SKETCHY CHARACTERS DEPT.
SKETCHY CHARACTERS DEPT.
We selected some of our favorite work by Bob Clarke from over his many years with MAD.
"John Wilkes Booth Liquor Ad"
MAD #78, April 1963
"Canadian Club Liquor Ad"
Photographer: Lester Krauss
MAD #94, April 1965
"MAD'S Modern Believe It or Nuts!"
Writer: Arnie Kogen
MAD #161, September 1973
"Spy Vs. Spy"
Writer: Duck Edwing
MAD #273, September 1987
"When Other Comic Strips Start Using The Far Side Formula"
Writer: Charlie Kadau
MAD #280, July 1988
"A Mad Look at the Joys of Scuba Diving"
Writers: Al Jaffee and Dick DeBartolo
MAD #106, October, 1966
Remember last week when we told you Jenna Wolfe and “Weekend TODAY" had stopped by to do a segment about MAD’s 60th Anniversary? Well, we weren’t just whistling Dixie, friends! That segment is airing this very Sunday! Is there any better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve-Eve than watching this amazing program? No...no, there is not! Check local listing for airtimes!
"Weekend Today"'s Jenna Wolfe poses with
MAD Editor John Ficarra and Art Director Sam Viviano
We don’t get a lot of visitors at MAD (some say it’s because of the smell, while others attribute it to the packs of raccoons that fearlessly roam our halls). So we were pleased as punch to have Jenna Wolfe (pictured below, between editor John Ficarra and art director Sam Viviano) and the crew of “Weekend TODAY” stop by for a piece they’re doing about MAD’s 60th anniversary. (And an impromptu segment about how to treat multiple raccoon bites!) The episode will air Sunday, December 30 on NBC — but since we’re sure the anticipation will drive you bonkers, here’s a pic to tide you over!
For the last few weeks, we've been 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?", "Has MAD Ever Been Sued?" and "What Were the MAD Trips?" Today we delve into the early days of our moronic mascot, Alfred E. Neuman.
“It was a kid that didn’t have a care in the world, except mischief,” Kurtzman recalled. The boy soon made his way into the pages of the magazine, though he was as yet unnamed.
Kurtzman had been using the Neuman name mostly because it had the ring of a nonentity — although there was a Hollywood composer named Alfred Newman. Misspelled, with the added “E,” it too was integrated into the magazine.
When Al Feldstein replaced Kurtzman as editor, he decided to link “Alfred E. Neuman” with the face of the idiot kid. The idiot kid made his official debut in 1956 as a write-in candidate for President on the cover of MAD #30, and the magazine now had an official mascot and cover boy. In the next issue, Alfred made his second cover appearance pictured as an addition to Mount Rushmore.
Though others had their doubts, Nick Meglin, then an assistant editor, believed that MAD should continue to use Alfred as the magazine’s cover boy. “You’ll have to convince me,” said publisher Bill Gaines, who had veto power over all MAD covers. Playing up to Gaines’ interest in archaeology, Meglin submitted a rough sketch of Alfred in an Egyptian tomb (MAD #32) and one or two others that emerged as cover illustrations later. Having been convinced there were endless possibilities, Gaines agreed that Alfred should reign as the magazine’s icon.
The Neuman face was created by Norman Mingo. Curiously, none of MAD’s artists, though extremely versatile, has been able to render accurately the Mingo prototype. When Mingo died in 1980, his obituary in The New York Times identified him in its headline as the “Illustrator Behind ‘Alfred E. Neuman’ Face.”
What is the source of the “What — Me Worry?” Boy? MAD asked its readers to help out and was deluged by suggestions and theories. The kid was used in 1915 to advertise a patent medicine; he was a newspaperman named Old Jack; he was taken from a biology textbook as an example of a person who lacked iodine; he was a testimonial on advertisements for painless dentistry; he was originated by comedian Garry Moore; he was a greeting-card alcoholic named Hooey McManus; he was a Siamese boy named Watmi Worri. One reader dug up a 1909 German calendar bearing a version of the inane smiling face.
By far the most pertinent correspondence came from a lawyer representing a Vermont woman named Helen Pratt Stuff. She claimed that her late husband, Harry Stuff, had created the kid in 1914, naming him “The Eternal Optimist.” Stuff’s copyrighted drawing, she charged, was the source of Alfred E. Neuman and she was taking MAD to court to prove it.
Thus began the great Alfred E. Neuman lawsuit. The stakes were not small. If MAD lost, it would be liable for millions of dollars in damages. And Alfred no longer would be permitted to show his worriless countenance in any MAD publication or property...
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.
Yesterday, Mo Rocca and the crew from CBS Sunday Morning swung by the MAD offices to shoot a piece about MAD's 60th Anniversary (with an inadvertent side story about the show’s slide in journalistic integrity). The segment is going to air on Sunday (duh!) October 28th — so be sure to tune in. And in the meantime, here’s some oh-so-enticing shots of the Usual Gang of Idiots hanging out during the day of filming!
Mo Rocca generously pretends to enjoy our latest issue.
(MAD #518, on sale everywhere next week!)
Back row: Jacob Lambert, Matt Lassen, Tom Richmond, Dick DeBartolo,
Editor John Ficarra, Al Jaffee, Ryan Flanders, Sam Viviano,
Production Artist Doug Thomson, Dave Croatto, Senior Editor Charlie Kadau
Seated behind Mo: Tom Bunk, Peter Kuper, Senior Editor Joe Raiola,
Writer Desmond Devlin and James Warhola