It was recently brought to our attention that the February 4, 2013 issue of The New Yorker bears more than a passing resemblance to MAD #293 from March 1990. Even more disturbing: this issue of The New Yorker is chock-full of “original” articles such as “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions at a MoMA Opening”, “A Peek Behind the Scenes at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center” and “Thurber vs. Thurber”. On the positive side: David Remnick’s Fold-In is actually pretty good.
Each week for the rest of the year, we'll be posting excerpts from the essays Frank Jacobs wrote for our 60th Anniversary book, Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity. We've already shared "Who Was Bill Gaines?" and "Has MAD Ever Been Sued?" Be sure to come back next week to read the (partial) answer to the question "Who is Alfred E. Neuman?"
By 1960, MAD had become an oddball national institution, and Bill Gaines wanted to keep it that way. His method was to create what came to be the MAD Family, made up of the editorial staff, steady contributors, even the magazine’s attorneys and accountant. The glue that held the group together was the annual MAD trip. Many of the writers and artists had never met. What better way for everyone to get to know their brethren than to fly them, all expenses paid, for a week or two in a foreign clime? These vacations, with their anticipations and memories, would knot the family ties even tighter. Especially if the trips were stag.
“I never met two wives who could get along with each other,” Gaines said at the time. “Bringing wives on the trips would divide the convivial MAD group into cliques. The wives would spend so much on clothing trying to outdo each other that it would cost the boys a fortune, and I can’t see any point to that.”
Two of the magazine’s mainstays, editor Al Feldstein and illustrator Mort Drucker, passed up the trips because of the all-male edict. The other MADmen accepted readily, eager to get a break from the typewriter and drawing-board. Skeptics might point out that Gaines, divorced at the time, was not burdened with the problem of leaving a wife at home. It would take 20 years before the stag rule was relaxed.
The first trip took the travelers to Haiti, one of Gaines’ favorite watering holes. The tone was set the first day. Discovering that the magazine had one subscriber in Port-au-Prince, Gaines piled his charges into five Jeeps, drove to the lad’s home, and presented him with a renewal card.
The next four trips were to the Caribbean, but Gaines was not happy. The West Indies bored him — especially Puerto Rico, where he spent most of his days reading and napping in his room or ordering a snack on the shaded terrace. Occasionally, in a neighborly gesture, he would tread cautiously across the beach to where the rest of the MADmen were sunning. After a few pleasantries, he would shuffle back to the hotel, relieved to be away from the sun and surf and the picture of grown men actually enjoying the stuff — sometimes, even, exercising in it.
There were better places to go with better things to see and better food to eat, and in the fall of 1966 Gaines loosened his belt and took the group to Paris, and then to Surinam, Italy, Kenya, Athens, Japan, London, Copenhagen, and the Soviet Union — to every continent save Australia and Antarctica, 27 trips in all.
The tone was set early on. In Florence, the vacationers were grouped on the steps of the Duomo Cathedral when a shouting parade of striking local laborers stampeded by. In the middle of the marchers, carrying an appropriated picket sign with his clenched fist raised high, was Sergio Aragonés.
In Venice, Nick Meglin scrutinized his admission ticket to the Palace of the Doges. “What does it say?” he was asked. “It says,” answered Meglin, “you may have already won this palace.” At the Vatican, Dick DeBartolo looked at the opulence and remarked, “God isn’t dead. He just can’t afford the rent.”
In Moscow, Gaines was continually stared at by the local populace. At first it was thought that this was because of his beard and massive mop of hair. It was later learned, however, that to Muscovite eyes, at least, Gaines resembled Karl Marx. The abundance of beards in the travelers prompted one observer to remark that the MAD gang looked like a road company of Benjamin Harrison’s cabinet.
Gaines himself climbed — yes, climbed — to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and there placed an “Alfred E. Neuman for President” poster. It was rumored, but not confirmed, that the tower leaned an inch or two more after that.
Each week for the rest of the year, we'll be posting excerpts from the essays Frank Jacobs wrote for our 60th Anniversary book, Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity. Leading off is a piece about the man who started it all, MAD founder William M. Gaines. Be sure to come back next week to read the (partial) answer to the question "Has MAD Ever Been Sued?"
With the untimely death of his father, Bill Gaines seemed unprepared to become the head of Educational Comics, often abbreviated as EC. He was naïve and inexperienced, but even he could see that the company, then $100,000 in the red, was in deep trouble. Its kiddie comics — “Bouncy Bunny in the Friendly Forest” was a typical title — had seen their day.
Gaines experimented, tapped his creative side, and a new breed of comic book emerged. Its name was horror. Gaines and writer/editor Al Feldstein hit the jackpot and begot an empire that would spawn the most fanatical cult in the history of the industry. EC now stood for Entertaining Comics, and with the changeover a new Bill Gaines gradually emerged: an efficient, determined, honest-to-goodness publisher and businessman.
A few years later, with the enormous success of MAD, the transformation was complete. Gaines became the prototype of a leader — unshaven, unkempt, and sometimes off the rails — but a leader nonetheless, and a father figure to many.
Longtime MAD art director John Putnam agreed. “He can be a warm friend and yet keeps a workable distance between himself and his employees. I’m never made to feel like an employee, but I’m not going to walk all over him — no one is.”
