Sunday, March 29, 2009

738th Post - Mad About You!

I thought I'd write this evening about one of the passions of my youth: Mad Magazine.

I was born in, let's be honest here, 1964. I taught myself to read more by reading things like comic books and Mad Magazine than I ever did in school. The primers we had to read in Grade Primary or Grade One were not challenging to me; these garishly-coloured pamphlets were. They were literature to me, high art, and people who looked down their nose to me for reading them were simply ignored. Yes, that included teachers, by the way.

I discovered Mad Magazine in the early 1970's. I am thinking it was whilst visiting a friend's house, who wanted to show me this radical magazine, which he read surreptitiously when his parents weren't likely to bother him, and which he stored in an obscure part of his bedroom.

I loved the magazine. Of particular interest were the paperback books that they published during that period, many of which I still own. I loved the "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" books, where people would ask obvious questions, and receive snotty, sarcastic responses in return. An, um, healthy young woman, wearing not much more than she was born with, asks her boyfriend, "Do you think I'm sexy?" His answers ranged from, "What did you say, fella?" to "I don't know. I was pondering the Middle East crisis." Stuff like that. I tell ya, when you're 12 years old, there is nothing funnier than that kind of stuff, unless, of course, it involves flatulence.

As I got a bit older, and more sophisticated (if that is a word you can apply to me, that is), I got a bit tired of Mad, and moved on to other things, like the National Lampoon. But I always had a soft spot in my heart for Mad. I eventually learned that Mad had started as a comic book in the 1950's, and was published at the tail end of the horror comics boom that this company, EC, had spearheaded. They had published comics like "Tales from the Crypt", "The Vault of Horror", "The Haunt of Fear", "Two-Fisted Tales", and others.

Dumb ass parents of the day decided that these books were too frightening for their children to read and U.S. legislators did what they could to drive publisher William Gaines out of business. They nearly succeeded, but Gaines kept Mad going, deciding to publish it as a black and white magazine, and it is still published to the present day (although it's now published only on a quarterly basis and now accepts advertising!)

There is a book on this period in U.S. publishing. Probably several books, actually, but the one on my nightstand is called "The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America". I'll probably get around to reading it this summer, but you can read about it here if you want to.

Gaines continued to publish Mad until his death in 1992. I have an issue of the Comics Journal that was published in 1983 and which features an extremely long interview with him, talking about Mad, and the EC comics, and his life. It is must reading if you're into that kind of thing. But, if you think my interviews on this blog are long, well, 35 pages of small, single-spaced type might be too much for you.

A year or so ago, I chanced upon the above dvd, showing every issue of Mad Magazine, more or less. A few pages here and there are not present. It is fun to re-read these old issues, and to discover for the first time many of the articles from the 1950's that I have never seen before. All of the Mad Fold In's are present as well, and you can use your mouse to drag the two pieces of the cover together to form the new image. You Mad readers know what I'm talking about.

If you don't want to read that long interview, I found the following 60 Minutes piece from 1988 or so. It is about Mad, and Gaines, and I think you'll like it. I know I did.

You're welcome. I do this because I love you. I hope you know that.


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