It’s a MAD World After All

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If something or someone affected the national psyche, the satirical Mad magazine wanted to poke fun at it.

Impressionable adolescents who read Mad were warned about society’s half truths, double standards, fine print, deceptive advertisements and sneaky product placement. The world is out to get you, implied the messages, so be prepared. Along the way, these clever
and invaluable lessons undoubtedly helped avid readers develop their critical thinking skills – and perhaps a great sens of humor as well.

Mad magazine first appeared as a 1952 horror comic book that was a satire on, of all things, other horror comic books.

New York funsters and comic-book veterans William Gaines and Harvey Kurtzman were Mad’s publisher and editor, respectively, and what their eight-times-a-year periodical brought to the nation’s teenagers eventually morphed into a bible of juvenile-appearing blasphemy that took delight in laughing at just about every rock-solid institution in America.

Mocking everyone from revered celebrities to highly respected politicians and world leaders, Mad magazine’s team of talented caricaturists brought their easily recognizable, signature cartoons to life in each edition.

Comic strips such as the wordless Spy vs. Spy kept us entertained—and on our toes—during the Cold War and its era of cut-throat espionage. Who can forget those triangle-headed black and white goofs trying to use a variety of bombs, booby-traps and
other devices to harm each other?

Mad Magazine Cover

In 1954, Alfred E. Neuman rose to fame as a grinning, jug-eared, gap-toothed simpleton whose motto was “What, me worry?” As the Mad mascot, he came to symbolize America’s, well, madness.

Neuman’s iconic portrait was often morphed into the faces of celebs and others who were lampooned in that particular issue.

The magazine never tried to sugarcoat reality. Youngsters coming of age in an
imperfect world saw that fathers sometimes came home inebriated, mothers were sometimes lousy cooks, and teenagers sometimes landed in trouble.

This was in direct opposition to the white bread TV fare like Father Knows Best
and Leave It to Beaver which was welcomed into American homes each evening.

Mad undoubtedly had a significant influence on pop-cultural media such as National Lampoon, The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.

When the fun-loving William Gaines died at age 70 in June 1992, the New York Daily News headlined his obituary “What, Me Dead?”

Apparently not. Mad is still popular with lots of longtime, loyal supporters.

Randal C. Hill, a former disc jockey, English teacher, record collector and author,
confesses to being hopelessly stuck in the past. He lives on the Oregon coast
and can be reached at

Read more Randal C. Hill here:

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