The door to Gaines’ office was almost always open and unless he was counting money or double-checking items on his daily calendar, he was available to anyone. He loved gossip and listened avidly to any tidbit, but almost never contributed a view of his own.
“Bill will listen and Bill will laugh,” said Putnam, “but that’s all. I’ve never heard him put anyone on the staff down.”
Gaines’ office was a museum of sentimental and macabre memorabilia. The first thing you saw was the gigantic presence of King Kong peering in a window. The papier-mâché, fur-covered gorilla was handcrafted by artist Sergio Aragonés and presented to Gaines as a Christmas gift from his staff and contributors. Hanging from the ceiling were zeppelins of various sizes — all gifts from MADmen — and the outlandish MAD Zeppelin, co-created by artist George Woodbridge and art director John Putnam and later included as a bonus cut-out in a MAD Special.
Gaines’ most cherished possession was his calendar on which, in a script only he could decipher, he notated his missions for the day. As each task was completed, he blackened out the mission with savage satisfaction. It was vital, important, even sacred for him to get every item crossed out.
Contrary to the size of his person, appetite, and bankroll, Gaines thought small—at least as publisher of MAD. Playboy’s Hugh Hefner once asked him what new projects he was planning.
“None,” Gaines replied.
“None?” Hefner asked incredulously.
“It was like I was guilty of blasphemy,” Gaines said later.
What one must realize is that Gaines was terrified of getting involved in an operation too big for him to handle personally. Therein lieth ruin — not for Hefner, perhaps, but assuredly for himself. He didn’t seek to build an empire; MAD would provide him with a modest, quite profitable kingdom.
If you're going to San Diego Comic-Con next week, there will be plenty of MAD events to partake in once you get squeezed out of the Firefly reunion panel! Here's what you can do to get the most of your MAD experience this year:
• Stop by the DC Entertainment booth to see the MADropolitan Museum of Art! We'll be displaying framed prints of classic MAD superhero illustrations from over the years, featuring art by Mark Fredrickson, Mort Drucker, Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller and more! Many of these are being shown without logos and text for the first time!
• Come to the "Mad about MAD" panel on Saturday from 2:00-3:00pm in Room 9! Find out everything we've got planned for MAD's 60th Anniversary and for the next 60 years to come, with editor John Ficarra, art director Sam Viviano, assistant art director Ryan Flanders and artists Angelo Torres, Sergio Aragonés, Tom Richmond, and Peter Kuper! Be sure to have good questions ready — prizes will be awarded!
• Aspiring MAD illustrators and cartoonists: we'll be doing portfolio reviews, so keep your eyes and ears open for more details!
The National Cartoonists Society held the 66th Annual Reuben Awards in Las Vegas this past weekend. The big winner at this year's ceremony was none other than MAD's very own Tom Richmond, who took home the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year! The Reuben is the highest honor a professional cartoonist can receive. Past winners include such big names as Charles Schulz, Gary Larson, Matt Groening, and four legendary members of MAD's Usual Gang of Idiots: Mort Drucker, Sergio Aragonés, Jack Davis and Al Jaffee! Below is a photo of Tom holding his shiny new Reuben surrounded by three of the four previous MAD winners, along with MAD Art Director Sam Viviano and longtime MAD Editor Nick Meglin.
Congratulations, Tom! Now come down off your cloud and get going on the next movie parody! Deadlines don't care about fancy awards.
Huge thanks to David Folkman for the photo!
Click the image to make it bigger!
In our current issue (MAD #514), venerable MADman Sergio Aragonés sets his sights on the top 1% in "A MAD Look at the Filthy Rich". Check out the snazzy bit of cartooning he did for the gag below (with colors by Tom Luth). You can see more of Sergio's work for MAD here, and don't forget to spend some time on his personal website!
You can also get this entire issue, subscribe to MAD, buy back issues and MORE with the brand new MAD iPad app! Download it here!
Our pals at DC Direct have introduced the lastest in their Batman Black & White statue series, and it's by MAD's very own master of Marginals, Sergio Aragonés! The DC Direct crew was awesome enough to send us a very small number of "flocked" versions (that’s industry-speak for “pleasingly fuzzy”), and now we're passing on that awesomeness to you! How can you win one of these ultra-rare beauties? Well, it's a special time of year — no, not for your semi-annual head-lice check (although that might not be such a bad idea) — it’s time for another installment of MAD’s Nifty FiftyTM! The Nifty FiftyTM is our list of Celebrity Snapsthat we want more than any others — and are also toughest to get. Here's a small sampling:
- • Lady Gaga • Mark Zuckerberg • Stephen Hawking • Fidel Castro
Check out our new issue (#514, on sale Tuesday!) for the complete list. Send in your photographs of the celeb holding an issue of MAD, and if you're one of the first SIX that we print, you'll get one of the flocked statues! [Photos are non-returnable. Send via snail mail (MAD, Nifty Fifty, 1700 Broadway New York, NY, 10019) or to our e-mail address (email@example.com — put “Nifty Fifty” in the subject line.] If you miss being one of the first half dozen, don't fret! The Sergio Aragonés Batman Black and White statue (unflocked version) is on sale now! (Click here to find out more.) Also, all readers whose Nifty FiftyTM Celebrity Snaps we print will win a free two-year subscription to MAD! What are you waiting for? Grab your camera and GO!