'Totally MAD' celebrates 60 year of MAD Magazine satire

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Flipping through "Totally MAD," a 60th anniversary celebration of the subversive humor magazine, one quickly realizes "the usual gang of idiots" was pretty clever after all.

With features such as Antonio Prohias' "Spy vs. Spy" to the MAD Fold-In on the back page, MAD was considered the go-to source for American kids who wanted to be rebellious and live dangerously in spirit from the safety of their homes.

Stephen Colbert, who with Eric Drysdale co-wrote a foreword to "Totally MAD," recalled how he would save his allowance and buy the latest issue of MAD at the local bookstore after church on Sundays.

Of course, he had to hide from his parents the infamous April 1974 edition, which featured a hand defiantly flipping the bird to readers.

Founder and longtime publisher William M. Gaines surrounded himself with a talented "gang" that included artists such as Mort Drucker, Dave Berg, Don Martin, Al Jaffee and Sergio Aragones. Printed on black-and-white, uncoated paper and for decades free of advertising, MAD was a wealth of pop culture references and -- even today, with six published issues a year, and at www.madmagazine.com -- humor that is gleefully un-PC.

"Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity" (Time Home Entertainment Inc. and MAD Magazine, 256 pages, $34.95) launches Tuesday. Besides samples of work spanning the decades ("Archie" comics featuring busty babes and Archie as a teen hoodlum, tons of drug, political and anti-war references), there are five essays about MAD's cultural impact and some pretty cool history. (MAD scored a Supreme Court ruling against Irving Berlin that established the right to publish satirical lyrics.)

Although cover boy Alfred E. Neuman didn't make his first appearance until issue No. 30, he is forever the face of MAD. He has "been" various superheroes, rock stars, a zombie, part of the "Star Trek" crew, a California Raisin, incorporated into Mount Rushmore and Uncle Sam, among myriad of incarnations.

Fun fact: until his death in 1980 artist Norman Mingo drew all but one cover of the "What, Me Worry?" kid. But once during that period, another cover -- a bunch of orange and pink squiggles -- was painted by NBC "Today" mascot J. Fred Muggs, a chimp.

Muggs' cover, as well as 11 others that were favorites of Mr. Gaines and editors Nick Meglin and John Ficarra, are included in a mini-poster set, "The Soul of Mad."

"Totally MAD" begins with "In memoriam: This book is dedicated to the memory of the thousands of jokes that have died on the pages of MAD over the past 60 years."

To know MAD was to love it, stupidity and stupidity and all.


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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