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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mad About the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies

Mad magazine has been recycled more often than most washing machines, yet it has been remarkably durable.

Three major anthologies are now available, Mad About the Fifties (Quality Paperback Book Club), Mad About the Sixties and Mad About the Seventies (Little, Brown). There is important material in all three, but the 1950s volume is my favorite.

Those of us who were following the famous (and infamous) EC horror comics in 1951 and 1952 began to see advertisements for some new project which turned out to be Mad. It was no different in format from other comic books, but the contents were unlike anything we had ever seen.

The comic book Mad quickly hit its stride when they began parodies of well-known movies and comic books. Only those intensely familiar with DC's "Superman" and "Batman" would savor to the fullest Mad's "Superduperman" and "Batboy." The humor is as fresh and biting today as it was in the early Eisenhower years.

After I read "Starchie" I never had quite the same fondness for "Archie." This is rather ironic since Bob Montana, the major Archie artist, was then at the height of his powers. Many were upset over Archie publisher John Goldwater's almost successful attempt to destroy the EC line. (It was alleged that Goldwater never forgave EC for the "Starchie" parody.)

Anyone who has never seen "Starchie" or "Ping Pong" (a King Kong parody) reprinted in color should pick up this book.

When EC changed Mad to a black and white magazine, there was an emphasis on prose that has almost been forgotten. Even so, Mad had its greatest impact visually, and artists Wally Wood, Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder are all here.

For $19.95, any of the volumes is a good buy, but be sure to get the 1950s volume.

Dr. John Suter