mad--and other comics too; Peanuts, B.C., Fantastic Four and a lot of other Marvel stuff- was in those b&w paperback collections floating around the neighborhood.   I know for a fact that's where I first learned who Jack Kirby was--and then who Chic Stone was.(I could've cared less about Stan Lee.--but Chic Stone was tops!)
 Even in the '60's, when Mad magazine was in its heyday, -and my friends and I sat on each others stoops going over every single gag in every single issue--these original Mads were special. They seemed like relics from a different, somehow more subversive, era--a little less predictable than the Mad we knew; wilder, not quite as formulaic.  They had super-heroes! "Super-duper Man" and "Melvin of the Apes". And the art was just great, stuffed to the brim with little jokes and funny goings-on in the background. We'd look at them for hours because we kept finding some new joke in there that we hadn't seen before. Astounding images--drawn by some guy named "Wood"--and boy did he draw great looking women("Lois -Hah!-Pain!") and great shadows and great everything! And man--they were so funny, funnier than Mad magazine, funnier than anything we knew. A kind of manic funny--wise-ass in a way the magazine of the '60's was not. Reading those original Mads, you got the feeling the people behind those comics had spent a lot of time in after-school detention, they shot spit-wads in Sunday school and had absolutely no use for authority figures, and as adults they were probably just this far from giving some bureaucrat at the DMV a hotfoot.

*This one was a good deal trickier to draw than it looks!

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