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Ovation: Mad Magazine Celebrates Sixty Years!

11/06/2012

My childhood always included books.  Be they comic books, Hardy Boys Mysteries or TV GUIDE, I was always reading something.  And as soon as I had cash of my own to spend on reading materials, I somehow, naturally, gravitated to Mad Magazine.  Perhaps it was the forbidden message of “question authority” for which the magazine was famous or, possibly because I thought the cartoons were just so darned funny, that captured my teenage attention span.

At the time, I dreamed of being a cartoonist and Don Martin was my hero.  If I had a dollar for every time I doodled a goofy, Don-Martin-ish fish (pictured) over the years, I’d be living on a yacht and my biggest problem would be wondering who might be bringing my next piece of chocolate or glass of wine.

This year, Mad Magazine is celebrating its sixtieth year of publication!  Launched as a comic book before it became a magazine, widely imitated and influential, and impacting not only satirical media but the entire cultural landscape of the 20th century, the magazine is said to have enjoyed readership of more than 2,000,000 during its 1970s circulation peak.

“Spy v. Spy” was another favorite feature.  Without dialogue, the two characters (who were identical except for the fact that one was dressed all in white while the second wore all black) would engage in a battle of wits, using various booby-traps and schemes to harm the other.

But, for me, the most fascinating page in each issue was the inside back cover … the “fold-in”.

Playboy had a foldout of a beautiful woman in each issue, and Life Magazine had these large, striking foldouts in which they’d show how the earth began or the solar system or something on that order — some massive panorama.  Many magazines were hopping on the bandwagon, offering similar full-color spreads to their readers.  I noticed this and thought, what’s a good satirical comment on the trend? Then I figured, why not reverse it?  If other magazines are doing these big, full-color foldouts, well, cheap old Mad should go completely the opposite way and do an ultra-modest black-and-white Fold-In!” – Al Jaffee

A Mad Magazine Fold-In was a drawing, with a paragraph below and a question above.  The page would be folded in such a was as to remove the central 50% of the image from view and introduce a second image and the answer to the question.  They were extremely creative as well as topical and never ceased to amaze me.  I would open and close that page time and again to understand how things lined up and why the resulting picture appeared.  It was magic to me!

It’s hard to believe that this magazine is still going strong after sixty years.  I imagine there are still teenagers buying and reading Mad Magazine despite their parents wishes.  I also imagine those youngsters are laughing themselves to the point of tears because they think they’re reading the funniest things that have ever been written.

Here’s to sixty more!

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One Comment
  1. I still have an issue with Star Trek on the cover. i used to look at Mad magazine while my parents were grocery shopping.

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